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Main Line Philadelphia | ULTIMATE Living on the Main Line Guide

The Main Line of Philadelphia is a delineated social and historical area of the Philadelphia suburbs. This collection of historic communities runs along the boundary of the once prestigious Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line from downtown Philadelphia. The Main Line is synonymous with Philadelphia’s western suburbs which are located along the old railroad line that runs parallel with Route 30 or Lancaster Avenue.

By most definitions, Main Line Philadelphia covers 16 communities. However, seven are considered core communities with the oldest depots in Eastern Main Line. The remaining stations and towns are located on the western Main Line.

The Main Line is known for its iconic and historic homes and mansions, wealthy “old money” towns, and communities that feel like small villages despite their close proximity to Philadelphia.

Thinking about living in Philadelphia? Here’s why you may want to look to Main Line Philadelphia suburbs to find the neighborhood of your dreams.

History of Philadelphia’s Main Line

Europeans arrived in the Philadelphia area in the 1600s after the Welsh Tract of land was sold to Welsh Quakers by William Penn. This legacy is still visible in the Welsh names of many towns along the Main Line today, even though many were “Celtified” later to attract wealthy residents. For instance, Athensville became Ardmore in the late 19th century.

In the early 1800s, the Pennsylvania Railroad built its main line through the region as part of the Main Line of Public Works across the state. The railroad encouraged development by building way stations in the area outside Philadelphia to attract the social elite of Philadelphia who already had country homes in the region.

By the 20th century, the Main Line was a rapidly growing region with wealthy families creating suburbs around the way stations. Soon, towns and communities in the area were filled with sprawling, grand estates, country clubs, and tree-lined streets.

The way stations were placed around two minutes apart. The first was Overbrook, today a neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Surrounding communities were largely named for the station names. Later, a branch line (now the SEPTA Cynwyd Line) into the modern communities of Cynwyd and Bala.

After leaving the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, the original railroad line went on to Chicago with stops in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. It has since been taken over by Amtrak with a different route that also serves Paoli.

Today, many areas of the Main Line remain bastions of “old money” with historic stone buildings and estates, particularly in the original Main Line towns. However, the suburbs have diversified dramatically with many towns like Bryn Mawr extremely popular with millennials, young professionals, and young families who have created thriving entertainment districts, nightlife scenes, and art scenes.

The Wayne Station in Wayne, PA on the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale line

Transportation in the Main Line

One of the benefits of living on the Main Line? It’s easy to get around! The Main Line is served by three SEPTA commuter rail lines that connect to Center City. From Ardmore and Paoli, you can easily reach New York City on the Amtrak Pennsylvanian line.

U.S. Route 30 follows Lancaster Avenue east to west and it’s the backbone of the Main Line. This main thoroughfare runs through most towns and communities on the Main Line and it’s where most public transit stations and town centers are located. The Main Line is also served by I-95 to the south, US 202 from the Schuylkill Expressway to the north, and I-476 (the Blue Route) and I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway).

 

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Main Line Towns & Cities

There are 16 communities that make up Main Line Philadelphia. The first six are the original or core towns of the Main Line and follow this acronym while leaving Philadelphia: “Old Maids Never Wed and Have Babies.” They are the most densely populated and often considered “old money.” There are nine additional towns and infill communities that make up the Main Line including Berwyn, Devon, and Strafford, often grouped together.

Ardmore – The Main Street of the Main Line

Ardmore is 9 miles outside Center City and known for Suburban Square, one of America’s first shopping centers that today features luxury retailers, plus the Ardmore Farmer’s Market. Ardmore combines a residential setting with a busy urban town center and excellent shopping and nightlife. It’s also known for Admore Restaurant Week in July and Oktoberfest which highlights its growing craft brewery scene.

Ardmore is one of the largest and most exciting Main Line communities with some of the best public amenities, shopping, and dining. Philly Magazine even named it the Best Suburban Nightlife Scene.

One of the most well-known landmarks in Ardmore is the Ardmore Music Hall. Residents also love the Vernon V. Young Memorial Park with a playground, volleyball courts, and the Ardmore Pool.

Along with Paoli, Ardmore is connected with direct service to New York City by the Amtrak Pennsylvanian line.

Sound like a dream come true? Here’s a complete guide to living in Ardmore, PA.

Bryn Mawr – Hottest Main Line Philadelphia Community

Bryn Mawr is one of the smallest Philadelphia Main Line towns and it’s one of the youngest – in terms of residents, anyway. The median age in Bryn Mawr is just 23 years old thanks to an influx of millennials, young families, and young professionals over the last 15 years.

Bryn Mawr is frequently ranked as one of the hippest Main Line communities with a hot real estate market. Bryn Mawr seemingly has it all, from top-rated restaurants and brewpubs to world-class shopping, spas, art galleries, and picturesque parks. One of the most recognizable landmarks is the Bryn Mawr Film Institute which plays classic films, current hits, and offers Open Screen Mondays for local talent. This beautiful town is also home to Bryn Mawr College, founded in 1885 and named the second most beautiful college campus in the U.S.

Find out what it’s like living in Bryn Mawr, PA here.

 

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Haverford –Mostly Residential Main Line Community with Older Residents

Haverford is one of the core towns of the Main Line and it’s known for its older population of established households, most of which are married couples without kids. The median age in Haverford is 51.

Haverford is home to Haverford College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the U.S. with the Haverford College Nature Trail. The Merion Golf Club is also located mostly in Haverford.

 

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Merion – Philadelphia Main Line Town Known for Its Mansions

Officially known as Merion Station, Merion Station is one of the Main Line’s wealthiest communities and known for its gorgeous mansions and large estates. Residents enjoy very easy access to Center City but a suburban atmosphere with plenty of space and natural beauty like the Merion Botanical Park. The main commercial area along Montgomery Avenue features stone homes and tree-lined streets with smaller shopping and dining options.

 

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To the north you’ll find Merion Park, a family-friendly neighborhood with two playgrounds, walking trails, and modest-sized homes. One of the highlights of Merion Station is the Merion Tribute House, a stunning stone English Country manor popular for weddings.

Narbeth – The Heart of the Main Line with an Old-Fashioned Atmosphere

Narbeth is a tiny community covering just 0.5 square miles in the Penn Valley area in Lower Merion Township. It feels a world apart from surrounding towns, however, and has its own police force. Narbeth is known as “the heart of the Main Line” and it’s often described as Philadelphia’s answer to Mayberry. You’ll feel like you stepped into the past when communities were more close-knit and residents gathered frequently for celebrations and events.

The village center of Narbeth hosts many events throughout the year including the Charles Dickins Festival. You’ll find pubs, family-owned restaurants, and boutiques along Haverford Rd plus the iconic Reel Cinemas Narbeth Stadium 2, a tiny theater with first-run movies.

 

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Overbrook – West Philadelphia Neighborhood on the Main Line

Famous as the home of actor Will Smith, Overbrook is one of the most confusing Main Line communities with boundaries that depend on who you ask. Overbrook in northwest West Philadelphia can refer to the neighborhood of Overbrook or it may include surrounding neighborhoods of Overbrook Park, Overbrook Farms, and Morris Park. As the only community on this list that’s actually within the Philadelphia city limits, Overbrook residents enjoy a short commute to Center City plus great amenities and a great deal of community engagement.

Don’t be fooled by the low average home price, however; Overbrook real estate is incredibly diverse. You can find a nearly 600% increase in property prices just on the same block in the neighborhood where Overbrook and Overbrook Farms are divided.

Overbrook Park is home to Morris Park, a large forested area surrounding Cobbs Creek with a playground, walking trails, and more. You’ll also find the Karakung Golf Course and McCall Golf Club, a popular golfing spot for seniors.

 

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Wynnewood – Walkable Main Line Community with Tree-Lined Streets

Wynnewood is one of the Main Line’s most beloved suburban communities. Along with beautiful homes and tons of shopping – including two shopping centers like Wynnewood Square – Wynnewood is known for its great schools with top-rated private schools like the boys Haverford School and the Friends Central School, a Quaker school and one of the top private schools 10 in the state.

It’s easy to see why Wynnewood is popular for families, but that’s not all it has to offer. Wynnewood is very walkable with most errands reachable on foot. From the main area around the Wynnewood Shopping Center, you can easily walk to downtown Narbeth. The Lankenau Medical Center is one of the anchors of the community.

Wynnewood is one of the largest Main Line towns with its own distinct neighborhoods. You’ll find the close-knit Penn Wynne community in the southwest with historic homes as you move north. You’ll even find contemporary homes in the newer Indian Creek development east of Lancaster Avenue.

Here’s what it’s like living in Wynnewood, PA, one of the original Main Line towns.

 

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Wayne – Upscale Main Line Community with Restaurant Row & Outdoor Attractions

Wayne is a unique and large Main Line community known for its affluence and high-end fashion boutiques and restaurants. Locally called Restaurant Row, the town has a thriving shopping, dining, and arts district around North Wayne Avenue and Lancaster Avenue with an authentic charm that makes it popular with seniors and families.

One of Wayne’s biggest selling points is its outdoor attractions and scenery. Residents love Wayne’s frequent seasonal events like its old-fashioned Christmas and the Radnor Fall Festival in September. Wayne boasts tons of historic homes and beautiful natural scenery with Veterans Park and Encke Park with in-line skating and BMX biking. You’ll also find the Valley Forge National Historical Park, one of Philadelphia’s top tourist attractions, just outside the Wayne border.

Learn more about living in Wayne, PA here.

Malvern – Large Community with a Rural Feel

Malvern is known for its more rural environment, especially in the southern area, but it still has a Main Line feel in the center along Lancaster Avenue. Malvern is located on the western edge of the Main Line with a quaint feel, particularly in the historic Sugartown.

Malvern is a great place to live on the Main Line if you want a small-town feel, plenty of outdoors, and a slower lifestyle. Despite its rural atmosphere, it’s still brimming with history, boutiques, great restaurants, and fun events to keep you busy. One of the landmarks of the town is the Paoli Battlefield Historic Park which offers self-guided tours and the Battle of the Clouds Park, a popular spot for families.

Paoli – Small Western Main Line Community

Paoli is one of the farthest west communities of the Main Line. This area has experienced rapid revitalization in recent years centered around Paoli which has seen its train station transformed into the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center. Paoli is known for its older population with a median age of 47 and it’s one of the most affordable Main Line communities. Many people moving to Paoli appreciate that the Paoli train station can take you directly to New York City – Center City isn’t the most direct route offered.

The anchor of Paoli is the Paoli Hospital, the region’s major employer. Despite its small size, Paoli has several neighborhoods like Valley Hills near the train station and shopping.

Gladwyne – One of the Oldest Communities on the Main Line

Located in Lower Merion Township, Gladwyne has been ranked the 6th richest zip code in the United States. One of the oldest Main Line communities, Gladwyne has a laid-back atmosphere without the ostentatious style you’ll see in some other affluent Main Line towns.

Many people in Gladwyne own horses with large estates and a hilly topography that’s fun to explore on horseback. The charming town center of Gladwyne feels more like an English village with an upscale charcuterie shop, churches, a grocery store, and an old-fashioned pharmacy. The northeastern area of Gladwyne is more modern with understated, newer homes.

Villanova – Home to Villanova University, One of America’s Best Universities

Villanova is unique, even for the Main Line. It boasts the highest median household income on the Main Line and the youngest population with a median age of just 21! Villanova is famous for Villanova University, a prestigious and stunning private Catholic School founded in 1842.

This small town is divided into North Side and South Side. North Side is home to some of the Main Line’s largest and most beautiful homes with winding roads and large lots. The South Side has narrow streets, smaller homes, and a more neighborhood feel. The Radnor Trail runs through South Side Villanova and it’s a popular place for jogging and walking dogs.

Learn more about living in Villanova, PA here.

 

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Radnor – One of the Best Places to Raise Kids on the Main Line

Radnor is a small unincorporated town in Radnor Township known for its affluence, family-friendly amenities, and great schools. Radnor, which covers all of Radnor Township and includes surrounding areas like Wayne, has been named one of the Best Places to Raise Kids and one of Pennsylvania’s Best Places to Live. Radnor High School is even one of the top 3 high schools in Pennsylvania!

Radnor is packed with outdoor attractions like the popular Radnor Trail, golf courses, and fun amenities like rock climbing gyms, shopping, and small town centers to explore.

Here’s a complete guide to living in Radnor, PA.

Berwyn – Famous for Its School District & Rural Setting

The small, primarily residential town of Berwyn is located on the western edge of the Main Line with a small shopping and dining area along Lancaster Avenue. Berwyn attracts families because it’s within one of the best public school districts in Pennsylvania. The southern part of the town has multi-acre properties, horse farms, and a rural atmosphere while the northern area is far more suburban.

Berwyn’s main attractions include summer concerts at Wilson Farm Park and the Fotlighter’s Community Theater, the oldest community theater on the Main Line.

Devon – Small & Affluent Main Line Community

One of the “newer” communities in the western area of the Main Line, Devon is also one of the smallest Main Line towns. This census-designated place is best known for the Devon Horse Show, America’s largest and oldest outdoor horse competition featuring multiple breeds.

Devon is one of the wealthiest Main Line Philadelphia towns and residents tend to be older with an average age of 42. You’ll find a range of picturesque estates and luxury townhomes with rooftop decks and private elevators at the new Berkley Brownstones. The Devon Yard, a lush outdoor shopping space with dining and event space, has only added to the appeal of Devon.

Map of Philadelphia Main Line Towns & Cities

Main Line Things to Do & Places to Eat

Ready to explore the fun attractions and things to do on the Philadelphia Main Line? Here’s a look at the top Main Line attractions, restaurants, and parks.

Things to Do on the Main Line

  • Ardmore Music Hall (Ardmore) is a premier music venue in Ardmore featuring major concert tours and regional acts.
  • Bryn Mawr Film Institute (Bryn Mawr) is a popular community-supported venue that shows first-run, international, and independent films.
  • Reel Cinemas Narbeth Stadium 2 (Narbeth) is a small town theater and local favorite with reasonable prices, concessions, and food.
  • Devon Horse Show (Devon) is the country’s largest outdoor horse competition which has been held in Devon in May/June since 1896.
  • Devon Yard (Devon) is an upscale outdoor shopping center, event space, and local hangout.
  • Historic Sugartown (Malvern) is a restored 19th century village which was a commercial and municipal hub in the 1800s.
  • Wynnewood Shopping Center (Wynnewood) is one of the region’s top destinations for shopping with groceries, big name retailers, and restaurants.
  • Grand Slam (Malvern) is a family-friendly entertainment center with mini-golf, arcade games, laser tag, and batting cages.

Bars, Breweries & Food

  • Tired Hands Fermentaria (Ardmore) is one of the biggest nightlife destinations in Ardmore with dining and craft beers.
  • Tin Lizard Brewing Company (Bryn Mawr) is a two-story microbrewery and BBQ joint that’s always packed and a popular nightlife scene.
  • Enoteca Tredici (Bryn Mawr) is one of this hip town’s most popular restaurants. Enjoy the wine bar with small plates and catch up with friends.
  • The Flying Pig Saloon (Malvern) is a popular neighborhood pub with craft beers and a fun atmosphere.
  • Nick Filet (Paoli) is the home of the famous filet mignon sandwich and also serves lobster rolls, surf & turf sandwiches, and more.
  • 333 Belrose Bar & Grill (Wayne) is an award-winning Main Line restaurant with creative American cuisine and seafood served in an art-filled space.
  • Fraschetta BYOB (Bryn Mawr) is one of Bryn Mawr’s famous BYOB Italian eateries with a rustic setting and BYOB policy.

Main Line Parks, Trails & Outdoor Recreation

  • Merion Golf Club (Haverford) is a private golf club founded in 1896.
  • Tustin Playground (Overbrook) and the Tustin Recreation Center was made famous in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song and Will Smith returned here to film scenes.
  • Radnor Trail (Radnor Township) is a 2.4-mile walking and hiking trail with multiple entry points at several Main Line communities like Radnor, Wayne, and Villanova.
  • Philadelphia Country Club (Gladwyne) is one of the Top 100 Classic Courses in America.
  • Rolling Hill Park (Gladwyne) is a 103-acre nature park packed with trails and amenities.
  • Jenkins Arboretum (Devon) is a nonprofit botanical garden in Devon open to the public with free admission.
  • Stoneleigh, a natural garden (Villanova) boasts over 40,000 plants and beautiful scenery.
  • Chanticleer, a pleasure garden (Wayne) is a large botanical garden on the grounds of the Rosengarten estate open to the public.

Main Line Philadelphia is one of the most exciting places to live in Greater Philadelphia with charming town squares, multiple scenes for nightlife, and tons of outdoor beauty and family-friendly amenities. Considering moving to the Main Line? Call Suburban Solutions for a free moving estimate once you’ve narrowed down your many options and chosen the right town to call home.

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