Gay Philadelphia | The Essential LGBT Travel Guide!
Endowed with the glamour, history, culture, and small-town charm, Gay Philadelphia offers an exciting mix of old and new. There is something for everyone here, including us queers. It is the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, after all.
Philadelphia was famously established on the belief in equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and today persists as an exceptionally welcoming haven for LGBTQ travelers. While things have not always been so great for our community, Philly has always been ahead of the curve. It was the site of the first significant LGBTQ rights demonstration in the US held outside Independence Hall on July 4, 1965, and more recently was the first American city to encourage queer tourism with its “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay” marking campaign.
And gurl, you know we did.
A city of civic pride with a democratic food scene and urban beauty galore, Philadelphia would be amongst our destinations even without its vibrant gay scene. But as their previous marketing campaign proudly declared, the LGBT scene here is worth a visit in-and-of-itself. Affectionately called the Gayborhood, this Center City neighborhood is home to most of the LGBT+ hotspots in Philadelphia.
If the rainbow crosswalks, street signs, and flags didn’t give away its queer credentials, the cute boys and copious amount of restaurants, stores, and bars purveying to LGBTQ-identified clientele will. When it comes to gay bars, Philadelphia has something for everyone —from dance freaks to leather daddies, sports fans, and drag aficionados. Then there is the multiple annual pride celebrations, weekly queer parties, eclectic variety of performing arts, and down-to-earth nightlife.
There is plenty more to explore in Philly, but with such a fabulous Gayborhood, it can be hard to draw yourself away. Gay Philadelphia is surprisingly laidback, wonderfully queer, indescribably delicious —and waiting for you with open arms…
Are you relocating? This guide will help travelers discover the queerer side of the city. However, if you are lucky enough to be considering a move here, we recommend getting in touch with a local gay realtor. They can happily give you no-obligation advice and all the information you'll ever need to know about your new city. And if you then want their help to find your dream home, you are guaranteed fair, equal, and honest representation. No surprises or awkward conversations necessary!
Gay Philadelphia Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Philadelphia Pennsylvania
As we already said, there is a lot to love in this energetic city – and even those who are not interested in US history or higher education will find plenty to love.
There is a prolific arts community, energetic neighborhoods to discover exceptional architecture, a distinguished restaurant scene, and so many more things to do we couldn’t possibly list them all. If you plan on seeing a lot outside of Philadelphia, then car hire is also a very affordable option and will easily allow you access to the more far-flung attractions of Pennsylvania and the surrounding area. This is America, after all — and the car is still king!
Naturally, being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each destination, and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in Philadelphia during the day! We found our favorite memories were wandering historic neighborhoods (and picking out our dream house), dancing till dawn with our queer family, exploring the historic sites, and spending hours in the beautiful Philadelphia Museum of Art.
However, if you’re someone who can’t sit still, we have put together a few of our other things to do in this exciting city that are sure to keep you busy!
Top Highlights in Philadelphia
Eastern State Penitentiary – Explore the cellblocks of Eastern State Penitentiary, once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. Learn about the history of this facility and its relevance today through interactive exhibits, history displays, and art installations.
Chapterhouse Café and Gallery – There is no gay coffee shop in Philadelphia, but if there was – this would be it. A welcoming coffeehouse that serves organic beverages in a warm space lined with local artwork. We also think that Double Knot, a hip coffee shop with beautiful design, coffee, and cocktails upstairs and a hidden izakaya in the basement is also a great spot to hang out. Or the airy cafe and pastry shop J’aime’aime French Bakery in the gaybourhood that is something straight out of Gay Nice or Lyon.
One Liberty Observation Deck – Skip the ticket line and visit Philly’s most significant observation deck with a convenient one or two-day entry pass. Literally, the best way to see this city with a 360-degree view of Philadelphia by day or night from 883 feet (270 meters) above street level.
American Revolution Museum – From the early stirrings of unrest in Boston to the opening shots of the War of Independence, and from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the creation of the American Republic, the Museum’s core exhibition explores the ideas, events, and legacies of America’s revolutionary beginnings. With this skip-the-line entry ticket, explore the immersive galleries, exhibits, and interactive digital displays that bring to life the people and ideas that created a new nation after the American Revolution.
Sam’s Morning Glory Diner – Established in 1997, Sams is responsible for beginning the brunch craze in Philadelphia and today remains as popular as ever. Located in South Philly in the Bella Vista neighborhood, this is not your pappy’s diner. The ambiance is eclectic and warm, the coffee’s hot, and there are always cooking. The food is real, fresh, and made from scratch – perfect for nursing a hangover after a long night out.
Old City Wine Tasting Tour– Visit two premium wine destinations in historic Philly during a wine-tasting walking tour. At each stop, sample world-class wines matched with delicious cuisine while your certified guide shares tips on selecting, tasting, and pairing wines.
Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Rodin Museum – Discover works of art at one of the largest and most renowned museums in the country. You will find a surprise around every corner featuring artistic and architectural achievements from the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Discover the cultural heart of Philadelphia in this landmark building. It’s a place that welcomes everyone. The arts will come to life, inspiring you—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone.
Valanni – A gay-popular hotspot offering distinctive Mediterranean + Latin cuisine along with expertly crafted cocktails. Sensual, hip and inviting, its Cartagena-meets-Ibiza, all one block from the avenue of the arts in Center City Philadelphia. Renowned for their tapas, daily happy hours – including $5 specialty cocktails, buck-a-shuck oysters, 1/2 priced tapas, and more.
Gourmet Food Walking Tour – Discover the flavors of Philadelphia on this 2.5-hour walking tour, with five tasty stops along the way. Mingle with the locals one of the city’s favorite markets, and visit a gourmet superstore on your edible adventure through the city. Food tours are one of the best ways to get to know a new city, and this one in Philly is one of the best we have ever been on.
Underground Donut Tour – Take a trip with Philadelphia’s only donut tour. Stop at 4 of the city’s best donut shops and sample the best donuts Philadelphia has to offer. Learn about the history of donuts in Philadelphia. It sounds weird, but we have also been on donut tours in Chicago, Portland, and Austin and loved them there as well.
El Vez – As bright and boisterous as a joy ride in an Oaxaca taxi, El Vez exudes fun at every conceivable turn. The flashy, frenetic Latin decor, featuring high-backed velvet Hollywood booths and an eye-popping low-rider bike elevated above the dining room, creates the perfect conditions for memorable food and drink. Striking the ideal balance between a south-of-the-border celebration and a hot and flashy Las Vegas blowout, El Vez is the embodiment of the Mex-Eclectic spirit. It’s particularly gay-popular.
Go Philadelphia Explorer Pass – A multi-attraction pass that includes admission to three, four, five, or seven Philadelphia attractions of your choice. There are 30 attractions and tours to choose from. Simply purchase a pass for the number of attractions you want to visit. There’s no need to decide which attractions you want to visit before your trip, simply choose as you go from the options included with the pass.
Gay Things To Do in Philadelphia
William Way LGBT Community Center – A space where everyone belongs that serves the LGBTQIA+ community of Philadelphia (and its allies) 365 days a year. From social groups, networking events, and counseling and support services to art exhibitions and cultural experiences, the Center consistently strives to provide new and innovative programs for the local LGBTQIA+ communities. The amenities of the Center include a 14,000-volume lending library, a world-class LGBT history archive, a public art and exhibition space, a brand-new cyber center, and multiple community meeting spaces.
Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room – A gay bookstore in Philadelphia and the oldest gay bookstore in America still operating. In its heyday, it was referred to as the “center of gay Philly.” While gay dating websites and increased acceptance of our community have certainly affected its popularity, this is still a fantastic place to head for queer novels, conversation, and more. Named after James Baldwin’s gay novel Giovanni’s Room, the Philly AIDS Thrift now managed the store as its owner retired.
Danny’s Midnight Confessions – For 40 years, Danny’s has been a cornerstone of the Philadelphia queer community as a gateway to our intimate sexual desires. Located in the heart of the Midtown Village, they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you’re looking for a fun yet safe shopping experience while on a night out in the city or a one-stop-shop for all your adult needs, Danny’s is the place for you. Their ever-expanding inventory carries everything from gay underwear to toys, restraints, and more. Basically, everything to ensure you are ready for a midnight confessional in the bedroom.
A Tribute to Gloria Casarez Mural – Found at 204 South 12th Street in the Philly gaybourhood, take a few minutes to stop by and appreciate the work of this brave woman. Gloria Casarez was the City of Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs, appointed in 2008. During her tenure as director, Philadelphia adopted the broadest LGBT rights protections in the nation and ranked as the number one city nationwide for LGBT equality. Before that, Casarez was the executive director of GALAEI from 1999-2008, as well as a founding member of the Philly Dyke March and a long-time activist for marginalized communities. Sadly Casarez passed away on October 19, 2014, at the age of 42, after a courageous battle with breast cancer.
The Bearded Ladies – An experimental cabaret group devoted to exploiting all the possibilities of intimate, homemade theater through beautiful songs, tricked-out costume changes, drag, and virtuosic prop construction. With wit and sparkle, they tackle the politics of popular culture, sex, gender, and artistic invention. With a variety of day and night events taking place each month, a one-night stand with these girls is the perfect addition to any trip to Gay Philly.
Drag Brunch @ Philly Punchline – Sometimes naughty, never raunchy, always fun, this somewhat sanitized drag show takes place every Saturday at 11 am at this storied comedy club. While the shows might be for all ages, they are exceptionally well presented, as you would expect from a venue that gave famous lesbian comedians like Ellen Degeneres and Wanda Sykes their first steps in show biz. Show tickets include brunch and your first mimosa.
GayBINGO! – A fabulous, irreverent, campy, wildly popular monthly event that has been entertaining Philadelphia audiences for over 20 years! Celebrating a different theme each month, hundreds of people pack the hall for a night of enjoyable old-fashioned Bingo with a decidedly different twist! GayBINGO is hosted by the infamous Bingo Verifying Divas (BVDs!) – a wild bunch of drag queens who entertain the crowd with their wacky humor and always outrageous costumes. GayBINGO promises to be an evening of unbridled fun, complete with ridiculous musical numbers, hilarious drag queen antics, chances to win fabulous prizes, and much, much more!
Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus – Founded in 1981, it is one of the oldest gay men’s choruses in the United States and is a cultural fixture in Philadelphia. The PGMC entertains audiences, supports communities, and fosters acceptance through exceptional musical performance. Their repertoire includes a broad range of styles and eras, including pop music, spirituals, sacred music, love ballads, comic pieces, Broadway and Hollywood tunes, opera, folk songs, and the latest gay empowerment music. In addition to the choral songs, PGMC performances regularly include instrumental music, dance, lighting and audio-visual accents, and stylized choreography. The Chorus’s select ensemble, Brotherly Love, maintains its own schedule of regular performances in the community – listed on their website, and are well worth attending if your trip allows.
Gay Annual Events in Philadelphia
As a paradise for the LGBT community, Gay Philadelphia offers a beautiful line-up of annual events for gays, lesbian and transgender, and – well, anyone who wants to be involved!
QFlix (March) – A fun gay film festival taking place annually with a range of gala, parties, and film screening. Queer films inspire the imagination and encourage a journey of discovery and acceptance by both the ever-growing region’s LGBTQ+ and the mainstream communities. As such, QFlix seeks to create a platform to ensure their visibility. From transgender films to coming-out stories and romance, there is something for everyone.
Bears at the Woods (May) – Got that fuzzy thing going on? Like those who do? This is your weekend! Hibernation is over! Bears, cubs, hubs, and admirers unite at this membership-only LGBTQ camping resort, exclusively for the 18-and-older crowd. Located on 161 private acres with streams, a four-acre lake, and spacious campsites, this queer resort hosts one hell of a beer weekend. There is a fab pool party, wild white party, cute parade, and much more—a 1.5-hour drive from Philly or New York.
PrideDay LGBT Parade and Festival (June) – The first official Pride Parade in Philly was organized in an impromptu fashion at the end of the 1980s. It was intended to coincide with a rally planned by the Lesbian and Gay Task Force at Love Park. It was so successful that community members met and started an organization (Lesbian & Gay Pride of the Delaware Valley, Inc.) whose goal was to produce a parade and festival at Penn’s Landing each year to continue the community outreach and visibility that was achieved with that one rally. That organization evolved into what we know today as Philly Pride Presents. And that first rally grew into the largest celebration of LGBT pride in the region, now attracting over 25,000 people each year. The gayest time to visit Queer Philadelphia – and well worth planning a trip around. Besides the parade and festival, expect plenty of cultural and club events to keep you busy.
Philadelphia FringeArts Festival (October) – A 4-week long, city-wide celebration of innovation and creativity in contemporary performance. Each September, the Festival explodes into every nook and cranny in neighborhoods across Philadelphia with more than 1,000 artistically daring performances. The party continues late night, every night, with music, food, and drink at the FringeArts center on the Delaware River waterfront. This vast assemblage of curated and self-produced innovators offers an unparalleled opportunity to see a cross-section of the world’s greatest experimenters at one time, in one city. While not explicitly gay, much like similar events in Wellington, Adelaide, and Zurich, it is always packed with creative queer artists and performances.
Philly Trans March (October) – An annual protest against the hate, social injustice, and inequity faced by trans, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals and communities. Philly Trans March is not only a rally and demonstration but also a revolutionary movement that has inspired other Marches across the country. Open to people of all gender identities, expressions, and experiences, Philly Trans March welcomes everyone to join in this March for Justice, Equity and LIBERATION NOW! Join them as they remember loved ones and community members who have transitioned to ancestor; stand in solidarity and resistance against the hate, social injustice, and inequity faced by Trans, Non-binary, and Gender Non-conforming individuals; and honor the resilience as commUnity. Issues such as the unsolved cases in Philadelphia; hate violence, specifically against Black and Brown Trans Women, and the lack of official concern; oppressive healthcare policies, media misgendering, financial and housing insecurity; police brutality, workplace policies and employment discrimination, and the lack of resources for Trans, Non-binary and Gender Non-conforming Youth, Adults and Elders alike, are just some of the concerns being voiced upon in this year’s March.
Outfest (October) The largest National Coming Out Day event in the world. The idea for an NCOD grew from the second March on Washington for gay and lesbian equality on October 11, 1987. The idea quickly took hold in the LGBT community, spawning celebrations in numerous cities around the country. The Philly version held in 1990 quickly grew into what the greater Philadelphia region now uniquely celebrates as “OutFest.” More similar to the block parties of Rhode Island Pride Festival than the Outfest Film Screenings of LA, Outfest Philly is held the Sunday before Columbus Day every October and attracts nearly 40,000 people. OutFest is hugely popular because: (1) it had the feel of an old-fashioned block party, (2) it’s free, (3) it’s in the Gayborhood, (4) all local bars, restaurants, and businesses do something outside, (5) entertainment showcases local talent, (6) all community organizations participate, (7) there are carnival attractions, (8) there is always something new and unique, and (9) everybody is there! One fabulous gay festival worth planning an entire trip around.
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In this modern, bustling city, you will not find any significant hotel accommodation that isn’t gay-friendly.
After all, being gay-friendly is about providing a non-judgmental and respectful environment in which all people are treated equally. In saying that, elegant design, helpful staff, and excellent value for money never hurt anyone. Some hotels in Philadelphia have also gone above and beyond in recognizing and marketing to the LGBT community and given their popularity with gay travelers; we would say it has paid off!
Everybody likes to be surrounded by people with common interests. As such, there are a few hotels in Philadelphia favored by gay travelers – although to be clear, there are no exclusively gay hotels in Philadelphia sadly.
The Philly’s GAYborhood, found just four blocks south of City Hall, is at the forefront of LGBTQ+ inclusiveness in Philadelphia – and thanks to its diverse community brimming with queer nightlife and gay-owned businesses, this is the place to stay. It’s proximity to all of the main attractions in Philadelphia, and walkability to the many cute surrounding neighborhoods completes the appeal.
The following gay-friendly hotels in Philadelphia are only the most recommended. Still, there are hundreds of other hotels in Philadelphia if you don’t find quite find what you are looking for. Whether you want a fun and social hotel bar, a cheap but private place to crash after a night of partying, or a chic luxury option to sip cocktails surrounded by fashionable people, Gay Philadelphia as something for everyone!
Gay-Popular Hotels in Philadelphia
Hotel Palomar Philadelphia ☆☆☆☆☆ – Among the most beautiful hotels in downtown Philadelphia and managed by the fabulously gay-friendly Kimpton brand, we loved this expiation of luxury accommodations, city views, + personalized service. The Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia effortlessly fuses the spirit of this lively Center City neighborhood with the appeal of a polished urban refuge. As you settle in, connect and unwind amidst a mix of sleek textures and contemporary design. Each of the 230 guestrooms proves as comfortable as they are artful, with exquisite amenities and many with fabulous Philly skyline views. All rooms feature Italian linens, along with marble vanities and yoga mats. At the same time, upgraded suites boast soaking tubs and separate living areas. In-room spa treatments are also available should you have had a particularly rough day – or night. Other perks include a 24-hour gym, free bike rentals, and an evening wine hour to meet other guests. There is also a very cool farm-to-table restaurant serving Modern American cuisine and cocktails if you don’t want to venture far at night.
The Warwick ☆☆☆☆☆ – A legendary boutique hotel right on Rittenhouse Square. The perfect blend of yesterday and today, Warwick Rittenhouse emphasizes sleek décor and furnishings, vibrant colors, and state-of-the-art technology in a historic building. Ideally positioned within the iconic Rittenhouse Square, Warwick has been receiving distinguished guests, celebrities, sports stars, and dignitaries since 1928. The last of the original three “Grande Dame hotels” in Philadelphia, the Warwick glorifies its legacy with a considered contemporary design motivated by its unparalleled heritage. A fixture in Rittenhouse Square, this is a destination for travelers from all over the world seeking culture, business, or recreation in Philadelphia.
The Rittenhouse ☆☆☆☆☆ – Experience the invigorating charm and rich history of Rittenhouse Square, one of Philadelphia’s most beloved destinations. Stay at The Rittenhouse, a standout among luxury hotels in Philadelphia’s Center City with well-appointed rooms and suites, world-class service, and the most desirable location in town. From exceptional dining culinary experiences to their relaxing atrium pool and rejuvenating spa treatments, the Rittenhouse Square luxury hotel offers personalized experiences. It provides the perfect balance of sophistication and relaxation for business travelers and romantic vacationers alike. Welcome to The Rittenhouse, a real gem amongst Gay Philadelphia hotels.
Loews Philadelphia Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – A landmark hotel in Philadelphia’s Center City, Loews Philadelphia offers iconic rooms and suites, modern dining at Bank & Bourbon, and indoor pool. Philadelphia has a beauty, unlike any other city. And when you’re high above it in your luxurious guestroom, you have a bird’s eye view of what makes it so unique. Every one of these newly renovated 581 guestrooms and 12 suites in Philadelphia is decorated in chic hues of slate gray with pops of crimson—designed to call to mind the city’s skyline and the iconic neon of the PSFS sign on the Loews Philadelphia Hotel rooftop.
The Logan ☆☆☆☆ – A posh, gay-friendly hotel that brings to life the best local experiences in the heart of Philadelphia. Through locally curated works of art and contemporary design, the Logan has created an authentic Philadelphian experience that allows you to connect with their city without ever leaving the hotel. Discover an urban retreat where you can indulge in the energizing vibe or relax with all the amenities and services needed to feel at home. Anchored by the cheerful spirit of their dedicated team, this downtown Philadelphia hotel is a place to relax, gather, and indulge. Whether in one of their culinary options, spa, sophisticated meeting space, or the comfort of one of the 391 guest rooms, the choice is yours. Don’t miss the heated indoor pool, sexy rooftop cocktail bar, or rustic-chic steakhouse.
Residence Inn by Marriott Philadelphia Center City ☆☆☆ – This is an affordable modern accommodation option close to Philly’s gay scene with plenty of thoughtful amenities. Check-in and connect to their free high-speed Wi-Fi or jump straight into the plush beds and cozy duvets to unwind and recharge before your adventure in the City of Brotherly Love. There is also a complimentary breakfast buffet, complimentary grocery delivery service, and full-size kitchens in most rooms.
Alexander Inn ☆☆☆ – A historic bed and breakfast in Center City Philadelphia, in the gaybourhood. Housed in an iconic redbrick building dating back to 1901, this gay-popular hotel featuring original architectural details, gorgeous stained-glass windows, and extremely welcoming service. Located only six blocks from Independence Hall, we enjoyed their simple art deco style rooms, free breakfast buffet, and staying fit in the 24/7 gym. Comfortable rooms and beds, everything you need.
City House Hostel Philadelphia ☆☆ – Unlike Barcelona, Berlin or Amsterdam, there are no gay hostels in Philadelphia – but City House Hostel is located close to the gaybourhood and wonderfully gay-friendly. The newest and highest rated hostel in Philadelphia, City House is directly across from the historic Christ Church and just a beautiful stroll down cobblestone streets to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. They offer a variety of mixed dorms from 4 beds to 12 beds. Bathrooms are shared or en suite. There are substantial common areas to catch up on your sports or favorite queer TV shows, an upscale fully fitted kitchen to cook in, and plenty of well-kept bathrooms to boot! If you are on a budget, traveling solo, and don’t mind sharing your space – this is your best option.
Gay Nightlife in Philadelphia Pennsylvania
With Philadelphia being one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, you would expect an incredible gay nightlife scene – and luckily, Philadelphia does not disappoint. From sports fans and leather daddies to dance floor freak and lovers of fierce drag queens – there is something for everyone.
Depending on your mood, you can find anything in Philly from a relaxed cocktail in an upscale bar to an all-night dance party surrounded by your queer family. There is also plenty of cruise/dive bars, sexy go-go boys, queer events, and sweaty dancefloors to investigate.
Most gay bars and clubs start to get busy around 10 pm and go until into the early morning, though for now – there is only one after-hours queer club in Philly.
Almost every LGBTQ-centric space in the city is crammed into the Gayborhood, an enclave in Center City Philadelphia just four blocks south of City Hall. First recognized in 2007, it quickly becoming one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town and has expanded thanks to support from the city. Running from 11th Street to Broad Street and from Chestnut Street to Pine Stree, you’ll know you have found it when you are bombarded with rainbow crosswalks, street signs, and flags. Much like Boystown in Chicago and Houston’s famous Montrose gayborhood, Gay Philadelphia isn’t exactly subtle, which is half the reason we love it!
You can imagine that distinguishing’ gay bars’ can sometimes be difficult with a vibrant and diverse local queer community and a wonderfully gay-friendly liberal populace. And there is a certain amount of truth to the statement that the gay scene in Philadelphia has gone straight. For the following gay and gay-popular venues, however, we were looking for rainbow events, exceptional recommendations, and spots specifically marketed towards gays.
We are sure you will not be disappointed.
Gay Clubs & Bars in Philadelphia
Bike Stop – Philadelphia’s Leather Bar since 1982, offering four floors of fun. On weekends leather and Levi lovers congregate on the cruisey first floor or head to the second-floor sports bar with beer and large screens aplenty s. Above this is a small dance club with bar frequented by shirtless bartenders For the more kinky and curious, head downstairs to the infamous Pit Stop basement, the entrance to which sets the tone with a sign: “No Sneakers-No Cologne.”
Woodys – This LGBTQ bar & dance club proudly served the queer community of Philadelphia for over 39 years on 13th Street in the heart of the Gayborhood. Woodys is an institution, a high-energy melting pot for so many people that cannot be missed. Especially on Saturday nights, where there are five rooms, each with unique vibes and their own DJs pumping out tunes to bring everyone together under one roof. There is also a weekday Happy Hour with fabulous food and drink specials from 5–8 pm, along with an array of themed events and drag shows. Inside you’ll also find Globar, Woody’s sexy and modern corner lounge bar bathed in a cool lavender glow and spinning current and cool remixes from the top of the dance charts.
Knock – From the team that produced the famous Woody’s gay bar comes this upscale cocktailing & New American dining spot. Queer-friendly, Knock is a fashionable restaurant by day and trendy lounge spot after 11 pm in the heart of the Philly gaybourhood. Check ahead for movie night and drag show events, or just drop by anytime for what is quite possibly the best martini you’ll ever experience.
Bar X – A small gay bar and dance venue located at the historic Venture Inn. With a diverse staff of friendly faces, a fun-filled atmosphere, and your typical gay decor and music, Bar X is always worth a visit. Even if its a bit hit-and-miss in terms of vibes and crowds.
Tavern on Camac – A gay venue with piano bar, tavern, and nightclub – all in one. The TOC piano bar is open every day from 4 pm until 2 am and is known for its nightly singalongs, sensational performances, and fabulously refreshing drinks. The Tavern is a cozy restaurant serving fresh American bar fare and local brews — perfect for an evening meal before exploring Gay Philly further. Ascend, the nightclub destination upstairs is the place for late-night weekend dance parties with cocktails and more – open from 9 pm until 2 am.
Stir Lounge – Located in the heart of Rittenhouse Square, only four blocks from the “gayborhood,” Stir is not your typical gay bar. Instead, they pride ourselves on being a watering hole that welcomes everyone with friendly staff, creative drinks, and a lounge-style atmosphere. There is no sign on the door, which only adds to the modern, trendy, and somewhat exclusive vibes inside this unassuming space. Expect young crowd, rustic exposed-brick walls, affordable happy-hour specials, and to be embraced in a super-inclusive space for LGBTQ folks and allies! There is also a rather fantastic reoccurring drag show on the fourth Friday of every month.
U Bar – A social gay waterhole bar proudly standing on the busy corner of 13th and Locus with fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows facing out to the Street. A great place to start the night out with strong drinks, a fun atmosphere, and a sociable U-shaped bar to sit around and meet new friends. We loved the range of craft & imported beers on tap, and how conducive U Bar was to conversations. The music and vibe are just right to strike up a conversation – and the devoted, chatty locals here will be happy to hear from you.
Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar – A gay sports bar in Philly. If you love Nellie’s Sports Bar in DC or Fritz Bar in Boston, this spot is for you. Tabu opened in 2010 with one goal in mind: to bring sports to the Gayborhood. Whether it’s playing a Phillies game on one television or having to share television space with nightly music videos, there is only one true sports bar in the Gayborhood, and that is Tabu! Whether it’s the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Union, or 76ers, Tabu is your place for everything Philadelphia sports-related. In addition to playing all the games, Tabu also has a long history of sponsoring every single LGBT sports league in Philadelphia, including the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League, City of Brotherly Love Softball League, and Falcons Soccer League. We love supporting a queer venue that supports its community in turn. There is also a spacious covered deck bar, an intimate cabaret venue, and a late-night dance floor.
Toasted Walnut Bar & Kitchen – A expansive 3800 square foot venue, catering to a diverse clientele with Happy Hour Tuesday-Friday plus Weekly and Monthly events including Karaoke, Trivia, Back in the Day and Open Mic nights. While there are no lesbian bars in Philly, the Toasted Walnut Bar is a popular hangout for ladies who like ladies and a place where everyone can feel safe. Located in the Gayborhood, the many bright random lights and Love is Love paintings set the tone and make sure you feel the love. An excellent option for dinner or starting the night early with affordable happy hour specials. Later on, the Toasted Walnut turns into an epic party bar with an upstairs dance floor and DJ sets.
Happy Bear – Philly’s Bear Happy hour taking place every Friday from 6 – 10 pm. Enjoy cold drinks, warm atmosphere, & Philly’s hot bear, cub, salmon, & otter community. Happy Bear is a place for guys of all shapes, sizes, and furriness to hang out, enjoy a social atmosphere, and start your weekend off right. Bears, cubs, otters, chasers, admirers, and friends all welcome. Currently taking place at the Tabu Sports Bar & Lounge, but check their Facebook page as it does move sometimes.
Voyeur Nightclub – The only after-hours spot in the Gayborhood, the Voyeur Nightclub heats up just when other queer spaces are closing for the night. An enduring favorite, Voyeur offers three dance floors where guys and girls mix and mingle surrounded by modern laser light shows and high-energy vibes. On the weekends, expect everything from EDM to hip-hop to Top 40 and drag shows in this warehouse-like space. There is also the prerequisite over-priced cocktails and Red Bulls vodkas to keep you partying late into the night. Plus, there is a fabulous catwalk stage lit up from below to strut your stuff like the RuPaul’s queens at Dragcon. Sign up ahead of time for the guest list on their website for cheaper cover.
Gay-Popular Bars in Philadelphia
Rosewood Bar – A gay-friendly dive bar serving prohibition-chic vibes complete with gilt mirrors & leather banquettes. They offer karaoke & quiz nights and have friendly bartenders who always seem happy to chat—an old-school Philly bar beloved by locals, where anyone is welcome to join.
Franky Bradley’s – An eclectic bar, restaurant, and nightclub venue that has found a new lease on life as the Gayborhood’s ‘House of Weird.’ It controversially set up shop in the same space that was once home to the lesbian bar Sisters Nightclub, but promised to keep the queer community at its heart. And we would say they have done this surprisingly well with their unique programming line up. Franky Bradley’s has everything from hip-hop DJs to circus-burlesque shows and in-house drag productions by “Franky’s Foxes,” an in-house group of seven drag queens. So, is it queer or straight? Well, its neither – Franky Bradley manages to avoid labels and focus on performances above all. As a result, the mixing here allows a window into the queer world for straight audience members and more avant-garde shows than can generally be performed in gay club basements at 2 am. The perfect place to drink, dance, dine and deviate from the norm.
Bob and Barbara’s Lounge – A cash-only South Street staple since 1969m known widely for free live music, Philly’s longest-running drag show, and “The Special.” Doors are open seven days a week, with a variety of Philly’s best jazz players keeping the crowds moving every Friday and Saturday night. In addition to these regularly scheduled shows, a wide range of performances can be enjoyed on Monday – Wednesday nights with Thursday night being drag night. Best of all, almost every show at Bob & Barbara’s Lounge is free!
Raven Lounge – The best-kept secret of Philly for bands, Dj’s, comedians, burlesque, performance art, and film screenings. The Raven boasts four floors with six rooms, each of with is filled with unique entertainment – including board games and sketchbooks on all the tables! There is space for conversation, a fun speakeasy, and an assorted collection of acts upstairs in the “A Dream Within A Dream” room. There is even speed-dating, dance parties, and more – depending on your visit. A unique concept that is popular with the local hipster community and well worth a visit.
Cruising, Gay Saunas & Bath Houses in Philadelphia
We were not kidding when we said Philadelphia had an outsized gay scene, and you can see this reflected in the presence of not one but two gay bathhouses here. And one dark and kinky gay cinema.
If your visiting from outside of the USA, you should know that the gay bathhouses culture is not very prevalent in the USA and in no way as popular or as high-quality as you might find in international destinations such as Buenos Aires, Athens, or Torremolinos. So, we were surprised to find we actually had choices when it came to enjoying naughty fun in Gay Philadelphia – especially considering the dire state of cruising spaces in the rest of the country. Love them or hate them, cruise spaces are an important part of queer culture, and their loss irrevocably changes the gay fabric of a city. Yes – we are looking at you Boston, New Orleans, and Palm Springs.
The acceptance of gays has changed the world for the better – and it has taken away the need to sneak into back-alley places. Many bathhouses today have only survived by modernizing and offering more than just a discreet place to meet. While their sordid reputation is often hard to shake, most today offer an entirely different experience. As such, we have a few tips for anyone looking to explore a gay sauna for the first time.
Other options in Philadelphia? Gay hook up apps or simply trying your luck in the bars…
Club Philly -The most popular gay bathhouse in Philly offering newly renovated facilities, including a gym, steam room, open showers, and VIP rooms. Gay-owned and operated, Club Philly host regular theme nights, which tend to draw in crowds, and boasts an enviable location close to the city’s gay nightlife scene. As you can imagine, the weekends in the evening are the best time to go – but we have never left unsatisfied. Comparable with the (more famous) high-quality gay saunas of cities like Antwerp, London, and Montreal, there is an affordable day pass option and even a deck to cool off on between sessions.
Sansom Street Gym – The name might imply a gym, but you are far more likely to get a workout of a totally different kind here. A gay cruise club offering a basic fitness center, steam room, private cabins, slings, open showers, and play spaces. We were pleasantly surprised by the large facility hidden behind a discrete exterior with plenty of rooms, lockers, public play areas, and dark corners to explore. The lighting and music also helped set the mood, and the little details like mouthwash and freshwater coolers were a welcome treat.
Adonis Cinema – Not a gay bathhouse as such but a place where your wildest gay fantasies come true on the screen in front of you. Opened in 1975 as a regular cinema, it switched within a few weeks to adult films and has stayed with them ever since – now exclusively focussed on gay clientele. We love the understated look that you could easily miss from the Street. This is not like the garish neon-filled facades of straight adult film cinema and has a little decorum – well, on the outside, at least. Inside is private booths and a very dark and extremely fun basement to live out your wildest fantasies. Just make sure you are wearing your best gay underwear.