Fairmount

Philadelphia is home to the largest urban park system in the country, and the neighborhood named after it is just as impressive. A sublime fusion of historic architecture and modern trends, Fairmount is bursting with iconic Philly townhouses with perfect stoops, music venues, coffee shops and eateries. Throw in a massive, historic prison and a museum row modeled after one of the most prestigious avenues in Paris, and you have an eclectic and intriguing Philadelphia neighborhood.

Photo © R. Kennedy for GPTMC

Insider Tips

Forget I-76! Rush hour can be a joy when you take “The Drives.” Kelly Drive on the east features a ton of beautiful sculptures, while Martin Luther King, Jr.Drive on the west offers a great view of iconic Boathouse Row.

The original Fairmount Water Works closed in 1909, and the building has been used for a variety of purposes, including the location of the Philadelphia Aquarium. Today it serves as an interpretive center.

William Penn continued his tree street names into Fairmount—look for Aspen, Beechwood, Myrtle, Myrtlewood, Olive and Poplar streets.


On a Budget

Bookhaven $$
2202 Fairmount Avenue
yelp.com
215.235.3226
In this literary maze, books overflow from the shelves to the floor. While the store can be a challenge when crowded, it has two floors full of great finds. If you’re trying to make room on your own shelves, sell your books here for store credit or cash.

 

Rodin Museum $
22nd Street and Ben Franklin Parkway
rodinmuseum.org
215.763.8100
Learn more about Auguste Rodin—creator of “The Gates of Hell” and “The Thinker”—during free guided tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. The suggested donation is only $5! PLEASE NOTE: The Rodin is closed for renovations until 2012.

 

Study Spots

Mugshots Coffeehouse
and Café $
21st Street & Fairmount Avenue
mugshotscoffeehouse.com 267.514.7145
Located across from Eastern State Penitentiary, this café provides a perfect study retreat. It’s spacious, there’s free Wi-Fi, the music isn’t loud and the fair-trade coffee is quite delicious—and effective. When hunger strikes, try the Bonnie and Clyde or the Capone.

 

Logan Square (free)
18th to 20th Streets between Vine and Race Streets
lsnaphilly.org
It’s hip to be square, even when you’re a circle. Rounded to accommodate traffic in 1919, Logan is one of city founder William Penn’s five original squares in Philadelphia. Take a seat on one of the many benches surrounding Swann Memorial Fountain, and for extra inspiration with that next paper, look for the Shakespeare memorial outside the Free Library of Philadelphia.

 

Outside Itch


Steps and Surrounding Areas of the Philadelphia Museum
of Art (free)
26th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway
philamuseum.org
215.763.8100
The variety of collections inside the walls of this beloved Philly staple are just the beginning of your Art Museum experience. Sun bathe on the majestic steps and see if you can keep count of how many tourists and natives do the Rocky Balboa at the top. Join an impromptu exercise class, or walk around the east side of the museum and visit the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center by the Schuylkill River.

 


Capriccio at Café Cret $$
16th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway
capricciocafe.com
215.735.9797
Lounge under the red umbrellas and discover the joys of dining alfresco. It’s easy to feel like you’re sipping espresso in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower with Cret’s impeccably baked pastries and delectable entrees.

 

Arts & Culture

Eastern State Penitentiary $$
20th Street & Fairmount Avenue
easternstate.org
215.236.5111
Dating back to 1829, this National Historic Landmark once served as a solitary confinement penitentiary, a new and radical idea at the time. The prison housed a lot of jailbirds, including Al Capone, Willie Sutton and Pep the Dog. Check out Terror Behind the Walls, the nationally recognized Halloween haunted house, and enjoy a year-round tour for a different but just-as-memorable experience. Because the halls may be haunted by former inmates, Eastern State has been featured on “Ghost Hunters,” “World’s Scariest Places,” “Most Haunted Live” and “Fear.”

 


Museum Without Walls (free)
Along Ben Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive
museumwithoutwallsaudio.org 215.546.7550
A treat from the Fairmount Park Art Association, this audio tour tells the behind-the-scenes stories of 51 of the most interesting public artworks in Philadelphia. People can call the sculpture number from their phones or download the full audio directly to smartphones. The more traditional crowd can use a map, while the technologically inclined can download an app.


Seriously


The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop $$
713 North 4th Street
therandomtearoom.com 267.639.2442
With fresh-brewed Chai, knowledgeable staff and fascinating objects tucked in every corner, this charming tea house will quickly become your favorite haunt. Attention to detail is what makes this quaint spot the kind of place that will make a coffee lover go cold turkey for a cup of hot chamomile. The shop includes scrumptious baked goods, antiques and skin care products—a bit of something for everyone.

 


Benjamin Franklin
Parkway (free)
Broad to 25th Streets
parkwaymuseumsdistrict.org
People can find French inspiration all over Philadelphia—in fact, Aix-en-Provence is our sister city—particularly in the layout and design of one of the most iconic points in the city. Landscape architect and planner Jacques Gréber used Paris’ Champs-Élysées to guide his vision for Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1919. The end point of the Philadelphia Museum of Art looks quite similar to that featuring the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.


Don’t Miss


London Grill $$
2301 Fairmount Avenue
londongrill.com
215.978.4545

 


Kite & Key $$
1836 Callowhill Street
thekiteandkey.com
215.568.1818