Philadelphia‘s Northwest district is a huge area north of Lehigh Ave and west of Front St. This isn’t the most visited part of town, but nonetheless there are plenty of interesting neighborhoods to explore.
Northwest Philadelphia can be divided into two sections – west and east, which could be called the “Ridge Avenue Corridor” (Roxborough, Manayunk, Wissahickon, and East Falls) and the “Germantown Avenue Corridor” (Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill). These two sections are separated physically by the Wissahickon Creek, with only a few bridges passing in between. East Falls, though along the Ridge Ave. Corridor, is only connected to Manayunk by Ridge Ave and Henry Ave, and is much more connected to Germantown.
The Wissahickon Creek runs to the east of the two avenues, and is flanked by the Wissahickon section of Fairmount Park. The park offers many paths and beautiful vistas, and is a popular, though not crowded, spot for runners or people who enjoy light hiking.
Roxborough: It is not certain where Roxborough received its name from, but it is likely that the original settlement was named after Roxburghshire, Scotland which is the original home of an early settler Andrew Robeson. Roxborough has two main Avenues running almost parallel through it which connects the neighborhood to the rest of the city. Roxborough connects to Manayunk through Ridge Ave and to East Falls by Henry Ave. Most of Roxborough’s business is placed along Ridge Ave consisting of many hoagie shops and restaurants as well as regular shops and coffee shops. Roxborough is connected to the city through a number of different modes of SEPTA transportation including the train and bus. It is also easily accessed by driving. The neighborhood lies on the edge of the city’s limits and is often mistaken as a suburb of Philadelphia. It has one of the lowest crime rates within the city and because of the low crime rates along with the “suburban feel,” easy access public transportation and community parks, Roxborough is a attractive place to live. One of the main parks is called Valley Green. It consists of one main path that runs along side of the Wissahickon Creek and stretches for about 15 miles (25 km). Connected to this main path are numerous of smaller trails reaching all ends of the park. Valley Green attracts many runners, walkers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. Located along the path there is a restaurant called the Valley Green Inn. The surrounding area of the restaurant, one can find a number of ducks to feed, which has become a popular activity.
Manayunk is known as the “city on a hill,” home to many unique stores and shops as well as a thriving student and artist community. The neighborhood is built on a hill up to Ridge Ave. Some very interesting, beautiful, and historic architecture lines the winding Green Lane up the hill, as well as many other roads in the neighborhood. These beautiful rowhomes, townhomes, and single-family homes are home to everyone from working class laborers to middle class professionals, young adults, college students, and young families. The same is true of the surrounding Roxborough neighborhood, which acts as the “suburbs” of Manayunk, though it, too, falls within the city limits. Manayunk’s demographics and architecture are largely extended into Roxborough, although instead of the nightlife hotspot of Main St., Roxborough’s main thoroughfare is Ridge Ave, which is lined with shops, markets, and restaurants as well as convenience stores. Manayunk also hosts an annual Arts Fest and the main climb for the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship in summer months. Main Street runs through the heart of this unique shopping and dining destination with over 70 chic boutiques and galleries and 30 restaurants and eateries. It is also a popular nightlife destination for young adults. Flat Rock was the original name given to this section of the Schuylkill River, where rapids churned through the rocks in the section of the river, above the Wissahickon Creek. In 1824, a community meeting of the newly formed town changed the name to Manayunk, derived from the Lenape Amerindian word manaiung (place to drink). It was named a National Historic District in 1983.
East Falls is named for its eastern location to the falls across from the Wissahickon Transfer Center. It is home to Philadelphia University, Drexel University College of Medicine, and Women’s Medical College (the first women’s medical school in the world), which is being renovated into a mixed-used development by a team that includes Philadelphia’s own Wulff Architects. The end of Kelly Drive culminates at East Falls; take the bridge over the Schuylkill River to MLK Drive to continue your 8-mile (13-km) bike ride back down to the Art Museum. Ridge Ave. intersects Midvale Ave, in the heart of East Falls, where you can expect to find a mixture of markets, pizzerias, sports bars, and unique restaurants. Beautiful and interesting architecture abound on the rowhomes and townhomes of Queen Lane, Indian Queen Lane, Penn St., and the surrounding blocks. Travel up Midvale Ave. to see old world style rowhomes populated by middle and upper class professionals. Take Vaux St towards Philadelphia University to find mansions and other old world and tutor style large homes that mix urban and suburban layouts on winding roads. This neighborhood is also populated by wealthy Philadelphians, including Ed Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2011, and former US Senator Arlen Specter.
Mt. Airy is a residential neighborhood that could be described as eclectic, with its main streets crossing at the site of a natural food co-op. Young families tend to live here on many tree-lined streets. Mt. Airy is subdived into two areas, West Mt. Airy and East Mt. Airy, with Germantown Ave (“the Avenue”) forming the border between the two. The Avenue (along with the rest of the neighborhood) is undergoing a renaissance, anchored by the popular North By Northwest restaurant/music venue. Characteristics of the neighborhood include some amazing architecture of all different styles and better-than-average public transit access. There are also some historical sites related to the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Germantown. It is a very liberal area, politically speaking, with a very diverse population.
Chestnut Hill is the next neighborhood west from Mt. Airy along Germantown Ave, Chestnut Hill is largely a leafy, quaint, residential neighborhood that has, historically, been associated with wealth. It boasts beautiful rowhomes as well as large homes on large properties and a few mansions. The architecture is beautiful, including some famous buildings. Germantown Ave. has the feeling of a quaint small town main road reminiscent of a New England, or even old England, town. It has a bustling main st complete with restaurants, a hotel, a farmer’s market, bakeries, and plenty of stores and boutiques. It feels like a charming small town on the edge of the city.