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Washington DC Gay Bars Guide - Best Washington DC Gay Nightlife


With a great mix of diverse bars situated in several different neighborhoods, Washington, DC, has a vibrant and lively gay nightlife scene. Several bars in the nation's capital have been going strong for more than 30 years. Here in Washington you can find pulsing dance clubs, seemingly secret neighborhood bars tucked down alleys, racially and socially diverse clubs, some fun lesbian hangouts - there's pretty much something for every taste and style. Much of the action is centered near or around Dupont Circle and nearby Logan Circle and the U Street Corridor, but you'll find several fun gay bars in other parts of the city, notable Capitol Hill. Keep in mind that DC is less than an hour's drive from Baltimore, which has more than a dozen gay bars of its own - it makes a fun bar-hopping excursion if you're seeking a change of pace.

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1. Annie's Paramount Steak House

photo by Andrew Collins
Along the heavily trod stretch of 17th Street between P and R streets in the city's lively Dupont Circle neighborhood, this retro-fab establishment has been a gay fave for cocktails, old-school steak dinners, mimosa brunches, and steak-and-eggs breakfasts for decades. Annie's (1609 17th St. NW, 202-232-0395) open late (till around 5 am on weekends), and it's a great source of people-watching and hobnobbing. If you're coming for the food, which is fine (though nothing spectacular), note that the menu goes well beyond steak-house fare, with eggs dishes at breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, and seafood.

2. Bachelor's Mill

photo by Andrew Collins
One of the country's most prominent and beloved gay bars catering heavily to African-Americans, "The Mill" (1104 8th St. SE, 202-546-5979) welcomes all to its attractive confines inside an elegant townhouse on the eastern edge of Capitol Hill, adjacent to the Navy Yard neighborhood. The dance club is known for great hip-hop and house (there are two different dance areas), very fun karaoke nights and pool tournaments, and several nice outdoor spaces, from roof decks to an expansive garden-level patio. With several large TVs airing football and basketball games, it's also a fun venue on Monday nights. The crowd is mostly male, but quite a few women party here, too.

3. Banana Cafe & Piano Bar

photo by Andrew Collins
A mainstay of Washington's diverse Capitol Hill neighborhood, Banana Cafe and Piano Bar (500 8th St. SE, 202-543-5906) has long been popular with the city's Latino gays and lesbians, as well as fans of piano cabaret and Latin American cuisine. The kitchen serves quite-tasty Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican fare (try the cod fritters with guava sauce, and note that there's a terrific Sunday brunch), while the piano bar welcomes a mixed gay/straight bunch for live music every night of the week. It's especially popular here at happy hour. It's in the same neighborhood as such popular gay and gay-friendly hangouts as Remington's, Phase 1, and Mr. Henry's.

4. Cobalt and 30 Degrees

photo by Andrew Collins
A favorite of young professionals, twinks, college students, and other see-and-be-seen types (a pretty good mix of men and women) in the District, Cobalt and 30 Degrees (1639 R St. NW, 202-232-4416) - along with the ground-level restaurant Level One is a full-on gay entertainment complex, and a fixture along Dupont Circle's busy 17th Street strip. 30 Degrees is the trendy downstairs lounge, while Cobalt is the dance club - the latter is most popular on weekend nights, but there's pretty much something going on somewhere in this three-part venue any night of the week, from Martini Mondays to Wednesday karaoke to the skewing-young Boy's Life parties on Friday. On Saturdays, there's a rotating party that changes depending on the week - Rumba's Latin party, Just Circuit with house music, Bare women's party, and Raw.

5. DC Eagle

photo by Andrew Collins
Washington, DC's long-time hub of the city's gay leather scene, the DC Eagle (639 New York Ave. NW, 202-347-6025) is one of the nation's most prominent such bars. The bar is open nightly (till 2 am generally, and until 3 on weekends), and it's, of course, popular with guys who wear and admire leather, but as well as other fans of uniforms, rubber, and similar attire. It's in a location that's rather far from other gay bars in town, near Mt. Vernon Square and just north of Chinatown (midway between Logan Circle and Capitol Hill). It's not hard to find, though, and it's very close to the city's huge Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

6. Delta Elite

This after-hours club in northeast DC, near Catholic University and a 10- to 15-minute cab ride from Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle, is open late, and just two nights. On Fridays from midnight until 4 am, it's a lesbian dance party, and on Saturdays, Delta Elite (3734 10th St. NE, 202-529-0626) hosts a guys' party from midnight until 5 am. Crowds really start piling in here between 1 and 2 am, and DJs spin mostly hip-hop and deep house music to the racially diverse, mostly 20s and 30s crowd.

7. DIK Bar

photo by Andrew Collins
Even among the many long-running gay-popular bars and restaurants on 17th Street near Dupont Circle, Dupont Italian Kitchen (1637 17th St. NW, 202-328-0100) is pretty damn old-school - it's been around for ages. On the ground floor is the restaurant, serving very traditional, if predictable, Italian classics (mussels in wine sauce, minestrone, eggplant parmigana, etc.). Upstairs is the so-called DIK Bar, a play on the restaurant's name and its tres-gay clientele. The relaxed, friendly space - known formerly as Windows - can feel a bit like a gay cocktail party and tends to draw a lot of regulars, some for pre-dinner drinks, others as part of a bar crawl that includes nearby JR's and Cobalt.

8. The Fireplace

photo by Andrew Collins
The homey Fireplace (2161 P St. NW, 202-293-1293) is a veritable Dupont Circle institution, having occupies this corner space on P Street for decades, and serving up extremely fun happy hours (all night long on Mondays and Tuesdays) and all afternoon on weekends. The two-floor bar is a catch-all of locals and more than a few tourists of all ages, but tending toward the 35-and-over set. The crowd is diverse in race and style, and with quite a few women, although it's still predominantly a male scene. Just a good all-around classic gay neighborhood bar.

9. Freddie's Beach Bar (Arlington, VA)

photo by Andrew Collins
A 15-minute drive southwest of downtown DC in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Freddie's Beach Bar (555 S. 23rd St., Crystal City, VA, 703-685-0555) makes a fun venue for drinks and dinner if you're staying in the Virginia 'burbs, or you just want a friendly and festive (as in spectacularly garish and campy) change of pace from the usual Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill venues. The glittery-glam bar serves international, often tropical-inspired food, and is a favorite for karaoke, drag shows, and the campy Sunday brunch. You can walk to the bar from the Crystal City metro stop - the bar is just west of Reagan National Airport.

10. Green Lantern

photo by Andrew Collins
It takes a little effort to find this cult-favorite gay neighborhood bar set down an alley off of Thomas Circle, behind the chic Donovan House Hotel, but the Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct. NW, 202-347-4533) is worth seeking out for its welcoming, low-keyed vibe, generally cute crowd of regular guys, and warm and friendly staff. It's also closer to many downtown hotels as well as the convention center than Dupont Circle bars, yet it's still relatively close (a 10- to 15-minute) walk from Logan and Dupont circles. There are two levels, with the ground floor more suited to chatting and happy hour; upstairs is the dance bar. Thursdays, when shirtless guys drink free from 10 until 11 pm, are wildly popular, but there's a pretty good crowd here most nights. The scene is mostly men in their 30s and 40s, with a fair number of bears, cubs, and otters.

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