We're goin' hoppin today
Where things are poppin
The Philadelphia way
Were gonna drop in
On all the music they play
On the bandstand"
Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and sixth largest in the United States, as well as the second-largest on the East Coast and the second-densest with a population greater than 1,000,000 (after New York City in both cases — how did you guess?). Literally translated from the Greek its name means "The City of Brotherly Love," which is naturally its nickname. This is known as either irony considering the city's high murder rate, or Truth in Television; brothers fight, they say mean things about each other, but you'll have to search long and hard to find another city that is so beloved by its inhabitants.
The city was founded on October 27, 1682 by William Penn. A statue of him sits on top of City Hall, now eclipsed by Three Logan Square, Liberty Place, the Comcast Center, and the Comcast Technology Center in height.note It has been a very large city for a long, long time. In the years before The American Revolution, it was the second largest English-speaking city in the world, after London. It was the city where the Continental Congress met, and the Liberty Bell is kept there. Until Washington, D.C. was built, it was (usually) the US capital. New York surged past it in total population and general importance not long after, but Philly stayed the country's second largest metro area until the very end of the 19th century with the ascent of Chicago.note
More recently, Philadelphia is notable for being the largest city in the country having a healthy Black middle class; Philadelphia boasts a large number of Black families with generational wealth and power. This is probably related to the age of the Philadelphia Black community; Pennsylvania was one of the earliest English-speaking jurisdictions to abolish slavery, and the Quaker influence on Philadelphia's culture made it an attractive place for free Blacks to congregate. While race relations in Philadelphia have hardly been rosy, Black people have been able to build networks and wealth in Philadelphia for longer than almost anywhere else in America, so "bougie Black people" are a large and important constituency in Philadelphia culture and politics.
These neighborhoods are not to be confused with the broad "sections" of the city commonly used. Each "section" typically contains several neighborhoods.
CuisinePhiladelphia is completely Obsessed with Food, and for good reason; it has a rich culinary tradition its inhabitants fiercely defend. The city is famous for its cheesesteak sandwiches (known outside the city as "Philly cheesesteaks"). It's probably best if you just call them "cheesesteaks" or just "steaks"— anything else will get you laughed at by a native.note You may have heard that there is special lingo for ordering steaks; this is technically true, but only really used at a few restaurants (including the "originals"—now heavily marketed to tourists—Pat's and Geno's). Sub sandwiches are popular in Philly as well, and locally they are referred to as hoagies. You can get them from small sandwich shops or from Wawa, a very popular convenience store chain in the region. The city is also famous for its soft pretzels, which are narrow and S-shaped and produced in chains you break your pretzel off from; you eat it with brown mustard, thankyouverymuch. Its culinary delights also extend to its two major markets: the Italian Market on S. 9th St. in South Philly, home to old-fashioned red-gravy Italian-American food,note various Italian specialty shops, and cheap meat and produce; and the Reading Terminal Market in Center City, home to all manner of lunch restaurants, the Pennsylvania Dutchnote (making it one of the few places you're likely to see an Amish person or Mennonite in homespun operating a credit-card reader), and more expensive meat and produce. Another popular food in Philly is crab fries, especially from Chickie & Pete's, served with cheese dip. A popular dessert is Italian ices, especially from Rita's, referred to locally as water ice after its slushy texture.
But beyond the local food—which is heavily Italian-influenced—Philadelphia has a strong ethnic food scene, with cuisines from all over. Philadelphia's Chinatown is full of Chinese restaurants of nearly every Chinese region, plus several other Asian countries too, many of which are outstanding. West and Southwest Philadelphia boast large populations of African and Caribbean immigrants and correspondingly strong West African, Ethiopian, and Caribbean restaurant scenes. The Southwest boasts a large Korean community as well, as do the Northeast and Olney/Oak Lane (particularly right on the line with Cheltenham Township); Philadelphia is thus one of the better places on the East Coast to get Korean food (though admittedly not nearly as good as Bergen County, NJ). An influx of technical jobs surrounding Comcast (yeah, we know) brought large numbers of Indians to Philadelphia; South Indian cuisine in particular has gained a foothold in Center City and Northeast Philadelphia (as many Indians settled there and in nearby Bensalem). Also big in the Northeast are various Central and Eastern European cuisines, ranging from communities that have lived in Philadelphia since the 19th century (particularly Poles) to more recent Russian and Ukrainian arrivals coming since the 1990s.
Parts of North Philadelphia host large communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and South Americans (particularly Colombians and Peruvians); these cuisines are therefore strong in that area, and a few others. South Philadelphia has sizeable communities of Southeast Asians, particularly Vietnamese, but also Khmer and Lao; the pho scene in Philadelphia is pretty on point.
One thing Philadelphians will concede about food in the city is that (some particularly good spots in South Philly excepted), Mexican food in the city is merely okay at best. Philly people grudgingly accept that, thanks to their more sizeable Mexican populations, Washington and New York are where you need to be in the Northeast for Mexican cuisine.
Cultural institutionsPhiladelphia is also a very culturally rich city, with its world-class orchestra and the oldest still-operating opera house and theater in America all along, or right off of, the Avenue of the Arts (a.k.a. South Broad Street north of Lombard Street); and many world-class museums dotting the beautiful vista of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The city is also home to a number of theaters; as well as the weirdly wonderful, sequin-and-feather-filled Mummers Parade every New Year's Day note And don't forget it has the first zoo, the first free library system, and the first Catholic school system in the country. The city is also known for its neoclassical architecture and its huge number of public murals, for which even the city's graffiti artists hold a healthy respect and generally will not tag (the few taggers who deface the murals lose the respect of other taggers...after being given a shit-kicking if found).
SportsThe residents, when it comes to sports, are infamous for being extremely outspoken about their beloved teams. There have been a couple of incidents involving famous ad campaign figures in the past that have turned into the city's own Never Live It Down moment. It doesn't help that some in the city and particularly the city's media like reliving those particular moments. While criticism about the tendency to react vocally (booing in crowds, sarcasm and snide comments individually) certainly has been well earned, the city itself has not had any more incidents than any other city. (Admittedly, the last couple of years when Veterans Stadium was in operation, they actually had a court in the basement simply because of the sheer number of law-breakers at Eagles games.) This even extends to pseudo-sports, as quite a few notable wrestling promotions (most notably Ring of Honor and the defunct ECW) are based in Philadelphia, and most of them attract rowdy, loud, and obnoxious crowds. Philadelphia and her inhabitants are very vocal about their criticism or disdain, even to their own sports teams; and if you go into their city with a bad show, you'll hear it straight from the viewers. Also, they seem to have a problem with naming their hockey/basketball stadium- built as a replacement for the old Spectrum (since razed), it was first named CoreStates Center, after a local bank. Then that bank got bought out, and was renamed to First Union Center. They merged with another bank, hence becoming Wachovia Center. Then Wachovia was bought out by Wells Fargo of California, so it's now Wells Fargo Center.
On a less negative note, there was Harry Kalas. His death hit the entire city hard, showing that even if Philly fans show it in negative ways, they really do love their sports teams and the people who keep them connected. Even a lot of those residents who don't really like sports will admit this much.
Then came Super Bowl LII in 2018, where the Eagles triumphed over the Patriots in a nail biter of a game, avenging their Super Bowl XXXIX loss to them from 2005. The celebrations started immediately with people rushing to the streets, screaming and marching, honking car horns, and climbing poles. It was a true testament to how much a victory really meant to the city of Philadelphia. Notably, the Eagles and Patriots both have brandings that are very patriotic - the bald eagle is the national bird of the United States, while the Patriots have a branding based on the colonial history of Greater Boston and a color scheme incorporating the colors of the American flag.
DialectThere is a distinct Philadelphia accent spoken by natives. By far the most famous feature of the Philly accent is that water is pronounced as "wooder." There are some flat vowel sounds in there, such as the "ow" sound being replaced by a flat "A" sound so "towel" is pronounced as "tal," and the "H" sound is frequently dropped (for example, "huge" sounds like "yuge"). There is a clipped, percussive inflection, as well as the usual Mid-Atlantic distinction between words like "caught" vs. "cot." Another notable feature is that "Eagles" is pronounced like "Iggles." Also, be prepared to hear someone refer to a group of people as "yous." There are slight variations throughout the city and its metropolitan area, with notable variants including South Philly, Northeast Philly, and neighboring areas of Delco and South Jersey. Finally, no mention of Philadelphia's dialect would be complete without acknowledging its own, unique Smurfism: Jawn (pronounced roughly JAW'ahn); it's a stand-in for any and all nouns ("'Ey! Checkout this Jawn!" for example).
Philadelphia in Fiction:
- Rocky, of course.
- In real life, the Rocky statue from the third film got to stay in front of the Art Museum for several years before finally being moved to the sports stadium.
- It's back to being in front of the Art Museum, just to the right of the stairs.
- In real life, the Rocky statue from the third film got to stay in front of the Art Museum for several years before finally being moved to the sports stadium.
- Cold Case
- The main character of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was originally from West Philadelphia, born and raised. As is Will Smith himself. These lyrics have actually been found on posters at stops along the El; in 2018, some suggested that SEPTA might get Smith to voice some announcements on the train (following Seth Rogen's turn recording PSAs on the Vancouver SkyTrain).
- The Real World: Philadelphia has the housemates living in Old City.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia takes place in South Philadelphia, which is where show star and co-creator Rob McElhenney grew up.
- Approximately half of Jackass, and all of Viva La Bam.
- Left 4 Dead: The "No Mercy" campaign is based in a fictionalized fusion of Philly and Pittsburgh.
- All My Children and One Life to Live take place in neighboring fictional Main Line suburbs.
- 12 Monkeys takes place here and in Baltimore.
- Most films directed by M. Night Shyamalan take place in or near Philadelphia.
- Boy Meets World is set in an unspecified part of the Philadelphia suburbs (maybe Montgomeryville or Ardmore).
- The Thin Blue Lie is set in 1978 dealing with the corruption of the police and Mayor Frank Rizzo.
- Body of Proof, which takes place in the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
- Heavy Rain is ostensibly based on Philadelphia, and although it looks the part, its obviously European cast won't fool a single Philadelphian (or any American, or possibly any English speaker, for that matter).
- Invincible, wherein South Philly bartender Vince Papale tries out for (and makes) the Eagles. Noteworthy in that every Philadelphian in the movie has a Noo Yawk accent.
- Heart of the City. Specific locations have been referenced on occasion, though they aren't necessarily reliable (for instance, one strip states Heart's home address as 1512 Spruce St...which happens to match one of Philadelphia's fanciest condo buildings).
- While 30 Rock is set in Noo Yawk, Liz Lemon's family is from the Philadelphia area (White Haven, PA, although the real town is actually 100 miles away from Philly), and she's been known to lapse into stereotypical Philadelphia-sports-fan behavior. She even references the snowball-throwing at Santa Claus.
Jack: "Kabletown". With a "K".
- Well, she should be from Philly, seeing as how the woman who created the show, writes the show, plays her in the show, and serves as the basis for her is from there too. (Well, she's from Upper Darby...but same difference.)
- Also, the cable company that buys out NBC, Kabletown (a Bland-Name Product version of Comcast), is based in Philly (like Comcast). Jack doesn't approve:
Liz: Go Eagles! *throws a snowball at Jack*Jack: Where did you even get a snowball?Liz: Philly rules! Cheesesteaks, Bobby Clarke, Will Smith! Your town SUCKS!
- Then there's this little moment:
- How to Get Away with Murder is set here. More specifically, it is implied to be set in Northeast Philadelphia based on the semi-suburban appearance of the setting and references to Fishtown and Kensington.
- The e-novel EHUD Prelude To Apocalypse is ostensibly set in Philadelphia; however, the author has noted in the chapter notes that not only has he never been to Philadelphia, he knows virtually nothing about it, leading to some rather vague locational descriptions.
- Starstuff was locally produced by TV station WCAU. It is set in Philadelphia and makes frequent references to the city, most notably the appearance of the Mummers Parade in the first episode.
- Ditto for the WCAU-produced The Candy Apple News Company.
- American Bandstand started in Philadelphia. It moved to L.A. in 1964, but "the Philadelphia way" stayed in the opening theme song till the show ended in 1989.
- The Goldbergs is set in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown.
- American Dreams
- Blow Out starring John Travolta.
- Trading Places
- Maniac Magee: Two Mills is based on Norristown (Hector Street, the dividing line between the Black East End and White West End, is based on U.S. 202/Markley Street).
- Hunter: The Vigil uses Philadelphia as its example of a city of hunters.
- Jump Start
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids takes place in North Philadelphia, Bill Cosby's childhood home.
- Philadelphia is the Cahills' first stop in their hunt for The 39 Clues.
- Part of National Treasure is filmed in Phladelphia, with a few important clues and plot points found within the city.
- Silver Linings Playbook takes place in Philadelphia, with sports fanaticism (the Eagles) playing a particularly large part in the film's plot.
- On Empire, the Lyon family is originally from Philadelphia, although they currently live in New York. Flashbacks take place here and some of the characters return to take care of old business.
- Full Court Miracle
- Brotherly Love is set in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Overbrook, primarily at Overbrook High School.
- The X-Files: several episodes take place in Philadelphia. A few of these were forgettable and a few were stand-out installments. In one episode in particular, Mulder expresses extreme prejudice toward the city and proceeds to antagonize everyone he encounters (mostly the homeless and the local police department) by trash talking Philly sports teams and repeatedly stereotyping Philadelphians for having an unfriendly reputation. Of course, he carries a gun.
- Mulder's prejudice likely has to do with Scully's behavior in the (earlier, Philadelphia-based) episode "Never Again." In that episode, Scully gets fed up with Mulder and shacks up with a guy in Philly who just went through a bitter divorce and is being mind-controlled by his sexy tattoo. This caused Mulder to have separation anxiety. They got better, but his frustration transferred to the city.
- The Tony Randall Show (1976-78) featured Tony playing a judge and was set in Philadelphia.
- Witness alternates between Amish Country and Philadelphia.
- American Dad! takes place in the fictional DC suburb of Langley Falls, Virginia, but Stan Smith grew up in Philadelphia.
- In the Heat of the Night takes place in Mississippi but Sidney Poitier's character Mr. Tibbs is a cop visiting from Philly.
- Mike Ehrmantraut of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is originally from Philadelphia where he was a dirty cop. It's revealed in the prequel series that his son Matt was also a cop, but refused to be dirty and it led to his murder. Mike murdered the cops who killed him in revenge and then fled to Albuquerque to be near his daughter-in-law and granddaughter who had done the same after Matt's death.
- Mad Men: Betty Draper is from Lower Merion, and went to college at Bryn Mawr. Her father, Gene Hofstadt, had a distinctive Philly accent, so it's likely he made his money in the city and moved out to the Main Line; a number of key scenes take place at the Hofstadt home. Also, Don calls Betty a "spoiled Main Line whore" (roughly) in one of their final fights before their divorce in Season 3.
- Most of The Irishman takes place in Philadelphia since Frank Sheeran is an Irish-American associate of the Italian Mafia.
- A large portion of the sixth mission of killer7 is spent in Philadelphia, where Garcian takes on a job at the fictional Union Hotel.
- Dispatches From Elsewhere was set in Philadelphia after Jason Segel decided it would be perfect for the series, even though it was originally based on an Alternate Reality Game in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Bee Season is set largely in Abington Township (though the movie moves it to the Bay Area).
- The fifth season of Queer Eye (2018) primarily takes place in Philadelphia.
- Fallen is set in Philadelphia.
- Birdy focuses on the friendship between two young men in 1960s Philadelphia.
- David Staebler from The King of Marvin Gardens lives in Philadelphia with his grandfather, although most of the movie isn't set there.
- SHAZAM! (2019) takes place here.
- "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John.
- "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen (theme of the movie Philadelphia)
- The theme to American Bandstand
- "Oh Dem Golden Slippers," the theme song of the Mummers Parade.
- "Philadelphia Chickens"
- "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men
- The Philly Soul genre, centered on writer-producers Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records label. Notable artists include Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, The O'Jays, and the Three Degrees.
Famous PhiladelphiansNote: This list includes people from the City of Philadelphia, but also the four surrounding Pennsylvania counties traditionally included in the Philadelphia metro area (Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester). Famous Pennsylvanians from Southeast PA but not the immediate Philadelphia area (e.g. from Berks County/Reading) should go on the Pennsylvania page.
- Matthew, Andrew and Joey Lawrence
- Joey Bishop
- David Boreanaz: His father is Dave Roberts, a well-known face on WPVI (6ABC) in Philadelphia. The elder Dave changed his last name because he started out when "ethnic" names were not great to have in broadcasting. Dave still hosts 6ABC's broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and David generally has a video message for his dad during the broadcast.
- The Barrymore family, the most famous of whose many actor children was John Barrymore (although younger folks might be more familiar with his granddaughter), has been based in Philly since family patriarch Maurice Barrymore came from England and married the Philadelphia actress Georgina Drew (hmm...) in 1875.
- Seth Green is from Overbrook Park.
- Will Smith: "Innnn West Philadelphia, born and raised" is true of Smith, but his parents were firmly middle-class.
- Montana-born David Lynch moved to Philly at the age of 20 to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. His experiences with the city provided the fuel for his debut film Eraserhead.
- Tina Fey: As mentioned, technically from neighboring Upper Darby.
- Jamie Kennedy
- Kevin Bacon
- Bradley Cooper
- Kevin Hart
- Grace Kelly was from East Falls in Northwest Philly. There's also her playwright and director uncle George Kelly.
- Creator /Rob Mc Elhenney
- Bill Cosby, who formerly lectured every September at his alma mater Temple University, and at least once at his high school alma mater, Central. Philadelphians felt particularly betrayed (understandably) when his history of raping women was revealed.
- Dick Clark
- Nancy Spungen, girlfriend (and possible murder victim) of Sid Vicious
- Margaret Mead
- Noam Chomsky
- Martha Nussbaum
- Gloria Allred
- The late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of TLC
- Teller, of "Penn And..."
- Robert Crumb
- Ugly Betty cast members Becki Newton, Ana Ortiz, and Mark Indelicato.
- Ana Ortiz's father is Philadelphia City Councilman Angel Ortiz.
- Bill Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron from Band of Brothers
- Although portrayed by Marc Warren with more of a southern accent, Albert Blithe was from Philadelphia.
- And Robert Leckie from The Pacific, although he grew up in Rutherford, NJ.
- Joan Jett (Wynnewood counts!)
- Patti LaBelle
- Benjamin Franklin (originally from Boston, but he ran away as a boy to seek his fortune in Philadelphia and lived there most of his life. The Ben Franklin Parkway, Ben Franklin Bridge, and Franklin Institute Science Museum, among many other things, are named for him. The Franklin Institute has a ginormous statue of Ben.)
- The Roots
- The late supermodel Gia Carangi. Here's an old video of her speaking in a Philly accent before she refined her speech.
- Daryl Hall & John Oates. (Hall is a native of the area; Oates was born in New York City, but grew up in the Philly suburbs.)
- Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, although she's originally from Brooklyn.
- Legendary contralto Marian Anderson
- Chubby Checker (born in South Carolina but raised in South Philly).
- Three Stooges Larry Fine and Joe DeRita. (For a long time there was a bar on the site of Larry's birthplace at 3rd and South that advertised itself with pictures of him; it closed in 2018.)
- Jack Klugman
- Erik Petersen and his band, Mischief Brew
- John de Lancie
- Some Call Me Johnny of The Super Gaming Bros is from Philadelphia.
- M. Night Shyamalan was born in India, but grew up in the Philly suburbs. As noted above, he uses the area as the backdrop for most of his films.
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Tim & Eric: Eric was born in the city and later moved to Norristown. (Tim is from Allentown, PA, about 60 miles away.) The duo met while both were attending Temple University, and shot their first stuff down on the Jersey shore.
- Jill Scott
- Geno Auriemma, Hall of Fame basketball coach with the University of Connecticut women. Born in Italy, but raised in Norristown.
- Sandra Boynton: Born in Orange, New Jersey, she was raised in Mt. Airy in Northwest Philly.
- Jedi Mind Tricks (Vinnie Paz was born in Italy but raised in Philly, and Jus Allah is originally from New Jersey, but the group formed in Philly and is probably the most recognizable face of the city's contributions to hip-hop aside from The Roots)
- Vektor (originally from Arizona, but Dave DiSanto, Frank Chin, and Blake Anderson all relocated to Philly and the band is currently based out of the city)
- Mark Levin was born in Philly and raised just across the city line in Montgomery County.
- Benjamin Netanyahu lived in Montgomery County at two different times during his childhood, including all of his high school years.
- Bob Saget
- Eddie Fisher
- P!nk (from Doylestown)
- Bloodhound Gang (from King of Prussia; you can hear it in Jimmy Pop's singing voice)
- Kat Dennings (from Bryn Mawr)
- Ween (from New Hope)
- Kobe Bryant
- Thomas F. Wilson