When it comes to gay cities, you don’t get much gayer than Philadelphia.
For more than 200 hundred years, dandies of all sorts have been making their way around this historic village. Philadelphia has a little bit of something for everyone but history buffs will be overwhelmed by opportunities to dive into our nation’s past.
Don’t let the old bells and dusty documents fool you though; when the sun goes down Philly turns into a jumpin’ and thumpin’ good time.
Let us start out with the obvious; Philadelphia’s historic attractions. The centerpiece of historic Philadelphia is Independence Hall. For those of you who had trouble with Civics class or are from another country, Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution were signed.
This makes Philadelphia the literal birthplace of the United States. Independence Hall should be on the list of every American as a must see attraction. The hall radiates a sense of history and is arguably the most important historical building on the continent.
Entrance to the Hall requires a timed ticket. These are free and can be obtained from the visitor’s center. Just next to Independence Hall is the pavilion that houses the Liberty Bell. The Bell is an important historical artifact and doesn’t take long to visit. It might not be the most exciting exhibit in the world, but it is one we should all cross off our list.
Some people like to mix their history with a little drink; Philadelphia offers the perfect opportunity. The folks at Once Upon a Nation have put together something called the Tippler’s Tour. This mixture of history, performance, and alcohol will take you to some of Philadelphia’s historic watering holes. Your ticket includes two guides (one historic/one modern day) and a drink at each stop.
After an evening of tippling and before a night of more modern fun its not a bad idea to stop by the hotel for a shower and some rest. My favorite place to stay in the city is the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. First off, it’s a Loews and anyone who knows me will tell you Loews has a special place in my heart.
Second, it is in an amazing building. The hotel is located in the landmark PSFS building. The building, constructed in 1932, was commissioned as a new home for our country’s first savings bank. The bank failed in 1992 and was purchased by Loews in 1997.
Loews has done a wonderful job of converting the building into a hotel, yet retaining most of its charm and unique attributes. If you stay here, take some time and ride an elevator to the top floor. From there you will be treated with one of the best views in town.
After you have pulled yourself out of the comfy Loews bed, taken a shower, and put on your favorite club clothes, you are ready to head out and experience Philadelphia’s legendary nightlife. Head down to the intersection of 12th and Locust, from here you can walk to most of the joints worth visiting.
12th Air Command is a mega-complex in which anyone can find something to do. This three level complex includes a traditional lounge, karaoke, a pumping dance floor and disco bar and a sky lounge.
Woody’s is the most famous of Philly’s gay bars and may be responsible for Philadelphia having legendarily strong cocktails. Head to Knock for a good martini and great food. This classy joint can satisfy your thirst and your hunger no matter how picky your taste buds are.
Sisters is the hip spot for the Lesbian crowd. It is open seven days a week and includes its own restaurant. The Bike Stop is home to the leather crowd, both male and female, but it has much more to offer. Inside the Bike Stop complex is the Gear Box leather shop, the Short Stop sports bar and the Top of the Stop dance bar.
Key West is the place to find Go-Go Boys. Yet another multi-bar complex, Key West features its own sports bar, disco, and sky lounge.
Of course there is a lot more to do in Philadelphia than Independence Hall and gay bars. The city and surrounding areas are full of attractions both traditional and unique.
A short drive out of town will take you to Valley Forge where you can rent a bike and ride around visiting historic landmarks and be educated by historical interpreters. If you are lucky you will run into Park Ranger Graham, who is the cutest Park Ranger I’ve ever met.
Philadelphia also has several fantastic cultural resources. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest in the nation and the crown jewel of Philadelphia museums. The museum features works from its massive collection and regularly hosts industry leading visiting exhibitions.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest museum in the country and features an impressive collection on display. Fans of the master sculptor Rodin will find the largest collection of his work outside of France at the….wait for it…Rodin Museum.
The performing arts are also alive and well in Philadelphia. Be it dance, theatre, classical music or a rock-and-roll showcase there is something going every night. Fans of dare-devilish, modern dance will want to make arrangements to see Brian Sander’s Junk. The troop performs weekend night at 8.
Traditional dance enthusiast should check out the schedule for Pennsylvania Ballet. Theatre lovers are encouraged to secure tickets to at least one performance by the city’s many companies.
A great rundown of theatrical events can be found at the Theatre Alliance web site (www.theatrealliance.org). In town you will find everything from classical to modern, absurdist to experiential, drama to children’s, and pointless to political. Philadelphia even has its own LGBT Theatre Festival.
The City of Philadelphia hasn’t been shy about courting the GLBT tourist and traveler. In fact, in a lot of ways they have led the charge in GLBT-specific marketing. I am always in favor of rewarding those who reach out to our community.
Put Philadelphia on your travel calendar this year. It is a unique, friendly, and diverse destination that values you and your family. And if you see Park Ranger Graham, give him a wink for me!