If you’re trying to find the life and blood of Penn’s campus, look no further than Locust Walk. This is not only the central artery on campus for getting where you need to go, but it’s also among the best places to experience the culture from the university’s various student groups, run into random people you know, and just experience the many sides of this place.
Locust Walk hasn’t always been the wide pedestrian thoroughfare it is today. For me, one of the most fascinating things about it is that prior to 1956, it was a proper street with cars and trolleys running along it. Given how congested with students it gets during class changes, it’s no wonder the trolleys were sunk underground and Locust Street became Locust Walk.
The congestion is an important thing to note: there are many times when the walk is absolutely packed with people. But while it can be annoying sometimes if you’re trying to get to class and you’re stuck behind a line of people going slower than what seems humanly possible, the congestion is generally a positive. Not only is Locust Walk the number one spot at Penn to run into random people you know (whether you want to see them or not), but doesn’t everyone sometimes find themselves eavesdropping in on conversations as they rush by trying to get to a meeting?
Of course, there’s value in taking your time, too. Locust Walk has been masterfully designed to look as pretty as possible, and as someone who loves architecture and urban spaces, I adore it. A curtain of trees covers the walk, providing shade in the warmer months and absolutely beautiful colors in the fall. Most of the buildings along Locust are lovely old row homes converted for university uses, and even the victims of Penn’s “ugly architecture” phase (every school has had one) are made somewhat more appealing by the foliage. Also, there’s a big compass that they say you’re not supposed to step on, lest you fail your finals; I step on it all the time and nothing has happened (yet), but my roommate avoids it and doesn’t fail his finals either. Hmm.
While you’re admiring the trees and architecture, you’ll probably end up running into representatives from Penn’s various clubs. Since Locust Walk is so busy, this is the place where many organizations go to pitch what they’re doing, whether it be upcoming auditions, a show, or handing out new issues of the one of the university’s publications. Sometimes you get folks selling food to benefit their organization, while one of my favorite setups is the annual ugly holiday sweater sale that happens in December. It’s also a blast when crazy stuff happens on the walk like when a giant stuffed bear was set up on the compass on Valentine’s Day holding a “Marry me, Emily?” sign. Hopefully, they said yes!
Really, there’s no better place that encapsulates the many facets of Penn than Locust Walk. Beautiful architecture? Check. Wharton kids talking about their Goldman Sachs interviews? Check. The occasional crazy thing that seems like it can only happen on a college campus with a lot of very intelligent and weird people? Oh yeah. Locust Walk is the best.