Though only fifteen minutes from City Center Philadelphia, Manayunk has maintained its small-town charm, dating to its role in the industrial boom. Quaint shops, an ever-changing restaurant scene and a beautiful downtown strip are a few of the suburb’s calling cards. The Schuylkill River and the surrounding hills, however, are the defining elements of the neighborhood that houses more than 15,000 residents.
The neighborhood has maintained much of its blue-collar origins, though the manufacturing and mill jobs that once sustained the area are gone. Young professionals and new families now live alongside life-long residents, creating a vibrant feel. The Victorian-style houses and row homes that once housed millworkers are a draw for those with jobs in Philadelphia but are looking for more space, lower crime rates and a quick commute to work. The area also prides itself on being dog friendly, including the commercial district.
The Schuylkill River, the area’s namesake, is the central hub of activity. The word Manayunk comes from the Lenape Indians who inhabited the land before it was settled by William Penn, and directly translates to “place to drink.” The riverfront is one of the center points of town, along with the Manayunk Canal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Main Street is another focal point, with a retail and dining center that has reinvigorated the area.
The Philly Cycling Classic helped put Manayunk on the map as a cycling destination, and popularized the “Manayunk Wall,” a section of Levering Street that has a steep 17 percent incline. The designation as a top cycling locale has spawned the opening of several bike shops and group rides throughout the city. The Canal Tow Path also provides biking and hiking opportunities, while the river itself is a playground for kayakers. Manayunk is also a hotspot for artists. There are many galleries along Main Street, and the recently opened Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center has become a big attraction, along with the Manayunk Arts Festival in June.