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 'Gaybourhood'. Most of Philly's compact but sizeable gay scene is within the 'Gaybourhood', between Broad and 12th Streets and Walnut and Pine Streets. It's all in a strict grid, so hard to get too lost!


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.
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.

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.


ICandy (254 South 12th Street; T: +1 267 324 3500) - Large venue with three dance floors and lots of pinball machines.
Bike Stop (206 South Quince Street; T: +1 215 627 1662; www.thebikestop.com) - Bears and leathers, Philly's only leather bar, on four floors.
Tavern on Camac a.k.a T.O.C. (243 S. Camac Street; T: +1 215 545 0900; www.tavernoncamac.com) - Comfy show-tune piano bar down a narrow street.
Woody's (202 S. 13th Street; T: +1 215 545 1893; www.woodysbar.com) - Philly's most famous gay club - 7 days a week - shameless and tireless!
Pure (1221 St. James Place; T: +1 215 735 5772) - Philly's biggest after-hours club (after 2am, when bars shut) - good dance music in swish surroundings - cheap guest membership available! Just round the corner from Woody's!

PhillyAIDSThrift@Giovanni's Room (345 S 12th Street; T: +1 215 923 2960; www.queerbooks.com) - Long-established LGBT bookstore.

Club Philli Baths (1220 Chancellor Street; T: +1 215-735-7671) - Men's "health club" - open 24/7.

Restaurants & Cafés:
Mixto (1141-43 Pine Street; T: +1 215 592 0363) - Fab Cuban-Columbian food with cute waiters who tease.

Schuylkill Park

Alexander Inn (12th Street & Spruce Street; T: +1 215 923 3535; Alexander Inn) - Euro charm, US comfort! Roaring fire in the foyer, cosy rooms, generous breakfasts. Perfectly positioned for scene and sites!

Revised October 2018.

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


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