For a city of 1.5 million people, Philadelphia may appear to lack the scene evident in other large metropolises. There are only about 15 gay bars, but the city has long been highly tolerant, and there's a significant—and politically active—LGBT community. The local Lesbian and Gay Task Force, formed in 1978, guided passage of the 1982 Philadelphia Fair Practices Act, one of the country's earliest gay civil rights measures. And the city's tourism office has been a pioneer in courting gay visitors. Philadelphia has no shortage of engaging museums and historic sites, fine eateries, and performing-arts venues.
Philadelphia Annual Gay Pride Events Calendar
Also check out the New Hope Gay Guide and Events Calendar for festivals and celebrations held in and around Bucks County, less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia.
Resources for Gay Philadelphia
A number of resources provide information on the city's gay scene, including the Philadelphia Gay News. Two excellent alternative newsweeklies, Philadelphia Weekly and Philadelphia City Paper, are also excellent sources of information on arts, dining, and entertainment, as is the city's noted mainstream newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Also, check out Greater Philadelphia Tourism's gay and lesbian site.
Gay-Popular Philadelphia Neighborhoods
The part of the city most visitors see, downtown or Center City, is less defined by neighborhood monikers than is the case in other major metropolises. The most tourist-popular area runs east to west between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers and north to south from around Race to South streets. In the northwest, Fairmount Park and the Art Museum hold great interest.
The Philadelphia Gay District or "Gayborhood": The tiny Gay District is anchored by the tiny Colonial alley Camac Street (pronounced cuh-mack) and the quaint blocks near it, between Walnut and Pine streets. In the 19th century, this small enclave of historic red brick mews (or trinities, as they're known here), was the area's red-light district. It later became the site of several artists' clubs and small theaters, and a commercial—though not especially residential—gay scene has since grown up around it. Home furnishings junkies should not miss Pine Street, which is loaded with antique shops between 9th and 17th streets.
South Street: Philadelphia's grunge, punk, and funk scene extend along South Street, from about 10th Street east to near the Delaware River. Many of the unconventional shops, galleries, eateries, performance spaces and lounges around here are still queer-owned or queer-frequented. South Street draws a rowdy suburban crowd on weekends. Be sure to check out the South Street Antiques Market, whose pieces range from authentic Colonial to kitsch.
North and West: West of Center City, across the Schuylkill River, is University City, which is dominated by the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The neighborhood just southwest of campus, north of Baltimore Avenue between about 38th and 50th streets, has a significant GLBT population.
Head west via I-76 alongside the Schuylkill River to reach trendy Manayunk, which was named a National Historic District in 1983. Begun in the 1800s as a mill town and gradually peopled with Irish, German, Italian, and Polish immigrants, Manayunk slid downhill following the Depression. It was reclaimed by preservationists and yuppie entrepreneurs in the early 1980s. Most of its many eateries and boutiques are along picturesque Main Street. Although nothing here is specifically gay, Manayunk has a community following—especially among moneyed revelers who take seriously the Lenape Indian translation of the village's name: "Where we go to drink."