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Philadelphia City Guide

By: Mary Mihaly

Philadelphia Nightlife & Entertainment

©2006 Gregory Katz Philadelphia's nightlife -- particularly its club scene -- goes into the wee hours.

Philadelphia is definitely not a city where the sidewalks roll up after dinner. All bars may stay open until 2 am, and private clubs -- many of which are known as "bottle service clubs," which sell memberships for the privilege of patrons bringing and opening $200 bottles of booze - stay open much later.

Where the action is sometimes depends on your age. Those in their 20s and 30s have revitalized Old City, where the hottest new restaurants and clubs are located. On the younger side, clubs in the Northern Liberties neighborhood are emerging as places to hit on the weekend. The more sophisticated, over-40s crowd gather at the see-and-be-seen spots around Rittenhouse Square -- especially Rouge, where being beautiful is almost required -- and the sexy Alma de Cuba.

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Philly's gay and lesbian scene is concentrated mostly in the "Gayborhood," that area of bookstores, clubs, bars, and restaurants between Walnut and Locust Streets, from 9th to 13th. For a quiet evening, Judy's Cafe is popular (627 S 3rd St), but most have louder music and dancing. You'll find plenty of suggestions in Philadelphia Gay News, Philly's gay paper.

The hot trend in Philadelphia restaurants is the BYOB (Bring-Your-Own-Bottle) eatery.  It's a new custom, developed of necessity:  The city's acclaimed chefs are known for mentoring their proteges, who naturally wanted to open their own restaurants, but only a limited number of liquor licenses are available in each neighborhood. And when a license is available, it can cost $300,000 or more, far beyond the budget of a young entrepreneur.  Gradually, the young chefs tested the waters with BYOB restaurants, which now are some of the city's hottest places to eat!

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Philadelphia

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Philadelphia

You can expect to pay a cover charge to get into most Philly nightclubs, but they'll rarely be more than $10. The anchor-nightclub of the sizzling Old City neighborhood is Brasil's (112 Chestnut St). It was a hot place before Old City became trendy, and it still is. The dance floor is mirrored, and you'll see the city's best salsa moves happen there on weekends.

Another very cool spot is Fluid (613 S 4th St), whose blue wood floors even look cool. This is no place to spend a quiet evening; the pace is fast and everybody keeps moving.

They do different dancing at Polly Esther's Culture Club (1201 Race St), where one dance floor is for 1770s disco, the other for 1980s retro.

For those who just enjoy a good sports bar during the Eagles and Phillies games, you'll love the Cherry Street Tavern (129 N 22nd St), a super-friendly place where you'll get a bit of history with your brew; the polished bar with beveled glass is original with the tavern, open now for more than a century.

But the most popular stepping-out in Philly these days is on the First Friday of each month, when about 40 galleries in Old City open their doors and serve wine and munchies to thousands of singles who want to mingle, people-watch, and browse the art. First Friday lasts from 5 to 9 pm; most Old City galleries are located along Front and Third Streets between Market and Vine.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Keep reading to learn about the best spots to relax and unwind while visiting Philadelphia.