101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs
We’re sure there are more, but we had to start somewhere.
1. Hidden lakes.
Sunning in summer and ice-skating in winter. Who knew? Unexpected bodies of water include Dove Lake in Gladwyne, Brinton Lake in Glen Mills, and Leopard Lake in Berwyn—which even has sand around it.
Our numerous country clubs are home to some of the better golf courses in the Mid-Atlantic. Not a member? We suggest you find a friend who is.
3. The Bridlewild trails.
You’ll pass by mansions and traverse fields. There’s even a bamboo forest near Philadelphia Country Club. Over 500 local families support the maintenance of the more than 70 miles of trails.
4. Community Clothes Charity.
This annual four-day, designer-duds fundraiser began in 1957 as a way to provide for hospitalized war veterans. Since then, the event has raised more than $3.5 million for local hospitals and organizations.
5. Valley Forge Military Academy & College.
The week Taps debuted in December 1981, everyone who was anyone on the Main Line filled local theaters to see it. Starring Timothy Hutton as a beleaguered young cadet, the movie was just OK—but the majestic VFMAC setting was priceless
6. Indie bookstores.
Around here, we never have to fend for ourselves when it comes to finding a book that’s perfectly suited to our interests. We simply ask the expert staff at Main Point Books, Title Page, The Readers’ Forum, Chester County Book Company and Baldwin’s Book Barn (pictured). We shop—and read—local.
7. Take that alternate route...
...on your GPS and explore our counties’ woods, hills and farms.
8. Beer with dinner.
It’s not all champagne and caviar, darling. Ardmore’s Tired Hands Brewing Company is moving to a larger location this month to keep up with demand; Iron Hill Brewery is everywhere; and Victory Brewing Company is a national micro-force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, suds-centric gastropubs like Two Stones in Kennett Square and Teresa’s Cafe in Wayne are always packed with beer geeks.
9. King of Prussia Mall.
There’s no debating our claim to the largest mall in the country. And while the smaller centers around it struggle for viability, KOP keeps herding them in. The number of annual visitors is somewhere around 25 million, with its (mostly) high-end tenants numbering more than 400. Look for a major expansion in 2016.
10. Clover Market.
Hats off to Ardmore’s Janet Long for believing that something as cool as the Brooklyn Flea market could work on the Main Line. Now in its fifth year, Clover boasts more than 100 vendors and has expanded to Philadelphia and Chestnut Hill.
11. Our furry friends.
Especially the ones we save, thanks to the exceptional work of local institutions like Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, Main Line Animal Rescue, our SPCAs, and countless shelters.
12. This is horse country.
The Devon Horse Show and Radnor Hunt are premier events that lure spectacular equestrians to the Main Line. But we love horses year-round throughout the region. From Unionville to Valley Forge, our area has all the natural ingredients to make horses—and humans—happy.
13. Marsh Creek State Park.
A waterside getaway right in Chester County. Summer rentals are available for rowing, canoeing, paddleboarding and sailing. It’s also BYOB (bring your own boat), and you can hike, horseback ride and mountain bike.
14. Tory Burch.
What local fashionista doesn’t have at least one “double T” logo in her wardrobe? Burch grew up in Valley Forge and attended the Agnes Irwin School—so she gets us.
There’s a reason why it’s called a “pleasure garden.” Every visit, you discover something new as you meander the meticulous grounds of this once-private estate. We love the Asian Woods and the Ruin Garden.
16. The Shore.
We may moan endlessly about the summer traffic, but would you rather live in Pittsburgh?
17. Coffee shops.
Hothouse, Gryphon, Pour Richard’s, Burlap and Bean, Melodies, Steel City. Drawing a mix of students, young parents and old friends, our independent coffeehouses are community hubs, sponsoring music and literary events, and showcasing local artists.
18. Places to grow old(er).
The Main Line’s modern, upscale 55-plus communities put the “citizen” in senior citizen by offering a vast range of activities, both on-site and off. Have Grandma and Grandpa “move on up” to the Athertyn or one of the many other high-end properties, and their social calendars will get so full you might have to ask them to pencil you in.
19. Train stations.
Much of our history resides in stations along the rail line for which the area is named. OK, so a few need serious makeovers (you know who you are, Paoli). But Strafford, Wayne and Cynwyd do us proud.
20. High-caliber performing arts.
People’s Light, Hedgerow, Act II Playhouse and Villanova Theatre offer everything from Shakespearean classics to vital original work. And when it comes to Broadway, Media Theatre for the Performing Arts’ recent take on Les Misérables was nothing less than stunning.
21. The Wyeths.
There are no better ambassadors of Chadds Ford and the surrounding countryside than the generational triumvirate of N.C., Andrew (pictured) and Jamie. And lest you take their greatness for granted, head to the Brandywine River Museum of Art, and view Jamie Wyeth’s awesome career retrospective.
22. The Philadelphia Story.
Our most notable socialite, Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, was the inspiration for the classic 1940 film’s main character. Despite encroaching development, Ardrossan, the Scott family’s Villanova estate, remains.
23. Pocket parks.
Give us your tired, abandoned lots, and we’ll turn them into community parks. The “we” being the community-minded Main Liners who’ve united to clean, landscape and offer financial support in Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Wayne and elsewhere.
24. Asian culinary might.
Credit Margaret Kuo with having the guts, the foresight and the chops to launch the first of her four eateries 30 years ago in the Granite Run Mall, hipping Main Liners to high-end Asian fare. Others followed, including Yangming, a Bryn Mawr favorite since 1991, and Win and
Sutida Somboonsong, the power couple behind Thai Pepper, Teikoku, and the wildly popular Azie tandem.
25. Summer concert series.
Grab a bottle—of wine or baby formula—and head to the family-friendly music events held in Bryn Mawr, King of Prussia, Media and elsewhere. And it’s all free!
26. Ridley Creek State Park.
It’s one of the state’s best parks in which to get lost—without actually getting lost. Its thickly wooded hillsides and excellent trail system make for an immersive and convenient escape any time of year. And when warm weather hits, don’t miss events at the authentic Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation (pictured).
27. The Society of Professional Women.
There’s no better place than the Main Line to be a woman in business, thanks to this nationally recognized and lauded organization. Leadership workshops, peer-mentoring circles, and numerous high-profile lectures are among the many offerings that arm our female workforce on every level.
Young families from Philadelphia who never imagined they’d leave the city for the burbs have second thoughts once they experience the urban feel of this town. Like-minded neighbors, walk-to-center-of-town access and the top-rated Lower Merion School District are other major perks. It also helps that it’s just a quick train ride to Philly.
29. And all the other walkable downtowns.
Who needs strip malls when you’ve got Wayne, Malvern, Ardmore, Media, West Chester, Chestnut Hill, and up-and-comers Kennett Square, Phoenixville and Downingtown? Heck, developers nationwide are recreating the sort of pedestrian-friendly “lifestyle villages” we’ve already got in spades.
30. The Willows.
The second the announcement is made that schools are closed, kids grab their sleds and head for the big hill on the grounds of this Villanova estate, now owned by Radnor Township. Adults love it, too.
31. Our proximity to Lancaster County.
Which means we get a steady stream of amazing produce into our farmers’ markets, plus Amish-made jams and baked goods. It’s an easy one-hour drive to Lancaster County, with its rolling farmland, B&Bs, buggies, crafts and antiques. Or join the New Yorkers who’ve discovered downtown Lancaster’s low-key but lively restaurant scene.
32. Mom-and-pop pizza shops.
Everyone has a place they frequent. Many have been around for generations. We still don’t get how Domino’s survives, let alone Papa John’s (that sauce … ewww).
Yep, we have our fair share: Chubby Checker, the Hooters, Patti LaBelle, M. Night Shyamalan, comedians Abbi Jacobson and Wanda Sykes, 2 Broke Girls’ Kat Dennings (pictured), The Middle’s Charlie McDermott, and Will Ferrell cohort Adam McKay. Depending on how you define stardom, we’re sure we missed a few.
34. Local celebs.
Our TV, radio and sports personalities have their own mystique—(usually) approachable yet still worthy of adulation from afar. Legendary 6abc news anchor Jim Gardner, radio talk-show host Michael Smerconish, and Phils pitcher Cole Hamels are all known for their conspicuous presence on the Main Line.
35. Summer camps.
Art, dance, theater, sports, journalism, nature, technology. Name an interest, and there’s a camp for it in our area. Kind of makes us wish we were kids again.
36. Architects (past):
Credit Frank Furness, Walter Mellor, Arthur Meigs, R. Brognard Okie and Horace Trumbauer (pictured) for those distinctive Main Line country houses and estates.
37. Architects (present):
Main Line tradition and affluence have undergone an impressive evolution, thanks to Archer & Buchanan, Peter Zimmerman, McIntyre Capron & Associates, and other visionaries.
38. Our proximity to Delaware.
Yes, Delaware—home to tax-free shopping; super-quaint Lewes; Rehoboth, a beach town with far better restaurants than any of our Shore spots; and, of course, Total Wine & More, the Home Depot of liquor stores. Did we mention tax-free shopping?
39. Club life.
Whether it’s Aronimink, Waynesborough, Overbrook, Merion Cricket, or any of the other esteemed private clubs in our area, membership has its privileges—and its price.
40. Classy movie houses.
The Bryn Mawr Film Institute and Reel Cinemas’ Anthony Wayne and Narberth theaters are high-tech while retaining their pre-multiplex character. It’s the warm-and-fuzzy, small-town vibe that get us off the couch.
41. House tours.
These can’t-miss fundraisers seem to multiply every year, proving that the allure of our most prestigious homes never gets old.
42. Playground-to-kid ratio.
Rosemont’s Ashbridge Memorial Park, Haverford Freedom Playground, East and West Goshen parks, and many other well-equipped, well-maintained playgrounds make the Main Line extra kid-friendly.
43. Single-sex education.
Thanks to such nationally recognized institutions as the Baldwin School, Agnes Irwin and Bryn Mawr College, educating our girls is a centuries-old tradition, empowering women to lead in business, the arts, government and more. As for the boys, the Haverford School has turned out its share of men on a mission.
44. Local boutiques.
Nothing beats the personalized service at one of the hundreds of independently owned shops in the area. Local women are fiercely loyal to their favorites—and for good reason.
45. Longwood Gardens.
There are always new things to discover amid Longwood’s over 1,077 acres of indoor/outdoor gardens, woodlands and meadows. A revitalized live-music program, dancing fountains, a full slate of seasonal events, and a holiday extravaganza like no other make this international attraction a regional treasure.
46. Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton.
The Campbell Soup heiress and grand dame of Main Line philanthropy has supported countless institutions in the Philadelphia area, including the University of the Arts, Jefferson Medical College and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
47. Our philanthropic spirit.
Every January, the Academy Ball kicks off another social season for the well-heeled. Numerous black-tie soirees benefit everything from cancer research and local private schools to homeless organizations and the arts.
48. Boutique hotels.
Bigger isn’t always better. Petite and posh, the Wayne and Radnor hotels offer five-star service and beautifully designed rooms. The Desmond has more rooms but manages to feel just as intimate and upscale. All three actively support the communities in which they do business, which makes them A-listers in our book.
49. Public schools.
Isn’t it great to have schools that actually attract families to the area, rather than compelling them to flee? Yes, we pay for that privilege with our tax dollars. But well-managed schools produce well-educated kids.
50. Kosher cool.
C&R Kitchen may have the most geographically diverse regulars of any restaurant on the Main Line. Every week, diners from Maryland, New York and New Jersey travel to Merion Station for the acclaimed kosher fine-dining menu. And with C&R’s sister, Six Points Bakery, opening this past summer in Bala, we can’t wait to see what founder David Magerman comes up with next.
51. Big Five Basketball.
Jay Wright’s top-ranked Villanova Wildcats are a key component of college hoops’ most storied tradition. And let’s not forget the St. Joe’s Hawks, whose campus dips into Montgomery County.
52. Picturesque drives.
From Gladwyne to Kennett Square, the natural and the man-made comingle with stunning grace.
Even in this increasingly digital world, Main Liners treasure their libraries, whether they’re housed in historic buildings or modern architectural masterpieces.
54. Great families, great legacies.
Of course, we don’t have royalty. But we do have the Hamiltons, the Montgomerys, the Robertses, the Annenbergs, the Scotts and the Haases. What we most admire is not so much the wealth, but the ways in which they used it to better the communities in which they lived.
55. Philadelphia Skating Club & Humane Society.
With a history dating back to 1861, PSCHS is the oldest and largest figure-skating club in the United States. Notable skaters affiliated with the organization include Dick Button and Scott Hamilton.
56. Youth-soccer mania.
Never heard of West Chester United? Better duck.
Encourage your guests to sacrifice Hilton Honors points for the chance to experience the cozy, sophisticated charms of the top-rated Wayne Bed & Breakfast Inn, Faunbrook B&B (pictured) in West Chester, Sweetwater Farm in Glen Mills, and Hamanassett B&B in Chester Heights.
58. Quaker roots.
Historic meetinghouses and excellent schools are just two ways the founding families’ faith maintains a foothold in our area. The Quaker principles of community service, gender equality and respect for nature are integral to Main Liners of all denominations. Thanks, Bill Penn.
59. Kennett Square.
This once-sleepy Chester County hamlet has become rather hip, thanks to its reasonable real-estate prices, quirky boutiques and award-winning restaurants. Trendy or not, there’s also its national designation as the Mushroom Capital of the World, plus its convenience to Longwood Gardens.
60. Our proximity to Philadelphia.
We are the suburbs, after all—and we’re proud to say we’re a hop, skip and a jump away from the city ranked No. 3 on the New York Times’ must-visit list for 2015. The R5 and other SEPTA lines make it easy to access world-class arts and culture—not to mention top-notch dining and entertainment—on a whim. Now, if we could only do something about the “Surekill.”
61. Philadelphia Charity Ball.
Main Line families have kept this storied social tradition alive for 135 years. And while the idea of well-to-do parents “presenting” their white-gloved daughters may seem archaic, hundreds of its former debutantes have gone on to make a significant impact on the world. The event has raised millions for area hospitals and other organizations.
62. Cool live-music venues.
It sure is nice to have the option of skipping the trip to Philadelphia (or farther) and heading to the Ardmore Music Hall or Phoenixville’s Colonial Theatre for major touring acts like Steve Earle, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Psychedelic Furs. Or maybe we’re just getting old.
63. And a small but vibrant music scene.
With Center City so close, it’s easy to forget that we have a surprisingly strong roster of local talent living and performing in the area (Jeffrey Gaines, Christine Havrilla, Craig Bickhardt and the Hooters come to mind), plus the likes of Burlap and Bean, Steel City Coffeehouse and Chaplin’s lending their support.
Living locally and working in New York City isn’t as crazy as it sounds, thanks to the Keystone Line, which leaves daily from Paoli. Three hours is plenty of time for a nap.
65. Parochial power.
Say a prayer of thanks for the plethora of Catholic schools in our area, from excellent (and affordable) secondary schools like Archbishop Carroll to a half-dozen colleges.
66. Specialized healthcare for kids.
We’ve always had top-ranked pediatricians. And now, with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Nemours specialty centers a quick drive away in places like Radnor and King of Prussia, parents can rest even easier.
67. We stay active (sometimes until it hurts).
We like to think we’re made of tough stuff, but everybody’s bones are susceptible to sprain and strain. Maybe our superior athleticism subjects us to a higher rate of injury? That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. And, thankfully, we have Rothman Institute and Premier doctors throughout the region who specialize in orthopedics and sports medicine.
68. Retooled ERs.
Local hospitals have vastly improved their emergency-medicine management, trimming the average wait time down to 15-20 minutes for non-critical care. Our ERs are now so efficient, they draw folks from Center City and Chestnut Hill.
69. Great teeth.
Smile and the world smiles with you—especially those treated by one of our region’s dentists, who never skimp on state-of-the-art equipment and know the latest techniques. And, of course, we have plenty of cosmetic dentists who specialize in perfecting the pearly whites.
Haverford YMCA, the Greater Brandywine YMCA and all the others in our area offer the latest equipment, fabulous swimming pools, and a wide variety of classes at affordable rates. Check out the family plans—and the summer camps.
71. Great places to have babies.
Mamas and papas love Main Line Health’s high-tech yet comfortable birthing suites. Lankenau’s, Bryn Mawr’s and Paoli’s maternity centers also draw patients from around the region, as does the all-natural Birthing Center.
72. A multitude of healthcare options.
Our area’s major health systems continue to expand at a remarkable pace, giving us access to award-winning hospitals, specialists, primary care and surgical centers throughout the western suburbs. They’ve got cures for what ails us—and in convenient locations. Sure beats Florida.
73. Conshohocken and Manayunk.
These singles’ hubs offer plenty of trendy—and old-school—spots for 20-somethings looking to party the night away. Or so we hear.
74. Eagle Village Shops.
A shopping village without one national chain? That’s what we’ve got in this Strafford-based retail gem. From fine jewelry and women’s boutiques to workout studios and restaurants, Eagle Village has it all, including a new-ish name we couldn’t be more happy about.
75. Main Line Symphony Orchestra.
Philadelphia has its orchestra, and we have ours. Treat yourself to a performance and witness local musicians in surprising command of it all, from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and everything in between.
76. The Junior League tradition.
Really, there’s nothing junior about them. Women are in a league of their own when it comes to the accomplished histories of the Main Line’s Junior Leagues, all of which turn up the volume on volunteerism.
77. Local banks.
Big enough to hold their own for decades and small enough to manage Main Liners’ every financial need, Bryn Mawr Trust, Malvern Federal and Penn Liberty are just the right size for our tight-knit communities.
78. We mind our business (and yours).
From thriving chambers of commerce to rotary clubs and well-attended networking events, our region is filled with organizations that support local businesses of all sizes and industries—and those who run them.
79. Farmers’ markets.
It’s easy to do the sustainable thing here. From Ardmore to Bryn Mawr to Wayne to West Chester and beyond, buying fresh and local is never out of season.
80. Main Line School of Rock.
Have you seen these kids perform? Once you do, you’ll realize how fortunate we are to have a such a unique creative outlet in the area.
81. Breakfast spots.
Main Liners aren’t a Bob Evans crowd. When it comes to the first meal of the day, they like to keep it local—and they’re happy to wait. Hence, the lines spilling out into the parking lots of Nudy’s Cafe, the Classic Diner, and well-regarded old-school joints all over the place.
82. Nip, tuck, injection?
We’ve got it covered. The Main Line rivals Beverly Hills for cosmetic surgeons per capita. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, our region has some of the best doctors in the field.
83. Our estates.
Lord Grantham and his family would feel quite at home at Ardrossan, one of the Main Line’s greatest landmarks. Appleford and the Willows are smaller in size but equal in beauty—and they’re open to the public.
84. Wild things.
Well, plants anyway. There are flora and fauna of all kinds to be found at Jenkins, Tyler and Scott arboretums, along with hiking, summer camps, lectures, walking tours, butterflies and even treehouses.
85. Holiday celebrations.
Always more about community than religion, events in Narberth, Malvern, West Chester and Wayne are family friendly, festive, and—perhaps most importantly—lucrative for local businesses.
86. Gourmet markets.
What’s for dinner? It’s a problem easily and deliciously solved with a quick stop at Carlino’s, Gladwyne or Ithan markets, Antonella’s, and other specialty shops, rescuing many a busy mom from certain familial backlash.
87. Walking trails.
On the proper Main Line, the most popular are the Radnor Trail and the Haverford College Loop. Both are well maintained, picturesque and traffic free.
88. Great places to wed.
From the General Warren Inne and Appleford to the Desmond and Chaddsford Winery, nothing beats the Main Line for picture-perfect elegance and old-fashioned romance.
89. Our BYOBs.
We’re mad for BYOBs, and the Main Line is loaded with them. 90 Valley Forge National Historical Park. It’s easily accessible, with plenty of well-marked trails for walking, running and biking, grassy expanses for picnics and playtime, and prime sledding in winter. Oh, and there’s history, too.
91. Suburban Square.
It’s been around since 1928 and was among America’s first malls, though there is some debate over whether or not this mecca for high-end retailers was the first outdoor shopping center of its kind. Either way, Ardmore wouldn’t be Ardmore without it.
92. Media’s music festivals.
When the weather turns kinder, State Street becomes Delaware County’s answer to Beale Street. You’ll hear top-notch blues, jazz, and other distinctly American genres at June’s Blues Stroll and related summer events.
93. Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Eight-year-old Alex Scott may have lost her battle with neuroblastoma more than a decade ago, but her legacy lives on with this local initiative gone national, raising over $100 million and counting for pediatric cancer research.
94. Thriving local art centers.
Wayne Art Center, Main Line Art Center and the Chester County Art Association inspire us with classes in every medium and great events, while also bringing well-known and emerging artists to the area. You’ll feel creative just walking in the door.
95. Susan Scovill.
There’s never been a more prolific documentarian of the local social scene. If it’s a party or charity event worth shooting, Scovill is on the guest list.
96. Day spas.
Lavish treatments in first-class environs abound, keeping Main Line women well practiced in the art of getting away without really getting away.
97. A wealth of antiques.
Not only are our towns and country roads lined with antique shops, but the Main Line Antique Show and Chester County Antique Show attract hundreds of collectors displaying treasures to thousands of guests.
98. The Old Guard House Inn.
This living piece of history dates back to the 1790s, and it’s the only restaurant in Gladwyne. With its impressive food (try the Dover sole) and inimitable old-school vibe, it deserves to be the only game in town.
99. Pick-your-own orchards.
From berries and peaches to pumpkins and apples, picking fruit at Linvilla, Highland and other local orchards is a rite of passage for local kids—and a seasonal must for families.
100. Jewish day schools.
In the past, Jewish kids with Ivy League aspirations would mostly grin and bear it at our Christian prep schools. Now, students are traveling from all over the region to attend Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, and Perelman Jewish Day School. All offer rigorous academic standards and a welcoming environment.
101. Rainy-day options for kids.
When the weather outside is frightful, parents are thankful for indoor play areas like Lulu’s Casita in Ardmore and The Play Café in Bryn Mawr, where there’s lots of fun to be had.
We’re sure you can think of a few reasons we missed. Share them on our Facebook page.