On the list of Philadelphia’s quirkily named geographic landmarks, Manayunk is right up there. This Native American word, meaning “where we to go drink,” references the neighborhood’s location next to the Schuylkill River. While the river helped shape Manayunk’s identity, so do the hills. Yet despite its famous inclines, or maybe because of them, what was once one of the city’s hottest industrial centers is now one of its hottest neighborhoods, with plenty of places where people can go to drink. The combo of singles, young families and life-long residents whose families have lived here for generations infuses Manayunk’s blue-collar origins with a modern edge. Row homes that once housed millworkers during the community’s late 19th- and early 20th-century industrial boom are now a hot commodity and as in demand as the trendy loft apartments and stately Victorian houses that dot the community. And although its original outreach to the world was manufacturing, today it is a bike race (the Philly Cycling Classic) that has made it an international destination. Ever since 1985 when Philadelphia hosted its first international biking race, cyclists have frequented the area to take on the “Manayunk Wall,” a section of Levering Street that has defeated some of the world’s best cyclists with its 17% incline.
The heart and soul of the community is Main Street, a mercifully level thoroughfare bustling with dozens of restaurants, owner-operated boutiques, bars and galleries. Daytime activities give way to nighttime action as foodies and revelers hit the streets, scoping out new menu additions at restaurants, jockeying for views at the riverside clubs, catching up-and-coming local musicians or dancing to a DJ.