A beacon of democracy and equality globally, the United States is home to some of the coolest and most important LGBT establishments in the world. From the best cities to celebrate gay pride to the most fabulous gay pride shirts, the country clearly doesn’t shy away from supporting the gay community. It’s no surprise, then, that the best gay clubs in America happen to be some of the best worldwide. From drag bars to fetish bars, leather bars, dives and cabaret lounges, head to these venues when searching for guaranteed fun while dancing and drinking the night away listening to the best new songs out right now.
Best gay clubs in America
Few bars in San Francisco are quite as friendly or charming as Blackbird. Saddle up to the bar, where a top-notch bartender will serve you delicious craft cocktails and wines so good you’ll think you’re in Napa. The hanging Edison lightbulbs warmly light the crowded room that also caters to a fair amount of women, queer and straight patrons. This place is known to get incredibly packed every night, so get here early.
Among a crowded nightlife scene, Score has continued to stand above its competition for the past 15-plus years, attracting celebrities like Lady Gaga to dance with the sweaty masses on its always lively dance floor. DJs from near and far bring the music that keeps the sexy patrons grooving (often shirtless) and sipping on pricey drinks all night long. Parties are often hosted by drag queens, like Nina Flowers of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, and local legends. While there’s often a cover, it is always completely worth it.
Near the historic Stonewall Inn and the Christopher Street scene is this lesbian West Village mainstay where all are welcome. Kitschy decor like Chinese lanterns, tissue-paper fishes and plush animals hang from the ceiling, while a mix of semi-regulars and folks just passing by sit on barstools upholstered with colorful images. A top-notch jukebox plays a steady stream of jams while customers make new friends over regular drink specials like $2 margaritas on Tuesdays.
Recognized the world over as one of the best gay bars anywhere, the Abbey keeps its good reputation in check despite the packed rooms. The massive nightlife destination includes a restaurant serving up scrumptious delights, dance floors and an outdoor cocktail lounge for cooling off and conversing under the stars. Keep your eyes open while dancing or dining—celebrities like Lance Bass, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey have all been known to stop by.
801 Bourbon Bar in Key West, FL
Key West is home to many gay establishments but, for over three decades, locals and tourists alike have made 801 Bourbon their preferred destination. When downstairs, take a seat at the bar for top-notch people watching, generous pours and karaoke. You can also opt to head upstairs to the cabaret to enjoy the biggest and best drag shows on the island.
Despite some chic new cocktail bars and restaurants popping up around the neighborhood, Nellie’s keeps its all-are-welcome inclusive down-home vibe. A young stream of patrons fills the two stories and roof deck to throwback reasonably priced bottles of beer, cocktails and burgers. Local sports games take a backseat for the uproarious trivia night and drag brunch. Power through Saturday’s hangover at the popular Sunday afternoon dance party.
In Chicago’s Boystown nabe one bar looms larger (literally) than all the rest: Sidetrack. Parties, theme nights and a good-looking group of dudes fill the six rooms and lush roof deck. Slurp down the signature spiked slushies while getting down to divas like Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Tina Turner or sing along to musicals on Monday nights when the TV screens and floors are taken over by movies like Rent and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Wave in Provincetown, MA
Every summer, when gay guys and gals descend on Cape Cod’s P-town for a beach vacation, they head to the Crown and Anchor’s Wave Bar to truly kick back. With great views of the harbor and access to the waterfront pool deck, you can sip back your cocktails and enjoy Provincetown’s allure. Or opt to drop by in the afternoon when the various video screens stream New England teams' games. At night, those TVs turn into ’80s music videos central while everyone shows off their best dance moves.
Inspired by the West Village and Castro bars of the ’70s, Pony transformed a vintage 1930s gas station into one of Emerald City’s most beloved dive bars. Year-round, folks gather on the outdoor patio to soak in those rare sunny days or enjoy the smell of rain underneath the retractable roof while warming up by the gas fire pit. During the frequent parties and theme nights, a good-looking crew gets friendly on the dance floor as DJs spin indie, punk rock, disco and new wave.