Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the country, and as such an important cultural and financial hub, Philadelphia naturally has a very large and thriving gay community. It was in 1965 that the first LGBT civil rights protests in the country were held at Independence Hall, and in 1982 Philadelphia became one of the first cities in the country to pass a non-discrimination law geared toward gays and lesbians.
“As you may know, Philly has been rated by the Human Rights Campaign for the last two years as the most LGBT-friendly city in which to live,” Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, told Hotspots in a recent interview.
If you’re looking for an energetic and fun gay getaway this summer, Philadelphia has everything you could possibly want: a vibrant nightlife scene, delicious food and one-of-a-kind sightseeing. Let me tell you what you need to do and where you need to go to have a great time in the City of Brotherly Love.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flying may be the best option to get to Philadelphia from the Sunshine State. A flight takes a little over two hours and it’s common to find round-trip airfares for around $300, or sometimes even lower. Southwest and US Airways fly directly to Philadelphia from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. AmericanAirlines, Frontier Airlines and US Airways fly directly to Philadelphia from Miami International Airport. Philadelphia is also connected with Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa with daily direct flights.
There is also daily Amtrak service from Miami to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. The Silver Meteor leaves Miami at 8:20 a.m. daily and arrives in Philadelphia at 9:30 a.m. the next day. The Silver Star leaves Miami at 11:50 a.m. and arrives in Philadelphia at 5:05 p.m. the next day. Tickets start at $239 round-trip for basic service. Roomettes are priced as low as $550 round-trip.
WHERE TO STAY
The Loews Philadelphia Hotel (1200 Market Street, 215-627-1200) now takes up the vast majority of space in what was once Philadelphia’s very first skyscraper. There are 581 guest suites, all recently renovated, ready for tourists year-round. If you want something fancier, they also offer 12 suites. Enjoy their spa, hair salon, mini-gym and heated lap pool if you have the time. The Rittenhouse (210 W. Rittenhouse Square, 215-546-9000) promises a luxury experience from start to finish, and it has been named one of the best hotels in the world by AAA and Condé Nast Traveler. The nine-story hotel ofers 116 guest rooms and 24 spacious suites. The newly-opened spa and club offers hair care, skin care, massages, a fitness room and even a swimming pool. Be sure to request a room that overlooks Rittenhouse Square!
If you’re looking for options in the Washington Square West gayborhood area of Philadelphia, we have a few options for you. The first is the Alexander Inn (12th and Spruce Streets, 215-923-3535), a 48-room boutique hotel that is impeccably decorated with hand-selected antiques and contemporary furnishings. Every room has satellite television, free WiFi and admission to a continental breakfast that’s sure to perk you up each morning. Then there’s the Holiday Inn Express Midtown (1305 Walnut Street, 215-735-9300), that’s close to everything you would want to see in town, plus fun gay nightlife. If you bring your car into the city, the Holiday Inn offers safe and secure self-parking.
A multi-million dollar renovation at the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel (220 S. 17th Street, 215-735-6000) is leaving guests completely blown away. Every room has been redone, and so has the grand lobby. Enjoy free bottled water and Lavazza Coffee as well as WiFi wherever you are in the hotel. You may not want to get up and sightsee after sleeping on one of their Sleep Number Beds! The Sheraton Philadephia Society Hill Hotel (1 Dock Street, 215-238-6000) is very close to the Old City and Penn’s Landing. Treat yourself to a hearty dinner at TASTE, the Sheraton’s on-site restaurant, offering guests and tourists the best American-style cuisine Society Hill has to offer. You can relax after a long day in your spacious guest room and in a number of areas throughout the hotel, such as the garden terrace or the large heated swimming pool.
WHERE TO EAT
Knock (225 S. 12th Street) specializes in New American cuisine, and you will definitely find the city’s LGBT movers and shakers either having a leisurely lunch or sipping cocktails at the bar. Lolita (106 S. 13th Street), owned by a lesbian couple, serves some of the best food you’ll find in Philadelphia, all at reasonable prices. Mercato (1216 Spruce Street) serves contemporary Italian cuisine using only local ingredients — you can’t beat their flavor!
If you’re a fan of brunch, all the hippest gays partake in some good food on the weekends at Green Eggs Cafe – Midtown Village (212 S. 13th Street). For Mediterranean and Latin cuisine, you will love Valanni Social (1229 Spruce Street), where you can mix and match cuisines and have a hummus-and-pita appetizer followed by empanadas for dinner. For people who appreciate Indian cuisine, a modern spin and presentation are placed on these traditional dishes at Indeblue (205 S. 13th Street).
Move closer to Rittenhouse Square and you’ll discover the 1930s-era gem Butcher & Singer (15th and Walnut Streets), which serves some of the best cuts of steak in Philadelphia, all in opulent surroundings. If you’re missing Cuban food for even a day, Philadelphia has that taken care of with the chic Alma de Cuba (1623 Walton Street), where the food is delicious and the drinks hit the spot. Of course, for the full touristy experience, head on over to Hard Rock Café Philadelphia (1113-31 Market Street), where there’s live music and the trusty burger and fries that most of us know and love.
WHERE TO PLAY
Philadelphia’s gayborhood, located in Center City, is full of nightlife options. Well-recommended is Tabu Sports Bar and Lounge (200 S. 12th Street), which serves great craft beers on the first floor and chill martinis in the lounge area on the second floor. Venture Inn (255 S. Camac Street) is one of Philadelphia’s oldest gay bars; they serve an extensive dinner and brunch menu and welcome award-winning entertainment and music every weekend. Uncle’s Bar (1220 Locust Street) is a very popular gay bar with a unique bed-and-breakfast style inn located on the second floor of the same building.
Tavern on Camac (243 S. Camac Street) is a bar that serves two distinct crowds and moods; the first floor is a piano bar and the second is one of the hottest places to dance the night away in the city. iCandy (254 S. 12th Street) bills itself as “a completely new nightlife experience,” offering great drink specials, fresh entertainment and sexy men’s nights on Fridays. Woody’s (202 S. 13th Street) dance parties on Friday night are some of the most popular in town, with a rotating lineup of five resident DJs. The Bike Stop (206 S. Quince Street) may be off the beaten path a little bit but this bar is your one-stop shop for anything gay and leather in Philadelphia.
WHERE TO GO
It would be completely irresponsible of me to tell you not to go to the National Constitution Center (525 Arch Street), Independence Hall (520 Chestnut Street), or the Liberty Bell Center (500 Market Street), because everyone who is a tourist in Philadelphia must visit these places. You will learn about the founding of our country and lots about its early history by visiting these three historic landmarks.
There is a very popular gay history exhibit that’s being shown this summer at the National Constitution Center, one our publisher, Peter Clark, and his husband, had a great time viewing. “It is the first professionally-mounted, full-scale exhibit telling the history of the struggle for LGBT equality, through the eyes of the law, that [is being] held at a major national museum,” Segal explained to us. But that’s not all: “This summer, five…count ’em, five…museums will offer LGBT exhibits. No other city in America can boast such support.”
Then there’s The Betsy Ross House (239 Arch Street), a 1740-era house that Betsy Ross lived in, where you can learn all about her life and the very first American flag (direct from an actress playing “Betsy” herself!). You can finish off your historical jaunt by visiting the Terminal Market (12th and Arch Streets), which is the oldest farmers’ market in the country, having operated continuously since 1892. Where else can you enjoy Amish, East Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine all in one area?
You are sure to love these three must-visit landmarks: The Penn Museum (3260 South Street) has one of the world’s largest selections of archaeological and anthropological finds from throughout history. The third-largest Sphinx in the world and some of the world’s oldest Sumerian cuneiform tablets can both be seen here. The Franklin Institute (222 N. 20th Street) is one of the most exhaustive science museums in the United States. This summer’s traveling exhibit is called Genghis Khan: Bring the Legend to Life, which tells the life story of the famous ruler through various genuine artifacts. The Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway) boasts priceless works of art from all over the world, but is particularly known for its extensive collections of Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse (181, 69 and 59 paintings from each artist, respectively).
BEFORE YOU GO, DID YOU KNOW…
…JULY 4 WEEKEND WILL BE HISTORIC AND MOMENTOUS!
On July 4 weekend, the City of Philadelphia and tens of thousands of visitors will celebrate 50 years of the LGBT civil rights movement in the United States. A few weeks ago during our summer travel issue, I put together a short primer on the weekend’s events, and since then there have been more event announcements.
On Friday, July 3, there will be a 50th anniversary memorial concert at Penn’s Landing, sponsored by Live Nation. The concert will be hosted by the duo dumblonde (Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex from the group Danity Kane) and will feature performances by FANCY, GoGo Morrow, Ferras, Adore Delano, Jonathan Allen (America’s Got Talent), Mimi Imfurst, Jonathan Hernandez, Zsa Zsa St. James, Satine Harlow, Ariel Versace, Iris Spectre, Roxxy Starr, Aloe Vera, Trish Talapia and Cleo Phatra. Tickets are on sale now and cost $19.65 before fees. Visit lgbt50.org/live-nation-concert to click on the link to buy your tickets.
On Saturday, July 4, there will be a number of events that will be held on or near Independence Mall. At 11:30 a.m., there will be a VIP lunch at the Liberty View Ballroom at the Independence Visitor’s Center. Tickets cost $250 per person and the guests of honor are Judy Shepard and Edie Windsor, who will both receive the 20th annnual International Role Model Award. To purchase your tickets, visit lgbt50.org/vip-lunch.
The day’s main event, which is free for the public to attend, will be held at Independence Hall from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Comedian Wanda Sykes was selected to be master of ceremonies for this special occasion. Among the highlights of this special event are the New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia Gay Men’s Choruses singing “America the Beautiful” together, the recognition of special guests Judy and Dennis Shepard, Edie Windsor, and James Obergefell, a performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by America’s Got Talent singer Jonathan Allen and Philadelphia native GoGo Morrow, and 40 different LGBT leaders re-enacting the 1965 civil rights demonstrations.
Afterwards there will be a VIP reception at the Stratus Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Monaco (433 Chestnut Street), where James Obergefell of Ohio, one of the plaintiffs in the current marriage equality cases, will be honored with the Frank Kameny Award. Tickets are $200 per person and can be purchased by going to lgbt50.org/vip-party.
…YOU CAN VISIT PHILADELPHIA, BUT WHY NOT RETIRE THERE?
Philadelphia was ahead of many cities, including all of the cities in Florida, when it came to affordable housing for our aging community members. After many years of lobbying for this complex, it finally opened to the public in February 2014. Mark Segal was most dedicated to opening the apartments, tirelessly working for months and years to ensure that they would become a reality. “It’s the pride of the nation,” Segal beamed.
The apartments are located at 249 South 13th Street, right in the middle of Philadelphia’s lively gayborhood. Due to a nearly $20 million grant as well as numerous low-income tax credits, people of all socioeconomic backgrounds can live in the building, with rent prices correlating directly to how much money each retiree has saved. The one bedroom apartment homes include spacious floor plans, modern amenities, and extras such as a community room, patio, and various resident events and services. Located one block from the Avenue of the Arts, residents are very close to entertainment and nightlife.
“Our seniors are overlooked by an ageist society, and in the LGBT community that looms large,” Segal told us at Hotspots when he described the need for such housing in Philadelphia.
“We also have an image of all LGBT people being wealthy, which is not really true for our seniors since they were the first out generation, and therefore usually don’t have the 401K or family support…It is a sad statement to say that we are leaving our pioneers out in the cold, at a time of their need,” Segal told us. He made sure that, at least in his city, those people would not be left out in the cold.
If you’re interested in retiring in an LGBT-friendly and LGBT-centric living environment, the John C. Anderson Apartments may be for you. Units are available for touring from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (877) 339-0247 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment for a walk-through.
To learn more about all Philadelphia has to offer, visit the Visit Philadelphia tourism website at visitphilly.com. To read gay-themed news and lifestyle stories from Philadelphia, visit the Philadelphia Gay News website at epgn.com.