All Articles A queer traveler’s guide to Washington, D.C.

A queer traveler’s guide to Washington, D.C.

From the best place to stay to bars where you’re sure to make a few friends.

Kwin Mosby
By Kwin Mosby26 Apr 2024 5 minutes read
People holding rainbow flags during Pride Parade, in Washington, D.C.
Pride Parade, in Washington, D.C.

I’ve spent almost 20 years in Washington, D.C., watching firsthand how it has evolved into a food destination with an increasingly diverse population, all while maintaining its reputation as a welcoming spot for LGBTQ+ travelers. Yes, it’s known worldwide as the seat of the U.S. government, but I recommend first-time visitors venture beyond the famous sights—the National Mall and The Library of Congress, to name a few—to experience why D.C. was chosen to host World Pride 2025.

To make your trip-planning process less daunting, this LGBTQ+ guide provides queer travelers everything from the best hotels in gay-friendly neighborhoods to my favorite bars, all of which provide safe havens for every color of the rainbow flag.

Stay out late

DC lit up at night for Pride

Since the pandemic, D.C.’s LGBTQ+ nightlife has flourished—and there’s room here for everyone. You’ll find the majority of the city’s LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and more in three main areas:

U Street Corridor

Late-night revelers will find a strip of bars spread across seven blocks on U Street from 14th Street to 7th (Georgia Avenue), including Thurst Lounge, D.C.’s only Black-owned LGBTQ+ lounge, just off 14th; the underground dance club Bunker; Dirty Goose’s small-but-mighty rooftop; and Kiki, which hosts the bi-weekly Kiki’s Playhouse drag show with Brooke N. Hymen and Evry Pleasure. Uproar, one of my favorite bars and a popular hangout for gay bears, is at the end of the U Street strip and worth a visit for its bustling Sunday Rooftop Beer Busts.

Logan Circle

If you’re looking for a photo op, Logan Circle’s eclectic Little Gay Pub has a bathroom mirror that seems to always have a selfie queue. (It’s also a celeb hotspot—former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, actor Billy Porter, and designer Christian Siriano have all been spotted here.) And nearing a decade on nearby 14th Street, Trade’s XL Happy Hour—from open to 8 p.m.—is legendary, and the gay bar is a welcoming safe space for nonbinary and transgender patrons.

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle, specifically 17th Street, is home to some of the oldest gay-owned and gay-friendly establishments in D.C.—including 2019 James Beard winner Annie’s Paramount Steak House, a 75-year-old staple in the community (don’t miss ordering the Bull in the Pan). Afterward, head to JR’s Bar, a post-game watering hole for gay sports league teams and a popular spot on Mondays and Saturdays for show tunes nights. For a classic dive bar vibe, check out The Fireplace (on P Street), where the bartenders’ generous pours more than make up for the divey decor.

Tip: Queer women shouldn’t miss drinks and dancing at A League of Her Own in the Adams Morgan neighborhood—it’s connected to Pitchers, a youthful, bi-level sports bar with an outdoor terrace and an area designated for gaymers.

Don’t miss The Wharf, D.C.’s buzziest new nabe

Outdoor concert at The Wharf DC

Whether you’re in town for Pride or just a weekend getaway, don’t leave D.C. without checking out the culmination of a 16-year, $3.6 billion project to revamp the city’s southwest waterfront. With the city’s best views of the Potomac River, The Wharf has become a new hotspot for D.C.’s hip and sophisticated crowd. There are high-end restaurants like the Spanish-inspired Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi, Cru Classé’s private dining experiences on a 47-foot yacht, southern cuisine at Kinfolk Southern Kitchen, and Southeast Asian dishes at Kaliwa—among others. (The latter, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, makes for a perfect date night spot.)

Purchase tickets ahead of your trip and catch a concert at one of The Wharf’s three venues: Pearl Street Warehouse, Union Stage, and The Anthem, where Lil Nas X, Kim Petras, and Janelle Monáe have performed. The relatively small venue sizes mean there’s usually more elbow room for dancing.

Tip: The Wharf is home to dozens of shops, including a full-service spa, but don’t leave without a stop at Shop Made in DC, which sells art, jewelry, clothing, and even furniture created by local artisans. It’s a great way to support the local community.

Bed down in one of the District’s "gayborhoods"

People dining outside of Kramers in DC
Kramers
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

If you’re looking for hotels in the "gayborhoods"—and within walking distance to the gay bars—you should consider staying near Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, or Shaw. All located in Northwest D.C., these neighborhoods are conveniently within walking distance of one another, too.

In Dupont Circle, the stylish Dupont Circle Hotel is centrally located—four major thoroughfares intersect here, meaning it’s a busy spot for foot traffic (and great people-watching). It’s also close to Kramers, one of a few brick-and-mortar bookstores in the city, and Bite the Fruit, an adult novelty store.

Between there and Logan Circle—a popular spot to catch locals hanging with friends, walking their dogs, or watching gay bocce ball—there are a ton of great hotels, from the boutique Darcy Hotel and the more corporate Marriott Marquis Washington DC to Hotel Zena, known for its rooftop pool and bar. In the nearby Shaw neighborhood, Cambria Hotel is a more budget-friendly option, just three blocks east of Logan Circle.

Tip: If you’re here for the Capital Pride Parade, stay at The Viceroy Washington DC—the route passes in front of the hotel. (You’ll need to reserve your room a couple of months in advance.) It’s a short walk to gay bars like Trade and Number Nine and dozens of restaurants, including the French bistro Le Diplomate and the queer-friendly Ammathar Thai Cusine.

Getting around

Man biking past the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Memorial
Image: Getty Images North America

One of the things I love about D.C. is how easy it is to get around. The Metro, my preferred mode of transport, is a clean and convenient way to easily explore the city, with stops near the Navy Yard (home to the Washington Nationals stadium), the Smithsonian museums, and Eastern Market. And cyclists can explore D.C. via Capital Bikeshare for around $8 a day—the shared bike service has more than 350 stations and 3,000 bikes across D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. If the weather permits, take a scenic ride around the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial and peddle to the iconic Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. More adventurous bikers can head to the Capital Crescent Trail, which runs past The Kennedy Center and through Georgetown, where you can stop to grab a bite to eat while taking in views of the Potomac.

Where to celebrate Pride in Washington, DC

Capital Pride Parade, in Washington, D.C
Capital Pride Parade
Image: Courtesy of Destination DC

Every year, thousands of revelers converge on the nation’s capital to celebrate Capital Pride, usually held the second weekend in June. If you’re planning a trip to the District for Pride, here are a few trip-planning tips:

  • Flying into D.C.? Save money and take the Metro from Reagan National Airport or Dulles International Airport.
  • Book a hotel at least two months in advance, specifically in the Dupont Circle or Logan Circle neighborhoods.
  • Claim your spot to see the Capital Pride Parade at least an hour before the 3 p.m. start time. When traffic comes to a halt and the barricades go up, it can be difficult to cross the street.
  • Plan to be in the sun for several hours at the Capital Festival and Concert on Sunday. Sunscreen is a must—and don’t forget your ID for the Beer Tent. It’s the only shade you’ll find on Connecticut Ave.
  • Consider planning a visit for Trans Pride and Black Pride in May, or for kinky queers, the annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in January.
  • During Pride, mingle with locals at the gay-owned Red Bear Brewing Co. or Republic Restoratives Distillery, a women-owned distillery and craft cocktail bar.

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Kwin Mosby
Based in Washington, D.C., Kwin Mosby is a Black gay writer and editor who enjoys creating content to help amplify the voices of underrepresented communities. So far, his favorite travel experiences include visiting luxury resorts in the Maldives, gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, attending his first WorldPride celebration in Sydney, hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro, and taking an immersive Black walking tour in Paris. Find him @kwinmosby on Instagram and Twitter.