Welcome to Washington, DC – the capital of the United States of America. The seat of power plays host to a lot of American history alongside museums and monuments, but it’s not all about official-looking people rushing through the city. If you’re in town for a few days there’s plenty of culture, nightlife and LGBTQ+ friendly venues to check out.
Washington, DC has a thriving LGBTQ+ scene with many bars, restaurants and shops to explore.
If you venture just a few blocks north from the White House, you find yourself in a different Washington, DC. Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan are the artsy, eclectic and gay neighborhoods of the capital – home to buzzing bars, cozy cafes, exciting restaurants and unique shops.
This is where DC truly comes to life and where the LGBTQ+ scene is thriving. Our essential LGBTQ+ guide to Washington, DC takes you through the top things to do with friends, family and partners, as well as LGBTQ+ owned restaurants, bars, and shops!
Things To Do and See in Washington, DC
First things first – when in DC you have to see the White House. The historic home and office of the President is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens which are accessible to the public – so is the actual house if you book a White House tour in advance!
Just a short walk from the White House you can find the National Mall, the famous grassy strip that displays iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Why not grab your friends and rent some bicycles to explore the memorials along the Mall? Don’t forget to take a photo with Abe.
The National Mall stretches over 2 miles and is home to iconic monuments and museums.
It takes just over an hour to walk along the National Mall. If you are interested in history and museums you are in luck – some of Washington, DC’s best museums and galleries are along the Mall too! The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has incredible exhibits on extinct animals, rare gems and other fascinating bits of history about our planet – admission is free. This is a fantastic museum for families with kids. For art lovers, the National Gallery of Art is less than a five minute walk away and has an extensive collection of American and European art as well as a sculpture garden. Other museums along the National Mall include the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, as well as many others – you could spend weeks exploring this culturally-rich city!
There are over 70 different museums in Washington, DC.
For some LGBTQ-specific history, we recommend visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum. There you can learn about homosexuality and the persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime, which saw up to 15,000 interned in concentration camps.
Something we thoroughly recommend is a visit to the National Archives Museum – home to both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Every time we’ve visited Washington, DC we are always surprised how quiet this museum is towards the end of the day and how quickly you can see these iconic pieces of history.
The National Archives Museum is home to the Declaration of Independence.
Washington, DC has far more to it than history and politics. It also has a wealth of vibrant areas packed with culinary delights. The Adams Morgan neighborhood is centered around 18th Street, and offers an abundance of eclectic bars, cool music venues and international restaurants. Explore the area with its quirky murals on brightly painted brick houses, and browse through independent book shops and vintage clothing stores that make for a romantic afternoon activity. DC suddenly doesn’t feel so corporate after all!
Adams Morgan is centered around 18th Street in Washington, DC.
If you are travelling with a group, it can be hard to make everyone happy. That’s why we love the Union Market – a gourmet food hall with over 40 local vendors that will send you on a culinary trip around the world. It is much more than a food market though, there is also shopping, arts, entertainment and community events to keep you entertained.
Eating and Shopping in Washington, DC
Start your day off right with a freshly made pastry from gay-owned Three Fifty Bakery and Coffee at 17th and U Street.
Gay-owned bakery Three Fifty.
For those who need something more substantial, maybe even a bit later in the day, stop at Nellie’s Sports Bar famous for their Drag Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Be warned, you may be asked to participate!
For dinner, head to Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in the Dupont Circle neighborhood – named after the owner’s sister, who paved the way in embracing the LGBTQ+ community.
Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Dupont Circle.
If you have a sweet tooth or want to surprise your loved ones with a sweet surprise, you should check out LGBTQ-owned Capital Candy Jar. And for all you retro-vintage lovers out there, Miss Pixie’s on 14th Street has vintage and art deco furnishings, accessories and art you can look through for hours.
Find out more about Washington, DC LGBTQ-owned businesses here!
Most of Washington, DC’s (LGBTQ+) nightlife takes place around Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, as well as the Adams Morgan neighborhood. There is a bar for everyone, from casual sports bar to chic hangout.
Dupont Circle and Logan Circle are home to many gay bars in Washington, DC.
JR’s Bar and Grill has been serving amazing cocktails since 1986! Located near the Dupont Circle metro station, this casual video bar has daily happy hour specials and hosts fun events such as singalongs and movie screenings.
Pitchers DC & A League Of Her Own in the Adams Morgan area are must-visit LGBTQ+ bars in DC. Pitchers is a sports-themed gay bar, with the adjacent – and iconic – A League Of Her Own for lesbian and queer women. The spacious interior has screens for sports fans and two patios. They are serving pub grub and a great selection of drinks. Don’t miss their themed events – the dance floor gets super busy on the weekends with live DJs and drag shows.
Pitchers DC and A League Of Her Own are two of the city’s most popular LGBTQ+ venues.
Not into sports? The Dirty Goose on U Street is a chic gay hangout with a rooftop and a signature martini menu. Weekends turn wild with live DJs. P.S. This bar is obsessed with Britney Spears (aren’t we all?!).
For something more casual and laid-back, head to Red Bear Brewing. This gay-owned microbrewery serves craft beer alongside local ciders and hosts regular trivia nights and drag events.
Red Bear Brewing is a gay-owned microbrewery.
If you want to continue your night head to Number Nine near Logan Circle. This gay nightclub and video bar has regular themed parties, very inventive cocktails and is open until late every night!
The Crew Club is Washington, DC’s only gay sauna and men’s club in DC – it is also the longest running one! Located in Logan Circle, it is open 24/7, and boasts a maze, steam room, Finnish sauna, private cabins, and gym. What more do you need?
Check out our gay map of Washington, DC nightlife!
Our community is most visible in Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. This is also where you will find most LGBTQ-friendly and welcoming hotels!
There are many fantastic hotel choices for LGBTQ+ travelers in Washington, DC.
The 4-star Dupont Circle Hotel is situated in the heart of Washington, DC’s bustling gay district and has stylish rooms with a chic mid-century bar on-site. The iconic lesbian bar A League Of Her Own is only a 15-minute walk away from here.
If you like exploring the city on foot, then the St Gregory Hotel is in a fantastic location in DC. Located in Dupont Circle, it only takes 20 minutes to walk to the White House, and a further 10 minutes to the Washington Monument. This 4-star hotel offers modern rooms and a contemporary bar and grill on-site.
The 4-star Madera Hotel has stylish and spacious rooms in the midst of Washington, DC’s gay nightlife, just a few minutes from the city’s best gay bars and clubs. This urban escape is serving New American cuisine and comfort food staples at the on-site restaurant Firefly.
Gay Pride and Events in Washington, DC
Washington, DC doesn’t just have an amazing range of LGBTQ+ venues, but it also hosts some great events for the community throughout the year.
Capital Pride includes a parade, festival and concert, with thousands of visitors every year.
Capital Pride is one of the biggest events in the year, taking place during LGBTQ+ history month June. With a huge parade, festival and street parties with famous DJs and drag stars, this Pride is one of the most popular ones in the US!
DC has long been a popular destination for the black LGBTQ+ community, and was one of the first places to host a dedicated black gay pride in the US. For over 30 years now, DC Black Pride has taken place in May and attracts over 40,000 visitors each year.
Other noteworthy LGBTQ+ events in Washington, DC include Capital Trans Pride in May, DC Leather Pride Weekend in May, and the 17th Street High Heel Drag Race in October. The latter attracts up to 100,000 spectators each year as over 100 drag queens race down 17th street in elaborate outfits. Be warned… you will see drag queens fall over and you will see fierce competition!
For more information about what Washington, DC has to offer, visit Washington.org/LGBTQ.
Read more about Washington, DC on TravelGay! The best TikToks of Washington DC: Things to do in Washington and Iconic LGBTQ+ Spots To Visit In Washington, DC.
Published: 29-Jun-2022 by Sarah Langenmayr | Last Updated: 27-Jul-2022
On: Gay Washington DC