Tourists size up the city’s weaknesses

Congratulations, Philadelphia.

For the second year in a row, Travel + Leisure magazine named Philadelphia the least attractive and least stylish of America’s Favorite Cities 2008.

The city also continues to have a high murder rate, although the numbers are steadily declining.
While the city’s faithful locals can look past Philly’s faults, it may be much harder for tourists and potential residents to do so.

Vicky Linde, a London native, recently returned to the United Kingdom after a three-day stay in Philadelphia. She said safety was one of her biggest concerns prior to her visit.

“There were certain areas of the city where the people [made] me feel a little uneasy,” she said. “I would not have liked [to be around there] at night, but during the day [people] were very friendly – less so on the streets, but I couldn’t name a city where that is not the case.”

But some weren’t so forgiving of the city.

A 38-year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said friends offered to walk her four blocks down to her car after a night out, in fear of her safety.

“How sad is that?” she said.

Jenny Lin, originally from Cupertino, Calif., has never been to Philadelphia. She plans to move to the city soon to attend graduate school, so she uses online forums and co-workers’ stories for advice. Some of what she has heard is unsettling.

“I work with travel RNs who have worked in large cities across the country, [who] have mainly told me stories about the unfriendliness of people in Philadelphia,” she said in an e-mail interview. “One RN, originally from Canada, worked at Children’s Hospital … relayed mostly negative stories … that she’d never seen the sheer number of child abuse cases that she’d encountered in Philly.”

Although there are mixed feelings when it comes to security, it’s safe to say food is one of the best things about Philadelphia.

Travel + Leisure would probably agree – in the category of ethnic food and cheap eats, Philadelphia came in seventh out of 25.

“The food is the best I’ve had in any city I’ve ever lived in,” said Kevin Ott, a Philly native currently living in Los Angeles, in an e-mail interview. “Should I ever decide to move back to the East Coast, it’ll be to live in Philly.”

“My favorite thing about the city was actually the food – so much better than the rest of the U.S. so far. I was very impressed by each little eatery I went into,” Linde said.

But like the middle child, Philadelphia struggles to separate itself from New York City, the attention-grabbing younger sibling from 100 miles away.

When asked about Philadelphia, it was inevitable the two cities would be compared.

“Philadelphia’s got it all over NYC, in my opinion – great restaurants, [a] big arts community, lots of stuff to do and extensive nightlife – but without any of the self-satisfaction you see associated with New York,” Ott said. “It’s also generally cleaner, although it does have its unpleasant parts of town and has a good deal of local pride.”

The anonymous woman, who hails from Queens, N.Y., admits to her bias.

“I was never really into the whole Manhattan see-and-be-seen scene. I never lived in Manhattan. I didn’t go clubbing, etc.,” she said. “But my impressions of Philly are obviously colored by my impressions of New York, so a lot of what I say about the city is in comparison with New York.”

Despite the city rivalry, people do have positive experiences in Philadelphia.

“Before I visited Philadelphia, I thought that it was going to be a lot less tourist-friendly and more dangerous than I found it,” she said. “My main impression other than that was the accessibility of American history, which it certainly lived up to,” Linde said.

“As someone planning to obtain a master’s degree … the city offers several highly-regarded programs to consider,” Lin said.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia is going to have to work a little harder to win some people over.

“I don’t think I’ll live in Philly permanently, probably NYC, although that isn’t set in stone,” Lin said.
“I guess [Philadelphia’s] just not for me,” the anonymous woman said.

Sherri Hospedales can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Well my home town is Philadelphia. It’s a really sad thing to know that Philadelphia is the least attractive and lest stylish place. But I’m sure if we really want to we can make it a tourist destination.

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