Moving to Pennsylvania? Here’s what you need to know

Relocating can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to narrowing down places to live. Don’t worry, this blog will help you decide if Pennsylvania is your next big adventure!

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Besides being extraordinarily tricky to spell, Pennsylvania is also a tricky state to describe properly. What’s true for one part of the state can be decidedly different just an hour’s drive away. Our advice: embrace the contradictions, enjoy the characters you’ll meet, figure out something fun to do with all the money you’ll save (the cost of living is relatively low here) and buy a cozy snowsuit. 

We’re not going to claim we can tell you everything you’d ever need to know about living in Pennsylvania – but with the help of our local team members we are going to share the most important things that we know about moving and living here. By the way, we’re Bellhop – we make the whole experience of moving much easier than you ever dreamed possible. We can help you relocate to and from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and pretty much everywhere else too.

Fun Facts about Pennsylvania

It’s technically not a state. Pennsylvania is actually one of the four “commonwealths” in the continental U.S. (The others are Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia.) In the greater scheme of things, this means absolutely nothing regarding daily life, it dates back to political thinking that was popular in the 18th century. Despite calling itself a commonwealth, Pennsylvania’s nickname is “The Keystone State,” in reference to its central role in the founding of the nation. 

Pennsylvania prides itself on being the first to achieve many wonderful things. It was the first state to protest against slavery and it was the first to pass an abolition law in the United States. The first American flag, stock market, computer, automobile service station, daily newspaper, zoological garden, toll road, art museum, hospital, radio broadcast, little league baseball game and the country’s first commercial pretzel factory … it all happened – first – here.

Fun Facts about Pennsylvania

It’s technically not a state. Pennsylvania is actually one of the four “commonwealths” in the continental U.S. (The others are Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia.) In the greater scheme of things, this means absolutely nothing regarding daily life, it dates back to political thinking that was popular in the 18th century. Despite calling itself a commonwealth, Pennsylvania’s nickname is “The Keystone State,” in reference to its central role in the founding of the nation. 

Pennsylvania prides itself on being the first to achieve many wonderful things. It was the first state to protest against slavery and it was the first to pass an abolition law in the United States. The first American flag, stock market, computer, automobile service station, daily newspaper, zoological garden, toll road, art museum, hospital, radio broadcast, little league baseball game and the country’s first commercial pretzel factory … it all happened – first – here.

What are the pros and cons of moving to Pennsylvania?

Like anywhere else, there are some really great things about living in Pennsylvania and there are some not-so-great things to contend with too. We’re going to get those pesky cons out of the way first.

Cons of Living in Pennsylvania

Winter can be brutal. Expect to be experiencing cold weather from December to February, frequent snowstorms, icy roads and gray skies. Pennsylvania also has severe thunderstorms, especially in the mountains and highlands, and tornados through the spring and summer. 

Driving can be exciting. Highway on-ramps seem random, some are super-short and dump you right into traffic fast, others allow you time to gently merge. Some even have a stop sign at the end of the ramp. And then there’s the infamous “Pittsburgh Left” which can occur when two drivers meet at an intersection that lacks a left turn lane or arrow. When confronted with this situation, the driver going straight lets the driver who wants to go left go ahead to avoid a traffic buildup. The agreement is made by pointing, waving or a fast flash of headlights.

The infrastructure can be a little creaky. A significant number of roads and bridges really need to be repaired, which adds to the driving challenges. 

The Pros of Living in Pennsylvania

Cost of living is relatively low here,  roughly 1% less than the national average and much more in the central and more rural parts of the state. You save on housing, which is 8% lower than the national average, but utilities are 7% higher. Overall, the state is ranked #15 for affordability, which means its pretty easy to live well here on a modest salary. 

Taxes are low and easy to calculate too. The state income tax rate is a flat 3.07 percent for everyone. And while Pennsylvania may not be the first place you think of when you consider where to retire, perhaps it should be. Retirement income (such as 401(k)s, Social Security, pensions, and IRAs) are exempt from state tax in Pennsylvania. 

It’s beautiful. The forests, mountains, waterfalls, rock formations, those rolling farmlands … the state even has its own Grand Canyon (also known as Pine Creek Gorge). And if you want the full-on four distinct seasons experience, you’ll definitely find it here in Pennsylvania. 

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Pennsylvania Economy and Employment

Pennsylvania used to be an economic powerhouse, due primarily to Pittsburgh. Back in the 1950s, Pittsburgh was the 8th largest city in the United States and was responsible for half of the country’s steel production. While that golden era has ended, there’s still plenty of opportunity in Pittsburgh (and Philadelphia). That said, Pennsylvania as a whole lags behind others states economically. Manufacturing and agricultural have long been Pennsylvania’s main industries, but the state is focusing on building new industries such as robotics and AI, and a “green jobs workforce” that is expected to be part of every sector of the state’s economy.

Today, young professionals are migrating to the city of Pittsburgh in waves because of the bustling startup scene, strong industry and a reasonable cost of living in comparison to much larger east coast cities like Boston or New York City.

Why moving to Pennsylvania offers opportunity, financial growth and a high quality of life.

Pennsylvania is complicated when it comes to determining the level of opportunity, financial growth, and quality of life the state offers. While smaller cities and towns in Pennsylvania might not offer as much due to size, the states larger cities like Pittsburgh and Philly are bursting at the seams with opportunity.

Between being home to some of the best universities in the world, high-ranking health institutions, rich history and four beautiful seasons (save for a pretty cold winter)… Pennsylvania offers all the essentials for a high-quality of life.

If you remember, earlier we mentioned that Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone state for its central location. This has also gifted the state with miles and miles of stunning landscape that include mountain trails, vast lakes and stunning forests.

So, if you want to get outdoors, it won’t be a problem in Pennsylvania.

 

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Pennsylvania’s Best Cities

Before we dive in, we want to clarify that “Best” is whatever fits your idea of a great life. If you’re looking to farm, or just escape city life, our top picks are going to seem absurd to you. We’re focusing on larger, urban or suburban areas for the most part. But there plenty of options, and you’re sure to find the right place for you in Pennsylvania.

Eastern Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is the largest city in the state, and offers all the urban amenities you could ever want, in a city that is human-sized. It’s a great mix of old and new, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, South Street, and Constitution Hall, along with outstanding restaurants, theater, and shopping. Ten of the country’s largest law firms and twelve Fortune 500 companies, including Comcast and Crown Holdings, have their headquarters in the Philadelphia area. The federal government also has a large presence there, with the East Coast operations of the U.S. Mint and a division of the Federal Reserve Bank located nearby. The city is also known as one of the largest health education and research centers in the U.S. Understandably, the cost of living is higher here than in the rest of the state. 

For more information on moving to Philadelphia, check out our city guide.

Allentown is Pennsylvania’s third largest metro area, and is home to the Allentown Symphony Hall, the Da Vinci Science Center the America On Wheels Museum, and Lehigh Canal Park. You’ll find a mix of historic homes and buildings here, and many of the older industrial mills and manufacturing centers are being transformed into apartments and lofts. It’s a two hour drive to Philly or NYC. 

Reading, located near Bear Creek Mountain, is smaller and much quieter than its two eastern siblings, with a cost of living significantly lower than the national average. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend your surplus cash, Reading is known as the “Outlet Capital of the World.”

Central Pennsylvania

The cost of living in this region is below the national average, and life is conducted at a delightfully slower pace. Lancaster-Ephrata is home to the country’s largest Amish population. Gettysburg and Harrisburg offer historic attractions like Gettysburg National Park. It’s all about nature in central Pennsylvania … and festivals. Don’t miss the Selinsgrove Market Street Festival, Beaver Community Fair, Bloomsburg Fair, and the Milton Fringe Festival – just to name a few.

Western Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in the state, is here, right at the meeting place of the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela Rivers. Steel City is known for its bustling, walkable downtown area. Businesses here include Facebook and Google. The city has an especially strong cultural scene, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum and other art galleries (along with a lively club/music scene) will keep you busy. The city has a diverse population, thanks to its many higher-learning institutes which include Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. Despite all this, the cost of living is slightly below the national average.

Neighborhoods worth exploring include Squirrel Hill for families, Lawrenceville for professional couples, and up-and-coming East Liberty. Want an amazing view? Check out the homes on Mount Washington. Suburbs include Mount Lebanon, Fox Chapel and Sewickley.

For more information on moving to Pittsburgh, check out our city guide here

Our final sell on Pennsylvania?

We have one final sell on Pennsylvania. It’s our trump card of sorts that we’ve been holding onto until now because it’s just that sweet. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? We think you’re gonna like this.

9. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.

Whether they were chocolate kisses, Almond Joys or Mr. Goodbars… we imagine you’ve your fair share of Hershey’s chocolate over the years. We know we have. Well, it just so happens that Pennsylvania is home to the sweetest place in the United States… Hershey. When Milton S. Hershey started the beloved Hershey Chocolate Company it was right here in Pennsylvania and in our opinion… that alone may just make it worth moving here.

Making the Move to Pennsylvania

Between a low cost of living, the beauty of the state, being able to fully enjoy all four seasons and great cities like Pittsburgh and Philly offering loads of opportunity… We can’t think of any good reason for you not to move to Pennsylvania. Can you? When you’re ready to relocate, we’re here to help. Our Pittsburgh movers and Philadelphia movers focus on making your move as simple and easy as humanly possible. We’re happy to answer all of your questions, anytime. 

Harrison Stevens
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