What are the best Philadelphia suburbs?
The magazine Main Line Today recently published a list of The 15 Hottest Towns in Philadelphia’s Western Suburbs. While the “best” is a matter of opinion, there are certain towns that consistently land on the list. How do people determine which neighborhoods provide the best quality of life? Criteria usually include the best school district rankings, locations (including commutability as well as access to shopping, dining, and services) and general visual appeal.
Some of the most popular areas are towns found along Philadelphia’s Main Line. These areas tend to appeal to people working in center city due to fairly easy commuting options, many excellent school districts, well-established neighborhoods and a wide array of restaurants, retail and activities for kids and adults.
One of the reasons that so many people choose the western suburbs is that many of the communities are quite distinct in “feel” or “personality”. Bryn Mawr, for example, offers a thriving downtown with a year-round outdoor farmer’s market, twilight concert series during the summer and the beloved Bryn Mawr Film Institute. The lifestyle here is somewhat sophisticated and residents appreciate the access to restaurants and dining and the central location.
In contrast, Havertown is a very tight-knit community with a very “real people” kind of vibe. Most of the homes are older Dutch colonials and the lot sizes are small, fostering neighborly interactions. Havertown is a great place for people who think of themselves as down-to-earth and properties are generally more affordable than in Main Line towns.
In the best Philadelphia suburbs, the school district rankings factor strongly in the desirability of a given community. Some of the top rated districts in the state (as well as the country) are located within the Philadelphia metropolitan area. For example, the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District (locally referred to as “T-E” for obvious reasons) was rated #1 in the nation in 2016. Lower Merion and Radnor School Districts are also rated extremely highly. Some other terrific districts include Wallingford-Swarthmore and Unionville-Chadds Ford. Downingtown’s STEM academy often takes a top spot as well.
An important note about school districts in Pennsylvania: they run along township lines, not town or zip code lines. What that means is that you could live in the town of Wayne, yet be districted to Upper Merion, Radnor or Tredyffrin-Easttown schools. So, if school district is important to you, be sure that you are looking at properties that are zoned for the schools you want.
You know what they say: “location, location, location”. For many people. a long commute is a big negative. So, depending on where you work, certain suburbs may be more attractive than others. The primary train line (which the Main Line is named for) runs through several of the Main Line suburbs, making those towns great options for public transportation fans. Another advantage to commuters from the western suburbs is that there are lots of alternate routes, so while there is certainly rush hour traffic, it’s not as bad as in some other cities.
Location also reflects the accessibility of the services and activities you enjoy. Restaurants? Coffee shops? Farmer’s Markets? Retail shopping? Karate studio? Art classes? Most of the Philadelphia’s western suburbs allow you to find these kinds of services very nearby. Parking is also generally easy–another advantage of these locations.
Philadelphia’s best suburbs capitalize on the physical beauty of the area–heavily treed, with rolling hills and creeks–as well as the man-made components of the landscape. The land here is very rocky, so many of the buildings (especially older ones) are built of stone, and have great curb appeal. The area is also old, so for people who appreciate history and long-established neighborhoods, the best suburbs don’t disappoint.
If you are interested in learning more about the Main Line, please click here to see my Main Line Neighborhood Guide.
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