In September, I had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia and explore all the queer goodness it offers. LGBTQ+ history and culture is woven into the very fabric of The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, making it a safe and enjoyable vacation spot. Here’s a brief rundown of everything I did and what I recommend checking out on your own visit.
If you’re a foodie, Philadelphia is one of the best places to indulge your tastebuds. The city scored four James Beard awards in 2023, and though I didn’t hit up any of this year’s winners, I did visit queer-owned eateries around the city.
Joncarl Lachman’s Winkel serves delicious Dutch cuisine in a bright and airy dining room, perfect for enjoying brunch with your travel companions. Daniel McLaughlin’s Mission Taqueria offers a casual respite from the city, great for midday tacos after exploring all morning. They also offer happy hour, so you can save a little cash to spend elsewhere on your trip! For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Darling Jack’s Tavern. Owned by Marcie Turney and her wife, Valerie Safran, the restaurant is dimly lit and offers mouthwatering classic American dishes. All four restauranteurs proudly support their community, transforming the city one dish at a time.
You know that Philadelphia boasts the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but did you all know that the city has the country’s only formalized gayborhood? Identified by its 36 rainbow street signs, the neighborhood is steeped in history. Across a 90-minute walking tour, queer-owned company Beyond the Bell Tours explored the many ways that Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community contributed to queer liberation nationwide. I loved that company co-founder and tour guide, Joey Leroux, celebrated the good while noting areas—such as racial inclusion—that citizens are still working to improve.
Aside from historic bars, shops, and eateries, the tour also included a deep dive into the numerous murals that cover the buildings of the Gayborhood. We even made time to discuss Philadelphia’s pride flag, which hung proudly in windows and doorways all over the Gayborhood, emphasizing that inclusion has become a key part of Philadelphia’s modern queer culture.
Philadelphia is always coming up with new events to engage the local queer community. Earlier in the year, Out in the Garden—a series of events specifically designed to celebrate LGBTQ+ Philadelphians—was held at the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Pop-Up Garden on South Street.
You could plan your trip around any one of the city’s annual LGBTQ+-friendly events, such as Philly Black Pride in April, Pride in June, Fringe Fest in September, or OURFest in October. No matter when you visit, Philly Gay Calendar and Philly Gay Girls can guide you to everything from nightclubs to drag shows, and speed dating to karaoke.
With such a wealth of things to do, Philadelphia makes a good spot for all kinds of queer travelers. Whether you find joy on the dance floor, in retracing the footsteps of queer change-makers, or in a perfectly-balanced meal, Philly has exactly what you’re looking for.