College life in Philly

Philly’s best study spots that let you explore the city

Parks, coworking lounges, and coffee shops perfect for getting work done and having fun after.

Sunset Social atop Cira Green might be the best use of a parking garage in Philadelphia

Sunset Social atop Cira Green might be the best use of a parking garage in Philadelphia

Courtesy Sunset Social
beatriceforman

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With Philly’s many universities and colleges wading through in-person classes and careening through midterm seasons, studying is back. But just because you can reserve a spot deep in the stacks of the library or camp out at Starbucks doesn’t mean you should.

Science says switching up your location mid-workflow can increase productivity and turn a day of differential equations and term papers into an adventure. Dubbed the “coffee shop effect, ” the idea that certain locations can improve recall has been around since the 1970s. Apparently, our brains like to make associations between new information and novel surroundings.

Our solution? Turn studying into an excuse to explore the city beyond campus borders.

Here are some top picks for parks, coworking spaces, and off-the-beaten-path cafes that double as study spaces, and can also help you get to know some quintessential Philly locales.

Cira Green

129 S. 30th St. (University City)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. – Thurs; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. – Sat.; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.Sun.

Head to this not-so-secret rooftop park sandwiched between the FMC tower and a luxury apartment complex for a picnic study session before the weather turns chilly. There’s panoramic views of the Philly skyline, and greasy ballpark-style eats courtesy of Sunset Social.

Looking to unwind after banging out a sheet of differential equations? Head downstairs to The Post, a more upscale version of Dave & Busters that deals in waffle fries, wings, and syrupy sweet margaritas.

Quorum

3675 Market St. (University City)
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. – Thurs.

Part of the University City Science Center, Quorum is a free coworking space where students from Penn and Drexel can mingle with start-up founders — think WeWork with an innovation bent. Take a study break at the Elixir Coffee in the lounge or slip into a Q&A with tech investors to learn about venture capital (whatever that is).

Quorum is the drop-in lounge at the University City Science Center

Quorum is the drop-in lounge at the University City Science Center

Ben Bowens for UC Science Center

Vagrant Coffee

4435 Baltimore Ave. (West Philly)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. – Fri. ; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat. – Sun.

What started as a mobile coffee shop is now a specialty roastery with a brick and mortar location steps away from Clark Park, making it the perfect pre-Farmer’s Market pitstop. Spread out your organic chemistry homework at one of their large tables alongside a savory drink, like their golden latte spiced with turmeric or a habanero coffee sweetened with honey.

Cosmic Cafe

1 Boathouse Row (Fairmount)
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues. – Sat. ; 8 a.m to 7 p.m. Sun

This ciderhouse-slash-coffee shop marks the start of Boathouse Row, a National Historic Landmark site along the Schuylkill replete with college crew houses and lots of coastal elite charm. To make the most of your trip to the river, grab a loaded bagel to go and catch up on your reading at a bench on the water.

The Monkey & the Elephant

2831 W. Girard Ave. (Brewerytown)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tues. – Sun.

This nonprofit coffee shop employs youth that grew up in the foster care system, with sales funding a professional development program centered on building problem-solving and team-building skills. An added bonus? Their back patio is covered in trippy murals, so you’re basically working in an art museum.

The Monkey & The Elephant

The Monkey & The Elephant

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

OCF Coffee House

2100 Fairmount Ave. (Fairmount)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m Mon. – Fri. ; 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat. – Sun.

Come to their Fairmount location for deep work and confectionary delights ranging from tiny whoopie pies to moist tahini loaf cake. Then, spend the day exploring the residential side of Philly’s restaurant district with drinks at Urban Saloon and a night of wholesome Halloween fun at Eastern State Penitentiary, the former home of Terror Behind the Walls.

Looking for a quick bite instead? Head to OCF’s smaller locations near Rittenhouse Square and in Point Breeze.

Ultimo Coffee

5901 Wayne Ave. (Germantown)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. – Fri. ; 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Sat. – Sun.

Unlike Ultimo’s 4 other Center City locations, their Germantown outpost bakes their pastries in-house, so customers here get first dibs on things like thai tea pound cake and salted caramel brownies. Make a day of your trip to city limits by checking out Morris Arboretum, a sprawling plant and nature preserve that’s free for students at the University of Pennsylvania.

ultimo-credit-danyahenninger-cortado2

Cortado at Ultimo

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books

5445 Germantown Ave. (Germantown)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.Tuesday to Friday; 8 a.m to 7 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Owned by author-activist Marc Lamont Hill, Uncle Bobbie’s does coffee “in a way that doesn’t look like an episode of Friends.” A Black-centric, community-centered space, the coffee and bookstore twofer sells a mix of young adult fiction and anti-racist literature, espresso, and — yes — sweet potato pie.

Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery

620 S. 9th St. (Bella Vista)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

Unlike the rest of the coffee shops on this list, Chapterhouse stays open consistently late, making it the ideal spot for a marathon day of midterm studying. The space also doubles as an art gallery, with their most recent show highlighting works from Laura K. Murdoch and Mia Massimino.

Need a post-study session pick-me-up? Stroll down South Street for thrift shopping, cheesesteaks at Jim’s or Ishkabibble’s, and a debaucherous happy hour at daiquiri specialist Fat Tuesday.

Race Street Pier

Columbus Blvd. (Delaware waterfront)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Open through the remainder of the fall, this pier with views of the Delaware and Camden waterfront is great for an outdoor study date and a short walk from all the tourist attractions you should conquer your freshman year: the Liberty Bell, Elfreth’s Alley, and the BlueCross RiverRink.

The Race Street Pier beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge

The Race Street Pier beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge

Danya Henninger/ Billy Penn