A Grad Student’s Guide to Philly

I’ve been posting a lot about my experience in grad school (understandable), but not so much on my experience in Philadelphia. Moving from NYC, I wasn’t sure what I would think about Philly, but now I’ve come to see that Penn’s location in the heart of the city is just one more thing that makes the school so great.

For one thing, the city is really accessible on a grad school budget. From cheap lunches and happy hours, to haircuts that don’t cost triple-digits, Philly is a student-friendly city and I’ve been able to do a lot of exploring on a limited budget. I’ve also found a strong sense of community in my own neighborhood, and people in Philly are just really friendly in general!

So I thought I would take a break from telling you about studying and group projects, and share with you some of my favorite places in Philly. (Disclaimer: as you’ll notice, this list is heavily skewed towards West Philadelphia…)


Without a doubt, the Schuylkill River Trail is the best place for running (or walking or biking) in Philly. The trail, which is easily accessible from just about any part of central Philly, goes for miles, and there are lots of scenic places to stop for a picnic or a quick photo op.


Thanks to an abundance of parks throughout Philly, there are lots of spots to enjoy a picnic in the city. Some of my personal favorites are:

  • Rittenhouse Square. Because we had our first cohort picnic there, this park holds good memories for me. But it’s also a great spot for people watching while you eat some good food with some good company.
  • Anywhere along the Schuylkill River Trail. There is a lot of green space, and you’ll get a great view of the river!
  • Clark Park. For those of us that live in West Philly, Clark Park is really convenient. Not to mention you’ll find lots of fun activities going on there, including a great farmer’s market and outdoor movies in the summer. And, if you’re there with Eric, be prepared for your picnic to come with a side of slack-lining.
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Aynur trying her hand at slack-lining.

Cheap Eats

  • Philadelphia has a wide variety of food trucks, many of which are conveniently located right around Penn’s campus. Magic Carpet is great for vegetarians, with lots of tasty, meatless Middle Eastern options. If you’re interested in big portions, check out Gigi and Big R on 38th and Spruce, for Carribean and soul food, or Yu Kee for Chinese food on 38th and Locust.
  • Honest Tom’s Taco Shop is also a great option when you’re craving lots of Mexican food for little money. They have a casual restaurant on 44th and Spruce, in addition to a food truck. You can expect delicious burritos the size of a small child.

Happy Hour

  • When you are looking for something that makes you feel a little classy, but where you can still get a Happy Hour drink for under $5, check out CoZara. They offer beer, wine, and cocktails, not to mention delicious food, all at super reasonable prices in a fun atmosphere. Also, bonus points because their Happy Hour starts at 4.
  • For a wide selection of local beers, think about going to City Tap House or Local 44. Both offer tasty appetizer deals as well.
  • When your day calls for a margarita, head to Copabanana. It’s hard to beat $5 margs, and specials on quesadillas and nachos.
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Celebrating Aditi’s birthday at Copabanana.


  • Karaoke at Dahlak! This Ethiopian restaurant has karaoke every Tuesday night, and any given week you will likely find some IEDPers there. Whether you prefer to sing a jaw-dropping ballad, or just watch other people do so, I highly recommend a mid-week study break at Dahlak.
  • Our cohort has amazing luck at winning happy hours at Howl at the Moon, so we spend a lot of time singing and dancing at this dueling pianos bar in Center City.

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And now, it’s back to the library…

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