Philadelphia’s City Center might be known for Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but don’t stop your tour of the city there. A short drive northeast will bring you to Holmesburg, a quiet, green neighborhood with local color of its own.
Situated alongside the waterfront in northeastern Philadelphia, Holmesburg is a neighborhood that brings the city and the countryside together.
You’ll be able to visit one of Philadelphia’s largest parks and check out some unique restaurants off the beaten path. While you’re at it, you can take in the history of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Philly.
Holmesburg was actually one of the first settled areas of Philadelphia. By 1679, Swedish and Finnish settlers had already set up farms in Holmesburg. It was an active rural area, but it wasn’t incorporated into the city proper until 1854.
Holmesburg has a peculiar 19th-century claim to fame: the first American shovel was manufactured in the area. But perhaps more interestingly, George Washington’s army actually marched right through the neighborhood in 1775. With that said, history is saturated in every footstep you take in Holmesburg.
Holmesburg is home to the Frankford Avenue Bridge, which is the oldest operable stone bridge in the country. It was built at William Penn’s request in 1697, and it served an integral role of connecting the city of Philadelphia to northern cities, like Trenton and New York.
All northern delegates traveled over the bridge for the First and Second Continental Congresses. In fact, George Washington crossed it himself for his first presidential inauguration.
You can still cross it today, and it really does feel like walking through history.
Don’t forget to check out the Glen Foerd Estate. A beautiful historical estate privy to sweeping views of the Delaware River, this landmark is certainly worth a visit. There are many historical estates around the area, but the Glen Foerd is currently the only mansion with public access.
You can book a guided tour and check out the architectural features and current art installations, then spend the rest of your day relaxing in the rose garden and vineyard.
After spending your day soaking up some history, kick back at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe. It’s a relaxed bar & restaurant serving up classic American eats - and it features a gorgeous view of the Delaware river.
Also check out local favorite The Ashburner Inn, which offers a great selection of pizzas and local craft beers. They’re open until 2am, and they often have live music.
For breakfast, don’t miss Holmesburg Bakery. You can verify the local claim that they really do have the best cream-filled donuts in the city — and chances are, you won’t be disappointed.
Locals often come to Holmesburg to escape city life while still staying close to home. Holmesburg is home to many gorgeous waterfront views, and you can enjoy a more laid-back day in Pennypack Park or Pleasant Hill Park.
Pennypack Park has 1600 acres of woodlands and meadows, and it is truly an oasis inside the city. You can go for a short hike or trail ride, then get in some sunbathing along the riverside. If you stay long enough, you might even see rabbits or deer.
Pleasant Hill Park is smaller, but equally as charming. Often packed with families, Pleasant Hill Park has a wonderful playground for children. But adults can have their own fun — there is a hatchery open to fishing, as well as loading docks for jet-skis and boats. Bring a picnic lunch, and you can eat while looking across the Delaware River into New Jersey.
The northeastern areas of Philadelphia are often overlooked when planning a trip to the Brotherly City. But regardless of whether you’re coming from near or far, Northeastern Philadelphia neighborhoods like Holmesburg have a lot to offer. Step away from the hustle and bustle of the City Center to enjoy Holmesburg’s local flair and expansive natural beauty.
And after eating one of those cream-filled donuts mentioned earlier, you might just be coming back again, sooner than you think.
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