Journey through the heart and soul of America’s LGBTQ+ history and explore ten historic gay bars across the USA. These iconic establishments have been sanctuaries of love, acceptance, and self-expression, providing vibrant spaces for the LGBTQ+ community to gather, celebrate, and create lifelong memories. From clubs in the 1930s to the underground havens that defied societal norms, each of these bars has left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of their respective cities.
1. The Stonewall Inn (New York, New York)
Located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, The Stonewall Inn commands a significant place in gay history. The bar turned into a hotbed of revolt on June 28, 1969, setting in motion the Gay Rights Movement when the Mafia-owned bar was raided by the police, sparking the famous Stonewall Riots when the patrons refused to leave. The news of this audacious resistance reverberated throughout New York City and beyond, marking a watershed moment in the struggle against LGBTQ+ oppression. Fast forward to the 1990s, Stonewall reopened as a bar before reclaiming its pivotal status within the community in 2007. Today, you can enjoy a wide range of entertainment at the space, from Drag Queen Bingo, RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties and piano bar nights with singing waitstaff.
2. The White Horse Bar (Oakland, California)
The White Horse Bar in Oakland, California, proudly holds the title of one of the oldest continuously operating gay bars in the United States. Since the 1930s, it has been a popular gathering spot for the LGBTQ+ community. In its early days, the bar operated discreetly due to the oppressive climate surrounding same-gender relationships. Over time, the bar’s policies shifted, thanks to activism from the Gay Liberation Front. Today, the White Horse Bar continues to be a beloved establishment, fostering connections and offering a sense of homecoming for LGBTQ+ individuals. Enjoy karaoke nights, dance parties with the hottest DJs and fabulous drag shows.
3. Club Feathers (River Edge, New Jersey)
Club Feathers, which opened its doors on June 21, 1978, holds the distinction of being the oldest gay nightclub in New Jersey. Its inception was driven by the need for a safe and inclusive space for the local LGBTQ+ community to gather and celebrate. In its early years, the club faced significant opposition from the local government with multiple attempts to shut it down, yet despite the challenges and unwelcome reception, the original owner bravely fought back. Over the years, the venue not only served as a vibrant nightlife destination but as a support center for LGBTQ+ youth who had been rejected by their families. Today, Club Feathers attracts a diverse crowd with its weekly events, from karaoke on Sundays to bingo on Tuesdays.
4. Nu Towne Saloon (Phoenix, Arizona)
Since its opening in 1971, Nu Towne Saloon has proudly stood as the oldest gay bar in Phoenix, Arizona, cementing its status as an important LGBTQ+ landmark. Rebuilt with care and attention to detail after a devastating fire in 2010, Nu Towne Saloon maintains its distinctive charm. The narrow, rectangular building features quirky elements like a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower on the rooftop, while the interior is adorned with antiques and memorabilia like superhero action figures. Nu Towne Saloon continues to be a place of inclusivity and camaraderie, attracting locals and visitors alike.
5. The Round-Up Saloon (Dallas, Texas)
Since 1980, The Round-Up Saloon has held a prominent place within the LGBTQ+ community in Dallas, Texas. Renowned for its country-western theme and lively atmosphere, it has become the city’s largest LGBTQ+ country and western dance club. At The Round-Up Saloon, patrons can partake in various exciting events, including karaoke, trivia nights, and captivating drag shows. The venue is particularly known for its two-stepping and western dance nights, offering a unique and exhilarating experience for all who attend. The Round-Up Saloon proudly embraces its reputation as “The Home of Good Times – Home of Good People.”
6. Henrietta Hudson (New York, New York)
Known as the longest-running lesbian bar in the country (32 years and counting), Henrietta Hudson is a no-frills queer restaurant and lounge in New York City. Welcoming to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, the bar recently reinvented itself into an expansive lounge area featuring outside seating, a charcuterie bar and an impressive cocktail menu. Enjoy a margarita pitcher with friends during happy hour, belt out your favorite tunes on queer karaoke nights, or dance to the beats of some of NYC’s most popular DJs on the weekends.
7. Woody’s (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Woody’s has been an iconic LGBTQ destination in Philadelphia since the 1980s, and it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many. Over the years, Woody’s has fostered a sense of community and camaraderie, bringing people together from all walks of life. The bar’s longevity and enduring popularity testify to its positive impact on the LGBTQ community and its continued relevance as a cultural landmark in Philadelphia. Dance the night away at the popular GloBar, experience the heart-pumping beats of guest DJs and enjoy bar bites like chicken wings and tater tots.
8. Albuquerque Social Club (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Fondly referred to as the “gay Cheers,” the Albuquerque Social Club has been a go-to hangout for the LGBTQ+ community since 1971, when it was known as The Heights. Originally opened as a not-for-profit club, the space has evolved throughout the years but continues to be a safe space and second home for many queer men and women. The club hosts a wealth of events weekly, from dance nights to karaoke, drag shows and game nights.
9. Hank’s Bar (Orlando, Florida)
Open in 1987, Hank’s Bar is one of the oldest gay bars in Orlando. Taking a less-is-more approach, the bar is a simple neighborhood hangout for the LGBTQ+ community. Stop by for beer or wine, relax on the outdoor patio area, or play a game of pool or darts. Don’t skip Hank’s Big Gay Happy Hour every day from 12-8 or free pool on Mondays.
10. Café Lafitte in Exile (New Orleans, Louisiana)
In the heart of New Orleans’ vibrant French Quarter, Café Lafitte in Exile proudly holds the title of one of the oldest continuously operating gay bars in the United States since 1933. Originally housed in Lafitte’s Blacksmith (once occupied by a famous pirate), the bar relocated to a nearby space on Bourbon Street in the 1950s. Throughout its history, Café Lafitte in Exile has been a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community and a sanctuary for self-expression. It was even a hangout for Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote – apparently, their ghosts still visit. Sing out your favorite songs on karaoke night. Unleash your inner dancing queen at Trash Disco every Sunday, or relax at the upscale upstairs bar with panoramic views of the French Quarter.