North Carolina's capital city has three gay bars, all of them within an easy walk of one another, in downtown's bustling Warehouse District, which is also home to many hip restaurants and lounges drawing a mixed gay-straight clientele. The gay clubs have all been going strong for sometime - they include 313 Raleigh (formerly known as Capital Corral and still sometimes nicknamed "CC's"), which is noted for its high-quality drag shows and packed dance floor; Legends, an expansive nightclub compound with a dance floor, video bar, game room, patio, and typically the biggest crowds in the city, if not the entire Research Triangle; and Flex, the cruise-y hangout among the bunch, with a particular strong following among bears and leather dudes. The cruising continues around the corner at Our Place, an adult bookstore and video store with a pronounced gay men's following.
Just west of Raleigh, in the town of Cary, the gay nightclub Icon is another good bet for dancing and drag shows - it's also among the most popular clubs in the South with African-American lesbians and gay guys.
Raleigh Gay Pride 2014 - Out Raleigh Festival 2014
Downtown Raleigh has two gay pride events. The newest of them, Out Raleigh Gay Pride Festival, takes place May 3, 2014 at downtown's snazzy City Plaza - there's live music, DJs, food, a KidsZone, and a number of events taking place at local gay bars all weekend. In late September, part of North Carolina Gay Pride includes a Raleigh Night Festival Party the Saturday of Pride weekend (the day festival and Gay Pride Parade take place in Durham). The date this year is September 27, 2014.
Amid the gay bars of the Warehouse District, you'll find some of the city's top eateries, including The Borough, a dapper but casual bar and grill with a substantial LGBT following - it's a fun spot for burgers, nachos, salads, and regional beers. Another fun spot for creative but affordable dining is Humble Pie, a quirky, Southern-inspired tapas restaurant with a fab tiki bar and delicious food, from shrimp and grits to grilled andouille sausage with cheddar-jalapeno bread pudding. Here in one of nation's best states for barbecue, you should make every effort to dine at The Pit, which has earned international acclaim for its addictive pumpkin-skillet cornbread, pimento cheeseburgers, and sublime Carolina-style spare ribs and chopped bbq turkey. Another neighborhood standout is the Berkeley Cafe, known for live music and a huge menu of creatively topped burgers.
Also very gay-friendly is the Busy Bee Cafe, a downtown hot spot for brunch, delicious sandwiches (the pork burger with Sriracha & Bok Choy is terrific), and an astounding selection of craft beers. Nearby Spize Cafe is a sleek spot serving outstanding Pan-Asian cuisine. Sitti is another downtown eatery receiving national acclaim, in this case for exceptional Lebanese and Middle Eastern fare, served in an airy, elegant, and contemporary space.
Trendy Solas is an upscale restaurant and nightclub on three levels (including a swish rooftop space), drawing a see-and-be-seen bunch of locals - the contemporary world-beat cooking here is quite good, and it's a fun place to people-watch. Nearby Lily's Pizza produces arguably the best pizza in the region, using organic, high-quality ingredients. The quirky Irregardless Cafe has been a favorite hangout of artists, activists, and regular folks for years - brunch a big to-do here, and there's live jazz at dinner. The mostly American menu, with an emphasis on veggie options, features plenty of local produce and ingredients.
For the opportunity to watch everybody from gruff politicos to pierced hipsters, drop by Big Ed's City Market, which serves hearty, stick-to-your-ribs down-home Southern fare like. A longtime tradition for burgers, fries, and malts, Char-Grill is a classic drive-in that's grown into a regional chair, but the original is near NC State campus (it's open late, too).