On the way to Philadelphia

October 24, 2006 | 11 2 min read

After a long lazy summer living in a temporary arrangement (with my generous parents) in the Maryland suburbs, Mrs. Millions and I are picking up and moving again, this time to Philadelphia and this time (hopefully) we’ll be there for a while.

After spending our post-college years soaking it up in LA, we left for Chicago where I went to grad school. We found it considerably colder than Southern California, as you might expect, and the whole time we were there we felt halfway home, which makes sense considering that we’re East Coasters by birth. While in Chicago, we discovered that it’s hard to really settle in and get to know a place if you feel like you’re just stopping over, even if that stopover is nearly two years long.

But now we’re moving Philadelphia with the idea that we could be there a while, “indefinitely,” a word we’re happy to be able to say after living out of boxes for months. We’re excited about this move because it’s situated nearly evenly between Washington, DC and New York, our two childhood homes, yet it is almost unknown to us. After a few visits there in the last few months to find an apartment, we’ve already taken a liking to the place. We’re living near South Street in “Center City” as they call it. Though we’ve lived in cities before, we’ve never lived in a setting this urban, usually ending up in the grittier, cheaper outskirts of downtown areas. But Philly is small and compact, and we’re a little tired of almost living in cities, so we’ll be in the middle of it all, with dozens things to do just steps from our door.

The fact remains, however, that despite our being thrilled about our new city, we know almost nothing about it, and we know only a couple of people who live there, so, with that in mind, I’d love some suggestions from current or former Philadelphians. I’d especially love to hear about the city’s best bookstores and good books that are about or based in the city, but I’ll happily take recommendations on restaurants, cultural venues, and any other “must see” stuff in Philly. Any ideas?

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. Welcome! I'm sure you won't have difficulty finding places to go and eat in Philly. In Center City alone, you can walk to dozens and dozens of wonderful restaurants, historical sites and museums. Enjoy the exploration. Don't miss First Fridays in Old City. That section of town is filled with galleries and wonderful little eateries.

  2. Congrats on your move. I'm sure you've heard of the Rosenbach Museum but it really is the bibliophiles Wonkaland.

  3. Sand storm, I'm definitely excited to be moving to the home city of Frank and Books Inq.

    piksea, First Fridays sounds great. We were hoping there'd be something like that.

    Anonymous, Rosenbach sounds cool, and I literally know next to nothing about things to check out in Philly, so thanks for the suggestion.

    Any other ideas? Bookstores?

  4. As I understand it, a popular way to spend a day in Philadelphia is to go to an Eagles game and throw batteries at Terrell Owens. Enjoy!

  5. Oh, and there's amazing Vietnamese food in the strip along Washington St.–that's close to you also–you will be very pleased to have that so close, it's great.

  6. When I visit friends in Philly I like to visit The Italian Market (several blocks around 9th and Catherine). Lots of fresh produce, good cheese shops, etc, all at reasonable prices. It's not too far from South Street. I can't think of the name of the dim sum place we go to in Chinatown.

  7. I am almost envious. You will be situated between my eldest daughter (DC) and my eldest son (NYC). I think I need a trip to go visit my kids! Sigh!

  8. Hello: I am a bookseller, now in Ventnor NJ, on line only at present. The bookshop I managed closed. I grew up in North Phila. Traveled around, came back to Philly, and lived at 2nd and South in the late 70's and early 80's, that was when South Street was at it's best! You must visit the Book Trader, who for many, many years was at 5th and South, and now is at 2nd and Market. A book lovers, and sellers dream, mountains of books! Here is a list although I am not sure if it is current http://thecityofphiladelphia.org/book/. Even with all the changes, I still love my home town, and especially Center City. Although most of the dusty old bookshops are gone, there is still something about CC that gets in your blood. Visit my site at http://www.bookmaven.net, and great luck with your move. Mtl

  9. I lived in Philly for two years a while ago. They've got some great restaurants. I used to work at a bakery on 18th and Walnut called Le Bus that made the best bread I've every had. Good croissants too.

  10. As for bookstores, someone mentioned the Book Trader on N. 2nd Street. It's my favorite used book store in the city – it's huge and comprehensive, if a little unorganized. Just a block or so further north on 2nd St. is Big Jar Books. It's a smaller store, but you can get coffee and they host events. Robin's Books on S. 13th Street (www.robinsbookstore.com) is the best indy book store in the city. If you like radical politics with your books, there's Wooden Shoe on S. 5th St. Another great place is the Free Library of Philadelphia. The main branch is on Vine Street (near the Art Museum) and they host a lot of cool events and have a great website. Finally, there's the Friends of the Free Library Book Corner used book store on N. 20th (around the corner from the Library). Great selection and they have a book fair every year with thousands of books on Logan Circle.

    As for events, every year there's the 215 Festival http://www.215Festival.com (unfortunately, just passed) but it's a three day long literature festival that hosts events at various venues throughout the city. In West Philly, the Kelly Writers House at UPenn has some great events. The Philadelphia Weekly is a great (free! every Wednesday) newspaper to find art events and readings.

    I lived in Philadelphia for a year, moved to NJ, and decided to return. My husband and I love living in Center City. It's great to be back. Welcome to you and the Mrs.!

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