To a lot of people, West Philadelphia is best known as the erstwhile home of Will Smith’s quintessential 90s TV character, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Are you humming the theme song right now? (Just me? Okay.)
According to nationwide newspaper USA Today, however, West Philly is an undiscovered treasure, ripe with charm and things to see and do. Located across the Schuylkill from Center City, you will find a quaint neighborhood adorned with Victorian mansions, streetcar tracks, and a vibrant artistic scene. Home to several immigrant communities, it is also one of the most diverse areas of the City of Brotherly Love.
First of all, West Philly is home to University City, where the campuses of Drexel University and Penn intersect. The result is that the area is flooded with bright young adults. But it’s not just an attraction for the youthful. The Penn Museum is one of the world’s best archeological museums, and the Institute of Contemporary Art is also not to be missed.
For both kids and the young at heart, the Philadelphia Zoo is another attraction without comparison. It is the oldest zoo in the nation, but it always feels brand-new with constant updates, additions, and renovations. Hanging overhead in several areas is the Treetop Trail, where monkeys and lemurs can roam freely over multiple exhibits. Similar in execution is Big Cat Crossing, where you can see lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars and other large felines stalking right over your head!
Also in West Philadelphia is Fairmount Park, the city’s largest green space. Explore 2,000 acres of fields, forests, hiking trails, lakes, creeks and riverside views, all verdantly green. Within the park is the Mann Center, an outdoor amphitheater that’s functioned as the seasonal home of the Philadelphia Orchestra since the 1930s. Mann Center seats over 4,500 people, but, with lawn seating, has the capacity to hold nearly 13,000.
These are just some of the cases to make for West Philly. What’s your favorite part of this neighborhood?