Philadelphia makes for a perfect long weekend. Steeped in American history, the city is very walkable and has a great "Gayborhood" filled with lots of bars and restaurants including a great LBGTQ bookstore, Giovanni's Room.
I took American to PHL, the former US Airways hub. American has the most non stops. Other options include Amtrak. Southwest also goes there. Once at the airport, hop on the SEPTA regional rail to the Jefferson Station. It is just $8 and takes 20 minutes ( and is free if you are coming from the Amtrak Station ).
Where to stay
The Alexander Inn at 12th and Spruce ) is your affordable choice. I paid $159 on a busy summer weekend. It features free wi fi with no password, breakfast served on weekends until noon, and more and is steps to everything you will want to go to. Book your room at www.alexanderinn.com . I liked Room 308, a quiet corner room.
What to do
First-time visitors and American history buffs will want to make a bee line to the Independence National Historical Park, home of the Liberty Bell. You can also tour Independence Hall.
Nearby is the National Museum of American Jewish History ( 101 S. Independence Mall East ) which has a new exhibit, "Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music." It's a very informative tale of the famous New York composer and activities who came out as gay in 1976. It is an absolute must and worth the $15 admission fee. You will find them at the corner of 5th and Market.
On your way back to the hotel, stop at the clothes stores on Market Street. Pennsylvania does not tax clothing so you can update your wardrobe,
Penn Landing, along the Delaware River, is another must. Weekend festivals and outdoor food options abound. Across the street is the Scottish and Irish Memorials.
Chinatown and Franklin Square are another must. Don't miss the Chinese Latern Festiival.
Also, be sure and visit the iconic City Hall which features Ben Franklin himself on the roof.
Rittenhouse Square is also worth a walk as is South Street. Check out the Magic Garden while you are at the latter.
When night time falls, head over to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts or Walnut Street Theater to catch a show. Mama Mia was at Walnut Street when I visited.
Where to eat
The Reading Market Terminal, just eight blocks north of the hotel, has every kind of food you could want. It's like Chicago's French Market on steroids. Try the Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich. I went for healthy and had a fresh carrot juice and a mediterranean platter.
Get your morning coffee and patisserie at J'Aime French Bakery, 212 S. 12th. The cafe americano is to die for.
Mercato at 12th and Spruce features dining on the sidewalk. The Parc Bistro at Locust and 18th has great French food.
The Tavern on Carmac ( 255 S. Carmac ) is your piano bar. They have free shows upstairs on weekends. Try the champagne for $6.50.
The nearby U Bar is also alot of fun. You will find them at 1220 Locust.
Boxers is the sports bar at 1330 Walnut.
The leather crowd can be found at the Bike Shop, 204 S. Quince.
Woody's is now a metrosexual bar with a $10 cover after 10 p.m. and is very popular with the younger set.
All the bars are just steps from one another and steps from the Alexander Inn.
If you want to make an east coast vacation out of it, Philly is between New York and Washington ( both on Amtrak ). You can also hop on NJ Transit rail over to Atlantic City and go to the beach. In a word, you won't need a rental car. But bring your bike helmet if you want to use the shared bike system.
For more information on Philly, check out the Philadelphia Gay News, www.epgn.com . You will find their PGN "Guide to the Gayborhood" complete with map as well. As they note, the Gayborhood is centered at Locust and Camac streets where there are rainbow street signs.
If you haven't been to Philly lately, the city has really changed. The mix of modern and historic buildings, unique culture and walkability was amazing. There is no place else like it.
Bill Malcolm is a syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist freelancer whose travel column has appeared in publications in Chicago, Washington, Detroit, and Indianapolis. He also writes the Round the Ripple column in The Broad Ripple Gazette and is a reporter for All Aboard Indianapolis. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org . The opinions expressed are his own. He receives no compensation of any kind from places mentioned in this article. He also takes all his own pictures.
Coming soon are pieces on Detroit, Ontario, Los Angeles and Montreal.
Bill Malcolm has also written about Saugatuck and Toronto in Windy City Times, WindyCityTimes.com .