Philly’s must-sees for Creating Change

Creating Change Conference attendees, welcome to Philadelphia! We know something about creating change in this town as Philadelphia; the United States’ birthplace played a prominent role in the founding and advancement of the LGBT civil-rights movement.

Philly’s LGBT tourism campaign is “Philadelphia. Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay,” so here are the best tips for doing both.

You have to visit to the Historic Philadelphia District, the original city, which played a vital role in the birth of the United States’ LGBT-rights movement. Independence National Historic Park, home of the Liberty Bell, is located at Sixth and Chestnut streets. Be sure to get your photo at the bell and in front of Independence Hall where our country began. Everything is free! You don’t need tickets for the Liberty Bell but you will need to get a free, timed ticket for a visit to Independence Hall. You can get your free ticket at the Independence Visitor Center located at Sixth and Market streets, just six short blocks from your convention hotel.

Don’t miss the Reminder Day Marker at Independence Hall, the site of the United States’ first major LGBT-rights demonstration on July 4, 1965. A state historical marker commemorates this peaceful protest — and the four that followed each July 4 through 1969 — known collectively as the Annual Reminders. The marker is located at Sixth and Chestnut streets, adjacent to Independence Hall and across the street from the Liberty Bell. Grab a coffee at the lesbian-owned Menagerie located at 18 S. Third St., near Market Street, just a few blocks away. 

Not far from the Liberty Bell at Third and Arch streets is the Arch Street Meeting House. It is the historic home of a 300-year-old Quaker “Friends” congregation that hosted 300 LGBT activists in February 1979 to plan the Philadelphia Conference, the first national demonstration of lesbian and gay rights in Washington, D.C. That October, that march would attract 100,000 demonstrators and would define a national civil-rights movement. Grab a photo at the historic marker outside the meetinghouse. 

The center of Philadelphia’s gay residential life and culture, the Gayborhood, is located just blocks from the host hotel, the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. The Gayborhood spans 11th and Broad streets, and Pine and Chestnut streets. You’ll know you have arrived when you see the neighborhood’s rainbow street signs (72 in all). The center of the Gayborhood is located at 13th and Locust streets, designated by rainbow crosswalks.

Looking for a great restaurant in the ’Hood? Check out lesbian-owned Lolita, Jamonera, Bud & Marilyn’s and Barbuzzo. Other great choices are Double Knot; modern Asian Sampan; upscale taqueria El Vez; fancy wine bar and ristorante Tredici Enoteca; or stylish pizzeria Zavino. Be sure to make your reservation early.

Bar-hopping is popular in Philly and most of the LGBT bars are within the Gayborhood. Sing along at Tavern on Camac, dance at Voyeur, grab a beer at Boxers or U Bar and the granddaddy of them all, mega club, bar and lounge Woody’s, a Gayborhood staple for decades. 

If you need specific visitor information, visit William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. Check out the block-long western exterior wall of the building for the mural “Pride & Progress,” which depicts portraits of LGBT Philadelphians through the years.

At 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20, Visit Philly is hosting an LGBT bus tour of Center City. Led by William Way archivist Bob Skiba, the tour highlights the city’s role in mainstream and LGBT American history. Click here to sign up. 

You can’t leave Philly without a cheese-steak. Visit legendary, gay-owned Geno’s in South Philly. It is worth the Uber ride. Pick any cheese (our local favorite is whiz) and be sure to say “wit” (with grilled onions) or “wit-out” (without grilled onions).

Jeff Guaracino is the author of the “Handbook for LGBT Tourism and Hospitality” and “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: the Essential Guide for Marketing.”