Bars and Nightlife in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood
Get your history straight and your nightlife gay
Philadelphia’s LGBT visitors looking for a night on the town can choose among a range of bars and restaurants in the city’s Gayborhood or visit a welcoming mainstream spot frequented by gay and lesbian locals in Midtown Village, Rittenhouse Square, East Passyunk and other neighborhoods.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular nightlife haunts in some of the hottest ’hoods.
The city’s Gayborhood, which runs from 11th to Broad streets and from Chestnut to Pine streets, distinguishes itself with 69 rainbow street signs throughout the area and rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust streets. The area boasts its own unique architecture with narrow, tree-lined, cobblestone streets and brick townhouses and apartment buildings among boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Nightlife enthusiasts have many options from which to choose in this happening enclave. Best known include Woody’s, with several bars and a pulsating dance floor.
Head to Tavern On Camac for a piano bar and dance club, U Bar for a casual spot with floor-to-ceiling windows and good people-watching and ICandy for a three-level nightclub for men.
Other hotspots include Knock Restaurant and Bar, an upscale spot with live piano music on weekends and weekly karaoke nights, and Boxers and Tabu, both LGBT sports bars.
Located within Philly’s Gayborhood, Midtown Village offers boutique shopping, BYOB restaurants and sophisticated nightlife. The neighborhood is convenient to the city’s performing arts district, commonly known as the Avenue of the Arts.
Within a two-block radius of 13th and Sansom streets, choices abound, including the retro-themed Bud & Marilyn’s, one of five popular restaurant-bars owned by business and life partners Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran.
There's also Franky Bradley’s, a two-level restaurant-bar with dancing upstairs, Vintage, an intimate wine bar and El Vez, known for its margaritas and sidewalk cafe.
Check out Charlie was a sinner. for a vegan cocktail bar and Raw, a sushi and sake haven with an airy, outdoor courtyard.
Grand brownstones and modern penthouses are the hallmarks of Philadelphia’s ritziest zip code, Rittenhouse, which extends south from its namesake city-block park to quiet, residential streets and north to bustling business corridors.
Other noteworthy spots include The Franklin Bar, which is regularly cited as one of the nation’s best cocktail bars, the almost-secret Ranstead Room behind Mexican restaurant El Rey, The Dandelion, an authentic British pub and Tria, a wine and beer bar with light bites.
Village Whiskey offers a refined neighborhood taproom, while V Street gives vegans a place to grab small plates at its bar-meets-restaurant.
For a gay lounge popular for its happy hours, late-night parties and special events, don't miss the lesbian-owned Stir Lounge.
Nearby are the Prince Theater, which hosts nationally known cabaret acts as part of The RRazz Room series, Bob and Barbara’s Lounge, a beloved dive bar known for its Thursday night drag shows; and Chinatown speakeasy Hop Sing Laundromat, known for its unusual and powerful cocktails.
Old City serves as an historic neighborhood by day and an art gallery district into the early evening. By nightfall, this corridor becomes the place to be for glammed-up college students, serious commuter clubbers and those who’ve chosen this part of town for its endless party possibilities.
Favorite stops include The Olde Bar, a contemporary take on a traditional oyster bar with some of the city’s best cocktails, The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar, with its distinctive olive-shaped lights and fabulous cocktails and the convivial bar at Amada, “Iron Chef” Jose Garces’ flagship tapas restaurant.
Just Outside of Center City
These warehouse-y blocks north of Old City specialize in art-filled cafes and revived beer halls that cater to the indie rocker-meets-loft-dwelling crowd — folks who appreciate a hard-to-score German beer, jukeboxes with local hits and international comfort food that’s affordably edgy.
Silk City, a funky diner with an eclectic outdoor beer garden, serves as a great starting point for a night in NoLibs.
On 2nd Street, bars and restaurants line the street. Among them is Standard Tap, known for local brews and a chalkboard menu, Cantina Dos Segundos, where powerful margaritas rule, North Bowl, a bowling and beer heaven and Bar Ferdinand, a tapas favorite.
East Passyunk Avenue
This South Philadelphia corridor is the country’s oldest Italian-American business district that’s now known for its cool bars and stylishly old-world bistros — and more and more gay and lesbian Philadelphians are starting to call this neighborhood home as a result.
Anchoring the rebirth is the Mexican-themed Cantina Los Caballitos, popular for its patio tables and flavorful margaritas, the Pub On Passyunk East, also known as “the P.O.P.E.,” a hangout for 20-somethings and Triangle Tavern, an update on an old school Italian-American restaurant-bar with adult water ice and vegan offerings.
Other staples of the neighborhood include Townsend, an upscale French restaurant-bar, the dive-y Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, known for its serious karaoke and cheap drinks and Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, Philly’s famously dueling cheesesteak vendors peddling late-night bites. Check the calendar for QOTA (“Queers on the Avenue”), which holds a monthly social event at different venues.
New Hope, situated an easy hour drive north of Philadelphia in Bucks County, is an artist’s colony built around a vibrant and funky Main Street filled with shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
LGBT-favorite spots include The Raven, a restaurant-nightlife complex offering dance parties and cabaret acts, The RRazz Room, where nationally known and regional cabaret acts and comedians perform, Bowman’s Tavern, which features hometown favorite Bob Egan as part of its entertainment line up and Karla’s Bar and Restaurant, where locals go for a Basil Lemon Old-Fashioned and other innovative cocktails.