I came to Drexel University in the fall of 2015 all the way from Kentucky. For my first year, I clung to the campus, only straying for the occasional concert or a bite to eat. But there is so much more to Philadelphia than the few blocks that encompass Drexel’s campus.
As someone who came to Philadelphia with no experience with city-living at all, I was a bit afraid to step out of my comfort zone. But once I did, I saw how fun the city truly was.
First, you should figure out how to get around the city. The easiest way is by taking the SEPTA Market-Frankford subway line. It runs east to Frankford and west to 69th Street with two stops on Drexel’s campus (30th Street and 34th Street). Cash fare is $2.50 each way. You can pay with cash or tokens ($2.00 each), but the easiest way is with the newly unveiled SEPTA Key, which is a reloadable card that gives you access to the subway, buses, trolleys and more.
Walking is also a great way to get around. Philly is an incredibly walkable city. From Drexel’s campus you can walk to the Art Museum, City Hall, the movie theater on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus and Rittenhouse Square in about 20 minutes. Be careful when walking alone, especially at night or in areas you aren’t familiar with.
There are a lot of lovely parks throughout the city. Rittenhouse Square is probably the most well known. The park is situated at 18th and Walnut streets and is surrounded by a lot of shopping and dining options. Further down, Washington Square and Independence Mall offer green space next to many historical buildings.
But you don’t need to stray too far from campus to find a nice study spot. Cira Green is an elevated park that’s connected to the Evo apartment complex, on 30th and Chestnut streets. The Schuylkill River Trail offers a lovely running path from South Street to beyond Boathouse Row. Behind UPenn’s freshman dorms is James G. Kaskey Memorial Park, a little oasis of a park surrounding a man-made pond.
Philadelphia has a lot of great concert venues. From the Wells Fargo Center to First Unitarian Church (a fully functioning church where R5 Productions holds concerts at night), the city is filled with eccentric concert halls. My personal favorite is Union Transfer. The mid-sized venue has a high ceiling and always looks a bit smokey. UT will be hosting acts like Thundercat, Daniel Caesar, Kamasi Washington, Modern Baseball and many more throughout the fall.
The Coda is a club that has some hip-hop and EDM shows as well, such as Cousin Stizz and Goldlink this October. The newest venue is the Fillmore, a massive 3000-plus capacity concert hall that’ll put on shows from LCD Soundsystem to SZA later this year.
If concerts aren’t your thing, there is plenty more to Philly nightlife. Less than a mile away is Cinemark University City Penn 6, UPenn’s cinema. The Ritz in Old City shows a variety of movies, from new releases to classics and foreign art films. Good Good Comedy Theatre is a fun, small comedy venue that features cheap stand-up shows and open mics. There are also a bunch of clubs and bars but I’m not 21 and this is printing in the freshman issue so you probably aren’t either. Don’t try and sneak in with your fake ID you little criminal. Come hang out with me, a nice law-abiding citizen and we can go see movies and walk around and stuff. No? Alright fine.
If you aren’t feeling the Hans or Urban Eatery, there are plenty of food options throughout the city. For groceries, the closest major grocery stores are the Fresh Grocer on 40th Street and the Trader Joe’s on 22nd Street. For your cheesesteak needs, you can basically find one on any corner. My personal favorite is at Sonny’s on 2nd Street, which is right next to Franklin Fountain, one of the best ice cream shops in the city. There are also a ton of healthy eating choices sprinkled around. Sweetgreen, HipCityVeg, Honeygrow, Real Food Eatery and many more all offer fast options that your body and stomach will love. But I’m not Yelp, you can find some great restaurants on your own.
Drexel’s CAB offers a lot of events throughout the city, and uwishunu.com is Philadelphia’s unoffical city guide blog. But the best way to explore is to grab a couple friends and just go out. So have fun and see what the City of Brotherly Love has to offer you.