Life in Glenside

September 14, 2023

Westminster Theological Seminary is located in Glenside Pennsylvania, a suburb just northwest of Philadelphia. There are a lot of considerations to take into account when considering seminary, and location is an important factor to consider. You might ask yourself any number of questions: Will I be comfortable with the location I’m living in? Will there be places to enjoy recreation and entertainment? Will there be places to study? What will the cost of living be like compared to where I am located now? The questions go on, but this article will focus on those listed previously.

Diverse Options for Living

When considering a move to the East Coast, some students might feel some trepidation. If you aren’t used to living in a “big city”, moving to Philadelphia might seem like a tall order. The good news is that our location is ideal in that the full spectrum of living situations are available within a driveable radius to campus. 

Westminster is about 30-45 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia, and about 30-45 minutes from rural farmland, with many suburban neighborhoods options in between. If you desire an urban environment, rich with walkable destinations and a range of culturally diverse ministry opportunities that may differ from your home context, this is available to you at a commutable distance from campus. And if you come from a smaller town, rural area, or suburb, and want to maintain that rhythm of life, similar options exist within a short range from campus.

Places to Hang

There are a number of fun neighborhoods that contain all sorts of great recreation, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment near Glenside. 

The closest to campus is probably Chestnut Hill. Only 10 minutes from campus, it is a quaint little neighborhood known as Philadelphia’s Garden District and Urban Village. The area features tree lined streets with great restaurants and specialty shops. Some local favorites include McNally’s Tavern, an Irish pub with incredible pub fare food, and El Poquito, a Mexican cantina with excellent tacos. Finally, Morris Arboretum, the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is located in Chestnut Hill. 

If you’re looking for recommendations in Philadelphia, there are a number of vibrant neighborhoods to visit as well. Old City is the birthplace of American Independence. There you can visit a number of Colonial-era sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and more. Some locations to hang out in this section include City Tavern, a restaurant established in 1773 where the Founding Fathers dined and drank, and Morgan’s Pier, a restaurant with a river deck beer garden overlooking the Delaware River. You’ll also want to visit Independence National Historic Park, which includes attractions like The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Ben Franklin Museum. 

Center City is Philadelphia’s downtown section. Oriented around City Hall, this neighborhood includes the theater district, Rittenhouse Row shopping district, and a number of beautiful parks. Rittenhouse Square is a one square block park that was built by the city’s founder William Penn. It often features festivals, farmers markets, and fairs.

If you’re looking for a more gritty experience, Fishtown is where Philly’s culinary, art, and music trends take off. Catch some live music at Johnny Brenda’s, a lauded gastropub, or head across the street to the open air German beer hall-style Frankford Hall. You can also find coffee shops, street murals, and thrift stores here.

Finally, Wissahickon Valley Park is a 2,000+ acre park about 10 minutes away from Westminster’s campus. It contains 57 miles of trails that wind through a lush, forested gorge and meadows following the waters of the Wissahickon Creek. Forbidden Drive is a well traveled biking, walking, and bridle trail that follows the creek. The Valley Green Inn, built in 1850, offers exceptional dining in what was originally a roadside inn along Forbidden Drive.

Places to Study

While recreation and entertainment are important, you’ll be coming to Westminster to study. With that in mind, finding changes of scenery from the library can be important. With that in mind, here are some great study spot recommendations.

Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. is 10 minutes from campus and is a favorite spot for many Westminster students. It’s not unusual to make your way to their upstairs seating section to find half a dozen Westminster students reading and studying together. They also roast their own beans in a room connected to the seating section which makes for great smells and a cozy atmosphere. Down the street from Chestnut Hill Coffee is an unusually quaint Starbucks, that also happens to come with the added bonus of staying open a bit later than Chestnut Hill Coffee. Typically students will grab some food in the area and then migrate together to the Starbucks when Chestnut Hill Coffee closes.  

A bit further down the road from Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. is the Lovett Memorial Library. A historic building that was first opened in 1887, it has an outdoor garden area that makes for a great reading spot when weather cooperates. Elcy’s Cafe is about a mile from campus and is attached to the Glenside Regional Rail train station (part of the SEPTA system, which connects the Philly region). Being so close by, it’s a great pitstop to stop for the hours between classes if you’re looking to sip some coffee, secure some food, and do some reading.

If you have the time to venture into the city there are several outstanding coffee shops. Perhaps the most grand spectacle of a coffee shop is the massive flagship location of the national coffee roasters La Colombe. With an unassuming facade, La Colombe in Fishtown is a stunning 11,000 square foot coffee shop on the main strip of Fishtown’s Frankford Ave, just down the street from Frankford Hall and Johnny Brenda’s. One thing to keep in mind however, is that La Colombe doesn’t have wifi in an effort to encourage conversation. This is where a wifi hotspot from your phone or another device might come in handy.

Another great Philadelphia coffee shop is ReAnimator. This one has two locations, one in Fishtown and one in Kensington. Both are in hip, young neighborhoods on the north side of Philly. They are about 30 minutes from campus but are worth the trip if you have an afternoon open. ReAnimator is a bit more on the “underground” side of things, so it’s rare to find their shops overly crowded.

Cost of Living

The one drawback of living in the North East is that the cost of living is going to be higher than some other locations in the country. To be sure, living in Center City will be much more expensive than living in a more rural or suburban location as well. This is something that should be taken account of in your decision to come to Westminster and when deciding where in the area you want to settle.

Cultural Experience and Shifting Populations

Philly is without a doubt a culturally diverse environment where you’ll find people from all walks of life. Westminster’s proximity to this major city affords students the ability to apply their studies to encounters with a myriad of people and subcultures in real time, allowing you to be shaped by experiences you may not typically receive at home. 

If you are someone hailing from the Bible Belt or another more culturally homogeneous, conservative environment, you may find studying in the northeast advantageous as your training here will expose you to the type of people who may even be migrating to traditionally “red” states in the future. States like Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and North Carolina have seen a major influx of new residents migrating from northern states since 2020, which will inevitably change the fabric of their communities and church congregations.


Glenside is situated in a location that makes it possible for you to decide where and how you want to live. You can take advantage of a vast array of entertainment and recreation options in a safe and comfortable environment. With easy access to the city of Philadelphia as well as more rural locales, there is something for everyone here. If you have any questions about what was covered here, or other questions about Glenside and the surrounding areas, our admissions counselors would be happy to speak with you. Feel free to email us at

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