Iconic LGBTQ+ Spots To Visit In Washington, DC

Iconic LGBTQ+ Spots To Visit In Washington, DC

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DCWashington, DC has played an important role in LGBT activism in the US.

Washington, DC is among the most gay-friendly cities in the US, and worldwide! With around 5% of its population identifying as LGBTQ+, the capital of the US has a vibrant and thriving LGBTQ+ scene with a rich history. From the country’s first gay bookstore, to the world’s only gay corner in a cemetery, to one of the most important marches in the history of LGBTQ+ activism – there are numerous places across the city that have played a significant role in LGBTQ+ history. Read on to find out some of the city’s most iconic LGBTQ+ hotspots and their stories!

Dupont Circle

The Dupont Circle FountainThe Dupont Circle Fountain honors Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont.

In the heart of the city, with a traffic circle and a fountain at its center, lies Dupont Circle. It is a popular residential neighborhood with quirky bars, international restaurants, cool shops and busy nightlife. It has also been a historical hub of LGBTQ+ life in Washington, DC since the 1970s, when the neighborhood took on a bohemian lifestyle. It became increasingly popular with the gay and lesbian community. Dupont Circle to Washington, DC is like Greenwich Village to New York City, or West Hollywood to Los Angeles. It gained nationwide notoriety when DC’s first gay bookstore, Lambda Rising, opened in 1974 (more about that later). Today many LGBTQ+ events take place in this neighborhood such as the 17th Street High Heel Race and the Capital Pride Parade. A stretch of 17th Street NW is named in honor of Frank Kameny, an American gay rights activist and astronomer who was dismissed from his position because of his homosexuality.

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LGBTQ+ Bars in Washington, DC 

Most of Washington, DC’s LGBTQ+ nightlife takes place around Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, as well as the Adams Morgan neighborhood. We’ve handpicked some of the city’s most iconic bars, but make sure to check our Washington, DC gay bars page for a comprehensive list. 

Pitchers DC is one of Washington, DC’s most well-known gay bars. This bar is sports-themed (you guessed it, baseball!) and has plenty of space for games indoors as well as a large patio. This is a true LGBTQ+ hotspot as it attracts a lively and diverse crowd with regular events and themed nights. Pitchers DC is open from Wednesdays to Sundays.

Pitchers DC Gay BarPitchers DC is a sports-themed gay bar in Washington, DC.

Another established and popular sports-themed gay bar in DC is Nellie’s Sports Bar, located near Logan Circle. This place shows sports events on screens on the walls, and hosts weekly drag bingo, karaoke and poker nights. On weekends, Nellie’s is packed with drag lovers for their legendary drag brunch. You might be lucky and able to enjoy the show sipping on your Mimosa, or you might be asked to participate! Either way, this place should be on your gay DC bucket list.

Nellie's Sports BarEnjoy boozy brunches and drag performances on weekends at Nellie’s Sports Bar. 

If you are a man and you like going to bars shirtless or in underwear and earning a free drink by doing so, you should check out Green Lantern. This gay spot has a big bar area downstairs, while upstairs has a dance floor and more of a nightclub feel to it. Green Lantern may be tricky to find, but it is definitely worth it once you stumble upon the alleyway it is located in near Logan Circle. They have daily happy hour specials and events – Shirtless Men Drink Free being one of them. 

Last on our list of iconic LGBTQ+ bars in DC is Trade, located near Logan Circle. It’s known for its fantastic cocktails that turn GIGANTIC during happy hour. This is the place to go if you like RuPaul’s Drag Race as Trade hosts regular viewing parties, with queens from the show making an appearance sometimes!

Historic LGBTQ+ spots in Washington, DC 

Lambda RisingLambda Rising was a notorious gay bookstore in Washington, DC.

As mentioned earlier, DC’s first gay bookstore opened in Dupont Circle in 1974. Lambda Rising was founded by Deacon Maccubbin, who reportedly contributed to the migration of LGBTQ+ members into the Northwest neighborhood. The discreet shop started out with only 250 gay titles and became known for its wide selection of books, ranging from queer theory and religion to erotica, as well as DVDs, music CDs and gifts. Lambda Rising soon gained notoriety across the US, especially when it ran the world’s first gay-oriented TV commercial in 1975. In the same year, it organized the forerunner of what we now know as Capital Pride – yes THE Capital Pride. A few celebrities held book signings at the store, including Andy Warhol in 1985. The store moved locations a few times throughout its existence until it sadly closed down in 2010.

The White HouseThe White House attracts thousands of visitors every day.

A visit to Washington, DC wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The White House, one of the most iconic and famous landmarks in Washington, DC and the US. It’s not only where the President lives and works, it is also an important historic LGBTQ+ site. There were several marches and protests in front of the White House in the 80s and 90s that were incredibly important in the LGBTQ+ movement at the time. Around 200,000 people joined the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (The Great March) on October 11 1987, one of DC’s most famous marches in history. It was also the first national coverage of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and was led by celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg. A few years later, on April 25 1993, the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation started at the White House and had an estimated attendance of one million. Speakers and performers at the rally following the march included Madonna, RuPaul, Ian McKellen and many more.

National March on Washington in 1987Around 200,000 people gathered in front of the White House in 1987.

On the other side of the Potomac River you will find the Pentagon. It is the headquarters of the United States Defense Department, as well as the location of the very first gay rights demonstration on July 31, 1965. Participants included the co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, one of the earliest gay rights organizations in the US. 

Claiming to be the world’s only graveyard with an LGBTQ+ section, the Congressional Cemetery has a ‘gay corner’ for LGBTQ+ rights activists. The cemetery is located near Capitol Hill and is the resting place for many Congress members who died in service, as well as other government officials. If you wander around the cemetery and reach its ‘gay corner’ you will find tombstones of many important gay rights activists such as Frank Kameny and Leonard Matlovich, a gay Vietnam veteran who was dismissed from the military for his sexual orientation. On his gravestone you’ll find the poignant words: “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

A Gay Vietnam Veteran tombstoneLeonard Matlovich’s tombstone is located in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

The section has become an inspiring gathering place for the living, with Matlovich’s grave being a shrine-like centerpiece. Many gay couples have married in front of the memorial, yoga sessions take place in the chapel, and even movie nights take place occasionally. But no matter how you choose to honor the dead, this site remains an important LGBTQ+ site in America’s capital. 

What better place is there to learn about history than at a museum? Luckily, Washington, DC has over 100 of them! There is an interesting LGBTQ+ section in the Holocaust Memorial Museum about the persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime. Another great place to find out more about LGBTQ+ history is the National Museum of American History. They have fascinating records and collections of objects for a specific reason that later turned out to have LGBTQ+ connections. 

Find out more about Washington, DC at Washington.org/LGBTQ.

Read more about Washington, DC on TravelGay! The Essential LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Washington, DC and The best TikToks of Washington DC: Things to do in Washington.

Published: 01-Aug-2022 by Sarah Langenmayr   |   Last Updated: 27-Jul-2022
On: Gay Washington DC

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