Ottawa may not have a huge number of gay bars, but the ones you'll find here are fun, friendly, and in great neighborhoods - close to downtown (and the city's best hotels), and also within an easy stroll of many good restaurants.
The longtime favorite, in the heart of the Bank Street "Gay Village", is the lively Centretown Pub, which comprises a few different spaces. There's a piano bar downstairs, called Silhouette, and a somewhat cruisy men's hangout on the upper level, called the Cellblock - not exactly a true leather bar, but with a bit more edge than most gay bars in town. On the main level, you'll find a video bar with a mixed gay/lesbian crowd and a pool table, and there's lots of outdoor space for mingling, with terraces both off the back of the building and on the sidewalk out front. A few blocks east, the Flamingo is the city's newest gay bar, featuring everything from go-go boys to drag shows to dancing to DJs (as well as live cabaret and jazz some evenings). Since it opened in 2011, Flamingo has become a big hit in the community.
Packed with chic bars and buzzing nightclubs, the ByWard Market district also has one very popular gay hangout, the Lookout Bar, which occupies the upper level of a vintage redbrick building. There's a large balcony offering prime viewing of the neighborhood, hence the name "Lookout", and inside this cozy club there's dancing, drag shows, and karaoke, depending on the night. Fridays the Lookout hosts a popular lesbian party. The other GLBT option in ByWard Market is Mercury Lounge, which is a mainstream club most of the time. But on HUMP Wednesday, this three-story club with a decidedly youthful, stylish following caters to the queer set, with dancing, martinis, and other fun goings-on.
There are a few gay nightspots downtown, including a welcoming, friendly bar called Swizzles, which serves up karaoke, cabaret, and other entertainment. It's known to pull in a mix of lesbians, gay men, and heteros. Also downtown, The Edge is one of the only gay dance clubs in town - it tends to draw the younger clubbing set.
Ottawa has a pair of gay saunas, by far the most popular being Steamworks Ottawa, which is just off of Bank Street in the Gay Village. It's open 24/7, and on weekend evenings especially, it's quite crowded. There's also a somewhat smaller and more basic bathhouse, Club Ottawa, a short drive west of downtown in Westboro Village - expect a somewhat more mature crowd here. Also in Gay Village area, the fetish/alternative sex club Breathless has a variety of events geared toward different expressions of sexuality - from bondage and S&M to polyamorous couples.
In the Gay Village on Bank Street, One In Ten carries a huge selection of gay porn, toys, and erotica and also has a backroom X-rated movie theater.