Releases: Expanded View
Go Beyond The Gayborhood To Explore Philadelphia's Other Options For Nightlife, The Arts & Drag Shows
A Guide To LGBT-Centric Events & Venues All Over Philadelphia
It’s no secret that Philadelphia is one of the LGBT-friendliest cities in the country, but Philly pride extends past the rainbow flag-adorned Gayborhood. Neighborhoods throughout the city offer endless options for queer folks looking for a gay old time. Groups QOTA (Queers on the Avenue) and OUT in Fishtown welcome partygoers south and north of Center City, respectively, for monthly happy hours, food and fun. LGBT-owned hangouts Menagerie Coffee and The Victoria Freehouse satisfy cravings for caffeine, cocktails and culture in Historic Philadelphia. South Street’s iconic dive bar Bob and Barbara’s Lounge hosts the city’s longest-running drag show.
Here’s a look at some of the places and organizations where LGBT life thrives outside the Gayborhood:
Art lovers fill Old City’s historic streets every first Friday of the month, when galleries open their doors for an after-hours peek at their latest exhibits. The occasion brings a festival-like air to the neighborhood, with street performers and vendors and festive sauntering among the bars.
- FringeArts: Nary a week goes by when something gay isn’t happening at this spiffy performance space across the street from Race Street Pier. One of the newer options: John Jarboe’s cheekily named queer cabaret series, Get Pegged, held on select Fridays during the spring and fall arts seasons. 140 N. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-1318, fringearts.com
- Mazeppa Productions: A favorite among local LGBT theatergoers, Mazeppa stages vibrant musical theater productions in a venue directly behind Historic Philadelphia’s Christ Church. Previous productions have included a colorful—and very gay—adaptation of Xanadu and irreverent puppet comedy Avenue Q. mazeppa.org
- Menagerie Coffee: Bold espresso drinks and a host of locally made treats are on the menu at this stylish, lesbian-owned cafe. The communal table in the back is an ideal spot to get in some laptop time or perhaps strike up a conversation with some fellow java drinkers. 18 S. 3rd Street, menageriecoffee.com
- The Victoria Freehouse: This gay-owned establishment brings contemporary British pub fare to Historic Philadelphia. On certain nights of the week, the dining room transforms into a stage for LGBT entertainment, including a weekly burlesque show from popular Gayborhood party producer Josh Schonewolf. 10 S. Front Street, (215) 543-6089, victoriaphilly.com
Northern Liberties & Fishtown:
These two north of Old City neighborhoods have emerged as the spot for well-to-do transplants (Northern Liberties) and young creatives (Fishtown). Both offer a welcoming atmosphere to all.
- Front Street Cafe: There’s a good reason OUT in Fishtown (below) hosted its inaugural event at New American dining spot Front Street Cafe. The attractive brick-and-wood-clad eatery hosts a variety of LGBT-friendly networking events throughout the year. 1253 N. Front Street, (215) 515-3073, frontstreetcafe.net
- Mauckingbird Theatre Company: The focus of this theater troupe out of Northern Liberties is to bring LGBT storylines to stages around Philly. The ensemble performs both original work and all-gay adaptations of classics, such as Pirates of Penzance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Importance of Being Earnest. (267) 385-6910, mauckingbird.org
- OUT in Fishtown: This organization was created to provide Fishtown dwellers more LGBT party options in the neighborhood. Organizers host monthly events at nearby bars and team up with outside organizations to show off Fishtown’s proud rainbow spirit. facebook.com/OUTinFishtown
- The Barbary: It’s not a gay bar, per se, but The Barbary has long been a go-to for locals itching for an edgier type of fun that’s hard to find in the Gayborhood. Weekend dance parties get particularly packed, with live bands and local DJs spinning tunes beneath a glittering disco ball. 951 Frankford Avenue
Next to shopping and dining out, the most loved pasttime in this well-kept corridor is people-watching, both at gleaming bistros like Parc and Rouge, along busy Walnut and Chestnut Streets and in lush Rittenhouse Square itself.
- Barbara Gittings’ marker: A Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission marker honors the late, eminent civil rights activist outside the home Barbara Gittings shared with her photojournalist partner Kay Lahusen. A Philadelphia resident from age 18, Gittings is considered the mother of the LGBT rights movement. She edited the nation’s first lesbian magazine, co-organized the historic Annual Reminders and led charges to promote positive LGBT literature in public libraries and to change the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. 21st & Locust Streets, phmc.pa.gov
- Little Pete’s: Before it becomes a place of the past (it’s slated for eventual redevelopment), this unassuming 24-hour diner will host countless customers, including plenty of post-Stir partyers (see below) at its counters and booths for burgers, shakes, omelets and other meals that taste best at 3 a.m. Decades ago, the spot—then called Dewey’s—was the site of America’s first successful gay rights sit-in in 1963. 219 S. 17th Street, (215) 545-5508
- stadler-Kahn: Shoppers descend a nondescript staircase off Sansom Street to enter this wonderland of covetable handmade accessories and unique vintage knickknacks. The underground shelter shop serves as a gallery space for local artists curated by out owner—and artist himself—Alex Stadler. 1724 Sansom Street, (267) 242-7154, stadler-kahn.com
- Stir: This is Philly’s only official gay bar located outside the Gayborhood—and it’s particularly popular with the lesbian crowd. The slick, compact interior gets particularly packed on Thursdays (a.k.a. Stirsdays) when well drinks and PBRs cost a mere dollar. 1705 Chancellor Street, (215) 732-2700, stirphilly.com
East Passyunk Avenue:
South Philly’s restaurant- and bar-chocked corridor has developed such an LGBT presence, it’s earned the moniker the “Gayborhood South.” What this scene lacks in rainbow-clad street signs and buzzing nightclubs, it makes up for in low-key happy hours and charming gay-owned businesses.
- August: All 12 tables at this petite bring-your-own-bottle bistro belong to partners (and native South Philadelphians) Maria Vanni and MaryAnn Brancaccio, who’ve been there, serving refined trattoria fare—sausage Bolognese, farfalle with crab and porcini mushrooms—long before this part of town became a dining destination. 1247 S. 13th Street, (215) 468-5926, augustbyo.com
- Metro Men’s Clothing: Within coin-tossing distance of the Singing Fountain, this gay-owned boutique stocks its ground level with seasonal threads and accessories. Body-conscious shoppers head to the basement to browse an impressive collection of undies and sexy swimwear. 1600 E. Passyunk Avenue, (276) 324-5172, metromensclothing.com
- Noord: Most nights of the week, out chef Joncarl Lachman can be found chatting with guests in the dining room of his bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) Dutch eatery in the heart of Passyunk. Regulars tote along gutsy reds to pair with hearty fare from the Netherlands with names like bitterballen, uitsmijters and broodjes haring. 1046 Tasker Street, (267) 909-9704, noordphilly.com
- QOTA (Queers on the Avenue): LGBTers head south for this well-attended happy hour, held each month at a different business along Passyunk Avenue. Most QOTA parties offer cocktails, light bites from local eateries—and some of the best mingling in town. (215) 336-1455, visiteastpassyunk.com
- The Dolphin Tavern: This hip Broad Street dive is the closest thing to a gay bar South Philly has to offer—but it’s much too cool for such labels. Wednesday through Sunday, there’s an extensive craft beer menu and patrons busting moves on the glowing dance floor, which, on busier nights, is headed by rotating residents DJs. 1539 S. Broad Street, (215) 278-7950, dolphinphilly.com
There’s a lot of history on South Street, though visitors would never know it with all the young faces crowding in on weekends to check out its artsy bar scene. The best-known action takes place east of Broad Street—with one very notable nightlife exception.
- Big Gay Ice Cream: The only non-New York location this rainbow-hued phenom has earned a loyal local following for its signature soft serve topped with dulce de leche, wasabi pea dust and more, available in clever combinations with names like “Salty Pimp” and “Bea Arthur.”
1351 South Street (267) 886-8024, biggayicecream.com
- Bob & Barbara’s Lounge: The beloved dive is home to the city’s longest-running drag show. Regulars know arrive early on Thursday nights for a spot at the bar and a view of host Miss Lisa and her rotating troupe of queens from Philly and beyond. 1509 South Street, (215) 545-4511, bobandbarbaras.com
- L’Etage: Located above Creperie Beau Monde, a block south of South Street, this French-inspired second-story watering hole welcomes a variety of LGBT programming throughout the month, perhaps the most popular of which is the Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret. Every second Thursday, the towering drag queen puts on a concert of old and new cover hits. 624 S. 6th Street, (215) 592-0656, creperie-beaumonde.com
- Philly AIDS Thrift: Treasure upon treasure can be found at this expansive and quirky Queen Village thrift store, also about a block south of South Street. Shoppers here don’t just score bargains—they also leave with the satisfaction of having contributed to Philadelphia HIV/AIDS service organizations such as Action Wellness. The shop’s in-store HIV Testing Center offers free testing on weekends. 710 S. 5th Street, (215) 922-3186, phillyaidsthrift.com
With sprawling Clark Park and tree-lined streets, this university- and residence-filled neighborhood can feel miles away from Center City. Lining colorful Baltimore Avenue are LGBT-friendly businesses, counterculture cafes and ethnic eateries that transform into nightclubs when the sun sets.
- Dahlak Paradise: At night, this Ethiopian eatery hosts DJs and live bands playing for dancers of all persuasions. When it comes time for a break, the kitchen serves food until late night, and the backroom bar offers affordable cocktails and beer. 4708 Baltimore Avenue, (215) 726-6464, dahlakrestaurant.com
- The Bar(n) on Baltimore: There’s a friendly gay vibe at this funky corner watering hole. The bar is stocked with an impressive and inexpensive selection of beer and cocktails. On the entertainment front, there’s a jukebox that’s heavy on the heavy metal and a pool table. 4901 Catharine Street
- The Gold Standard Café: Although this restaurant and cafe is no longer gay-owned, it continues to serve as a gathering space for the LGBT community. It also offers more than caffeine, serving some of the best people watching on Baltimore Avenue. Customers fill outside seats to enjoy beverages, plus homemade breakfast (and weekend brunch) through dinner. 4800 Baltimore Avenue, (215) 727-8247, thegoldstandardcafe.com
- OurNightOut: Delaware Valley Legacy Fund hosts a monthly networking soiree that turns venues across Philadelphia into LGBT hotspots for one night only. Past locations have included The Barnes Foundation, Morgan’s Pier and Loews Philadelphia Hotel, where young professionals show up by the hundreds to mix and mingle over drinks and light bites. Monthly, dvlf.org
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
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