Ask Miriam | What Gift Should I Get a New Philadelphian?


Dear Miriam,

I live across the country in California, but a good friend from high school is moving to Philly to work in academia. Do you have any ideas for a Philly-themed present for a soon-to-be new Philadelphian?


Friend from Afar

Dear Friend,

When I moved to Boston in 2002, the internet was mostly an afterthought to my typical day-to-day, and I had a cell phone which stayed solely in the glove compartment of my car. A new co-worker gave me a paper street atlas, which I carried with me to get around, except for the time when I didn’t. That night, I got out of the T stop near my apartment and walked the wrong way for almost four blocks before I realized I didn’t know how to get home.

This story would never happen now. Most of us have maps, phones, emergency contacts, and GPS devices in our pockets at all times and, if we don’t, the people walking past us do. We also have the ability to take out that device and search for any possible question about any possible place on earth that one might move to. Your friend could look up apartments and attractions before she ever crosses the country. She could buy herself (or you could buy her) any number of Philly-themed gifts without ever setting foot in our city.

Given all this, I’m glad you asked for some ideas that go beyond the Googling accessible to you from across the country. The first thing that comes to mind is food. Philly is famous for its chefs and restaurants, and getting to know Philly food culture is a good way to get to know the city. Many local chefs have their own cookbooks, so a cookbook for a favorite cuisine paired with a gift card to the chef’s restaurant could be a great gift. Reading Terminal Market has basically every kind of food all in one place, and they sell gift cards that can be used at any of the stalls, so that’s also a good option.

Philly is of course home to fantastic cultural and tourist attractions as well. There’s the beautiful One Liberty observation deck that could give her amazing vantage points of her new city. There are arts and culture institutions up and down Broad Street and beyond where you could get her a gift card to see a show. There are extraordinary museums, where you could get her one-time tickets to use whenever she likes, or a membership to use all year.

I’m definitely a fan of experiences over stuff, especially since your friend is about to have to pack up everything she owns. Consider taking her out for coffee or something in California before she leaves, and ask her what she’s most looking forward to in Philly. Based on that, look through some of my suggestions above and figure out what is most likely to speak to her. Then plan a time to come visit so she can show you around!

Be well,



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