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Exclusive | Three Gay Days: Philadelphia

Exclusive | Three Gay Days: Philadelphia

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in historic Philadelphia.

"Philly: yeah, I know," you're saying. "America's first capital, home of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin and all that." True enough, and a stroll through Philadelphia's row house-lined streets can still transport you to another time. But if history is all you're expecting, you're in for a surprise.

Today's Philly is one of the nation's cultural capitals, with renowned museums and performance venues, and more colleges in the region than around Boston. Its restaurant scene is second to none, and when you're done exploring and dining, there are dozens of GLBT venues in Philly's "Gayborhood," smack in the center of town, beneath rainbow-colored street signs, no less. It's not called the City of Brotherly Love for nothing.

The Gayborhood and most other attractions are in Center City, an easily navigable downtown grid of streets about two miles across, bounded by the Delaware River to the east and Schuylkill River (say skoo-kl) to the west, Vine Street to the north and South Street to the south. City Hall sits in the center of the grid, at the junction of Market and Broad Streets (the X and Y axes). Numbered north-south streets begin at the Delaware River (Broad Street is where 14th should be), while east-west have names.

Unless you're venturing outside of the city, don't bother renting a car. The public transportation system (with the unfortunate acronym SEPTA, for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) runs frequent trains directly from Philadelphia International Airport into Center City, and subways, buses, and "Philly Phlash" trolleys can get you pretty much anywhere you need to go. If you're arriving by Amtrak train, Center City is a quick taxi or transit ride from the main 30th Street Station.



About five blocks west of the Gayborhood, the Rittenhouse (210 W. Rittenhouse Square; 215-546-9000 or 800-635-1042; $325+) is tops in town, with an indoor pool, extensive spa and top-notch personal service. The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia (10 Avenue of the Arts; 215-523-8000; $279+) appeals to the glamour queen in all of us. Its principal public space is a magnificent McKim, Mead & White marble replica of the Pantheon in Rome; at least go to gape. In addition to the usual five-star amenities in its 331 rooms, there's a 24-hour technology butler.


Design fans won't want to miss the Loews Philadelphia Hotel (1200 Market St; 215-627-1200, 215-564-1985 or 800-23-LOEWS; $199+), 583 rooms in the PSFS Building, the first modernist skyscraper in town, built 1932, and an icon of the style. The Art Deco-inspired interior offers a handsome bar and restaurant area, and the gayborhood is just two blocks south. There's a spa and fitness center featuring a lap pool under a glistening steel and glass canopy.


With a primarily gay and lesbian clientele on weekends, the gay-owned, gay-managed, seven-story Alexander Inn (Twelfth and Spruce sts; 215-923-3535 or 877-ALEX-INN; $99+) offers 48 rooms, attentive service, a 24-hour fitness center, high-speed Internet access, cable TV and a well-rounded continental breakfast to start your day. This 100-year old building has benefited from a painstaking $2 million renovation.


There are lots of national chain hotels in town, and then there's the Society Hill Hotel (301 Chestnut St; 215-925-1919; $90+), a mostly straight lodging in a former longshoreman's house built in 1832. The hotel features antique furnishings and a relaxing lobby bar overlooking a park.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

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Andrew Bender