If you’re moving to Philadelphia, what do you need to know to fit right into your adopted city like a real Philadelphian?

Sure, everyone knows Philly is a historic place — the birthplace of the nation and all that — but do you know what makes it a fresh, cosmopolitan city with nearly anything you could imagine to do, eat, visit, see, and cheer for? Thought so. Let’s get started with this guide to the fun little details, along with a few practical tips, so you can start enjoying your new surroundings as quickly as possible.

1. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods

Philadelphia is a city of distinct but connected neighborhoods, over 100 in total. From the Great Northeast to South Philly, diverse and inviting neighborhoods are filled with stoop-front rowhouses, detached homes, and high-rise apartments and condos. If you haven’t decided where to live, check out our tour of some of Philly’s most desirable neighborhoods and livable suburbs.

Winter at Independence Hall (Source: @visitphilly via Facebook)

2. Philly gets about 20 inches of snow each winter

On your Philadelphia moving day and throughout the year, it’s important to know what weather to expect at your new home. Philly is a temperate mid-Atlantic city, just 50 miles from the shore and 70 from the Pocono Mountains.

Summers are fairly hot and muggy, with an average high just under 90 during July. Winters are moderately cold with daily temps during the holiday season straddling the freezing line. Rain can be expected a quarter to a third of the days each month, with about 20 inches of snow each winter.

Map of Philadelphia

3. Getting around is easier than New York or DC

Commuting around Philly is easy and convenient, at least compared to other northeast cities. The average one-way commute time in Philadelphia is 31.5 minutes, with 21.3% using public transit, according to U.S. Census data. Here’s a snapshot of the city’s major transportation routes:

  • Interstate 95 lines the eastern city edge
  • I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway) divides West Philly from the rest of the city
  • Broad Street (PA 611), America’s longest straight boulevard, forms the north/south backbone
  • I-676 (Vine Street Expressway) and US Route 1 (Roosevelt Boulevard/Expressway) run east/west through the city
  • I-476 is the Pennsylvania Turnpike north of the city and the Blue Route to the west
  • Six major bridges connect Philly to South Jersey
SEPTA 15th Street train station
15th Street Station (Source: @septaphilly via Instagram

SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, operates the regional public transit system. Their fleet includes several modes:

  • Broad Street Line subway north/south
  • Market-Frankford elevated train primarily east/west
  • 13 Regional Rail train lines
  • 131 bus and eight light rail, trolley, and trolleybus lines

Trains and subways flow through three Center City hubs — Suburban, Jefferson, and 30th Street Stations. Amtrak supports 11 routes out of 30th Street. Additionally, Philadelphia offers the Indego bike share program, but rental scooter companies remain illegal in the city.

Click above to watch people guess what Jawn means in Philly speak

4. Philly speak is easy with this primer

Philadelphia, like most major cities, has its own language, something any newcomer must eventually learn.

Here’s a guide to words in Philly speak:

Jawn Can literally mean anything; any jawn is a jawn
Yo Greeting; hello
Yiz Addressing a group of people
Iggles Super Bowl champion football team (also “the Birds”)
Wooder Water
Hoagie Don’t ever say “sub”
Jimmies Candy toppings on ice cream
Wit Ordering onions on a cheesesteak
Downtheshore The Jersey beaches
Mischief Night The night before Halloween to pull pranks
Lager Ask for it and get a Yuengling beer
Gravy Red pasta sauce
Jeet “Did you eat?”
El The Market-Frankford elevated train
Center City Don’t call it “downtown”
MAC machine An ATM
State Store Where you buy liquor and wine
Delco and Montco Delaware and Montgomery Counties

5. You can eat a lot more than cheesesteak

Philadelphia has a long and historic relationship with food, a distinctive cuisine, world-class restaurant scene, and a number of signature dishes. Here’s where to go and what to eat to dine like a local.

SIGNATURE FOODS

Philly Cheesesteak inside pizza makes Philly taco
Philly Taco from Jim’s Steaks (Source: @southstreetphilly via Instagram)

Sandwiches

  • Cheesesteak, wit or witout (fried onions), with whiz (cheddar sauce), provolone, or white American cheese
  • Roast Pork Sandwich, with sharp provolone and sautéed broccoli rabe
  • Philly Taco, a cheesesteak from Jim’s Steaks wrapped in a giant Lorenzo & Son’s pizza slice
  • Hoagie (don’t call it a “sub”)

Snacks and sides

  • Soft Pretzel, in the Philly figure-eight style
  • Tomato Pie, cheeseless rectangle pizza on a focaccia crust served at room temperature
  • Scrapple, a pork-based breakfast side
  • Pork Roll, another pork-based breakfast side
  • Snapper Soup, exactly what you think (sorry, turtles)
  • Crab Fries, crinkle-cut with an Old Bay blend served with beer cheese

Candy and Dessert

  • Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Philly’s iconic candy bar
  • Tastykake, a lifestyle – not a snack food line (headquartered in Philly)
  • Water Ice, kinda an Italian ice but not, kinda a slushie but not

Drinks

  • Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak and Hires Root Beer, quintessential local sodas
  • Citywide, a bar order of a Pabst Blue Ribbon with a whiskey shot for just 3 or 4 bucks
Food from Vedge Restaurant
Vedge, Philly’s take on vegetarian (Source: @vedgephiladelphia via Instagram)

SIGNATURE PHILLY RESTAURANTS

The main course:

  • Zahav, best restaurant in America (James Beard Awards)
  • Any Stephen Starr restaurant (including Jones, Buddakan, El Vez, Parc, Talula’s Garden, Barclay Prime, and Continental)
  • Vernick Food & Drink
  • Kanella Grill
  • Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat
  • Vedge, for vegetarian
  • Han Dynasty
Chickie's & Pete's
Chickie’s & Pete’s, known for crab fries (Source: Chickiesnpetes via Instagram)

Philly casual:

  • Pizzeria Beddia, named best pizza in America (Bon Appétit magazine)
  • Jim’s, Dalessandro’s, or Donkey’s Place for cheesesteaks (only tourists go to Pat’s and Geno’s)
  • John’s Roast Pork or DiNic’s for roast pork sandwiches
  • Paesano’s, Di Bruno Bros., or Primo’s for hoagies
  • Chickie’s and Pete’s for crab fries
  • South Philly Barbacoa
  • Green Eggs Café
  • Lucky’s Last Chance, for burgers
  • Federal Donuts, for chicken and donuts
  • North Bowl, for tater tots
Water Ice
John’s Water Ice (Source: @ johnswaterice via Instagram)

Sweets:

  • Termini Brothers Bakery, for cannoli
  • Franklin Fountain, for ice cream and milkshakes
  • Beiler’s Doughnuts
  • John’s Water Ice

On-the-go:

  • Wawa, more a culture than convenience store chain that started outside Philly
Reading Terminal Market sign

Everything you can imagine and more:

  • Reading Terminal Market (featuring nearly 30 eateries)

6. History haunts some Philadelphia museums

History in Philly lives down every street the Founding Fathers walked. But it’s also filled with art, culture, science, and education. Both in and away from the Parkway Museum district, there are incredible destinations for the whole family, including these must-visit attractions.

Woman sews in Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross House (Source: @historicphilly via Facebook)

History:

  • Independence National Historic Park: Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, City Tavern, Christ Church, Franklin Court, and more
  • Old City museums: National Constitution Center, Museum of the American Revolution, Betsy Ross House, US Mint, Elfreth’s Alley, African American Museum of Philadelphia, and National Museum of American Jewish History
Magic Gardens in Philly
Magic Gardens (Source: @visitphilly via Instagram)

Art and culture:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky statue and steps)
  • Barnes Foundation
  • Magic Gardens urban mosaic
Franklin Institute Science Museum
Franklin Institute Science Museum (Source: @franklininstitute via Instagram)

Science, technology and military:

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Battleship USS New Jersey
  • Fort Mifflin, America’s oldest active military base
  • Franklin Institute Science Museum
  • Independence Seaport Museum
  • Penn Museum, for archaeology and anthropology
  • Simeone Automotive Museum
Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary (Source: @Eastern-State-Penitentiary via Facebook)

Probably Haunted:

  • Eastern State Penitentiary
  • Edgar Allan Poe House

Specialty:

  • Mummers Museum
  • Museum of Pizza Culture
  • Mütter Museum, for medical oddities
  • Please Touch Museum, for kids

7. There’s tons of free stuff to do

Enjoying Philly on a budget is easy – you just have to know where to go. Several historic sites mentioned earlier don’t cost a dime, like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and many museums have free or pay-what-you-wish days. Here’s some ideas for great things to do for free year ‘round.

 Couple under LOVE statue in JFK Place
LOVE Statue in JFK Place (Source: @visitphilly via Facebook)

Famous places to visit:

  • Running up the Rocky steps
  • LOVE statue in JFK Plaza
  • Bartram’s Garden, America’s oldest botanical garden

Parks and trails:

  • John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
  • Rail Park elevated rail-trail park and Cira Green rooftop park
  • Spruce Street Harbor Park urban beach
  • Schuylkill Banks and Boardwalk riverside urban hiking and biking trail
"Once Upon a Nation" history storytelling bench
“Once Upon a Nation” history storytelling bench (Source: @historicphilly via Facebook)

Learning and tours:

  • “Once Upon a Nation” history storytelling benches
  • Mural Mile self-guided walking tours
  • Yards Brewing Company tours

Entertainment:

  • Free performances at Kimmel Center
  • Free concerts Fridays at noon at World Café Live

Laid back exercise:

  • Race Street Pier yoga
  • Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course
People pose at Pizzadelphia
Pizzadelphia in The Navy Yard (Source: @pizzadelphiafest via Instagram)

8. From Pizzadelphia to Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival, you’ll never be bored   

Not everything great in Philly is available any day you wish. Some of the best goings-on only happen once a year. From parades to exhibits to festivals, here are some amazing things you’ll only get one chance every 12 months to experience.

Festivals and holidays:

  • Comcast Holiday Spectacular display
  • Halloween’s “Terror Behind the Walls” at Eastern State Penitentiary
  • July 4th Welcome America festival
  • Philadelphia Black Pride

Food and drink:

  • Philly Craft Beer Festival
  • Parks On Tap roving summer beer garden
  • StrEAT Food Festival, Burger Brawl, and Pizzadelphia
  • Wawa Hoagiefest
Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival (Source: @MadeInAmericaFest via Facebook)

Music:

  • Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival (Labor Day weekend)
  • The Roots Picnic
  • WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival

Parades:

  • New Year’s Day Mummers Parade
  • Thanksgiving Day Parade, America’s oldest

Sports:

  • Army-Navy football game
  • Broad Street Run, America’s largest 10 miler
  • Dad Vail Regatta (May)
  • Penn Relays, America’s oldest athletic event
  • Philly Naked Bike Ride
Devon Townsend at Theatre of the Living Arts
Devon Townsend at Theatre of the Living Arts
(Source: @TLAPhilly via Facebook, Photo by Skylar Watkins)

9. Philly’s music scene is home to American Bandstand

As the hometown of Philadelphia soul, American Bandstand, Gamble & Huff, and “Rock Around The Clock,” Philly has one of the nation’s greatest music traditions. Artists from Philly span the spectrum from Hall & Oates, Chubby Checker, Patty LaBelle, Boyz II Men, and Will Smith to The Roots, Meek Mill, Diplo, Dr. Dog, War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Dead Milkmen, and Joan Jett.

It follows that it’s also one of the best cities in America to see and hear live music, with a slew of music venues from iconic clubs to giant stadiums.

  • Large clubs: The Fillmore, Union Transfer, Electric Factory, Tower Theater, World Café Live, and the Theater for Living Arts
  • Smaller clubs: Milkboy, Johnny Brenda’s, The Foundry, Underground Arts, Kung Fu Necktie, Boot & Saddle, The Fire, and more
  • Stadiums: Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park
  • Arenas and halls: Wells Fargo Center, Academy of Music, and Kimmel Center
  • Amphitheatres: BB&T Pavilion and the Mann Center

10. Sports are life

Unlike places like New York or L.A., Philly has one team only in each of the major sports, so everyone’s on the same page… except when it comes to college basketball where the city is divided many ways.

Philadelphia Eagles Stadium
Lincoln Financial Field, where the NFL Eagles play (Source: @visitphilly via Instagram)

Philadelphians bleed team colors and everyone is involved from every walk of life, and the city’s mood is reflected based on yesterday’s win or loss. So if you want to walk into nearly any conversation in Philly, be sure to know the Birds’ playoff chances or your favorite Phillie. Here’s a rundown of your sports options each season.

  • NFL’s Eagles and NCAA’s Temple University, Lincoln Financial Field (or the Linc)
  • MLB’s Phillies, Citizen’s Bank Park
  • NBA’s 76ers, NHL’s Flyers, and NLL’s Wings, Wells Fargo Center
  • MLS’ Union, Subaru Park
  • MLL’s Barrage, United Sports
  • WTT’s Freedoms, Hagan Arena
  • Philadelphia Big 5 NCAA basketball: Villanova, St. Joseph’s, Temple, La Salle, and Penn
man loads moving container

11. Philadelphia moving companies aren’t one-size-fits-all

You probably wish you could just skip the moving part and start enjoying your new city right away. If only, right? The next best thing is to plan your move to minimize the hassle, costs, and stress. As a large and old city with narrow, hard-to-navigate neighborhood streets, moving in Philadelphia can be stressful, especially if you’re driving and parking a rental truck. If you’ve relocated before and weren’t that thrilled with the moving experience, it’s a good idea to check all your options before deciding on one. Heck, you may even find that a combination works best for you. These two articles will help with your research:

  • Self-Moving 101: Learn how to save money and reduce stress at the same time with everything you need to know about moving with a rental truck or moving containers.
  • 9 Things to Consider Before Hiring Cross-Country Movers: If you’re moving to Philadelphia from far away, this blog will help you decide whether traditional movers or moving containers work best for you based on your situation, needs, and preferences.

Welcome to Philadelphia

Whether you’re moving a short distance or from across the country, we hope these tips help you get settled quickly so you can start enjoying all that comes with living in Philly. When you’re done, don’t forget to celebrate with a cheesesteak and lager!


Michael Hochman is a Philadelphia-based writer currently working as a lifestyle and travel writer for Apartment Guide and rent.com.