I couldn’t be more excited to introduce this next post in our Tales from the City of Motherly Love guest mommy series. This post is lovingly written by Blakely Minton, Head Philadelphia Mom for Daily Deals for Moms, real estate agent with D. Patrick Welsh Real Estate and proud and tired mama to Harper and Emrey. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Chestnut HIll and always wanted to learn more about the fabulous Mt. Airy and Germantown neighborhoods, too. So, this guest post is a triple whammy with fun things for families and kids in not one, not two, but all three of these amazing parts of our great city. Thanks, Blakely!
When my husband and I were ready to move out of Center City we were looking for only two things, close proximity to the city so we could still feel a part of the “scene” and the ability to park our cars in front of our house. We settled on a small street of twins on the border between Germantown and Mt. Airy. Almost 5 years, 1 dog and 2 kids later we are still discovering reasons why we love the neighborhood that Oprah herself applauded for its racial diversity and neighborhood appeal.
During the U.S. Revolutionary War era this area was a popular summer vacation spot for Center City families because of the cooler temperatures provided by its higher elevation and leafy streets. Today, the wide variety of 19th and early 20th century stone cottages, by many of the most prominent Philadelphia architects, are a beautiful reminder of the area’s cemented place in our country’s history. It’s present place is a wonderful intersection of three different, yet compatible, neighborhoods that come together throughout the year for various community events, including Mt. Airy Days in May, Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival and Harry Potter Weekend in Chestnut Hill where you can watch The 2nd Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup Quidditch Tournament.
There is also a shared sense of the need for a valuable education, which is why there is a myriad of alternative school options, from Cooperative Nursery School, The Big Backyard Nursery School, The Miquon School and the nationally recognized Germantown Friends School, which provides neighborhood children with a variety of places to learn, play and grow depending on their needs, resources and beliefs from nursery school to high school.
Germantown is bursting at the seams with historical locales, including The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, the only Victorian house museum in Philadelphia, Johnson House, Philadelphia’s only accessible and intact stop on the Underground Railroad, Awbury Arboretum, a 55-acre public landscape and historic house focused on connecting an urban community with nature and history, Wyck House, one of Philadelphia’s oldest houses is also home to Wyck’s Farmers’ Market open every Friday from 2:00 to 6:00. These are just a few destinations that will keep your family immersed in history and proud to be a part of this great city. Germantown isn’t all learning and no play! It is also the home to the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, which offers classes for kids age 3-15, summer camps and birthday party packages that will have your child’s friends talking about for weeks!
Mt. Airy is sandwiched between the quaint shops and upscale neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill and the culturally diverse Germantown shops and neighborhoods. This is probably why Mt. Airy is able to blend both of these personalities in perfect harmony. Mt. Airy’s “downtown” is where you will find Weaver’s Way Co-op, whose mission is to “provide community members with high quality, fairly priced food that is purchased from local farmers and vendors whenever possible.” The community’s support of this belief was evident when Weaver’s Way was recently able to open another location in Chestnut Hill. Around the corner from the coop is Blue Marble Bookstore, an anti-Barnes and Nobles in every inviting sense that only an independent book store can provide. Their children’s story time is like being read to by a literary master in the comfort of a friend’s home. A few blocks away is The Mt. Airy Learning Tree, which offers over 250 classes, ranging from Tai Chi, yoga, drawing, knitting, cooking, computers, How To classes and many more for all ages, backgrounds and skills. An unique and successful idea of neighbors teaching neighbors. As you head up Germantown Avenue on your way to Chestnut Hill you will see, The Trolley Car Diner, named after the Route 23 trolley car that used to rumble down Germantown Avenue. It is the “family” jewel of Mt. Airy offering parents not only a place to dine without cringing every time their kids squawk, but on Tuesdays, from 5-9, they can throw their fries all they want since kids dinners are half price! They are an active part of the fundraising community and offer family-friendly events throughout the year. Our favorite being their Summer Movie Series where they screen family movies outside…a prefect way to erase those “bewitching” hours!
Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood on a hill that is in constant and delightful contradiction. It is a college town without the uproar of rambunctious college coeds. It is an affluent town of delightful stone mansions without the air of riches. It is a shopping and dining destination without the throngs of hurried people. Found amongst the predominately independently-owned businesses lining Germantown Avenue are two of our favorite go-to spots. The Little Treehouse Café is the place to be if you like a big, colorful play space filled with wooden toys that you don’t have to clean up! It is the perfect destination when the weather is not. They also offer classes from tumbling to music, birthday party packages and have a full kitchen providing delicious lunch and dinner options. What’s not to love about an evening out with friends, eating and drinking (yes, it is BYOB!), while your kids play in sight! Our next stop is O’Doodles, an award-winning, specialty toy store that is dedicated to providing kids with toys that are powered by imagination, not plugs…what a novel idea in this battery powered world!
A constant theme of the area is the accessibility to parks, they can be found almost around every turn, but here are two local favorites:
Wissahickon Valley Park is a part of Fairmount Park, one of the largest city parks in the world, with the Wissahickon Creek, running its entire seven mile stretch from Chestnut Hill to Manayunk, creating a wooded valley that is electrified in the Fall by the morphing colors of foliage. Forbidden Drive, which is closed to cars, runs parallel to the creek and provides the prefect outdoor classroom for little eyes to explore from their stroller, bike or parental perch. The Valley Green Inn is found farther up the trail and has been a special creek side dining spot since the 1850’s. For the more adventurous families, hike to Lover’s Leap, Mom Rinker’s Rock and Devil’s Pool where Wissahickon’s legends and lore are waiting to be discovered.
Pastorius Park is a well-kept secret nestled away in Chestnut Hill a few blocks west of Germantown Avenue. During the summer months the Chestnut Hill Community Association puts on live concerts that are free to the public. These outdoor concerts are held on Wednesday nights around 7:30 pm where a natural amphitheater invites people (and dogs!) of all ages. Bring your cooler, juice boxes and snacks and set up camp to relax and listen to local music. It’s a perfect place to meet up with friends and watch the kids dance the night away under the stars.
I’m proud to be a part of a neighborhood that has from colonial days committed itself to being a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds, beliefs and ages.
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