When most people think of Philadelphia, they think of the hustle and bustle of Center City - tourists on Independence Mall, the mob throughout the business district, and students milling around University City. As always though, Philly is more than its stereotype. The bounds of the city encompass parks and rivers, playgrounds and cultural centers, and neighborhoods big enough to be considered their own towns.
Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood just like this. Located at the very tip of Fairmount Park in the Wissahicken Valley, it has its own thriving community life and way of doing things. The fact that it's also one of the prettiest places in the city with its own rich history makes it just that much more of a place that everyone has to experience. With cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes, and colorful shop awnings, it's hard to believe you're walking along a real avenue and not a movie set.
A "gateway between city and farmland", most of Chestnut Hill is located in its own historic district and is in the National Register of Historic Places. Drawn to the cooler temperatures, the town, already a center of commerce, became a collection of summer vacation homes for Philadelphia's rich and wealthy. With the mindset of building a utopia of sorts, it was a place to relax and pursue hobbies that involved music, arts, horticulture, literature, and civic affairs. Nearly every famous architect in Philadelphia had a hand in the shaping of Chestnut Hill. In the mid-1800s, with the Chestnut Hill Railroad and trolleys making the commute to Center City so easy, the town was official named part of the city of Philadelphia. For those interested in the unique history in the city, we highly recommend the self-guided, audio tour "A Walk on Germantown Avenue" and a visit to the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.
Today the cobblestone streets are still lined with amazing shops and over 30 delicious restaurants. The extensive boutique shopping options and personalized services guarantee that there is something for everyone. The Philadelphia Print Shop is a museum and store in one with over 20,000 antique maps and prints to view, while the Chestnut Hill Pharmacy is both quaint and efficient. Those looking to add special touches to the home will love Greenology Organic Living or transforming a whole living space with Patricia Marian Cove, Architectural Interiors and Design. We loved the upscale consignment shops, Statement Boutique Consignment and Greene Street Consignment, as well as the assortment of activewear at Indigo Schuy. There are plenty for the kids too with Oxford Circus Toys, Greene Street Kids, and the newly opened Villavillekula, LLC. With specialty services from Robertson's Flowers and Events to the Chestnut Hill Cat Clinic and one-of-a-kind stores like the Chocolate Hill Candy and Fudge Shop and Weaver's Way Co-op, make sure you've planned for enough to time to browse the entire avenue. Take a mid-day break or make dinner plans at one of the tasty and unique local eateries while you're in town. Our current favorites: Thai Kuu Authentic Thai and Asian Cuisine, Campbell's Place, and Chill on the Hill: Frozen Yogurt (but we recommend trying them all!).
On top of all the amazing shopping and dining, there's a lot to enjoy in the area. With Chestnut Hill's close proximity to Fairmount Park, the available trails to explore are endless. For an experience with nature inside the neighborhood, head to the Morris Arboretum with its beautiful gardens and sculptures, as well as the fun of the Garden Railway and Tree Adventure. Also along the Avenue, one can discover pure Philadelphian art at the historic Woodmere Art Museum.
Chestnut Hill has a jam-packed schedule all year long of festivals, markets, sales, and seasonal special events. Pet-friendly, stroller-friendly, people-friendly, this beautiful historic neighborhood with a thriving community is a definite a must-visit location in Philadelphia. Whether you come for the shopping, the dining, the history, or just the experience, one thing is certain - you will definitely be wanting to come back!
Follow Daily Vacationer: