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"On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." W.C. Fields may have been joking when he wrote his epitaph, but if he were here today, he would eat his words. They no longer roll up the sidewalks at night in Philadelphia. A construction boom, a restaurant renaissance, and cultural revival have helped transform the city. For more than 15 years there has been an optimistic mood, aggressive civic leadership, and national recognition of what the locals have long known: Philadelphia is a vibrant place to live—a city with an impressive past and a fascinating future.

Philadelphia is a place of contrasts: Grace Kelly and Rocky Balboa; Le Bec-Fin—one of the nation's finest French haute-cuisine restaurants—and the fast-food heaven of Jim's Steaks; Independence Hall and the modest Mario Lanza Museum; 18th-century national icons with 21st-century-style skyscrapers soaring above them. The world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra performs in a stunning concert hall—the focal point of efforts to transform Broad Street into a multicultural Avenue of the Arts. Along the same street, 25,000 Mummers dressed in outrageous sequins and feathers historically have plucked their banjos and strutted their stuff to the strains of "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" on New Year's Day. City residents include descendants of the staid Quaker Founding Fathers, the self-possessed socialites of the Main Line (remember Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story?), and the unrestrained sports fans, who are as vocal as they are loyal.

Historically speaking, Philadelphia is a city of superlatives: the world's largest municipal park; the best collection of public art in the United States; the widest variety of urban architecture in America; and according to some experts, the greatest concentration of institutions of higher learning in the country.