Best gay bars in Philadelphia
During the week—especially in summer—Woody’s is one of the Gayborhood’s busiest happy hour hangouts, but on weekends it can barely contain the sea of tank-top-clad fellas (and bachelorette parties!) that flood in for a night of drinking, dancing and boys-will-be-boys-ing. This is Philadelphia’s oldest gay bar, but it keeps things fresh with recent expansion projects that include the swanky, neon-hued Glo Bar cocktail lounge just off the main bar area downstairs. On the upper level, local DJs and a shimmering disco ball preside over a spacious dance floor that stays thumping—and packed on weekends—till 2am.
Tavern on Camac, situated on a quiet cobblestoned side street in the Gayborhood, is most known for its sleek piano lounge, which draws seasoned songbirds—and the occasional theater major from nearby University of the Arts—for hours of boozy showtune sing-alongs. But you don’t have to have pipes like Judy to have fun here. The upstairs dance floor, compact as it may be, is a particular favorite on weekends for nightlifers looking for an alternative to the meat market that is Woody’s. Speaking of meat: The restaurant in the basement, the Tavern Restaurant, serves up hearty pub fare in a dimly lit, wine-cellar-like atmosphere.
Lined with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the busy corner of 13th and Locust, U Bar offers a no-frills, unpretentious atmosphere to sit, have a stiff drink and watch the Gayborhood go by. This may be the most Cheers-like gay watering hole Philly has to offer, with its center bar lined with stools and frequented by devoted, chatty regulars. Stand-alone tables (and a jukebox) dot the front and rear of the bar, providing an ideal perch for those stopping in for cheap, well-poured pre-drinks before hitting the town.
Situated on a quiet alley off Walnut Street, the Bike Stop is the Gayborhood’s horny, chaps-wearing older brother. Porn blaring on big screens welcomes guests into the gay leather bar’s punky main floor, as leather-clad dudes mingle in dark corners about the room. Upstairs, the crowd congregates around a pool table for games and more drinks from a bar selling beer and cheap cocktails. If you’re feeling brave, slip down into the basement “dungeon,” which looks every bit the way it sounds. On any given night in the steamy, cave-like dwelling you could see anything from whips to guys in chains to a couple (or three?) doing things out in the open that would make Erotica-era Madonna blush.
At long last, we have Toasted Walnut. Philadelphia’s lone lesbian bar was opened in 2017 by the manager of Sisters, Philadelphia’s 17-year-old lesbian bar that was shuttered in 2013. The multi-level, 3,800-square-foot venue boasts 17-foot ceilings, making plenty of room for a main bar that glows when the lights go down, a more-intimate lower-level watering hole replete with a luxe granite countertop, and an upstairs mezzanine that plays home to a handful of events throughout the week, like karaoke and DJ dance parties.
Fellas head into Boxers PHL throughout the week not only for its generous happy hour specials (happening daily from 6–8pm), but for the added perk of ordering from its strapping bartenders who wear nothing but a pair of red mesh shorts and a charm-your-pants-off grin. One of the newest additions to the Gayborhood, Boxers PHL is an offshoot of an established chain of gay sports bars in New York City. Like its parent locations, it features big-screen TVs throughout the venue for showings of major sporting events and a couple pool tables on the second floor for patrons who want to partake in a little competition of their own.
Located in a two story rowhome, Tabu is Philadelphia’s first gay sports bar. It wears that badge proudly in its downstairs bar decked with big-screen TVs playing whatever sports game is hot that night. The kitchen in the back keeps bellies full with a selection of lunch fare throughout the day, including customer favorites like tater tots and tacos. The scene is decidedly different as you enter the modernly decorated upstairs lounge. There you’ll find another bar, one that’s slightly more upscale than the sporty one downstairs, and a performance stage that plays home to performances—from drag shows and burlesque to singing and comedy competitions—most every night of the week.
The only after-hours club in the Gayborhood, Voyeur Nightclub just gets heated up when all the other bars in the neighborhood close. The 20,000-square-feet venue—a favorite for LGBTQ and straight crowds, alike—comprises three dance floors that, on weekends, all rage with local and national DJs spinning everything from EDM to hip-hop to Top 40. Recent renovations incorporated a slew of high-tech bells and whistles, like laser light shows, top-notch sound systems and an illuminated runway-style dance floor. You’ll find bars throughout the warehouse-like space serving pricey cocktails and Red Bulls to keep you going till the 3:30am-ish last call.
What Knock lacks in lively atmosphere it makes up for with an intrepid team of bartenders who put heart and soul into their classic cocktail creations. The Makers Manhattan is a particular winner, a lightly spicy, booze-forward concoction that finds balance with just the right amount of sweet vermouth. Abutting the bar area is a fine dining area serving a mix of pub grub and upscale New American fare. Weekend brunches are especially fun. Grab a table outside when it’s warm to enjoy some prime people-watching from behind your shades.
Stir is the Philadelphia gay bar that managed to get away. It’s the only establishment of its kind to exist outside the Gayborhood, taking up residence in a nondescript alley near Rittenhouse Square Park. It’s a popular happy-hour stop for LGBTQers working in the neighborhood. They sit at the small bar in the front of the venue with Stoli cocktails and other froofy, boozy concoctions swirling in hand. The scene gets a little sloshier every Thursday night for the long-running and rather legendary Stirsday party. That night, well drinks go on sale for $1, and a local DJ spins till close.
ICandy manages to offer a multi-complex feel in a relatively small space. The venue features five bar areas and a handful of dancefloors decorated with disco balls and sparkly chandeliers. When summer rolls around owners open up the eclectic rooftop bar, where they host cookouts and happy hours throughout the season. ICandy is most popular among the younger set and those who love RuPaul’s Drag Race. The bar’s entertainment lineup regulary features familiar faces from the reality show.