The Best Spots for LGBTQ+ Nightlife in Washington DC
Gay sports bars, karaoke parties, happy hour specials, and so much more.
Along with landmarks like the White House, National Mall, and Washington Monument, our nation’s capital has a rich history of queer community and activism. It is, after all, the place where the battle for gay marriage rights was fought hard for and won, amongst numerous other landmark rulings. Today, the District is home to a diverse, and statistically very high, LGBTQ+ community—many of whom are consistently on the hunt for the best spaces and parties to celebrate their pride year-round.
So, from recent openings to tried-and-true favorites like Larry’s Lounge and Uproar, here are the best bars and parties for a night of queer debauchery—from shirtless specials to ’90s dance parties and everything in between. These are the spaces guaranteed not only to make everyone feel safe, but also to have a damn good time.
U Street Corridor
DC’s newest bonafide gay club is attempting to fill a massive hole created by the closures of several dancing spots on the U Street Corridor and in Dupont. Located in the old Tropicalia location, at Bunker, you can enter the club by walking down a set of stairs and inside an impossibly enormous custom stonework steel door. Once in the space, find colorful murals, dancing galore, glittering chandeliers, and a kinky “fallout shelter” pantry in the back.
U Street Corridor
Feel like having a more chill evening, or plan on meeting up with a date? Skip the circuit party (obviously), and head over to Licht—a newer queer café and cocktail bar located right above Big Planet Comics. They close at 11 pm each night, so you could also head somewhere more lively after to keep the good times going.
As its name suggests, this new watering hole offers a low key queer respite in snug environs, thanks to its location in the former Commodore space. Don’t expect dancing or over the top debauchery here, but rather a community meeting spot perfect for catch ups with friends or a no-stress date night. Expect stiff and inventive cocktails like the Unicorn Tears, late night tater tots, and supposedly amazing selfie lighting in the bathroom.
Since 2021, the queer DJ collective, Flower Factory has been helping to breathe new life into the District’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene.The collective’s self-proclaimed goal is to “create a welcoming, inclusive function with great music and the best in queer and allied talent,” which they do every second Sunday of the month at various locations around the city, with sizable crowds often reaching above a thousand attendees. There’s never a cover charge to enter, just good vibes.
U Street Corridor
Peach Pit, a ‘90s dance party at DC9, is a well-loved monthly event “celebrating the decade of Crystal Pepsi, Hypercolor tees, and Doc Martens.” Expect a packed house and be ready to dance all night. DC9 itself is not considered a gay bar and hosts musical acts (mainly indie bands) nearly every night, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out on any ole weekend night—you’ll almost always be in good company as it continually maintains a healthy mix of LGBTQ+ patrons.
Dupont Italian Kitchen, also lovingly referred to as DIK Bar, is the premier spot for gay karaoke. It’s the kind of place you can come on a Saturday night to drunkenly belt out some Whitney Houston and return on Sunday afternoon for bottomless mimosas.
Located right next to gay sports bar, Pitchers, “ALOHO” is a chill spot to toss back a few beers and play a game of billiards or foosball. It’s also one of DC’s first female-inclusive queer spaces to open since the closure of Phase I in 2016, once the longest operating lesbian bar in the nation.
Every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, make your way over to DC’s only fully LGBTQ+ owned brewery for a raucous night of drag bingo. At Red Bear Brewing, each event is hosted by drag queen Desiree Dik, who both calls out numbers during bingo rounds and performs twice throughout the night. Four prizes are also doled out to winners, and if you’re feeling especially thirsty that night make sure to get there before 5 pm to catch the end of happy hour prices.
Sometimes you just have to dance it out, and Avalon Saturdays, hosted by live music venue Soundcheck, is the perfect place to do just that. Usually hosted monthly, these circuit parties are packed to the brim with a fun, friendly crowd all there to move their bodies, thanks to live DJs serving up pop hits and remixes. Sure, the cover is a bit steep at $25 a pop, but the $4 Absolut drinks from 10 pm until midnight make up for it.
U Street/14th Street
Skirting the line between a dive and a dance party, Trade is a narrow, no-nonsense bar with stiff drinks and a backyard patio. If you plan on visiting on a weekend night, expect it to be packed, but make sure to arrive before 8 pm for their “XL” happy hour, in which you’ll get your vodka soda (or other mixed beverage) served in a pint glass for the same price. The bar also features an array of drag performances.
There’s always a good time to be had at Uproar, with plenty of space to roam thanks to three levels and a large rooftop. Almost every day of the week is a special occasion here, with regular events such as Rooftop Beer Busts on Sundays, Thursday Karaoke, and live DJs performing on the weekends. As the name suggests, there will never be a bear drought as Uproar, nor a beer drought.
Larry’s isn’t the kind of place you go to when you want to get down and funky—it’s a cute neighborhood joint for lively conversation with good friends. A DC institution, Larry’s has maintained its position as a reliable cornerstone in what was once considered DC’s gayborhood. There’s still plenty to love on 17th Street though, also home to the beloved, annual High Heel Drag Queen Race.
Those who have never visited the Green Lantern may have passed by it a million times without even realizing it. Located in an alley off Thomas Circle, this decades-old dive is a welcome respite from the rest of the city with fun happy hour specials and events all week long. Stonewall Kickballers will know it as a place to unwind after games on Sundays, but it’s perhaps best known for its Thursday specials in which shirtless men drink free from 10 to 11 pm and men in underwear get free drinks for a half-hour after the clock strikes midnight.
Perfect for the after-work happy hour crowd is Number Nine, a slightly more upscale gay bar than your norm that features two levels. Make sure to hang onto your receipts for their popular BOGO deal, which happens every weekday—order any drink before 7 pm and your second drink is free until 8 pm. Nothing is off limits from the 2-for-1 deal either, from beers to top shelf mixed drinks.