Like many things in Boston, the LGBTQ scene — on the surface — might seem a bit buttoned-up, hardly world renowned. Yet Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage, and Boston prides itself on its tolerance. The city has longstanding gay bars and clubs, first-class drag cabaret, and some pro-LGBTQ bars and restaurants with gay-themed nights. Some of these venues cater to a very specific type, say leather or lesbian. If none of these lively options strike your fancy, check out our guides to the best dive bars, Irish pubs, and sports bars in Boston.
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Best Boston gay bars
For more than 30 years, this Back Bay nightclub and restaurant has welcomed all comers, and remains a major player on the local LGBTQ scene. The Napoleon Room features excellent cabaret, including the popular weekly Broadway sing-along on Wednesday nights. The Moonshine Room is the place to go for Drag Bingo and other fun diversions. The restaurant, with its distinctive conservatory overlooking Columbus Avenue, serves, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Club Café VIP membership cuts cover charges, cuts the line, gives a 20% dining discount, and includes invites to exclusive cocktail receptions and wine tastings.
Small in size; big on entertainment: Seven nights a week, drag and cabaret queens strut their stuff to a boisterous, mixed crowd. (There are two shows on Saturdays; table reservations are recommended.) Tucked alongside cute row houses at the back of Tremont and Stuart Streets, in the heart of Bay Village, Jacque’s has a decadent, insider-ish quality to it, and it’s an intimate small club, too. Because Jacque’s is in a residential neighborhood—a very tolerant one, clearly—there’s a midnight curfew. But don’t worry; you will have packed a lot of living into the night already.
Firstly, Dbar boasts amazing food and drinks from the team behind Boston Chops and Deuxave. It’s a former Irish Bar in Dorchester that was revamped as a tastefully hip restaurant with fun, friendly LBGTQ-themed entertainment including Showtune Tuesdays sing-along, Pop Rocks Karaoke every Friday featuring VJ Ryan Grow, and Magnum Saturdays, an LBGTQ dance party.
This veteran bar’s name is, of course, an invitation signaling a pro-gay scene originating with the biker, leather, and kink clubs. While bikers and leather lads congregate, there’s no strict dress code and, really, it’s Boston’s gay equivalent to Cheers: a solid, reliable bar that is as unpretentious as it is unbending in its pro-macho, clubhouse shabby chic. There’s a pool table, and bar food is served. All sorts of iconic memorabilia decorates the place, including a photo of movie character Ted, the hilariously foul-mouthed Boston teddy bear.
This casual gay sports bar is straight inclusive, creating a friendly atmosphere to hangout with friends and family. Enjoy cocktails and a bar-themed menu that includes everybody’s favorites: wings, fish tacos, and veggie spring rolls, that kind of thing. Brunch is served on Sundays. There’s pool and darts on offer and Saturday nights adds VJ Ryan Grow for entertainment. The spacious patio is a hit in warmer months. And, of course, you can catch all the big games throughout the week.
Machine is a Boston mainstay, a gay dance club with a street-level bar, fetchingly named The Ramrod. DJs spin six nights a week in the club; the bar area offers musical entertainment on weekend nights and diversions such as RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing during the week. Unlike many 21+ joints, Machine has 18+ dance nights which attract a younger crowd.
This veteran JP bar and nightspot hosts nightly live bands and dance nights, including its longstanding Queeraoke every Thursday (lovingly known as Dyke Nite). This no-nonsense, dive-y hole in the wall is inclusive—and all are welcome regardless of what night of the week it is—but there’s no mistaking who rules the dance floor on Dyke Nite.
The heart of Jamaica Plain’s entertainment scene has at least three LBGTQ events each week, including Dirty Water Saloon Line Dancing for Queer Folks and Allies, every Tuesday. On the first Thursday of the month, If You Can Feel it, You Can Speak it open mic night invites the LGBTQI community to get up and speak, or perform. On Fridays it’s all about the dance floor with La Boum Queer Dance Party hosted by DJ Stella. Of course, Bella Luna is known for its yummy Italian food and great drinks, too.
The Alley is situated right in Downtown Crossing, near what is unofficially Boston’s wild weekend drinking district. This longstanding bear-centric bar offers dance nights, karaoke, trivia nights, and pool in a casual sports bar-type atmosphere. Open from mid-afternoon until the wee hours, this hangout offers a good selection of craft beers, bar bites, and, when in season, weekly communal RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties.