As a Native New Yorker who moved to Philadelphia in ’06, I can give you some good insight into the city.
Philly, as it is more commonly called, is a great, small scaled city that manages to be urbane with a small town feel. I see you’re from the UK, but didn’t mention what city. Many people feel Philly manages to be New York City Lite; all the amenities without the crowds. The city population is a lot more Blue Collar/Working Class than say New York or San Francisco, but where you are staying, which is the expensive part of the downtown and right next to the Business District, it won’t necessarily be that apparent. Philadelphians do have a small ‘chip on their shoulder’ for being the in the shadows of Washington DC to the South and New York City to the North. The downtown City Center is referred to as ‘Center City’, but the city itself is much larger. The main businesses that keep Philly afloat are Hospitals and Education.
Yes, the history is unmistakable, so you MUST visit places like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We have many, many museums, but the two must sees are The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The New Barnes Museum. If you are interested in American history, I would strongly suggest the Constitution Museum. Understanding the U.S. Constitution will give you a REAL insight into what it is to be an American.
With regard to shopping, your hotel is right where the main shopping district is, Walnut St. It has all the boutique stores for your shopping needs. There is a Macy’s department store also in Center City, but on the east side of the city. If you are looking for an American style shopping center, the closest one to Center City is located across the River in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. There is another larger shopping center that’s Northwest of Philly located in the suburb s called King of Prussia Mall.
The Gayborhood , which is on the east side of town, is a great place to have a drink and go to the clubs, which I see you’re not a big fan of. But Philly doesn’t really have big dance clubs. There are many bars and pubs that have recently renovated, and those would include Woody’s, Tabu,Tavern on Camac, I Candy, The Westbury, Knock, U Bar, Bike Stop, and Venture Inn. There are also some GREAT restaurants in the area, and obviously they are gay friendly. Some of the better ones are El Vez, Mixto, Mercato, Valanni, Barbuzzo, and many others. If you have certain types of food you like, I can make recommendations. There are also many good places on the West side of town, where your hotel is. Whatever you do regarding food, though, DO NOT go to the South Philly part of town and have a Cheesesteak at Pats or Genos; Philly cusine has moved past the Cheesesteak many, many moons ago. If you must have a cheesesteak, go to the Reading Terminal Market in Center City and have one at Dinics, which also has EXCELLENT Roast Pork sandwiches. RTM is a must see as one of the countries great indoor markets. It’s a place not only for tourists but actually is used by locals.
Your profile lists that you enjoy playing poker. You are only a 1 hour bus ride from Atlantic City, sorta like Brighton in the UK but with 12 large casino hotels. Definitely worth visiting if you enjoy gambling, but if you don’t have the time and still want to gamble, there’s actually a full service casino right in Center City called SUGARHOUSE CASINO. It’s a small, basic casino but it has everything you need for your gambling fix only a taxi ride away.
Please email me if you have any other questions!
EDIT: here is a link to what's happening in the Gay Community:http://phillygaycalendar.com/index.php
EDIT: Forgot to mention that there is a gay bar on the Westside of the city where you are called Stir Lounge.