I am not sure if you’ve heard yet, but it's a seller's market. People from all over are clamoring to get into our little Borough and who could blame them? West Chester is a great place to live and work - and they probably don’t even know half of it yet.
While we wait out the doldrums of winter and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would take a minute to remember all the things big and small that make West Chester special. Take a few notes and share your own favorite spots - but maybe for now, let’s just keep them between us?
1) The Library
Originally built in 1888 from West Chester brick in the Queen Anne style, the West Chester Public Library is worth a trip for the architecture alone. But it’s not only the building that makes the West Chester Public Library special. The library offers a variety of activities for young and old. Their zero to Pre-K story times are a legend among parents. Near impossible to get a seat before COVID-19 and virtual classes. Besides books and story time, the library also loans cake pans, learning tablets and a selection of movies. Plus, they host classes, a book club and a regular trivia night. Plenty of reasons right there for a trip. Just note: they are currently operating under reduced hours due to the COVID-19.
2) Pain au chocolat, La Baguette Magique
The flakey, buttery pastry in a La Baguette Magique croissant is like a trip to the otherside of the Atlantic. We honeymooned in Paris and each time we stop in the W. Market bakery memories of quaint cafes flood back. I like my croissants stuffed with chocolate, but the plain is also delicious or try ham and cheese for a lunchtime treat. Grab a table and people watch or take yours home, pop it in the microwave for a second or five and imagine you’re in gay Paris.
3) 13 Parks
Did you know West Chester has 13 different public parks? They span the gamut from small corner playground to ballfield to tree-filled oasis. Several are walking distance from downtown. If you head west on Market then take a left on Brandywine, you’ll hit Everhart Park. A picture perfect park favored by dog-walkers and photographers. Go north on Matlack and you’ll hit Marshall Square Park, West Chester’s first park and home to a regal fountain on its southeast corner. Finally Barclay Grounds, West Chester’s newest park, is a short walk down N. High Street. Filled with different species of trees, this lovely canopied spot is perfect for a picnic - or a game of frisbee.
4) Classic Cappuccino, Gryphon Cafe
I am a bit of a snob when it comes to coffee. I like it simple, strong and well made, and as such, I never go wrong with a cappuccino from Gryphon Cafe. They have syrups too if you like it a little sweeter but I’ve never seen anyone leave with a rainbow latte or anything with sprinkles (cookies not withstanding), but if you like good coffee I urge you to check out.
5) Rainbow Bagel, Rolling Stars
This is a newcomer, but boy, there is nothing like colored boiled dough to bring a smile to your face in tough times. Rolling Stars which specializes in New York-style kettle-boiled bagels opened in the borough at the end of last summer, upping the area’s bagel game. If you haven’t tried them yet, the regular bagels are huge, chewy on the inside and delicious with a generous schmear of cream cheese.
6) The Races
West Chester has some great races. Whether you like a traditional 5k, a fun run or something more challenging - we’ve got you covered. Brian’s Run, a 5-mile race which happens every December is rated as one of the best in the region. Chester County hosts their just-for-fun Color Run every November and the Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic, is the pinnacle of bicycle racing. While most were cancelled last year, before COVID, just about every free weekend from March to November was marked by one 5k or another. Whether it’s competitive, virtual or just for the health of it, one of my favorite things about living in the Borough is seeing all the people out walking, running or biking on any nice day (and more than a few not so nice days).
7) Dining on any outdoor Borough patio
First it is no secret West Chester is blessed with an amazing restaurant scene. So really a table anywhere is a treat, but to me there is something magical about weaving through a dimly lit restaurant to pop out into the sunshine of a beautiful backyard patio. While the pandemic has put these outdoor options front and center, I hope they remain a permanent dining option for nice days. If you haven’t had the pleasure, Roots Cafe just redid their patio during the pandemic; Spence Cafe made theirs an integral part of the summer dining scene and Barnabys’ backyard patio makes Baranbys an option when it otherwise may not be your scene - and I am sure there are others, just ask your server and let me know.
8) Cloudy & Cumbersome, Levante
Seriously, is there a better hazy IPA out there? Hoppy but not too hoppy, citrus but not too much, and infinitely drinkable. There’s nothing like the first sip of a fresh drawn Cloudy & Cumbersome on a warm summer day - and we get to call it our own. Located just outside of town at 208 Carter Drive, Levante joins Sterling Pig as the only West Chester breweries to be included in the on the Craft Beer Trail of Greater Philadelphia. So come for the C&C. Stay for whatever else they have on tap. (Note, this is future tense the West Chester Taproom is not open yet for pours, just pickups, but it is coming back soon! Check their Facebook page for the latest details.)
9) Dia Doce cupcakes/ the Gelato / eClat chocolate
I couldn’t make up my mind on which to include, and really they are all deserving so I decided to squeeze in all three. This is a town for those with a sweet tooth. Whether you like your desserts baked, frozen or by the bar, West Chester has some award-winning options for you. To get you started: Dia Doce cupcakes, Gemelli Cafe, D’Ascenzo’s gelato,and Eclat chocolates.
10) The Community
I don’t know if there is more to say here, it’s really an amazing community. Each week on the blog I post a roundup of news and happenings in the Borough, and in that Roundup I have a section called “Pay it Forward” where I highlight good deeds or organizations in need of a helping hand. I am constantly amazed and heartened by these stories. Neighbors helping each other, students organizing food drives, organizations going the extra mile, and that doesn’t begin to include all the local committees and organizations residents join. The amount of time dedicated to making this a better place to live, is simply inspiring. Big or small West Chester steps up time and again.
If you are new to the area, take a moment to explore. I think you’ll find there is a lot more going than at first appears. If you are a local, where are the places that make West Chester special to you? Love all around this Valentine’s Day season.
Guest Blogger, Cara Corridoni is author of Hello, West Chester. A blog about the news and happenings in West Chester, PA. That includes the good, the bad and the controversial, but mainly the good.
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