How to make friends in Philly: A guide for students, newcomers, transplants…and everyone else

Ideas for where to volunteer, create, exercise, learn, play and party.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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It may be in our city’s name, but Philadelphia isn’t exactly known for being friendly. 

Blame it on too many potholes, the sight of street litter everywhere or traffic snarls from never-ending construction. Blame it on our fierce loyalty, our obsessive fanaticism or our love of underdog culture.

But none of these traits actually mean you won’t find friendship here.

All you need is knowledge of where to go and what to do — and to know yourself well enough to seek out what’s best for you.

For all you newcomers to the city (and anyone else), here’s a guide to making friends in the 215.

Tap into your competitive side

There’s no consensus as to whether the term “Quizzo” originated in Philadelphia or not, but we do know there’s enough of the trivia events across the city that you can play it every single night. During Quizzo, you can join groups of folks with silly team names and put your noggins together for the chance to win a prize or bragging rights. If you’ve never played, it’s surprisingly fun.

Quizzo not really your thing? Get competitive at Urban Axes, where you can BYO brew while you try to hit the bullseye with an ax as if you were at a rager during the Middle Ages. Or hit up bars loaded with two- or four-person games, like Brickwall Tavern, Garage, BarcadeBuffalo Billiards or the upcoming Thirsty Dice, to name a few.

Volunteer your time

If you want to meet like-minded individuals who enjoy giving back to the community — even if that means sacrificing money or precious weekend sleep — consider volunteering for the myriad of nonprofit organizations or activist groups in the city.

Some volunteer positions do require training and weekly time commitments, but other listings only ask for a couple of hours of generosity. No matter your schedule constraints, there’s always an opportunity to serve, and to meet others who care enough to lend a helping hand.

Bonus: want to make human friends and fur friends while volunteering? Consider applying to volunteer at local animal shelters, such as Morris Animal Refuge or PAWS.

Bring drinks to a DIY

For some, getting crafty or striking up conversations with strangers can be anxiety-inducing tasks. But pour a social lubricant into a cup and suddenly your tensions are soothed and you’re the life of the painting party.

“Paint Nights” are held at several venues at the city, and there are also other workshops you can BYO — interstellar embroidery, candle making, sexy male nude portraiture.

(You also don’t have to drink at these creative events. You do you, and you’ll find someone that appreciates that confidence too.)

Do something funducational

If only your early-morning college lectures were as enjoyable as all the voluntary, often free or affordable alternatives to your typical science or history class. Prepare to let your geek flag fly.

Adults-only “after hours” at museums, such as The Franklin Institute, let you partake in a slew of quirky activities with others while appreciating what the museum has to offer at night (and, best of all, when all of the field trip groups aren’t around).

Need some fresh air? Getting to know your city better isn’t just for visitors. Tour companies such as Beyond the Bell, Big Pedal Tours and Atlas Obscura offer unique nighttime learning experiences, sometimes with a boozy twist.

Get politically involved

Forget the rules that politics shouldn’t be discussed over dinner… especially if you’ve met the person you’re hanging out with at a political rally or gathering.

If heated debate, grassroots organizing, protest planning, complaining in solidarity about neighborhood issues, taking part in socially conscious discussions or campaign kickoffs are your stride, you’re in luck. Philly is rife with opportunities to your politic your (liberal or conservative) heart out. After all, we are the birthplace of American democracy.

Join a cult*

*Okay, not a real cult, just a group that is intensely passionate about the activity they do and intensely passionate about doing it with each other.

Local cliques include people who wake up at godforsaken hours to do yoga and dance at nightclubs (Daybreaker), people who pay loads of money to purposefully work their muscles to failure (solidcore), people who cycle indoors to a loud, pulsating beat (SoulCycle) or people who cycle outdoors to the sound of loud city streets.

In general, cyclists in Philly are fiercely protective of each other and of their ability to do what they love safely in the city — even if that means biking naked. They also have their own subreddit.

Ponte a bailar

We wrote a whole article earlier this year about the many nightclubs, restaurants and studios in the city that offer affordable Latin dance lessons. Since most styles of Latin dance require partnering up, its a perfect excuse to get to know someone new while also remembering to keep your rhythm flowing and your footwork sharp.

And if you both end up screwing up your salsa? Fabulous. You instantly have something to laugh about together.

Now stop worrying so much, grab a margarita and get on the dance floor.

Unleash your creative spirit

Tired of the same-old and want to try something new? Take a class and play around with different hobbies. You may discover something you love and people that you’ll love to be around.

Cooking lessons, poetry readings and sewing courses are just a few of the things that can ignite your artistic spirit (and give you a valuable skill).

If you’d rather leave the arts-making to another person, opening and closing receptions of galleries and exhibits can be great places to chat others up over some classy hors d’oeuvres.

Power through a group physical challenge

There’s something about sweating and suffering with people that brings a sense of camaraderie. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to experience that. Some gyms offer killer fitness classes that force you to train with others, and several forms of martial arts require you to practice in pairs.

Other than a good ol’ pick-up game of basketball with Joel Embiid, you can also play pick-up ultimate frisbee or pick-up soccer. How about roller derby or bouldering? Or slacklining? Or joining the Philadelphia Freedom Quidditch Club? There’s a sporty squad in this city for you somewhere.

Attend outdoor community events

You know what Philly knows how to do well? Block parties.

Barbecues, water ice, beer kegs and anything-goes live music get neighbors outside of their rowhomes and onto the streets. This is an awesome opportunity to get to know them and their families.

Like to do something a little more low-key, but still want to meet people that live close by? Consider hitting up a local community garden.

Sometimes, expanding your social circle means getting more engaged with faith-based, culture-based, gender-based or sexuality-based communities. Asian Arts Initiative, for example, is constantly hosting inventive events and programs that are welcoming to all.

Step out of your comfort zone

In order to meet people you need to, you know, go outside and find them. You can get virtually acquainted over reddit threads or Instagram posts or Bumble BFF, but in the end, you gotta take things IRL.

And while you’re braving this cold, harsh world, you might as well get bolder and try something that freaks you out.

Is your personal nightmare paddleboard acro-yoga on the Delaware River waterfront? Is it professional networking? Is it getting raunchy on a pole or wearing nipple tassels in front of others? Lean into your discomfort in a supportive setting.

Keep tabs on what’s happening

We’ve given you a lot of information, so now all you need to do is make plans and seize the day.

Some of the best ways to find out what’s up in this city of ours are Facebook Events (click on the “Discover” option, where you can customize what types of events you want to check out and which dates you want to go to them), Meetup, the Uwishunu/Visit Philly weekly lists and of course, Billy Penn‘s newsletter.

Your neighborhood’s Facebook group, the Philly subreddit and even Twitter are also good sources for events — or for making pleas for more friends.