The Best LGBTQ+ Bars and Parties in Austin

Here, queer, and ready to rage.

Oilcan Harry's
Photo courtesy of Oilcan Harry's

Austin is arguably the most welcoming city in all of Texas, especially when it comes to all different kinds of people. No matter where you’re from, what color you are, who you love, or what sign your moon is in, you’re sure to experience Southern hospitality in its most genuine form here in the Lone Star capital.

Austin’s official Pride Parade may have been placed on the back-burner for two years running, but rest assured our rainbow flag flies high all year-round. Queer-owned and -oriented businesses are thriving regardless, (responsibly) packed with LGBTQ+ revelers and their allies. From dance clubs to drag shows to neighborly watering holes, here are all the best spots to mingle with the chosen fam over a stiff beverage. Bottoms up.

Cheer Up Charlies
Cheer Up Charlies | Photo by Bryan Parker

Red River
It’s hard not to feel jolly at Cheer Up Charlie’s, a colorful queer bar decorated with rainbow neon and happy face emojis. There’s also a vegan food truck at the back, and organic juice blend cocktails at the bar, so you can party hard without the guilt. Look out for live music, DJ sets, and drag performances on the large outdoor stage and dance floor, plus killer happy hour drink deals from 4 to 6 pm.

Downtown
Coconut Club has cemented itself as Colorado Street’s loud and proud dance floor, with an open-air lounge spewing island dance beats and luminous disco lights. It’s owned and operated by former Cheer Up Charlie's employees, Cole Evans and Brian Almaraz, who bring the carefree festivity of the tropics to downtown Austin. Piña coladas and Gatorade-based cocktails never felt more at home.

Olican Harry's
Photo courtesy of Olican Harry's

Downtown
Austin’s oldest gay bar is by no means over the hill. Oilcan Harry’s throws a party every night of the week, whether it’s karaoke, drag king or queen shows, friendly competitions, bingo, or something totally off the wall. A huge hit with students and a fun-loving mixed crowd, this is a great place to make new friends in town.

The Iron Bear
The Iron Bear

Downtown
Behind blacked-out windows sits this Bear-owned and -operated venue, but it’s not at all as intimidating as it sounds, welcoming all body types and genders into its relaxing atmosphere. The food is actually really good, too, so it’s worth popping in for dinner before the main event, which could range from underwear nights to drag performances.

Barbarella
Photo courtesy of Barbarella

Red River
Labeled as a “dance club for people who don’t like dance clubs,” two-step haters can’t help but be swayed the minute they walk through the door. The video bar and multi-floor nightclub is always heaving. They host themed parties including a hugely popular Tuesgayz night set to a mix of indie, electro, and dance tunes, alongside poptastic 80s and 90s nights.

Downtown
A new queen on the scene, Neon Grotto is nicely positioned next door to Coconut Club, so you may as well make it a double feature. As you’d expect, this one is neon galore, and you’ll be snapping fluorescent-lit selfies on their sexy pink couches until the bumping house beats get you jigging on the irresistible rooftop dance floor.

Rain on 4th
Rain on 4th

Downtown
Holding court as one of the most popular gay clubs in town and drawing in a mixed local and visiting crowd, Rain is your one-stop-shop for a heavy dose of Gaga and Guetta. It’s also one of the best places to catch local drag queens such as Vylette Ward and Nadine Hughes, plus go-go boys from 11 pm to close every Thursday through Saturday, and Thursday night amateur strip contests, to boot.

Highland Lounge
Photo courtesy of Highland Lounge

Downtown
Marketed as an upscale lounge, Highland may be decked out in sleek furnishings and have VIP bottle service, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let your hair down. You’re invited to a twerk-off on Thursdays, colored by a splash of BDSM, and on the weekends, drag queens and headline DJs pump up the crowds. Sundays are a cool-down, thanks to drag brunch, karaoke, and games dominating the laid-back bill.

Halcyon
Photo courtesy of Halcyon

Downtown
This polished coffee shop and cocktail lounge isn’t not exactly a gay bar in the strictest sense of the term, but it’s beloved by the queer community all the same. It’s also within walking distance to all the biggies (Rain, Coconut, Oilcan Harry’s, Highland), making it prime pregame territory. Meanwhile, on weekdays, it doubles as an intimate date spot, where local LGBTQ+ Tinder swipers get to know each other over a delicious beverage.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.