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, a taxi to the city center costs around $30. The SEPTA regional rail service's R1 Airport Line connects you to the downtown 30th Street Station for around $7.
If you're arriving by rail, the Amtrak trains pull into the 30th Street station.
A travel pass for SEPTA buses, trollys and subways within the city costs $8 a day, or $24 per week. Otherwise it costs $2.25 per single trip, ($1.80 if using discount tokens). See details, purchase locations or buy online. Bike share is coming to Philadelphia. Starting in spring 2015, bikes will be available for pick up and drop off at 60 convenient stations across the city.
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 Phlly 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 November. The Keystone Boys of Leather is a fraternal leather club of of local leatherboys.
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 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.
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.
Blurr (27 S Bank), mixed, mostly straight dance crowd. All-ages Wednesday nights, 17+ and 18+ dance parties.
ICandy (254 S 12th St), multi-level dance club and lounge, 18+ Fridays, go-go boys and girls, events, performers and entertainers. The old 12th Air Command site,
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) new gay-friendly lounge and sports bar, with food, 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.
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 for many years Uncles. The Gryphons rugby team Saturday socials (since Westbury closed).
Varga Bar (10th & Spruce St), gay-friendly bar and restaurant with lunch, supper and late night service.
Venture Inn (255 S Camac), gay neighborhood tavern and restaurant, local institution at quiet location with welcoming crowd of regulars. Drag shows, karaoke, Kinky Quizzo, Sunday brunch
Voyeur (1221 St James), the former Pure, Friday/Saturday gay midnight to 3:30am dance club on three floors, music from the hottest DJs around.
Westbury Bar and Restaurant (261 S 13th) - CLOSED November 2014 - gay neighborhood pub, 20 craft beer taps, hearty comfort food meals, longtime local favorite, truly friendly staff.
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; 18+ Wednesday Bang college nights, Thursday Caliente Latin nights, Friday night 2-stepping Hoedown Country Music dancing.
CLOSED: Fluid (613 S 4th), alternative/underground dance club with queer nights; Shampoo (417 N 8th), warehouse-size dance club with gay and under-21 nights; Sisters (1320 Chancellor), women's club, Sunday brunch buffet.
Knock Restaurant and Bar (225 S 12th), classic gay style and ambience, lunch 11am to 3pm daily and Sunday brunch. Tasty dinners 5-10pm (9 on Sunday), 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" cuisine, seating indoors and out, dinner and brunch. Happy hours Monday through Friday with half-price tapas and speciality cocktails.
Venture Inn (255 S Camac), local favorite with inexpensive Continental food and special holiday menus. Relaxed vibe in attractive setting with live entertainment on occasion.
Westbury Bar and Restaurant (261 S 13th) - CLOSED - home cooking with gourmet touch, Saturday and Sunday brunch (11am to 3pm). All-day burgers, nachos, quesadillas, salads and sandwiches; big selection of craft beers.
See our map and listings for these, and another three dozen 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, reopened May 2013 with new owner, completely renovated men's steam and sauna, open 24/7, private rooms, slings.
Danny's Adam & Eve (133 S 13th), private video booths, big magazine and DVD video selection, rubber and leather goodies.
Samson Cinema (120 S 13th) - CLOSED - lost lease early 2014 - movie house with maze of nooks to play in, booths; basement Tomcat Bookstore all-male entertainment magazines, DVD videos, adult novelties.
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.
Giovanni's Room (345 S 12th), world- class gay bookstore. Queer literature, rare items, music, calendars and posters; newly released books and movies for men and women. Re-opened, with a new owner, in summer 2014. See website for upcoming evenings with authors.
Matthew Izzo (111 South 12th), home furnishings and accessories, rugs, lighting, new and vintage items; yard and office furniture.
Phag (1225 Walnut), discriminating taste in art, trinkets, home and garden furnishings, accents, lighting, wall decor; plus the "phlashiest, most phlamboyantly queer collection of gay gifts."
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) independently owned video store with thousands of gay titles for rent and sale; general, cult classics to porn.
TLA Video (110 S 7th), top-notch distribution, retail and rental store; hip, foreign, cult, music, camp, alternative, and gay movies. Four informative websites, one exclusively for gay men, wide assortments, under $10 specials.