Hello dear readers!
One of the biggest perks about Swarthmore is its proximity to Philadelphia, a city teeming with rich culture and delicious food. Only a 25-minute train ride separates students from the city, and the convenience of having a SEPTA train station at the foot of campus is fantastic. My friends and I love going off campus once in a while. Now that I’m a senior, I find myself leaving campus more often than when I was a freshman, since there are still so many facets of the city that I have yet to explore.
1. Philadelphia Orchestra concerts
Probably once a month, I take the train out to Philly to listen to some of the most marvelous music performed by the world-class Philadelphia Orchestra. In the world of classical music, the Fabulous Philadelphians (as they’re lovingly called) are known for their warm and resonant string sound. Also, the Kimmel Center is a beautiful venue situated in the heart of the city, so there are a variety of options for a delicious dinner before walking over to the concert. And here’s the best part: as a college student in the Philadelphia area, you can buy a $25 subscription that grants you free access to nearly all of the concerts on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s schedule that year! While regular tickets cost anywhere between $40 and $100 for one concert, my student subscription allows me to attend many more concerts than I would even have time for during the year.
For example, last semester, I was able to see Yuja Wang (THE YUJA WANG!) perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F Minor, a piece that I absolutely love and worked on last year. Other times, I’ve been able to watch equally groundbreaking figures of classical music, including the talented violinist Veronika Eberle, who played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with extraordinary beauty, and internationally-acclaimed conductor Sir Simon Rattle, who led the Phil Orch in a dramatic performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. It’s a really wonderful opportunity to listen and watch such unparalleled music-making, whether or not you’re a die-hard classical music fan like me!
2. Endless art to see
Not only does the city offer the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but it also houses the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation, and other outdoor art installations, including Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which is not a garden but an inspiring tiled indoor/outdoor art space! The Philadelphia Museum has newly expanded their collection and viewing galleries, and the Barnes has one of the best collections of Impressionist art.
My friends and I have loved exploring the various public art displays that pop up from time to time around the city, too! Pictured above is a twist on the iconic Philly LOVE sculpture, and the AMOR sculpture (amor means love both in Spanish and Latin) was created to honor the historic visit by the pope to the United States and Philadelphia last year.
3. Outdoor spaces to feel like a kid again: Spruce Street Harbor Park & Dilworth Plaza
In the summer, Spruce Street Harbor Park is probably my favorite place to explore. It’s sort of like a boardwalk with food and craft vendors, but instead of the beach, it’s right off the harbor where you can paddleboat. There are also life-sized board games, including Jenga, chess, and checkers, and hammocks sprawled across the park for a relaxing afternoon of summer sun.
Sadly, the park only opens May–September, which means it’s not open to visit for most of the school year. But, if you’re sticking around at Swarthmore to do summer research, this is a fantastic place to go on weekends with friends! Maybe, you’ll be the next giant-Jenga champion!
4. Restaurant Week & other Philly foods!
Most people think of cheesesteaks and water ice when they think of Philadelphia, but there’s much more to the food than just those cliches. In fact, a lot of Swatties go out to Philly to enjoy Restaurant Week, when some of the best restaurants in the city offer a set course menu. Since the train ride into the city is so quick, a lot of students make their way into Philly to explore new cuisines and foods. Just last week, my friends and I went to Bubblefish, a sushi spot in Chinatown that also serves bubble tea!
Having access to so many vibrant cultural gems in Philadelphia is a big part of the Swarthmore experience. Even though Swarthmore may not be located in a bustling city, I think it is just the right combination: a small tight-knit community that’s just a short hop away from a colorful city, waiting for you whenever you want to embark on your next adventure.