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Top LGBTQ+ Philadelphia Experiences

September 16, 2021

Learn about Philadelphia’s long history of LGBTQ+ activism and be immersed in the city’s LGBTQ+ community with these activities and experiences, which are a perfect addition to any Philadelphia itinerary.

Tour the Gayborhood

Pride and Progress © 2002 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Ann Northrup, 1315 Spruce Street. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

Spanning several blocks just east of Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia, the Gayborhood is the center of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community, home to numerous LGBTQ+ owned shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. Learn more about the neighborhood and Philadelphia’s long history of activism and tolerance with a LGBTQ+ walking tour offered by Beyond the Bell Tours. Along the way, snap a photo by one of the city’s LGBTQ+ murals, including Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Pride and Progress by Ann Northrup.

Browse an expansive collection of LGBTQ+ literature

Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni's Room. Photo by K Huff for PHLCVB.

Staying in the Gayborhood, visit the country’s first and oldest LGBTQ+-focused bookstore, Philly Aids Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room, and peruse the large inventory of new and used books. For more literature, stop in to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Independence Branch to check out the collection of Barbara Gittings, the “mother of the LGBTQ+ movement.” Gittings spent most of her life in Philadelphia and edited the nation’s first lesbian publication. Stop in for literary programs, art exhibitions and to read one of 14,000+ books in the library of the William Way LGBTQ+ Community Center. Started in 1974 as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Philadelphia, the Center supports and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.

Savor prideful plates from an LGBTQ+ owned restaurant, bar or bakery

Eat at one of Philadelphia’s many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants, including One Shot Cafe in Northern Liberties or Mission Taqueria and neighboring Oyster House along Sansom Street in Center City. Indulge your sweet tooth with a cupcake, cookie, or pastry from Cake Life Bake Shop, a trans-owned bakery in the heart of Fishtown. The owners are also alums (and winners!) of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Back in the Gayborhood, make dinner reservations at one of the eateries along 13th Street, operated by restaurateurs Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. Options include modern Mexican plates, Mediterranean pizza, Spanish tapas, traditional American comfort food, and more.

Shop from local LGBTQ+ businesses and artists

In addition to our collection of LGBTQ+ owned eateries, Philadelphia also boasts an impressive array of LGBTQ+ owned storefronts, boutiques and other businesses in neighborhoods throughout the city. Along 13th Street in the Gayborhood, shop for quirky Philadelphia-themed gifts at Open House, or head across the street to browse home goods, apparel, jewelry and more at Verde. Both storefronts join the mix of nearby restaurants operated by Safran Turney Hospitality. In Northern Liberties, shop art, clothing, apothecary, vintage goods and more at Trunc, a Gay-owned, female-owned, Black-owned and Veteran-owned boutique and gift shop. Just off of South Street, browse a collection of t-shirts, pronoun pins, prints and accessories featuring the work of over 100 Philadelphia-area creators — including many LGBTQ+ artists — at South Street Art Mart. Around the corner, Philly AIDS Thrift sells used clothing, furniture, books, home goods and more, with proceeds benefiting local HIV/AIDS organizations. TIP: Don’t miss Halloween, a hidden gem of a jewelry store at 13th and Pine streets from jewelry designer Henri David. The unsuspecting shop has no signage but fills a Center City rowhome with thousands of pieces of unique, hand-made jewelry.

Visit the site of one of the nation’s earliest gay rights demonstrations

Historical Marker for Philadelphia's Annual Reminders. Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

On July 4, 1965, four years prior to the events of Stonewall in New York City, protestors began an annual pride march in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Continuing until 1969, these “Annual Reminders” highlighted that not every American was granted the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as promised in the Declaration of Independence. Today, this early display of LGBTQ+ activism is commemorated with a historical marker at the corner of 5th and Chestnut streets, near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.

Attend one of Philadelphia’s marquee Pride events

Philadelphia Pride Parade and Festival (2016). Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

Each year, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community comes together for a series of celebrations, parades, and demonstrations. In June, during International Gay Pride Month, the PrideDay Parade and Festival features live music, DJs, food and drinks. A festive parade, the signature event, runs from the Gayborhood to Penn’s Landing. Also during Pride Month, look for special events, menus and more from restaurants, bars, clubs and attractions around Philadelphia. In October, Philadelphia hosts OutFest, the largest National Coming Out Day celebration in the world, filling multiple blocks of the Gayborhood with vendors, food, music and other live performances, plus plenty of special events at area bars and restaurants. Other annual LGBTQ+ events include qFLIX Philadelphia, an independent film festival screening films by LGBTQ+ filmmakers from around the world, as well as the Philadelphia Black Pride celebration. NOTE: The 2021 PrideDay Parade and Festival as well as 2021 OutFest have been canceled.

Enjoy dinner and a show in the Gayborhood

End the evening back in the Gayborhood, where you can grab food and drinks while you enjoy local entertainment at one of the neighborhood’s clubs and bars. Tabu Sports Lounge & Bar is home to a downstairs sports bar, second level dance floor, third floor performance space and rooftop, presenting drag, burlesque, variety, and comedy shows, as well as game nights on select nights each week. Found along a tiny side street, Tavern on Camac is another multi-level entertainment space with an intimate restaurant in the basement, their Ascend nightclub on the top floor, and a piano bar with nightly performances on the main level. One of the neighborhood’s landmark late-night destinations is Woody’s — a bar and nightclub along 13th Street hat regularly hosts local DJs, theme nights, cabaret and drag shows, and other events.

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