City life can be exhausting. Hours in Schuylkill traffic, noise at all hours, throngs of people in Center City just trying to get somewhere. 1.6 million people live in the city of Philadelphia, the sixth largest in the U.S., and the 10th most crowded.
And sometimes, you need to get away from that all. For good.
You may want to pack up and get out of the city, but still keep one foot in the places you know. Fortunately, there are a bevy of wonderful small cities and gorgeous towns to live in near Philadelphia.
Here's a list of 10 great places around Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and even Maryland – each about an hour to an hour-and-a-half away – that you might consider for your new home.
Do you know what city was named one of the 14 Best Places To Travel and 10 Coolest Cities to Visit by Forbes and the No. 1 Best Places to Retire by U.S. News? If you guessed Lancaster, you probably read it in the header above. Otherwise, it's quite a surprise that Lancaster has grown so far beyond its brand as simply the center of Amish Country.
While all the Pennsylvania Dutch trappings are still quite prevalent and fascinating, residents will discover fresh foodie destinations, a bevy of craft brewpubs, a vibrant arts scene and a brand new film, food and music venue.
A one-bedroom apartment in Lancaster will run an average of $1,010 per month, unless the Amish build you a barn.
About halfway between Philly and D.C., Dover has parlayed its central location into becoming home of the Firefly Music Festival, the East Coast's biggest and best multi-day music fest. And that same venue, Dover International Speedway, hosts two of NASCAR's major races.
As Delaware's capital city, infrastructure is strong and also features exciting museums and a slew of historic locales, including First State Heritage Park and the Delaware State Museum. And events such as the Delaware Wine & Beer Festival and Dover Days offer a plethora of entertainment and activities for residents.
An average one-bedroom unit in Dover lists at a very reasonable $932 a month.
The charming seat of Bucks County, Doylestown offers a multitude of cultural and entertainment options rare for a town its size. The borough has a large number of museums including the James Michener Art Museum (named for the native son author), the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, the Mercer Museum and Oscar Hammerstein II Farm (the final residence of its namesake), plus historic art deco movie house County Theater showing blockbusters and arthouse films alike.
Throughout Doylestown's inviting downtown, you'll find quaint thrift shops, big city-worthy restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and brewpubs. But just as appealing is the natural beauty of rural Bucks County just outside of town, packed with hiking trails, bike paths, water recreation and nature watching.
An affluent, upper-middle class city, $1,141 is the average for a single bedroom apartment in Doylestown.
Only a few miles separate it from its Lehigh Valley neighbors Allentown and Bethlehem, but in spirit, Easton is a world away. Sitting at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, Easton is a water enthusiast's paradise full of canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing and white-water adventures.
Downtown is brimming with stylish shops, chic restaurants, art galleries and the Crayola Experience. Yes, the Valley is home to the Crayola Company, and Easton features this unique, hands-on family attraction. For a fresher experience, the Easton Farmers' Market is the oldest, continuous open-air market in the nation, held weekly right in the middle of town.
Living so close to river recreation in this college town will cost you an above-average monthly rental price, with a one-bedroom in Easton averaging $1,210.
If all you know about Princeton is its world-famous Ivy League university, you've only scratched the surface. Princeton is a bucolic, tree-lined town populated by college students, intellectuals, post-doctoral hippies and prep school kids.
Having the university loom over a town its size affords the opportunity to foster museums, art collections, bookstores and eateries usually reserved for cities much more robust.
That's the beauty of moving to Princeton: You have everything granted to a large college city, in small-town New Jersey. But be sure to come in out of nature for some breakfast at Princeton institution PJ's Pancake House and ink your name on a table.
You don't need an Ivy League education to live in Princeton, but you do need a decent income as an average Princeton one-bedroom unit runs a pricey $2,011 a month.
Underrated Allentown is not the dying coal community described in the working-class Billy Joel track of the same name. The truth is Allentown, the third-biggest city in Pennsylvania, is booming. It's the fastest growing city in the state and was named a National Success Story by the Urban Land Institute for its remarkable downtown redevelopment.
While most cities' downtowns have been revitalized by retail and dining, Center City Allentown has reinvented itself as a corporate and city worker oasis alongside cultural attractions, such as the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, the Allentown Art Museum, the Nineteenth Street Theater, the Liberty Bell Museum and PPL Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers' top minor league affiliate.
“Living here in Allentown" will cost you $1,104 per month on average for a single-bedroom apartment.
Just seven miles south of the Delaware Wedge, Elkton is the seat of Cecil County, the only county in Maryland within the Philadelphia metro area. Elkton is a tourist town, and not only because of its stunning location at the head of the Elk River.
In the early 1900s, couples seeking to avoid marriage license waiting periods in Northern states poured into Elkton making it a mecca for elopers, and it remains so today.
A “Main Street Maryland"-designated community, Elkton radiates the charm of a small Chesapeake Bay town, with delightful shopping, historic churches and quaint restaurants, intermingling with art galleries, bed-and-breakfasts and even horse racing.
With an average of only $960 a month for a one-bedroom rental, you'll have plenty left over for a quick wedding at the Little Wedding Chapel.
Yes, people actually live in Atlantic City full time. Interspersed among the high-rise hotel-casinos and low-slung motor lodges are a variety of apartment complexes away from the Boardwalk along Atlantic and Pacific Avenues and the cross streets between them, from the Knife and Fork to Absecon Lighthouse.
Everything that makes A.C. great for family tourists is what makes it wonderful for full-timers, too. Take your pick of breakfast-all-day diners and celebrity-chef bistros, '70s Skee-Ball arcades and gigantic Steel Pier, beautiful cabana-filled beaches and quiet spots among the dunes, craft brewpubs and divey bars alike. Look for no further proof than the new locals-only alley of restaurants and watering holes springing up along Tennessee Avenue.
Atlantic City's fluctuating economy in the wake of 2014's casino closures has kept rents low, so gambling on an average one-bedroom in A.C. will run you just $815.
At the center of the geographic box formed by Philadelphia, Allentown, Harrisburg and Lancaster, Reading's central location provides urban convenience alongside Appalachian Mountain town charm. The city, built on the fortunes of anthracite coal mining, has transformed itself into a tech center, resort-convenient city and haven for outlet shoppers.
Hub of the former Reading Railroad, once the largest company in the world, Reading now hosts attractions like the VF Outlet Center, Berks Jazz Fest, the Covered Bridge Trail, Reading Fightin Phils baseball and The Pagoda, a century-old Japanese-style building that contains a café, gift shop and observation room overlooking the city from Mount Penn.
Luminaries such as John Updike, Keith Haring and Taylor Swift have all called Reading their birthplace, but for just $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom, you can call it home.
Newark residents want you to know their town is pronounced NEW-ark, not NEW-erk like that town in Jersey. Despite being a densely-populated city along Interstate 95, just 45 miles from Philadelphia, Newark contains a massive 12,000 acres of parkland in and around town offering plentiful hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails. Newark is also home to the University of Delaware and its 20,000 students, art galleries, live music and Blue Hens football games.
Downtown, Newark's Main Street offers both upscale restaurants, wine bars and shops for locals as well as the lively pizzerias, beer joints and thrift stores you'd expect from a college town. And you're never far from what's happening elsewhere, as Newark is just an hour SEPTA train ride from Philadelphia.
Whether college student or new resident, an average rental rate of $1,027 a month will snag you a one-bedroom in Newark.
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