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At less than one square mile, Media may be compact, but the county seat of Delaware County, located 12 miles southwest of Philadelphia, is quite multi-faceted. Not only does it carry the nickname “Everybody’s Hometown” for its stated commitment to diversity and neighborliness, but it also holds the distinction as America’s original Fair Trade town, marking its public support of businesses that make sure workers receive a fair price for their products and labor.
The feeling of community is palpable on State Street, where shopkeepers tend lovingly to stores situated in buildings older than the town itself, and acquaintances greet one another during outdoor concerts on the pedestrian Plum Street and at open-air dinners that invite visitors to dine under the stars.
Three hundred years ago, William Penn sold a parcel of land in central Delaware County that became known as Media, which derives from “middle” in Latin. A courthouse was built in 1851, and soon Philadelphians were vacationing and moving to this planned suburb. Many of the Victorian homes still stand, as do buildings that — then and now — house first-floor businesses below upstairs apartments. This and earlier eras are evident in the house for Providence Friends Quaker Meeting (whose members actively participated in the Underground Railroad), Media Presbyterian Church, the Media Armory and several historic homes like the 260-year-old Minshall House, the Cooper House and Hillhurst. Additionally, a Philadelphia-bound trolley still runs through town on lines laid in 1890.
State Street is speckled with 19th-century office buildings and a natural history museum. Most of the bustle of shops and restaurants happens on State Street, with a few spurs reaching out into perpendicular streets.
Delaware County’s only professional music theater and winner of 18 Broadway World Awards, The Media Theatre for the Performing Arts — located in a restored 1927 vaudeville theater — is the place to go for Broadway plays, intimate musical productions and kids’ shows. Tucked within the woods of Rose Valley sits the Hedgerow Theatre, the oldest resident repertory theater in the U.S. that has been dedicated to storytelling since 1923. Each month, Second Saturdays light up State Street from 6:00 until 9:00 p.m. as more than 30 businesses stay open late to host local musicians and display artwork.
Visitors can unplug their media for a day to contemplate nature at the Tyler Arboretum and Ridley Creek State Park. With admission that allows for repeat entries on the same day, fans of horticulture can spend a few hours exploring Tyler’s 650-acre collection of plants, special trees, interesting tree houses and historic buildings, then pick up a picnic lunch at nearby Country Deli to eat at a spot they find along 17 miles of trails through meadows, woodlands and wetlands. For more recreational activities, Ridley Creek State Park encourages fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing and discovery of its formal gardens and the living history Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation site.
Dozens of sophisticated-casual restaurants call Media home. Options include Spanish tapas at Picasso Restaurant and Bar, French wine flights at La Belle Epoque Wine Bistro, Thai food at La Na Thai-French Cuisine, locally sourced seasonal fare at Lotus Farm to Table or sushi at Azie or Margaret Kuo’s. And to make the decision even harder, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant brews its own award-winning beer, the barhop at Diego’s Cantina & Tequila Bar sparkles with crushed blue vodka bottles, the Tuscan ceiling mural and wrought-iron spiral staircase at Ariano evokes an Italian courtyard, and on Monday nights, and the staff at Fellini Cafe Trattoria serves up live opera along with the entrees.
In keeping with Media’s fair-trade theme, many shops purvey international hand-crafted wares. Seven Stones sells southwestern apparel, jewelry, colored stones and crystals; Earth & State supports local and global artists; and Silver Moon Studio sells antique and new home furnishings, live topiary and artisan-made jewelry. On the extreme high end, Turning Point Gallery carries museum-quality American art and decorative glass, and on the knick-knack end, old-school Deals variety shop sells all sorts of goods out of an old Woolworth’s that retains the original wood floor and tin roof.
On Wednesday evenings in season, Dining Under the Stars closes State Street to cars and opens it to restaurant dinner tables. On most Thursdays, the Media Farmers Market brings fresh edibles downtown, and Second Saturdays keep shops open late and colors the business district with art openings, kids’ activities and live concerts. The Americana Roots Ramble Music Festival fills downtown with music for one day in April, and the State Street Blues Stroll does the same in June. Finally, in July, Media celebrates artistic freedom on Bastille Day with professional theater presentations, visual art displays, live music, dancing and open-air painting.
The trolley runs a regular route from to 69th Street in Philadelphia, and drivers should travel south on I-95 then north on I-476. Public lots augment metered street parking.
The Alpenhof Bed and Breakfast is located in town, and the Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast is a short drive away. Alternatively, head back to Philadelphia and save with the two-night Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, which includes FREE hotel parking.