So you’re an LGBTQ+ collegiette, and you’re sick of sitting around watching Netflix. You want to party, or maybe just to hang out, but you don’t know where to do it— we get it. Straight bars and hangouts are fun, but sometimes we just want to visit places more catered to our interests. What’s out there? From bars to beaches to poetry slams, we’ve got you covered with the best cities for LGBTQ+ collegiettes!
1. Washington, D.C.
Voted the gayest city in America by The Advocate in 2014, D.C. has all sorts of alternative nightlife to help us escape frat-party life, including the always popular Busboys and Poets. Check out this combo restaurant-and-reading hangout for some of the best vegan food in the city.
Phase 1, the major lesbian bar in D.C., may have gone out of style, but D.C. has loads to offer LGBTQ+ collegiettes. One place in particular is Town, a nightclub. More often than not, a night out at Town involves the removal of a substantial amount of clothes—not to mention twerking competitions.
2. San Francisco, California
Search for gay bars in San Francisco on Yelp, and you’ll get literally hundreds of cool hangouts definitely worth checking out. Not only that, but San Fran is known by some as “the gay capital of the U.S.” If you’re a native, you’re lucky. The culture is all about inclusivity, and trans* people are a major part of this inclusion.
The must-visit neighborhood of San Francisco is definitely The Castro District, the gay melting pot of the city. One of the first gay neighborhoods in the country, The Castro District is home to The GLBT History Museum. With the low general admission fee of $5 ($3 for California students!), you can learn some history and bond with friends by taking a tour.
With restaurants, relaxed nights along the water and more romantic options, San Francisco remains the U.S.’s little pocket of LGBTQ+ paradise.
3. Portland, Oregon
Hounded on for being the home of the hipsters, Portland is a location recommended time and time again by LGBTQ+ folks.
Portland shows its inclusion on its sleeve, having an entire section dedicated to offerings of LGBTQ+ events on its main travel site. The Escape offers nightlife for LGBTQ+ people of all ages, and Holocene hosts cool indie music.
Want to venture to the beach? Hit up Sauvie Island’s Collins Beach, a nude beach safe for the LGBTQ+ community.
Looking for a safe hangout and resources? Visit the Q Center, a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks. They have information about sports, health care resources, resources for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities and more.
4. Seattle, Washington
With all of the good press Seattle gets for being inclusive, you probably don’t need a reminder that Seattle is a beautiful place to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The Wildrose offers loads of low-stress going-out options, like beer and trivia (does it get better?).
If you’re into slam poetry, check out The Seattle Poetry Slam at Re-bar. Cross your fingers and hope that you or a friend get picked as a judge, and get to watching! Nothing better than a solid group of LGBTQ+ pals and some incredible poetry.
Finally, grab some queer female friends and hit up Babeland, the home of women-focused sex toys. Go giggle about the strangest gadgets you can find, and keep up with Babeland on Twitter to get a coupon for a new best friend!
5. New York, New York
If you’re looking for a million options of things to do and you have the time and money, hit up New York City for the most incredible LGBTQ+ nightlife you’ve ever encountered. One of the most visible hubs of diversity in the country, NYC has serious cultural opportunities you shouldn’t miss out on. Do the touristy things, and then grab your friends and barhop.
To get some history and take part in a great happy hour, visit The Stonewall Inn, the home of the start of the modern Gay Rights Movement.
Depending on when you’re in NYC, there will probably be any number of festivals and celebrations happening. If you’re there for the summer, check out the Gay Pride parades in boroughs throughout the city. If you’re into films, be sure to check out NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ+ film festival!
6. San Diego, California
If you’re into LGBTQ+ theatre, lesbian bars and restaurants and great beer, San Diego is worth checking out. San Diego is home to The Gossip Grill, a place where lesbians dominate.
There are also tons of adorable dessert shops in the city, which is a fun opportunity to destroy all calorie counts. Gather your friends and see who can handle the dessert at D Bar, especially the “Molten Cake Thingy That Everyone Has…” (seriously, that’s what it’s called—but don’t you want to try it?).
While you’re around, stop by the NTC at Liberty Station. This entire area is dedicated to the creative community of San Diego and is open every day of the week with running programs and classes.
7. West Hollywood, California
This list would not be complete without West Hollywood, the gay hub of Los Angeles, if not the entire state of California. No doubt one of your most memorable experiences will be driving through West Hollywood and passing over rainbow crosswalks.
In terms of nightlife, think of West Hollywood as a place where all normalcy is reversed. Searching for an LGBTQ+-friendly hangout is almost laughable, because the entire city itself is LGBTQ+-friendly. Grab some friends, drop your guard and walk along the rainbow road.
One great resource in West Hollywood is the Los Angeles LGBT Center. This center has everything from support for youth to STI testing. The simple fact that this center – made up of multiple buildings! – exists shows that West Hollywood truly focuses on the queer community in Los Angeles, so be sure to check it out if you’re in the area.
Though we list seven cities, don’t lose hope if you aren’t living in one of these places. LGBTQ+-friendly hangouts can be found almost anywhere if you know where to look. Turn to your friends or to the Internet to figure out a space where you can belong and truly be yourself, and if you’ve already got your go-to hangout, share it with us in the comments!