Half way between New York and Washington, Philadelphia (Greek for "City of Brotherly Love") is the fifth largest city in the US - second largest on the East Coast. Adrian Gillan has been checking it out for OutUK.
Where better to start your visit than at Independence Visitor Centre, Liberty Bell Centre and Independence Hall - a cluster of buildings that form the city's - nay the very nation's - historic heart? Then jump on a trolley tour from the nearby Bourse building to take in the quaint Old Town; lots of sites relating to local genius Benjamin Franklin; buzzing China Town; the vast City Hall - "topped" by city founder William Penn; and the business district, with its skyline of modern blocks mixed with classic old 20s scrapers.

Hop off the trolley temporarily at Reading Terminal Market for a local cheese steak (cheese-covered steak, in a bun) or hoagies (giant filled rolls), before heading on to Philadelphia Museum of Art, the 3rd largest in the US, or pop over the Schuylkill to the Institute of Contemporary Art.

A gay couple in 2005, in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, where the modern gay rights movement started 40 years ago. Now, a plaque will honour the 1965 event at Independence Hall, also the site of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.
If you've time, scan the many graffiti-art murals that brighten up buildings in the city centre; venture south a little to the huge Italian Market; or catch a classical concert by the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra at the modern Kimmel Centre for Performing Arts on the Avenue of Arts.

And when you really love your men - or women: The 'Gayborhood'. Most of Philly's compact but sizeable gay scene is within the 'Gayborhood', between Broad and 12th Streets and Walnut and Pine Streets. It's all in a strict grid, so hard to get too lost!


Staying in the artistic world Writer's Block Rehab is a chilled hangout with couches & globe chandeliers, that serves cocktails, wines, beers and light snacks. It's located in the Gayborhood within walking distance to many restaurants and nightclubs. Just around the corner, Dirty Franks is a pleasant divey gay bar with local art on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Their cocktails are all long drinks with sodas and creative add ins.

Amongst the other bars in and around the gayborhood are: Bike Stop a veteran gay bar with different vibes on 4 levels including sports-viewing, dancing and more. There are pleanty of bears and leathers here - it's one of few leather bars in Philli. Tavern on Camac a.k.a T.O.C., serves American pub grub in gay-friendly tavern known for its piano singalongs and dance parties.

U Bar is an unpretentious gay bar with a "Cheers-ish" vibe and an exposed-brick interior. It has a selection of craft & imported beers on tap. Cockatoo offers good Latin street food including shrimp tacos, nachos, and their famous chimichurri sandwiches with cocktails, wine and beer.

Franky Bradley's has an old time American classic food offering, with cocktails in a kitschy decor, and Level Up Bar & Lounge is a Hookah bar with shisha alongside finger foods, beer, wine and cocktails.

Hundreds of naked, or partially naked people take to the streets of Philadelphia each year for the Philly Naked Bike Ride. Even during the pandemic people rode their bikes, skateboards and rollerblades around the City of Brotherly Love - but in 2020 and 2021 the only thing they had to wear were masks!

"Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride" by Cocoabiscuit is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .

Bar X in the gayborhood has two dance floors and plenty to drink, and for something a little more basic there's Bob and Barbara's Lounge a well worn barroom known for cheap beer-&-a-shot special, live jazz and rowdy energy.

Woody's is Philly's most famous gay club open 7 days a week and it's shameless and tireless! This longtime gay haunt offers dancing and theme nights in the nightclub with food in the pub area. Voyeur is the city's biggest after-hours club from 2am, when most bars shut, and it has good dance music in swish surroundings. There's cheap guest membership available and it's just round the corner from Woody's!

If you after a late night sauna then the best bet is the Club Philli Baths on Chancellor Street. This sauna and health club is open 24/7 and offers both a sauna and steam room.


Each year in early October there's a celebration of National Coming Day which grew from a 1980's march for gay and lesbian equality in Washington DC. Over 200,000 people took part in that march more than 30 years ago and they created the National AIDS quilt which was displayed in the Washington Mall. Artist Keith Haring's iconic drawings became the symbol of the National Coming Out Day.

The Love sculpture in the Love Park in Philadelphia. It's officially known as John F. Kennedy Plaza but now nicknamed LOVE Park for its reproduction of Robert Indiana's 1970 LOVE sculpture overlooking the plaza.
Photo: Roman Babakin


Philadelphia also boasts the oldest and best Gay & Lesbian Bookstore in the USA. Giovanni's Room, was founded in 1973. Paralleling the growth of Philadelphia's out community and the expansion of publishing in the area, the store became the traditional place to begin your visit to gay and lesbian Philadelphia. It stocks thousands of lesbian and gay books and crossing the store's threshold has had an extraordinary symbolic significance for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people coming out.

After 41 years of serving the LGBT community in Philadelphia, the store closed in May 2014. Soon after, it was announced that Philly AIDS Thrift signed an agreement to become the proprietor of Giovanni's Room. The new venture which is called PhillyAIDSThrift@Giovanni's Room continues to sell LGBTQ books, both new and used, as well as clothing, bric a brac, housewares and art.


There are obviously loads of options when it comes to Restaurants and Hotels in a city the size of Philadelphia but our favourite gay-friendly eatery is Mixto in Pine Street. They offer some fabulous Cuban-Columbian food with cute waiters who tease. Equally, Alexander Inn at the junction of 12th Street and Spruce Street has plenty of European charm blended with US comfort! There's a roaring fire in the foyer, cosy rooms and generous breakfasts.

Adrian travelled with what is now American Airlines who offer frequent flights to Philadelphia from the UK. Find out more information 0845 433 7300 or visit americanairlines.co.uk.


Alexander Inn (12th Street & Spruce Street; T: +1 215 923 3535; Website)
Bar X (255 S Camac St; T: +1 267-639-4100; facebook)
Bike Stop (206 South Quince Street; T: +1 215 627 1662; Website)
Bob and Barbara's Lounge (1509 South St; T: +1 215-545-4511; Website)
Club Philli Baths (1220 Chancellor Street; T: +1 215-735-7671; Website)
Cockatoo (208 S 13th St; T: +1 267-324-5603; Website)
Dirty Franks (347 S 13th St; T: +1 215-732-5010)
Franky Bradley's (1320 Chancellor St; T: +1 215-735-0735; Website)
Level Up Bar & Lounge (1330 Walnut St; Website)
Mixto (1141-43 Pine Street; T: +1 215 592 0363; Website)
PhillyAIDSThrift @ Giovanni's Room (345 S 12th Street; T: +1 215 923 2960; Website)
Tavern on Camac a.k.a T.O.C. (243 S. Camac Street; T: +1 215 545 0900; Website)
U Bar (1220 Locust St; T: +1 215-546-6660; Website)
Voyeur (1221 St. James Place; T: +1 215 735 5772; Website)
Woody's (202 S. 13th Street; T: +1 215 545 1893; Website)
Writer's Block Rehab (1342 Cypress St; T: +1 267-603-6960)

You can also find out more about the history of gay equality and freedom in our special feature: Philadelphia Freedom

Revised August 2022.


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