William Penn, a Quaker who'd experienced religious persecution, wanted his colony to be a place where anyone could worship freely. Relatively good relations with local Native tribes and a central location helped Philadelphia to grow rapidly after its 1682 founding, to become by the 1750s the second largest British city after London. Following independence it remained the most important American city, and capital of the new United States until 1800, while Washington DC was built. The city continued to grow in the nineteenth century as a major textiles and industrial center.
Besides the many national historical sites that relate to the founding of the United States, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, there are history museums to see, such as the National Constitution Center, the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Art museums include the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Rodin Museum, with the largest collection of work by Auguste Rodin outside France. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, is among the largest American art museums. With Fairmount Park's 9,200 acres, the city has the nation's largest landscaped urban park, with winding creeks, rustic trails, and cruisy areas. A great collection of public art, and some of the country's most interesting architecture are also part of any trip to Philadelphia.
On Avenue of the Arts in Center City are theaters such as the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Academy of Music, the nation's oldest continually operating opera house, now home to Opera Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet. The Wilma Theatre and Philadelphia Theatre Company are also on the avenue, and nearby are the Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest American theater, and the Lantern Theatre.
A varied restaurant scene exists thanks to the many immigrants who have settled here; first the Irish and Germans, then Russians, Eastern Europeans, Italians, and African Americans, and more recently South Americans and Asians of every nationality. Each has contributed, giving this city one of the largest and most diverse selections of restaurant anywhere, and the Reading Terminal Market has mouth-watering baked goods, fresh flowers and foods from all around the world.
Philadelphia's gay life is centered in the Center City area. Within a few blocks of Camac Street (once the heart of the red-light district) is a cluster of establishments bedecked with rainbow flags, often called the Gayborhood. You can walk to any of them in minutes. The Philly Pride Parade and Festival takes place here on a mid-June Sunday each year, preceded by the Saturday Philly Dyke March. Pride also sponsors the Annual Reminders Block Party in July, and the OutFest October festival each year in these streets, the largest National Coming Out Day event in the world.
From Philadelphia International Airport, taxi fares are a flat rate of $28.50 for the first person, plus $1 for each additional person. The SEPTA regional rail service's Airport Line (formerly R1) connects you to the downtown 30th Street Station for $8 on board (or $6.50 in advance). Trains operate every 30 minutes to the 30th Street station, which is also the Amtrak hub if you're arriving by train from another city.
A TransPass for SEPTA buses, trollys and subways within the city costs $8 a day (eight rides during one calendar day), or $24 per week (any Monday midnight until the next Monday 2am). Otherwise it's $2.25 per single trip, (or $1.80 using discount tokens, sold in two, five and ten-packs). Transfers are an extra $1, and basic fares for travel outside the downtown zones may cost from $2.75 to $3.75, depending on the destination.
The SEPTA Key Card, a smart card that can be reloaded online or at machines using cash, credit or debit card, is now being rolled out. See details and purchase locations or buy direct at their website.
The Indego bike share program has over 500 bikes at more than 60 city stations. Passholders use bikes at no additional cost for the first hour, and get discounts on FringeArts and Philadelphia Museum of Art tickets, Zipcar access, along with Joe Coffee and other purchases. Less frequent local riders and visitors can buy single trips using a credit card at any station kiosk, for $4 per 30 minutes. In the Gayborhood check Locust at 13th, Locust at Hutchinson, or 11th at Pine. For more stations and an app, see their map.
For a nearby gay-friendly Bucks County PA gettaway, check out New Hope.
Surfing the internet in Philadelphia is free and easy in many public areas, including Love Park, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Reading Terminal Market and the Convention Center.
Media & resources
Philadelphia Gay News or PGN, is an award-winning regional gay newspaper with plenty of news and listings.
The PhillyGayCalendar is an excellent website for keeping up with what's happening in Philadelphia, and the surrounding area.
Local LGBT amateur sports groups include: the Philadelphia Spartans Wrestling Club with Monday practice sessions at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia; the Fins Aquatics Club, Philadelphia's gay and lesbian masters swim team; the Philadelphia Flames Soccer Club team for women; the Philadelphia Frontrunners with regular Saturday morning runs along the Schuylkill River, and LezRun, a lesbian runners group. The Philadelphia Gryphons rugby team welcomes athletes of all ages, races, fitness levels and sexual orientations. The Philadelphia Revolution and Philadelphia Lightning are the area's National Gay Flag Football League teams, and Westbury Storm is the City of Brotherly Love League softball team. The Liberty Bell Invitational sponsors LGBT bowling events and skating parties.
Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe presents various events and festivals in theater, dance, music and other performance arts. For more performing arts venues see our theaters & performance map listings pages; also with museums and galleries listings.
For leather events see the Philadelphia Leather Contest website for Mr & Ms Leather and Gear Up in February, Crankshaft in June and Gear Up Get Out in October. Philadelphia Leather Pride takes place in September.
The William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, offers a Cyber Center, a free LGBT lending library, peer counseling, a game loft, community services and various clubs, programs and social events.
The Philadelphia Weekly is the city's alternative paper, with general rundowns of arts and events. The Philadelphia City Paper ceased publication in late 2015.
The Barbara Gittings G&L Collection at the Independence Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia (18 S 7th St) has the second largest gay and lesbian collection of books in the US. The San Francisco Public Library has the largest.
The Library Company of Philadelphia, an independent research library founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries, features ongoing exhibitions and events. Their That's So Gay - Outing Early America exhibition website pages remain online.
For a city map with locations and website links to businesses, museums and entertainment venues of interest, see our gay Philadelphia map & listings pages. Our gallery has some photos from around town, and for what's coming up, see the events page.
Two comfortable and friendly hotels are at the center of the gay neighborhood. Find more options at our hotels and guesthouses map and listings pages.
Alexander Inn (304 S 12th; 877-253- 9466), 48 designer rooms, private baths, Art-Deco flair, continental breakfast, 24-hour fitness center, WiFi, indoor parking.
Ubar Upstairs Inn (1220 Locust; 215-546-6660), centrally located above their popular bar, standard and deluxe accommodations, continental breakfast, business facilities and discreet side entrance onto Camac Street.
Bars & Clubs
Bike Stop (206 S Quince) sports bar with dance floor. An everybody hangout, mostly men, from leather, fetish and bears to sports fans and drag queens.
Bob & Barbara's Lounge (1509 South St), Thursday Miss LisaHammond drag shows, Friday jazz organ combo "Liquor Drinking Music, mixed crowd.
Boxers PHL (1330 Walnut St), two-level gay sports and plasma screens video bar, pool tables, brick oven pizza, beers on tap, shot boys. The Gryphons rugby team has Saturday socials at this New York City gay sports bar offshoot.
Franky Bradley's (1320 Chancellor St), restaurant and nightclub at old Sisters location; soups, salads, sandwiches, steaks, fish, pasta and Sunday brunch. Comedy, punk rock burlesque, male strip shows featuring The Buffboys.
ICandy (254 S 12th St), multi-level dance club and lounge, Frat House Fridays, go-go boys and girls, drag shows, guest porn stars, performers and entertainers. The old 12th Air Command site.
Knock Restaurant and Bar (225 S 12th), classic gay style and ambience, daily lunch and Sunday brunch 11am to 3pm. Tasty dinners 5:30-10pm (9 on Sunday), late-night menu. Generous cocktails daily until 2am, plus extensive wine list.
Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom), alternative lounge, comedy club, live music and DJ nights, karaoke, Quizzo game nights.
Rosewood (1302 Walnut), bar and lounge to the side of Woody's, international guest DJ sets, classic and craft cocktails.
Stir Lounge (1705 Chancellor), mixed crowd cocktail lounge, old Post location in Rittenhouse Square, Women's Friday nights.
Tabu (200 S 12th), gay lounge and sports bar, with food, drag and bear events, theme parties, every Sunday Drag Brunch. Next to 12th Street Gym.
Tavern on Camac (243 S Camac), every night piano bar sing-alongs, basement restaurant, upstairs Ascend Lounge open nightly with DJ/VJ dancing, Tuesday karaoke and Sunday showtunes.
Toasted Walnut (1316 Walnut St), Gayborhood food, dancing, and entertainment establishment planned by former Sister's owner; see website for updates.
UBar (1220 Locust, Camac corner), New Orleans-style bar beneath their guesthouse, opens to overlook Locust Street. Relaxed place to see and be seen, older crowd. Was Uncles for many years.
Varga Bar (10th & Spruce St), gay-friendly bar and restaurant with lunch, supper and late night service.
Voyeur (1221 St James), Tuesday through Sunday gay dance club on three floors, Friday/Saturdays until 4am, music from the hottest DJs around. The former Pure.
Woody's (202 S 13th), open nightly gay complex of bars, disco with guest DJs. House and classic dance music parties, diverse crowd of men and women; Thursday Caliente Latin nights, Friday night 2-stepping Hoedown Country Music dancing; Tex-Mex food menu.
CLOSED: Blurr (27 S Bank), all-ages/mixed after-hours dancing; Fluid (613 S 4th), alternative/underground dance club/queer nights; Shampoo (417 N 8th), big gay/under-21 dance club; Sisters (1320 Chancellor), women's nightclub, Sunday brunch; Venture Inn (255 S Camac), gay neighborhood tavern/restaurant; Westbury (261 S 13th) gay neighborhood pub/restaurant.
El Vez (121 S 13th), Cali-Mex lunch, brunch, dinner; Poquito Dinero lunch specials, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tortas, nachos; margaritas, mojitos, sangrias.
Franky Bradley’s (1320 Chancellor St), American restaurant and cocktails, meat/fish, pasta, Sunday brunch; mainstream mixed. Formerly Sister's.
Knock Restaurant and Bar (225 S 12th), classic gay style and ambience, daily lunch and Sunday brunch 11am to 3pm. Dinners 5:30-10pm (9 on Sunday) and late-night menu. Generous cocktails daily until 2am, plus extensive wine list.
Mi Lah Vegetarian (218 S 16th, Rittenhouse Sq), world- fusion cuisine, vegetarian/vegan lunch, dinner, sandwiches, Saturday and Sunday brunch until 3pm.
Mixto (1141-43 Pine), zesty combination of Cuban, Colombian and Caribbean flavors and styles; breakfast, lunch and dinner, full bar, extensive wine list, wood and brick decor.
Positano Coast (212 Walnut, fl-2), a bit of the Amalfi Coast in the Old City. Five course meals, creative variations of classic Italian dishes with emphasis on fresh seafood ingredients. Small sampling plates, warm-weather al fresco dining, and comfortable lounge.
Tavern on Camac (243 S Camac), modern intimate cozy restaurant in cool stone-wall basement. New American cuisine and fine wines. Wide selection of starters, and entrees tempt and satisfy. Central location below one of gay Philly's best-loved piano bars/ dance clubs.
Valanni Restaurant & Lounge (1229 Spruce), bright open decor, "Medi-Latin" Spanish cuisine, seating indoors and out, dinner, brunch and late night menus. Happy hours Monday through Friday with half-price tapas and speciality cocktails.
Venture Inn (255 S Camac) - CLOSED - local favorite with salads, starters, sandwiches and special holiday menus. Relaxed vibe, attractive setting, Kinky Quizzo and drag shows.
See our map and listings for these, and another 50 Philadelphia restaurants and cafes in and around the city center.
Saunas & adult shops
Adonis Cinema (2026 Sansom), open 24/7 video mini-theater, 3 screens old porn favorites and latest releases, DVD retail sales, dark room.
Club Philadelphia (1220 Chancellor) former Club Body Center, with new owner, completely renovated men's steam and sauna, open 24/7, private rooms, slings, naked shower shows. First and third Saturdays CumUnion sex parties for men.
Danny's (133 S 13th), private video booths, big magazine and DVD video selection, rubber and leather goodies.
Sansom Street Gym (2020 Sansom), male play space open 24/7, with gym, maze, slings, deluxe rooms, outdoor deck, exotic dancers, special parties.
Shopping & services
12th Street Gym (204 S 12th), popular with locals to acquire the body beautiful. Full gym facilities, personal trainers, basketball, indoor swimming pool, tanning, one month to three year memberships.
Matthew Izzo (111 South 12th), home furnishings and accessories, rugs, lighting, new and vintage items; yard and office furniture.
Phag - the store at 1225 Walnut is gone - but their discriminating taste in art, trinkets, home and garden furnishings, accents, lighting, wall decor; plus the "phlashiest, most phlamboyantly queer collection of gay gifts" can still be found online.
Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni's Room (345 S 12th), gay books and thrift store. New owner since summer 2014.
Pleasure Chest (2039 Walnut St), Rittenhouse Square sex shop, lotions and potions, toys and party favors, lingerie, bondage and party supplies.
The Philadelphia Film Society presents the annual Philadelphia Film Festival, as well as three year-round screening series, sneak preview screenings, and other local film events. A Spring Preview takes place in mid-April each year at the PFS Theater at the Roxy.
Spruce Street DVD & Video (252 South 12th), video store with gay titles for rent and sale; general, cult classics to porn.