Feeling the Love for Philadelphia

8 reasons why the "City of Brotherly Love" should be on your to-do list this fall.

In 1681, William Penn came to the Americas and founded what we now know as Pennsylvania. As a Quaker he had experienced plenty of religious persecution back home in England. Which is why, for his own colony, he envisioned establishing a city where everyone could live peacefully and worship freely. That city, of course, was Philadelphia, the soon-to-be birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution.

As a city founded on the very ideals of freedom and equality, it makes sense that Philadelphia continues to live up to them today by being incredibly welcoming to LGBTQ visitors. And, since fall is an especially good time to go, we came up with a list of queer-friendly things to explore after you've toured the obvious must-sees like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall:

The "Gayborhood"

Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Residents and visitors crossing the intersection at 13th and Locust Streets in the cityÕs ÒGayborhoodÓ pass over rainbow-colored crosswalksÑone more indication that the city is a welcoming place for the LGBT community.

Also known as Washington Square West, Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood” occupies the blocks that run from Chestnut to Pine Streets between 11th and Broad Street. In 2007, the city officially recognized the area known for its LGBTQ-owned bars, restaurants, and shops when it added 36 gay pride rainbow flag symbols to the neighborhood's street signs.

The William Way LGBT Community Center

Photo by Jack Ramsdale

Quakers believe that every person has a direct relationship with God and, therefore, does not need a church to make that connection. (A big reason the Church of England persecuted them.) They were also abolitionists, pacifists, and, as it turns out, early supporters of LGBTQ rights. In the 1970s, queer Philadelphians often found themselves openly discriminated against as tenants. However, some Quaker landlords defied norms in 1973 by renting the storefront at 60 N. 3rd Street to a group of gay activists who turned it into the city’s first LGBTQ coffeehouse. This safe space would eventually beget the William Way LGBT Community Center.

To get a crash course on Philadelphia's queer history, stroll over to the center's western exterior and view artist Ann Northrup’s block-long mural, Pride & Progress, a tribute to legendary local figures like Barbara Gittings, the mother of the LGBTQ rights movement.

Arch Street Meeting House[image src="wp-attachment://616349" title="Arch Street Friends Meeting House in Old City in Philadelphia"]

A few years later, in 1979, the Quaker "Friends" congregation offered its historic Arch Street Meeting House to over 300 LGBTQ activists who were meeting to plan the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that October.

Philly's Food Scene

Photo by Steve Legato

No visitor should ever go hungry in Philadelphia with its amazing wealth of good eats.

Of course cheesesteak is the dish most closely aligned with the city. So while Ubering, I took an informal poll of my fellow passengers on which of the famed cheesesteak joints—Geno's or Pat's—lived up to the hype. I got a surprising response: neither. Instead, the locals suggested I get myself a pork sandwich from Dinic's in Reading Terminal Market. They weren't wrong.

Head to Bud & Marilyn's in the "Gayborhood" for its lively atmosphere, thirst-quenching classic cocktails, and menu of deliciously innovative comfort food like the Nashville hot bun with fried chicken and pickle brine slaw, or the smoked cheddar pierogis (I ordered a second plate after I finished off the first one). They also have an excellent brunch.

Innovative yet soulful seasonal fare is on the menu at Vernick (photo above), the James Beard Award-winning restaurant featuring sharable plates like the grilled corn agnolotti with clams, fennel, and tarragon, or jerk-rubbed pork chop, roasted summer vegetables, spicy carrot mustard.


Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADLEPHIA®

Held annually around National Coming Out Day, Philadelphia’s OutFest is the world’s largest coming-out event, and it comes in the form of an old-fashioned block party. Restaurants and bars throw open their doors to host street-side cookouts and dance parties in The Gayborhood.

On October 7, Philadelphia celebrates National Coming Out Day with a giant block party it calls OutFest. Expect to find dance parties, drag performances, food vendors, a mechanical bull, and kid-friendly games.

Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now

Woman’s Dress: Bodice and Skirt, Spring 1948, designed by Christian Dior. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will soon unveil Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now. The exhibit will explore the ways in which designers continuously rework and reinvent what we wear through their use of material, shape, color, and more. Fabulous Fashion will be on display October 16, 2018 through March 3, 2019.

LGBTQ Night at "Terror Behind the Walls"

Photo by buto/Getty Images

Eastern State Penitentiary—a hotbed of paranormal activity year-round—becomes an immersive fright fest during its Halloween "Terror Behind the Walls." On October 18, the Penitentiary will host a special night of scares for LGBTQ guests. After braving the terrifying mazes, visitors can celebrate their resolve with cocktails in The Speakeasy at Al Capone’s Cell.

The Nightlife

Photo courtesy of ©VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Woody’s club and bar is a traditional first stop on any proper first visit to Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. The expansive LGBT venue features 28 beers on tap at the main floor bar, a swanky cocktail lounge called GloBar and an upstairs dance floor with DJs spinning until last call.

Way back before the bell was cracked (OK, it was the Nineties), my friend and I would drive down from NYC and go to Woody's for a change of scenery. Decades later, this Philadelphia stalwart still packs them in. Fore something supercool and quirky, check into the library-esque Writer's Block Rehab and enjoy a cleverly crafted cocktail or two. Need to shake it out? Voyeur nightclub has three different areas each featuring its own style of dance music.

Where to Stay

Photo courtesy of Sofitel Philadelphia

Ben Franklin would certainly approve of the America-meets-France vibe of The Sofitel. The property boasts spacious, modern guest rooms and a location just a few blocks away from the "Gayborhood," Rittenhouse Square, and other main attractions.

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