Pride in the Mountains: Your Guide to LGBTQ+ Friendly Asheville

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Asheville’s reputation as an LGBTQ+-friendly destination is well-deserved. Progressive and welcoming, the city encourages you to be yourself. Here are just a few of the neighborhoods, hotspots, and queer-owned businesses that make Asheville such a welcoming place for all.

Asheville’s LGBTQ+ Friendly Neighborhoods

West Asheville

In hip, eclectic West Asheville, indie boutiques and vintage stores sit side-by-side with inviting eateries and creative spaces. Explore the walkable “mini downtown” along Haywood Road, where diversity is the rule, not the exception. 

Visit The Golden Pineapple for clever cocktails and craveable chicken wings. Pick up farm-fresh meat and produce, local handmade art, or buttery baked goods at the Tuesday West Asheville Tailgate Market. And explore the world of tea one cup at a time at Japanese-style Dobra Tea West.

Downtown Asheville

Energetic Downtown Asheville is a cultural hotspot and a buzzing entertainment hub. With LGBTQ+ friendly bars, boutique shops, gorgeous architecture, and vibrant nightlife, you could spend your entire visit just in the city center.

Get a bird’s eye view of the city—plus some refreshing cocktails—with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours. Or shop for unique Neo-Appalachian artwork to bring home at Horse & Hero. Dial up the culture with an evening at intimate NC Stage Company, a 127-person professional theater highlighting local talent. 

Montford

For a laid-back stay with classic style, visit the Montford Area Historic District and marvel over Victorian, Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts, and Neoclassical homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Choose from a host of charming B&Bs, each with its own fascinating history. Watch the Montford Park Players perform the best of Shakespeare at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. Plus, you can explore the whole city from the hop-on, hop-off Gray Line Trolley. Climb aboard at the Asheville Visitor Center in Montford and learn local lore and history courtesy of your trolley driver.

LGBTQ+ Bars and Nightclubs

O.Henry’s

O. Henry’s is Asheville’s original and oldest gay bar, established in 1976. Up front, you’ll find a friendly neighborhood bar vibe with pool tables. In the back, things heat up at dance club The Underground with drag shows and karaoke, plus theme parties like Goth Night and Bear Night. O. Henry’s was recognized by Esquire as one of the Best Gay Bars in America

Scandals Nightclub

Get your party on at Scandals Nightclub, a popular late-night LGBTQ+ hangout. Dance in the warehouse-style space under strobing neon lights, or cheer for the performers at high-energy drag shows every Friday and Saturday night. 

Banks Ave Bar

Relaxed and inviting, Banks Ave Bar has something for everyone. Pool tables and skeeball. Karaoke and trivia. Drag shows, DJs, and line dancing. Head inside to enjoy the entertainment, or sit on the open patio out front for a relaxing Asheville evening. All are welcome here—including dogs. 

The Getaway River Bar

LGBTQ+ friendly and self-proclaimed “judgment-free zone,” The Getaway River Bar is a one-of-a-kind experience. Sip on island-themed drinks like Painkillers and boozy fruit slushies while you sing karaoke, test your trivia knowledge, and party with drag performers. Leave your inhibitions at home with adult events like the Lingerie Soiree, or sit riverside to watch the kayaks and paddleboards mosey down the French Broad River.

The Odd

How to describe The Odd? Part bar. Part performance venue. Part collection of curios and oddities. In any given week, you could attend: 

  • A punk rock record release party
  • A drag show
  • A burlesque performance
  • Fire dancing
  • Open mic comedy
  • A Smash Brothers tournament
  • Or a flea market

Then there’s the space itself, lined with animal skeletons and taxidermied bats, ouija boards and dismembered doll parts, and bones in place of tap handles. In a place this unusual, everyone belongs. 

Can’t-Miss LGBTQ-Owned Businesses

The Pot Stirred

Queer-owned mushroom cafe and adaptogen bar The Pot Stirred is a community gathering space where the drinks are good and good for you. Try a Hold Your Gold made with Lions Mane mushrooms to support brain health, Cordyceps for energy, and Ashwagandha for stress relief. Inside, you’ll find a beautiful, relaxing loft lined with bright greenery and local art for big creative energy. 

Asheville Bee Charmer 

Step inside the hive at Asheville Bee Charmer for a sweet experience. The educated bee-ristas at this shop will guide you through a small-batch honey tasting, helping you to identify the differences in each. Buy a jar of your favorite honey, and browse for honey soaps, scents, and lotions, beeswax candles, books about beekeeping and more. Choose from their Broadway or Battery Park locations. 

Neng Jr.’s

In less than two years, Filipinx restaurant Neng Jr.’s , owned and operated by trans chef Silver Iocovozzi, has made a big splash. With just 18 seats, each meal is an intimate experience with fresh takes on traditional Filipino fare like flaky pork lumpia and succulent duck adobo. Among its many accolades, Neng Jr.’s was a James Beard Finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2023, and Chef Silver was named Esquire’s Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2022!

Firestorm Books

Nothing goes together quite like coffee and a book. At Firestorm Books, grab a cup and browse the shelves of fiction and nonfiction by queer authors, plus books on environmentalism, organizing and activism, and memoirs from members of other underrepresented communities. You can also attend in-person events like queer books clubs, game nights, and author signings at this inclusive community space and co-op. 

LGBTQ Events in Asheville

Blue Ridge Pride Festival

Say it loud, say it proud at the annual Blue Ridge Pride Festival. This September event welcomes up to 12,000 visitors to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, starting with a buoyant parade that leads to the festival proper at Pack Square Park. Shop with local queer vendors and enjoy live entertainment—including the Annual Drag Pageant—at this all-ages party. 

Fun fact: CNN once named the Blue Ridge Pride Festival one of the top pride celebrations in the world! 

Asheville Mardi Gras

Don your brightest array, a colorful mask, and a sparkly headdress for Asheville Mardi Gras. While this event is not pride-specific, it is an exuberant celebration where big personalities fit right in. 

The party starts with the annual parade, boasting zany parade floats and marching music. Then, the Queen’s Ball begins with brassy Cajun bands and live DJ sets. Each year has its own unique theme, like “Where the Wild Things Are” (2014) and “Out of This World” (2023). 

Kids are welcome—this is an alcohol- and nudity-free event. 

Asheville Drag Brunch

Mimosas get a little more fabulous at Asheville Drag Brunch, a monthly show at a different location each month. Starring professional drag performers, this beloved event includes a seat at a table or bartop, a delicious brunch, glittering (and hilarious) drag entertainment, and a donation to that month’s charity. 

Past causes include fundraising for Blue Ridge Pride and the Western North Carolina AIDS Project, among many others. 

Family Friendly Pride Picnic

The Family Friendly Pride Picnic welcomes everyone for a day of summer fun in West Asheville Park. Bring the kids—they’ll love Drag StoryHour by The Beer City Sisters, hands-on crafts, and music and movement with The Family Music Class. The event includes a free lunch and is alcohol-free to appeal to all ages. 

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