Updated Dec. 2
At Philadelphia’s most elite social clubs, even Gritty would be turned away at the door. (Maybe especially Gritty, given the dress code.)
You probably know what clubs we’re talking about. The ones with state-of-the-art fitness facilities, stunning ballrooms and sleek pools. Some have been around for centuries, like the Union League. Then there’s the Fitler Club, which hasn’t even opened yet but already boasts a wait-list for new members. It not only costs a pretty penny to enjoy all of these posh amenities, but the application process can be arduous — and sometimes kept hush-hush, restricting entry to the socially wired.
But Philly also has plenty of less exclusive clubs, too.
Some are good for cheap beers, others for sumptuous cuisine, and they can all stay open later than public alcohol-serving establishments. At certain venues, membership comes as cheap as $40 a year. Of course, it still takes knowing someone to get your foot in the door (or, in the case of Palizzi Social Club, some critically acclaimed pasta in your mouth).
Here’s a rundown of where you can get in on the members-only mystique in Philadelphia.
1616 Latimer St.
This clubhouse for “forward-thinking” women opened in 1930 and is recognized as having some of the most quintessential modern and art deco interiors in Philadelphia.
2400 Market St
This private lifestyle club, which includes boutique hotel amenities, a 25,000-square-foot fitness area with an indoor pool, a bowling alley and a signature restaurant by chef Kevin Sbraga, is set to open sometime in 2019.
205 S Camac St.
Founded in 1902, Franklin Inn Club originally limited membership to published authors and illustrators (the requirement was literally “publish or perish”). Today, anyone interested in Philly’s literary, artistic or social affairs (education, politics, history, science, economics, medicine and law) is welcome to apply.
2929 Walnut St.
If you’re a resident of AKA University City or a hotel guest at the complex, consider yourself lucky: you’re a de facto member of a full-floor lifestyle club. The perks at Level 28 include a heated infinity pool, a private yoga studio with complimentary classes, a state-of-the-art fitness center featuring Technogym and Peloton equipment, a private cinema with curated film screenings, a cozy outdoor fire pit on a 5,000-square-foot landscaped terrace, and a full-room 3-D golf simulator programmed with 36 of the world’s best courses. The public is allowed to apply for a membership, but it’ll cost $200 to $300 a month.
Fun fact: Kevin Hart and Tessa Thompson have gone to Level 28. Celebrity guest sightings might be worth the price of being a member if that’s your thing.
1408 S 12th St.
This East Passyunk mainstay is known for its uber-exclusive membership, cash-only and dress code policies (for example, gents need to remove their hats). Getting in gives you access to delectable Italian dishes and the Negroni Fountain at the bar.
1522 Latimer St.
One of the oldest surviving press clubs in the city is smack-dab in the heart of Center City. P&P has been serving reporters, editors and other members of the press until 3 a.m. daily with nearly no interruption since 1892 (and that includes during Prohibition and WWII).
2019 Rhawn St.
The Philadelphia Portuguese Club has been the place for a Cidade do Amor Fraternal’s Portuguese community to gather, celebrate and dine for over 80 years. It is unclear whether or not you must have Portuguese heritage and be a lusófono to join.
416 Green St.
Ruba in Northern Liberties isn’t what you’d expect an exclusive social club to be like. At this ruby-hued cabaret, concert hall and cocktail-serving speakeasy, arts and entertainment provided by the community are championed.
1519 Locust St.
Established in 1889, The Acorn Club is the first woman’s club of its kind in the country. Members can partake in breakfast, afternoon tea, light bites and Thursday happy hours. There’s a fitness room, too. Don’t come wearing jeans with holes in them, and know that men are only permitted during special events.
215 S 16th St.
Come for the racquet sports — squash, doubles squash, court tennis, racquetball. Stay for the guest rooms, dining facilities, massage therapy and indoor pool. Unlike most members-only social clubs, Racquet Club opens its doors for Philadelphia’s children, offering immersive eight-week squash and academic tutoring camps for kids experiencing economic hardship.
140 S Broad St.
The Union League, as far as facilities and prestige are concerned, is the crème de la crème of private, members-only, exclusive social clubs. Its building takes up an entire city block on Broad Street and has over 3,500 members. The building also holds a 25,000-volume library, 84 guest rooms, two business centers and three philanthropic foundations.
8030 Germantown Ave.
This club features one of the largest and most affordable ballroom rental facilities in Philadelphia. It also has pool, shuffleboard, bowling and a full-service bar. Venetian even opens its doors to the public for special occasions like the annual Witches & Wizards Festival.
1031 Germantown Ave.
We’ve already written about this hot Northern Liberties spot to cool off in the late spring and summer months, but in case you forgot: Vesper sneakily offers one of the cheapest seasonal swim-club memberships ($25 to $35) around town. The catch? They have to like what they see on your social media.
1704 Locust St
The Vidocq Society is, hands-down, one of the most unique members-only clubs in the entire city. Why? They solve cold-case murders and use their knowledge to bring justice. Sadly, the Vidocq Society is also one of the hardest clubs in this city to get into — and with good reason. You need to be a forensic professional (a current or former FBI profiler, homicide investigator, scientist, psychologist, prosecutor, coroner or law enforcement agent) to join.