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My Philly: Why The Maier Family Loves Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy

Learn more about our latest cover family, and why they love their little corner of Northwest Philly.

Our 13th Issue’s cover family, Maureen and Joanna Maier, dish about Northwest Philly and raising their kids, Hazel and Liam (and their dog Zeke) around Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy.

PF: What drew you to your neighborhood?

When we were looking for our first house eight years ago, we knew we wanted to be in a place that reflected the diversity of the city and would be open and accustomed to a diversity of family structures, especially LGBT families such as our two-mom family. Now, as a family of four, we love all those things about our community, but also that it is so walkable!


Hazel and Liam go to Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, the neighborhood public school in Chestnut Hill, which is just a five minute walk up Germantown Avenue. We can also walk to multiple playgrounds and parks, coffee shops, restaurants, and the kids love how close we are to a couple ice cream shops. We can easily walk into Wissahickon Park for hikes with our dog, Zeke, and it’s also a quick drive or walk to all that is Mt. Airy!

PF: What was the most important thing you considered when picking your kids’ school?

We chose our neighborhood public school because we really believe in the importance of public schools, not just as a place our kids will learn to read and write, but where they– and we– will become part of a multiracial community that doesn’t just talk about the value of diversity and opportunity for all racial and economic groups and how that benefits all of us, but that lives it.


We also chose Jenks because it’s a great neighborhood school. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of private school, but it has a neighborhood feel to it, and a committed group of parents and volunteers to lift it up. We knew that our kids would do just great at Jenks, because it was clear that the administration, teachers, and other families truly care about all of the students. Our kids have learned so much already, both academically and socially, and so have we.


PF: What does a typical weekend look like for your family?

Weekends for our family are a time to relax and catch our breath. We always try to work in a trip to the bookstore and walks around the neighborhood, usually ending at Starbucks. We love going for hikes in the Wissahickon or to explore new playgrounds and parks around the city and neighboring suburbs. The kids love biking around the block, and just exploring and creating right in our yard. But they also don’t mind if we pack up and head to the shore in the summer, which we often do.


PF: Which membership does your family get the most use out of?

We’ve had memberships to the Please Touch Museum and the Franklin Institute, and have used them both plenty when the kids were a bit younger. They are much more into being outside these days, and we took them to the new Treetop Quest in Fairmount Park twice this summer. Definitely thinking about annual passes for that!


PF: What is your go-to gift for kids’ birthday parties? Or your go-to shop to find them?

Artist & Craftsman art store is just a block away from our house on Germantown Avenue. We really like to give the gift of art supplies for birthday parties! Another great gift is a homemade movie pack, with a gift card and lots of little treats. The kids love participating in making gift packs for their friends.


PF: What is your favorite kid-friendly restaurant in your neighborhood?

There are so many great restaurants in our neighborhood. It’s too tough to pick one. Our go-tos are El Poquito in Chestnut Hill, and Earth – Bread + Brewery in Mt. Airy. We also love the addition of the Chestnut Hill Brewery and the outdoor space at the Market at Fareway in Chestnut Hill. It has everything we need to have a successful dinner out– great kid and adult food, local beers, and casual outdoor space for the kids to run and play while we linger.


PF: What is your secret time-saving shortcut?

Well, not sure we’ve figured that one out yet! It’s divide-and-conquer most mornings, which is why we like being so close to school and work!


PF: What is the best piece of parenting advice you’ve received?

Someone once told me that when they were worried about their child not hitting a certain milestone of development, the pediatrician said, “You don’t see many adults crawling around work, do you? Everyone eventually learns to walk.” I think about that often in terms of not worrying so much or comparing my kids to others. Also, when at the playground, climbing trees, etc., let them do as much as they can do on their own! If they need a boost up onto something, it probably means they aren’t ready for it. I think that’s applicable across most of parenting. Meet them where they are.


PF: You have friends visiting from out of town. What are your must-do Philly attractions?

We definitely like to show off our neighborhood for out-of-towners, because there is so much here. Beyond that, I think we’d take the train into town, hit up the Reading Terminal Market and walk around the Parkway, maybe stopping at Sister Cities Park and the Free Library’s Central branch, and ending the day by taking in a show at the Arden Theatre. For younger kids, we also love a couple hours at Smith Memorial Playground. Some of the city’s newer pop-up events are also really cool to bring friends to– if it’s in season, we’d for sure end our day with a stop at Parks on Tap.


PF: Tell us about a family tradition you’ve started.

On the first and last days of school, we always walk home and include a stop off for ice cream at Bredenbeck’s. Other traditions we’ve started– playing on the hay maze at Woodmere Art Museum in the fall, sledding at Water Tower Rec Center in the winter, and banging pots and pans outside when the Eagles win the Super Bowl.


Photographs by Lucy Baber Photography.


Want to read more about living in and visiting Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy? Check out our neighborhood guide!


Contributing Writer