Want to fully experience Philly? You’ll need to hit the town after dark. On the surface, checking out Philadelphia’s nightlife may seem hard if you don’t drink, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find plenty of options. Want to experience Philadelphia nightlife but still stay sober? Here are the places you need to check out.
Keystone Mini Golf & Arcade
This indoor mini-golf course can be found in Philly’s hip Northern Liberties neighborhood. It’s an 18-hole course, with a few holes located outside. The layout of Keystone looks a bit haphazard, with an old pharmacy sign on the wall, scattered pieces of taxidermy, and a torn-up, American flag. The place looks a little thrown together, but it seems to be that way on purpose. There’s an old arcade game next to a painted totem pole, and hipsters spilling out the front doors on the weekends. While arcade games and mini-golf draw a family crowd during the day, this BYOB course is thriving during the weekends. Friday and Saturday nights, it’s open until 1 a.m. Hang out in Northern Liberties, play some mini-golf, meet some people, and avoid drinking if you don’t want to.
What is axe throwing? Think darts, but with a larger bull’s eye, and axes. Urban Axes in Philadelphia is part of a small chain in the US. Visitors are usually required to book ahead in groups of six. However, they do accept walk-ins during specific times every week. Each group will be paired with a staff member who will teach them how to properly throw an axe. Then, it’s up to friends to compete. Guests are allowed to bring their own wine or beer, but drinking certainly isn’t necessary. They’re open until 11 p.m. every night so that you can stay out late, have some fun, and avoid the bar scene.
North Bowl can be found in Northern Liberties, a neighborhood that comes alive at night. It’s a restaurant, bar, event space, and bowling alley. The bowling section of the space has a 1950s-style vibe with arcade games, a pool table, and a retro feel. They offer classic, American comfort food such as mac-n-cheese, burgers, and classic cocktails. Foodies will love the tacos, tater tot menu, and the Asian-inspired appetizers. North Bowl is thriving on the weekends, filling up with a younger crowd who are happy to wait for a lane.
When the weather’s nice in Philly, Bok Bar is the place to be. Long-time south Philadelphia residents might recognize it as the abandoned high school. For the last several years, the rooftop has been renovated and re-opened as one of Philly’s hottest bars. Visitors must walk through the school halls, past the auditorium, and classrooms to reach the elevator. There’s usually a long line waiting to get to the rooftop, where Bok Bar is located. The DJ set can be heard before the elevator doors even open, and visitors will immediately be treated to an incredible view of the city. Much of the repurposed furniture has been taken from classrooms. Groups of Philly’s youth crowd around cafeteria tables with beers. One of the best parts of Bok Bar is that you don’t even have to buy a drink. Order some food, grab a former classroom chair, and enjoy the view.
This urban beach is located on the waterfront of the Delaware River. It opens in Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing area every spring and summer. There’s a boardwalk lined with food truck versions of some of Philadelphia’s most renowned restaurants. There’s a barge lounge that allows visitors to sit on netting, safely over the water. Usually, there is music, colorful lights at night, and views of boats in the river. The park is also filled with hammocks so guests can lay under the trees during night and day. There is no fee to get into the park, either.
Formerly a pumping station in the early 1900s, Fringe Arts is now a theater with more than 200 seats. It’s located on the Delaware River waterfront, under the Ben Franklin Bridge. It’s known for hosting concerts, theater, performances, and art shows. Unlike some other city theaters, Fringe Arts focuses on alternative and artistic performances. They present world-class, progressive art, in a space where people can feel part of a community. There’s an on-site restaurant, outdoor seating area, and plenty of quirky performances going on throughout the year. Make sure to come see a show here if you want to take a deep dive into Philly’s underground art scene.
Located along the Delaware River waterfront, this outdoor club and beer garden is the place to be during summer. It can be found right below the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which is the perfect backdrop both at night and during the day. They often throw BBQs during the day, and bring DJs in during the evenings. They have a renowned chef serving up shrimp and crab rolls, Italian roast pork, and Whoopie Pies with passion fruit cream filling. In the evenings, the music is thumping, and the Ben Franklin Bridge is beautifully lit up in the background. While this place is certainly a bar, the views, music, and setting make it suitable for people who don’t drink.
Barcade is one of the original bar arcades, started by brother and friend group Paul Kermizian, Pete Langway, Kevin Beard and Scott Beard. They opened the first Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2004. The bar’s greatest attraction is obviously the games, so this location tends to attract a ‘gamer’ crowd. The bar and game area are separate, so people who don’t drink can steer clear of the bar crowd. For gamers and non-gamers alike, Barcade is a great place for switching up your night.
Located above Holt’s Cigar Company, the second-story Ashton Cigar Bar is the only bar in Philadelphia that is legally allowed to host cigar smoking. Intact with air purifiers, this bar won’t leave anyone irritated if they don’t like the smoke. The knowledgeable staff here will help you with a selection of over 200 cigars to perfectly match your style. While they do focus on top-notch whiskies, patrons don’t have to drink to enjoy the atmosphere. Smoking a cigar while lounging in a high-class place with friends is a great way to spend a sober evening.
This classic bar/restaurant is located in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Johnny Brenda’s was a staple before Fishtown became the ‘it’ spot in the city for nightlife. While it certainly caters to a bar crowd, they offer concerts upstairs on the weekends. The downstairs also has a dining area that’s open late. Visitors can order tuna tar-tar, scallops, and chicken sandwiches. This place has all of the nightlife atmosphere without the need to buy a drink.