What do music legends Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have in common?
They’ve all written incredible songs about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — there is little wonder why. This is a city teeming with history and with America’s very ideal of freedom for all.
Philadelphia was the site of many battles as the US sought to break away from the British Empire and it’s where you’ll find the Liberty Bell, which was rung in July 1776 to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence, before becoming a symbol of the fight against slavery.
It is not so different to the battle for LGBTQ rights, and Philadelphia (from the Greek words for brotherly love) has long been a hub of queer events. The first Philly Pride was held in 1972 and although there were no parades for 10 years from 1977, the event is now held every June.
Meanwhile, OutFest, in October, spreads across 12 square blocks, with a street party that attracts more than 35,000 visitors a year, who arrive to celebrate National Coming Out Day.
Not content with that, this year, Philly hosts Paula Vogel’s lesbian love story Indecent, until 23 June, and in November a certain Elton John arrives for two concerts as part of his farewell tour. The Gaybourhood is a sizeable chunk of real estate, marked by 36 rainbow street signs and at night the bars are lit up like beacons.
That said, rainbow flags flutter around Philadelphia all year long, but there are things to do away from the gaybourhoods, too. Fairmount Park, originally owned by Robert Morris — one of the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence — is actually made up of a number of parks, making it a huge stretch of green in the city, with fishing paddling available along the Schuylkill River, as well as bike trails, shaded woodlands and historic mansions.
It’s also a great spot for outdoor concerts. From spring to autumn, watch out for the roaming Parks on Tap beer garden or pick up some picnicking supplies from the Reading Terminal Market.
Elsewhere, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is home to most of the city’s culture, including the Museum of Art, and Academy of Natural Sciences. This is also where you’ll find an outdoor sculpture garden featuring works by Henry Moore and Rodin, as well as The Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, by Nathan Rapoport, at the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza.
Pennsylvania’s biggest city — less than eight hours from the UK — is well worth a visit. It’s even near enough to New York City and Washington, DC to make it part of a dual-destination holiday.
As Elton says: “Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you... ‘cos I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom.”