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Social & Cultural

Johnson House
Northwest Philadelphia has excellent restaurants, galleries, museums, and one-of-a-kind shops. The Woodmere Art Museum, in Chestnut Hill, boasts a permanent collection and regularly exhibits art from other museums. Lectures and art classes are offered for children and adults. Germantown is known for several historic mansions, such as
Chew Mansion at Cliveden of The National Trust
Chew Mansion on the grounds of Cliveden of The National Trust (site of The Battle of Germantown during the Revolutionary War) and the Victorian Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, both open to the public. Every October, Cliveden hosts a reenactment of the Battle of Germantown. They will mark the 225th anniversary in 2002. The Johnson House was built in 1768, and during the Civil War was a station on the Underground Railroad. There are many other historical landmarks in the region. Philadelphia's Historic Northwest Coalition is a coalition of organizations in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill to promote the historical sites of the Northwest.

The Sedgwick Cultural Center is in an old movie theater. Photo by Bill Dikeman of Mt. Airy Business Association.
The Sedgwick Cultural Center in Mt. Airy is a dynamic organization dedicated to building community through the arts. Its cultural and educational programs for children, teens and adults reflect the diversity of the Northwest community.
ALMA Gallery
The ALMA (Artists League of Mt. Airy) gallery and art center exhibits local artists in the Sedgwick lobby. Klezmer music and an annual Christmas Eve “Klezmas” concert are special features.

Community theaters in the region include Stagecrafters in Chestnut Hill and the Allens Lane Theater in Mt. Airy.
Mt. Airy Day
The Allens Lane Arts Center offers art classes and an arts-focused summer day camp. It was the first integrated camp in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Folksong Society, based in Mt. Airy, sponsors monthly concerts and the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. The Folk Factory is a “forum for people interested in music of all kinds and progressive social change.”

Philadelphia’s public library system, with branches throughout the Northwest, has excellent children’s sections and programming.

One of the area’s best known institutions is the Weavers Way Food Co-op, which has been existence for more than 30 years. The Co-op dispenses groceries and produce, including many organically produced items, personal care products, and flowers and offers programming like discussion groups. It carries challah on Fridays, kosher poultry and Jewish holiday products. Most important, the Co-op inspires and generates the warmth and connectedness of the Mt. Airy community.

The Moving Arts of Mt. Airy table at Mt. Airy Day

Across the street from the Co-op, the Moving Arts of Mt. Airy (MaMa) studio offers movement, dance and exercise classes. The spacious FitLife Fitness & Aquatics boasts a wide variety of exercise equipment as well as a full class fitness program which includes: Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics, Cardio Kickboxing; a heated pool for water classes including water aerobics, arthritis aquatics and water walking classes as well as lap swimming, swim lessons, Aquatic Therapy, Family Swim Days and much more! FitLife’s physical therapy department offers quality care for people needing land or aquatic physical therapy.

For more than 25 years, the Mt. Airy Learning Tree has provided an inexpensive community based education program. They now offer close to 200 classes during fall, winter and spring terms -- primarily for adults. “Neighbors teach neighbors” in more than 50 “classrooms” throughout the Northwest. Classes fall under topics such as wellness, walks and talks, arts and crafts, computers, cooking, business, financial help, words and music, dance, home and family.

The region also has an ice skating rink and amateur sports leagues. The Allens Lane Arts Center has free tennis courts, illuminated at night. On Saturday afternoons at Allens Lane, a Shabbat football game brings kids, teens and adults together. There are several playgrounds for children, including one at Allens Lane, one at the Germantown Jewish Centre, one at Germantown Avenue and Sedgwick Street, and attractive community-constructed play environments at Henry Houston School in Mt. Airy and Jenks School in Chestnut Hill.

There are many supports for parents and their young children, including nursing mother support groups, parenting and play groups, as well as day care and nursery school programs in a variety of settings. The Early Childhood Program of the Germantown Jewish Centre has been thriving for many years.

Lien-Nibauer Photography

Northwest Philadelphia celebrates the seasons--with the annual Mt.Airy Day in the Spring and the Chestnut Hill Arts Festival in the Fall and Garden Festival in the Spring. Historic Germantown Avenue, which still has cobblestones and trolley tracks, is the main thoroughfare through Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Mt.Airy’s main business district has been revitalized by the transformation of the old Sedgwick Theatre into The Sedgwick Cultural Center. The District has encouraged new activity and new restaurants or coffee shops including The Trolley Car Diner, Little Jamaica, North by Northwest, InFusion, A Coffee and Tea Gallery, Coffee Junction (at Allens Lane Train Station), Point of Destination (at Upsal Train Station), Rinker Rock Café, Mt. Pleasant Café. North by Northwest features live music and was named “Best of Philly” for Live Music by Philadelphia Magazine. These new establishments join the popular P.J. McMenamin’s Tavern, Golden Crust Pizza, Umbria and Cresheim Cottage Café, whose building dates to about 1748. The nearby Tavern at Goat Hollow (new name?) also has musical entertainment, as well as good food. InFusion, which also hosts art and photography exhibits, poetry and musical entertainment, was named Best Kid Friendly Coffee House by Philadelphia Magazine, while Mt. Pleasant Café was named Best of Philly for Value. Coming soon are South African and vegetarian restaurants.

Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy has also seen the opening of a number of art and craft specialty stores and galleries. Another Best of Philly Award winner is Jean-Jacques Gallery, for Eclectic Gifts. The gallery sells contemporary functional art. Elizabeth Vander Veer Shaak, a renowned bowmaker for violins, cellos and basses, operates Mt. Airy Violins and Bows. Recently opened are Tesserae Studio Gallery, a mosaic tile store which also sells supplies, as well as offering classes and parties for adults and children, and Amoeba Art Shop, which besides art supplies, sells unique and humorous items and hopes to have childrens’ activities in the future. Coming soon is the Mt. Airy Custom Furniture Store.

Tree-lined Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill is full of tempting shops offering clothing, jewelry, art, gifts, gourmet foods and breads, flowers and many antiques, as well as books, toys and imported crafts. It also boasts a farmers’ market and an old-fashioned hardware store--along with Staples and CVS. Chestnut Hill also offers many excellent restaurants, including Yu Hsiang Garden, Cin Cin, King’s Garden, Solaris Grille, Chestnut Grill and Sidewalk Cafe, Melting Pot (fondue) and Osaka Japanese Restaurant. A couple of blocks off the Avenue is the cozy, casual Cafette. Coffee bars include Starbucks, Borders Bookshop, Labrador Coffee, Cake and Roller's Express-O. Along with coffee, Roller’s Express-O serves breakfast and ice cream. Bredenbeck’s Bakery is a popular ice cream parlor and bakery. Baker Street Bread Company, French Bakery & Café, Gilda’s Biscotti, Metropolitan Bakery and The Night Kitchen also serve up sumptious baked goods. For fast food, there is McDonald’s and Fiesta III Pizza.

The trolley tracks end at the “Top of the Hill” where we find Borders Books, the public library and Chestnut Hill Hospital, as well as Roller’s Restaurant, McNally’s Tavern, Al’Dana II Middle Eastern Cuisine and family-friendly Cosimi’s Pizza. Other establishments serving tavern food are The Mermaid Inn, with live music nightly, and Campbells Place. Bruno’s is a popular lunch spot about a mile above the business district, and Valley Green Inn is a short drive into Fairmount Park. Most of the restaurants in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill are smoke-free. More information about Chestnut Hill is available on the Chestnut Hill web site.

A ten-minute ride from Mt. Airy is Main Street in Manayunk, a strip of 65 upscale galleries and interesting shops and 30 restaurants, along the Manayunk Canal. Each June, bikers from around the world participate in the grueling U.S. Pro Cycling Championship, whose route includes Manayunk and the challenging steep “Manayunk Wall.” The event has become a weekend festival. Other notable events are Canal Day, Manayunk Cycling Celebration, the Arts Festival, the Indian Summer Festival and Holidays on Main. See Manayunk web site for more information. Next door is Roxborough, which runs through busy Ridge Avenue.


Carpenter Woods, in the heart of Mt. Airy, is a popular hiking, bird-watching and dog-walking area. Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the United States, graces the area, affording Northwest residents easy access to magnificent woodland paths, the Wissahickon Creek, and biking and equestrian trails.
bikers valleygreen
Forbidden Drive, where cars are prohibited, extends in both directions from the 18th century Valley Green Inn along the Wissahickon Creek. It provides nine beautiful miles of level trail for biking, jogging and walking. The creek is home to ducks and geese. More information about the Wissahickon can be found at the Wissahickon Valley web site.

In addition to Fairmount Park and spectacular private gardens, the Morris Arboretum, in Chestnut Hill,
Morris Arboretum. ©Melvin A. Chappell
is Pennsylvania’s official arboretum, with 101 acres of gardens. An accessible trail provides a pathway to view its champion trees from throughout the world, special gardens, and a Victorian fernery. The Arboretum also offers a tu B’shvat children’s program, along with horticultural programs for all ages.

Groups like Friends of the Wissahickon ensure the environment is protected.

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