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Neighborhood guide: Spending time in University City

Certain Philadelphia neighborhoods are so hot right now. Even if you're living in a cool part of town, it's not always an easy game figuring out what to do.

Certain Philadelphia neighborhoods are so hot right now. Even if you’re living in a cool part of town, it’s not always an easy game figuring out what to do.

Whether you're a visitor or a resident, here's our guide on things to do and enjoy in University City, and as others will stand strong to call it, West Philadelphia.

Park yourself outdoors

Public parks are in no short supply here. Take a walk in University City and discover the wide range of parks offering a special feature to it in its own special way. If you have a dog, don't leave your pal at home; take him to Drexel Park (32nd and Powelton ave.) for a sweet stroll and, hey, dogs are perfect conversation starters, too. If you're one who is into sports and fitness, Penn Park (East of the Highline from Walnut to South St.) can fulfill your needs. This beautiful park consists of 24 acres of eight sections ranging in turf fields, grass fields, and paths making it a perfect place to enjoy a sunny day full of activities.

Live sporting events

Just because South Philadelphia gives home to the Philadelphia Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers doesn't mean that's the only place to catch exciting sports.

If you're tired of seeing the 76ers, the University of Penn's Palestra (235 S. 33rd St.), also known as the "Cathedral of College Basketball," holds some memorable games. If you're into local rivalries, a great time to visit the building is during the selected games during Philadelphia Big 5 tournament which features U Penn, Drexel, St. Joes, Temple, and Villanova. Other places for live sporting events worth mentioning include Drexel's Daskalakis Center (3198 Pennsylvania 3.), Home of the Penn Relays, Franklin Field (235 S. 33rd St.), and the Class of 1923 Ice Rink (3130 Walnut St.) that hosts hockey games but allows public access when the puck isn't dropped.

Getting around

University City has excellent transportation for those who aren't a fan of giving their shoes a workout. 30th Street Station (30th and Market Streets) is a zone that caters to transportations of many needs. If you need to go to the airport and don't want to pay a hefty cab fare, 30th Street is the place to catch the train. If you're going to support the Flyers at the New Jersey Devils' Prudential Stadium, Amtrak, located at 30th Street has your back. This station also caters to SEPTA's Market-Frankford line, or as many know it as the "el," but the line is also spread throughout 30th Street and can take you toward your upcoming University City destination or local bus stop for your next journey.

As for students new to the area, or scholars who are just plain out confused about SEPTA maps, good ol' LUCY has you covered. The LUCY shuttle is a free service provided by the University of Pennsylvania created to make public transportation between buildings safe and easy. The shuttles start at 30th Street Station and travel all the way toward the VA Medical Center (3900 Woodland Ave.). The shuttle also provides its free services to employees of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Penn Health System, and University Science Center. The public is allowed to ride it, but it will cost them normal bus fare.

Fun for all

University City has no shortage of entertaining events. Whether it is a live concert, movie under the stars, or items located around the city for you and your friends to help themselves with, this area has you covered.

Let's start with the Porch at 30th Street Station. The Porch is an awesome place offering yoga sessions, a beer garden, outdoor seating for your comfort, and even miniature golf. Besides those, dance shows from Philadelphia's own, BalletX take place here, as well pop-up science shows from local museums.

You know that saying "a bang for your buck?" Well the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll truly lives up to that name. Vendors all along Baltimore Avenue between 43rd and 51st Streets offer their variety of foods, gifts, and services for only just $1. So this event is pretty explanatory, bring some ones and have fun.

I mentioned parks earlier but I wanted to save Clark Park (4398 Chester Ave.) for this section. Besides this park being a perfect place for first picnics and relaxation, this park is great to lay back and enjoy movies during University City's Awesome Fest Outdoor Movie Series. The park doesn't just host flicks either; you can also enjoy live concerts as well as shop for fresh produce at their pop-up farmers market that runs year-round on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Eats and Treats

Clark Park's Farmers Market isn't the only place that will fill your plate with local produce; University City has over seven markets that are spread out all throughout the neighborhood. Many are seasonal like the market at The Porch (Wednesdays beginning in May), but some like Clark Park are year-round, such as Lancaster Avenue's Market (Lancaster and Powelton Avenues on 38th Street), which is open every Saturday.

If you're not the type who likes to buy and make, restaurants in University City are spread all over. If you're into food trucks, Drexel's food truck lineup at 35th and Market is a great choice. Want an option on this street? Go with Foo Truck. Foo Truck takes traditional Asian cooking and places most of their meals in a tortilla and voilà, the result is a "Foowich." Some options they offer are braised meatballs, flank steak, and tofu for those who don't fancy meat.

If you're not from Philadelphia and are itching for that magazine you can't seem to find in your nearest Barnes & Noble or just plain love imported reading material, Avril 50 (3406 Sansom St.) is a shop for you. Not only do they carry a wide range of magazines of many genres, but they also sell coffee and chocolate too. Sit back, grab what you fancy to read, and sip on a hot cup of joe.

Restaurants with seasonal menus are a great place to eat because there's always something different being whipped up in the kitchen. White Dog Café (3420 Sansom St.) demonstrates this option with their organic menu using seasonal ingredients from local farms. So while eating here, you're not only helping your stomach and restaurant, but you're also supporting local farms located in Philadelphia's surrounding regions.

Two words can describe City Tap House (3925 Walnut St.) pretty well: craft beer.  If you think this is your typical craft beer selection bar, think again. With 60 taps on deck, this bar and restaurant is a perfect place to go to if you and all of your friends have opposite beer choices. As for events, this site has been known to do special pairing events such as DuClaw's Colossus Brunch, which featured the Maryland breweries high-gravity beer, Colossus.


If music is your thing, World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.) is a great venue to pleasure your ear buds. What makes this venue special is that besides hearing great music, you'll typically see shows from up and coming bands like Fitz and the Tantrums. Besides music, this venue also holds beer fests, open mic nights, and even wedding expos. Given it has two floors, it usually has two options of entertainment for the night, so that's a plus.

For a live performance, the Mandell Theater (3141 Chestnut St.) at Drexel University operates all year long and presents a wide variety of stage performances. Some entertainment you can expect to see perform here are jazz ensembles, dramatic performances, and live dances of variety of works.

Art galleries are in no short supply here. If you enjoy staring at a piece and interpreting what it means, here are a couple galleries you may want to check out. For experimental art, the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (URBN Center Annex, 3401 Filbert St.) at Drexel University is worth the trip. For a close look at our world’s history through artifacts, research, and science, the Penn Museum (3260 South Street) is a great Sunday spender. And for those who like motion pictures with a flavor of culture mixed in, the International House (3701 Chestnut St.) is calling your name. Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and has housed such legends as Stefan Sagmeister and Andy Warhol as well as notable locals like Zoe Strauss and Alex da Corte. This free museum is one of the most unique in town (aside from, maybe, the Mütter Museum) and hosts a variety of exhibitions at one time.