Having lived in Baltimore for many years prior to our move to Philadelphia, one large difference between the two cities can be found in the number of high quality entertainment venues just outside of the city limits. One thing I love about Philly is that you can step just outside the confines of the city and find art, music and theatre venues just as culturally rich (if not more) as those in the city; I would argue that the Philadelphia suburbs are better for it.
As a former city dweller, I often wanted a night out without entering the downtown scene. The Philadelphia outskirts and outlying metro area offer many historical entertainment venues that make city dwellers feel at home and give suburban residents a slice of the city [without having to step foot into city limits]. I like to enjoy a nice meal when I see a show or an exhibit, so I try to find an area restaurant that’s doing food a little differently and providing an atmosphere worthy of a night out. Take a look at some of my “must visit” picks:
Built in 1928, the Keswick Theatre has had several incarnations, serving as a film house before being reopened as a theatre in 1981. An historic theatre known for its superior acoustics and comfortable seating, the Keswick remains a go-to entertainment venue, drawing diverse musical acts, comedians and stage productions that appeal to all tastes and interests (my husband has seen The Pixies, The Eels, Todd Rundgren, among many other talented musicians at the Keswick).
Located in Glenside, just minutes outside of city limits, the Keswick is accessible by SEPTA rail, making travel from Philadelphia proper a breeze.
Where to eat:
While you can’t grab a cocktail, you can BYOB to Humpty’s Dumplings. Have fun sampling dumpling flavors such as Magic Mushroom and Cranberry Beef, or if dumplings aren’t your thing, try one of the many noodle dishes they offer — Coq Au Vin or Cheesesteak, anyone?
Also opened in 1928, Ambler Theater was opened by Warner Bros. as an outlet for showing mainstream movies in the heart of downtown Ambler, Pa. After being purchased by a nonprofit organization in 2001, the Ambler Theater underwent a pricey restoration to restore the theater to its former grandeur.
Today, Ambler Theater is a destination for showings of independent and classic films, in addition to screenings for local filmmakers, featuring Q&A sessions. If you’re not into independent or classic films, you’ll be happy to know that the Ambler Theater does regularly show Hollywood films in its lineup. As a nonprofit, the Ambler Theater offers membership with levels of benefits for its patrons (most notably reduced admission to the Ambler and affiliated local theaters, and invitations to special events and advance screenings).
If musicals, plays and comedic acts are more your speed, Ambler also offers Act II Playhouse, just a block from the theater on the main street. Founded in 1998, the Act II Playhouse is a relative newcomer to the area arts scene, but has accrued an impressive number of awards since opening.
Easily accessible by SEPTA and other public transportation, you can make an entire day out of your visit to Ambler, browsing the array of shops on the main street, sampling the fare from one of the many choices available in their thriving restaurant scene, and then catching a show.
Where to eat:
Perhaps Ambler’s best kept secret, Forest & Main is tucked off of the main thoroughfare in a quiet restored Victorian. A “Best of Philly” winner since their doors opened, Forest & Main offers brews and a menu featuring a bevy of locally-sourced ingredients. Co-owner Gerard Olson’s wife, Mira Kilpatrick, supplies some of Forest & Main’s produce from her organic farm, The Humble Huckster.
If you’re in the mood for barbecue and live music, you need only cross the street from the theater to step into Chad Rosenthal’s The Lucky Well. You may recognize restauranteur Rosenthal from Food Network Star fame, but in these parts he’s known for his Memphis-style barbecue.
Like many of the older theaters, The Ardmore Music Hall has held multiple names, but has always been a venue for great music. Located in Philadelphia’s Main Line, The Ardmore is accessible by public transit and SEPTA rail. Past artists include The Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, The Ramones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more. Today, The Ardmore presents a live music lineup, featuring music styles as diverse as the audience it attracts — rock, funk, jam, roots, adult contemporary, Americana and more.
Where to eat:
Offering local, small batch craft brews, Tired Hands Brewing Company is not your average brewpub. Here you’ll find a menu just as carefully crafted as their beers, offering ingredients sourced from within a 100-mile radius of Tired Hands. You won’t find 5-course meals at Tired Hands, but you will find small plates, comprised of premier ingredients, perfect for noshing, allowing the craft brews to take center stage.
These are just a few of my favorite places to relax on [now only occasional] kid-less nights out with my husband; what are some of your favorite places to go around Philly?