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Home to West Chester University, this quaint town in the Brandywine Valley exudes an energetic, young vibe. In the bustling downtown area, casual eateries and food-centric events satiate hungry palates, and throngs of charming shops line the streets.
As Chester County’s county seat, West Chester has a strong political history. The first biography of Abraham Lincoln, which was instrumental in his eventual election to the presidency, was published in The Lincoln Building on West Market Street in 1860. Downtown West Chester has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. At the Chester County Historical Society, guests learn all about the region’s past and its important contributions to our nation.
West Chester’s downtown grid spans several blocks. More than 120 shops, boutiques and eateries fill the storefronts on Gay, Market and High Streets.
During the school year, West Chester University hosts a number of performing arts organizations, including the Kennett Symphony, Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Brandywine Ballet, along with both professional and student performances.
Operating under its third generation of family ownership, Carlino’s Market keeps patrons happy with eat-in and take-out prepared food and pizza, plus meats, breads, cheeses, olive oils, coffee, tea, pastries and an impressive selection of Italian groceries. Since 1985, the corner of Market and High streets has been home to Wally’s Weiner World, which dishes out sausage, kielbasa and frankfurters with onions, chili, sauerkraut and other savory toppings. Kreutz Creek Winery in nearby West Grove, Pennsylvania operates a bring-your-own-food tasting room on Gay Street. The tasting room is pet friendly all the time, and owners even enjoy bottle discounts during the canine-friendly Yappy Hour on Thursdays in the summer. Plates leave the kitchen piled high with fresh seafood at Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House, and Iron Hill Brewery serves handcrafted beers and delectable cuisine for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Both Market and High streets are lined with alfresco dining options aplenty.
Visitors take advantage of both upscale and affordable shopping on West Chester’s main drags. Since 1976, The Mad Platter has been the go-to spot for albums, posters, memorabilia and all things music. Local vendors have been selling handmade and homegrown products at the West Chester Growers Market every Saturday for more than 20 years. High-end retailers A Taste of Olive and Éclat Chocolate supply locals with gourmet epicurean treats. Fashionistas stock up on trendy clothing and accessories at downtown boutiques like Green Eyed Lady, Obvi, Blink and Greene Street Consignment. Literature enthusiasts venture past downtown to relax and read hard-to-find volumes in one of the many cozy nooks in Baldwin’s Book Barn, set in a distinctive, five-story former dairy barn that dates back to 1822.
On the First Friday of every month, shops and boutiques stay open late to welcome customers, serve refreshments and offer specials. In April, the West Chester Film Festival screens independent short films and hosts entertaining workshops and filmmaker meet-and-greets. Four times a summer, people celebrate the food, music and community of West Chester during Swingin’ Summer Thursdays. Super Sunday transforms the downtown area into a giant street festival in June, complete with food, crafts, live music, family-friendly activities and rides. Crowds cheer on hundreds of local and national cyclists during the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium in August. West Chester Restaurant Week draws flocks of foodies in September, culminating in the daylong, free-to-the-public Chester County Restaurant Festival. During Old-Fashioned Christmas in December, scores of holiday-themed events take place all over town.
Driving the 35 miles from Center City to West Chester takes roughly 45 minutes. Metered street parking and municipal lots are available. Public transportation from Philadelphia is not readily accessible.
Hotel Warner and Faunbrook B&B are in-town options for visitors. Alternatively, make the short trip back to Philadelphia and save with the two-night Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, which includes FREE hotel parking.