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 and Fairmount Park, 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. 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 currently 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 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.
East Falls sits at the intersection of major highways running through the Philadelphia area:
- US Route 1 (SW to Baltimore/Washington, NE to New York/Boston),
- I-76 (south and east to Center City, South Philadelphia, and New Jersey, north and west to King of Prussia and on to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Ohio),
- and Ridge Ave, Kelly Drive, and MLK/West River Drive to Center City.
From interstate 76, the exits for the area include Belmont Ave/Green Lane (Roxborough/Manayunk), Kelly Drive/Ridge Ave/Lincoln Drive (The main interchange in East Falls) and US 1 N - Roosevelt Blvd, which runs through Germantown on its way to Northeast Philadelphia. US 1 exits in East Falls/ Germantown include Henry Ave, Wissahickon Ave, Wayne Ave, and Germantown Ave.
East Falls, Manayunk, Wissahickon, and Roxborough sit along the Schuylkill River. Ridge Ave. runs parallel to the river after it gets to East Falls, along the crest of the hill between the river and Wissahickon Creek. I-76 runs on the suburban side of the river, parallel to it, until it crosses Route 1 into the city limits and on into Center City.
To access the East Falls US 1/I-76/Kelly Drive/Ridge Ave/Lincoln Drive interchange:
From points west by southwest (West Philadelphia, lower Montgomery County, and Chester County), take US 1 N (known as Baltimore Pike, State Road, Township Line Rd, and City Ave) to East Falls where you can get onto Ridge Ave or Germantown Ave. From those areas Route 1 can be accessed by US Rte 30 (Lancaster Ave) in Wynnewood/West Phila, Lansdowne Ave/Darby Rd and PA Rte 3 (West Chester Pike) in Havertown/Drexel Hill, PA Rte 320 (Sproul Rd) and I-476 in Marple, PA Rte 252 (Providence Rd) in Media, US Rtes 352 and 452 west of Media, and US Rtes 322 and 202 in Chaddsford.
From points northeast (Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, and Trenton, NJ, etc.) take Rte 1 S (known as Roosevelt Blvd and Lincoln Highway). It can be accessed via PA 611 (Broad St) in North Philadelphia, PA 232 (Oxford Ave), PA 73 (Cottman Ave), and PA 63 (Woodhaven Rd) in Northeast Phila, PA 413 and I-95 in Bucks County.
From Points west by northwest (West Chester, King of Prussia, Exton, Berks County), take I-76 east. It can be accessed via US 202 if you're coming from the West Chester area, and by US 422 if you're coming from the upper Schuylkill River Valley (Pottstown, Reading, etc.). I-76 has an exit at Green Lane at the northwestern edge of Manayunk as well as at the principle interchange in East Falls.
From points south (Center City, Southwest Philadelphia, University City in West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and South Jersey), take I-76 westbound.
Ridge Ave and Germantown Ave become Ridge Pike and Germantown Pike after they pass outside the city limits and extend north into Montgomery County, so they can be used to access the area too.
From points north, you can take Bethlehem Pike, Limekiln Pike/Easton Rd, or PA 309 S to Easton Rd. This will take you to Germantown Ave which will give you access to Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, and Germantown, which in turn gives you access to East Falls.
Coming from the south or west, the best way to get to Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy is to get to the East Falls interchange and take Lincoln Drive. But be careful driving on Lincoln Drive, especially in wet weather.
Rte. 61 - Manayunk to Center City Phila Rte. R - Wissahickon to Frankford Transportation Center Rte. K - Arrot Terminal to East Falls Rte. 1 - 54th & City Line Ave to Parx Casino
Septa buses 9, 27, and 32 all run to Manayunk from Center City. The bus rides usually lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
The Norristown line, formerly called the R6 line, stops at East Falls right above Ridge and Midvale, the Wissahickon Station in the Wissahickon neighborhood at the eastern edge of Manayunk along Ridge Ave, the Manayunk Station in the heart of Manayunk one block above Main St, and the Ivy Ridge Station along Umbria St. in Roxborough.
The Germantown Avenue corridor neightborhoods are served by the Chestnut Hill West and Chestnut Hill East lines (formerly R7 and R8). Going outward from Center City, the Chestnut Hill West line stops at Queen Lane (Upper East Falls; Lower Germantown); Chelten Avenue (Germantown commercial district); Tulpehocken (historic Germantown houses); Upsal, Carpenter Lane, and Allens Lane (all in West Mount Airy); St. Martin's , Highland, and Chestnut Hill West (all in Chestnut Hill). The Chestnut Hill East Line stops at Wayne Junction and Wister (lower Germantown); Germantown (commercial district); Washington Lane (Awbury Arboretem); Stenton, Sedgwick, and Mount Airy (all in East Mount Airy); and Wyndmoor, Gravers, and Chestnut Hill East (all in Chestnut Hill). Route maps and schedules can be found in the Center City train stations, and are also posted at most of the stations along the lines.
At the intersection of School House Lane and Henry Ave is Philadelphia University, which was previously Philadelphia College of Textile and Science and features a previous home of Grace Kelly on its campus.
Bike Race Throughout the summer months Manayunk holds various events on Main Street and surrounding areas. In early June, the Philadelphia International Championship is held throughout the streets of Manayunk. Moving through Main Street and stretching up onto Manayunk Avenue, the bike race moves through various sections of the Manayunk/Roxborough area. The “wall” refers to a section of the race where the bikers are required to scale Lyceum Avenue, which has a steep 17 percent grade. The “wall” has become a main attraction for the race, as many riders find this the most challenging stretch of the race. The race has become a Philadelphia tradition, drawing thousands of visitors and spectators each year
Arts Festival The Manayunk Arts Festival is held in late June each year. Over two hundred artists come to Manayunk to showcase their work along Main Street. The Festival draws thousands to the Manayunk area, with vendors and artists lining the street with small booths. Local restaurants set up stands where passerby’s can sample the local cuisine. Many of the main businesses stay and offer specials throughout the weekend long festival. While the Arts Festival and the Bike Race are both held in the month of June, the gathering of artists provides a quieter option for families. Since its start in 1989, the Manayunk Arts Festival continues to attract more and more visitors each year.
Red Bull Soapbox In September 2008, Red Bull held its annual Red Bull Soapbox Derby in Manayunk. Thousands came to Manayunk to view over twenty "boxcars" race down the "wall" on Lyceum Avenue. The event took place September 6th, at 1 PM.
Recreation in Manayunk is very diverse. Keeping busy is not hard because the area has so much to offer. Manayunk offers more than just shops and restaurants, it is surrounded by nature. The top recreations in Manayunk are biking up the "Manayunk Wall", hiking the Manayunk Tow Path, and rowing along the Schuyllkill River.
Located only minutes from Manayunk's Main Street, lies Fairmont Park. Fairmont Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, and offers a variety of recreational options. Throughout the park lies paths for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, both paved and unpaved, as well as Boathouse Row. The Fairmont Park trails are popular among residents and a popular channel for escaping the inner city. The park runs from West Philadelphia, west to the King of Prussia area.
Many Manayunk residents take part in organized team sports that take place throughout the area. Through Philadelphia Sport and Social Leagues, both men and women are able to have fun and meet new people. Many leagues work with surrounding bars and restaurants to provide locations for teams to unwind after a competition.
Manayunk has two miles of extensive shopping centered along Main Street, including clothing boutiques and art galleries. Main Street also is a great place to find jewlery, electronics, beauty supplies, and florists.
Franco's Trattoria- Fine Italian Dining- 4211 Ridge Ave., 215-844-7889
Johnny Mañana's- Mexican Cuisine and famous margaritas-4201 Ridge Ave., 215-843-4747
Bucket's Bar and Grill- Casual Bar Atmosphere- 3749 Midvale Ave., 215-849-1222
Shan Chuan- Wide range of Chinese and Japanese Cuisine- 215-844-7889
The Pour House- Local Bar Atmosphere- 4213 Ridge Ave., 215-848-2770
Slices Pizza- 4249 Ridge Ave., 215-843-4747
Golden Crust Pizza- 3732 Midvale Avenue, 215-848-4400
Major Wing Lee's- Convenience and Sandwich Shop- 4207 Ridge Ave.
Sherman Mills is a community artist's lofts which have been renovated and include their own community of cafes, an art supply store, and studios.
The Trolley Car Cafe opened on November 12th, 2009 and was part of a plan for preservation in East Falls.
Remember that most of the restaurants and bars of Main St are essentially concentrated on little more then 520 yards along the Canal, though you will find others at the Southeast end of the street.
Wine and Sprits on Ridge Avenue offers a wide assortment of wines and liquors.
East Falls Beverage offers a variety of imported and domestic beers with a delivery service.
Manayunk is known for its hip night scene. Thursday-Saturday nights Main Street transforms into a hot destination for young adults. For the 21+ crowd Main Street offers 18 different bars to party in. Some bars are more sport related while others transform into dance clubs. Crowds from all over the city visit Main Street on the weekends because they know they will be able to find a good party, after all Manayunk does come from the Lenape Amerindian word manaiung (where we go to drink).