A warm and sunny climate year-round, dry desert air, and a modest cost of living: Phoenix and surrounding areas have a lot going for them. What you may not know is that Arizona's major metropolis and America's sixth most populous city has a reputation within the gay community as being among the nation's most sexually open cities.
Located in central Arizona about 150 miles south of Flagstaff and 150 miles north of Tucson, Phoenix is situated on a broad, flat desert basin amid scattered barren rocky mountain peaks. The city's small downtown contains a few dozen high-rises. Surrounding them is a large metropolitan area that's expanded outward rather than upward. This sprawling city has largely encompassed the surrounding communities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale, and Sun City.
The local arts scene includes performances at Phoenix Symphony Hall, with concerts by the Phoenix Symphony and the Phoenix Youth Symphony. The Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona also perform here. The Orpheum Theatre is home to the Phoenix Opera. The Arizona Theatre Company is the state's preeminent professional theater. Other local performance venues include the Comerica Theatre, the Dorrance Theatre, the Herberger Theater Center, the Phoenix Theatre, the Queen Creek Arts Center, and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The Phoenix Convention Center website lists events at their three venues.
The Phoenix Art Museum has exhibitions from around the world and across time, from ancient to modern, the masters to the rising stars. The Heard Museum showcases Native American arts and cultures with exhibitions & festivals. Over 25 art galleries, several fine jewelry shops and two art museums (Scottsdale MCA and Western Spirit) are located along East Main Street in Scottsdale - see Scottsdale Galleries for their Thursday evening ArtWalks. The Phoenix Film Festival presents over 175 domestic and international films during 11 days in April, at the Harkins Scottsdale 101.
Craving French crêpes, Cornish pasties, Korean kimchi, Vietnamese Pho, Spanish tapas, Glatt Kosher deli sandwiches, traditional Italian, Ethiopian, Punjabi, Persian, pan-Asian, Middle-Eastern or Peruvian fusion foods? Perhaps seafood or vegan/vegetarian fare, or steak and potatos, Tex-Mex, American diner comfort foods, burgers, poutines, huevos rancheros or California-style omelet/eggs benedict brunch with a Bloody Mary? Phoenix restaurants and cafes offer a vast variety of global cuisines along with local Southwestern-style dining. See 50-plus Valley of the Sun restaurant suggestions at our map & listings pages. New Times lists hundreds more.
Sky Harbor is Arizona's international airport located a short distance from the center of Phoenix. To get to the city center you have a choice of several differen shuttle services, public transit, car rental or taxi. Check the airport website for transportation details.
Amtrak trains no longer come through Phoenix, but Amtrak Thruway has a bus route between the airport and Flagstaff for connections with daily Southwest Chief trains to/from Los Angeles and Chicago.
Greyhound intercity buses arrive and depart from the 24th Street station, located near the airport.
A car is necessary for getting around easily, but public transportation is provided by Valley Metro with buses throughout the greater metropolitan area. Valley Metro's 20-mile light rail METRO system serves north-central Phoenix, downtown, and eastward through Tempe and Mesa. Buy $2 single fare or $4 all-day tickets, and multi-day passes at station vending machines (exact change required).
Media and resources
The Phoenix Pride LGBT Center no longer has central offices, but they still offer online community services and resource listings, and sponsor annual events, including: the early April Phoenix Pride Festival and Parade, that typically includes a Miss & Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant; the Rainbows Festival mid-October weekend in Heritage Square Park; and LGBTQ film screemings.
The One Community business association "connects our diverse LGBT and allied communities support diversity, inclusion and equality for all Arizonans." See their listings of friendly local businesses state-wide.
The Phoenix Metropolitan Men's Chorus has an annual concert series between November and June each year at various venues around the area.
Like the casual freedom and variety of food truck meals? Check out the AZ Festivals listings page for where and when to find them parked, any given week, including the every Friday year-round, rain or shine Gilbert Feastival, with 15-25 trucks, live music, and an arts and crafts market.
Phurfest, the Bears of the West fun in the sun late April weekend, features pool parties, a banquet, a casino day trip, and three nights of entertainment. They also gather for ongoing beer busts and socials at local bars and restaurants, along with out of town group trips.
Down in Tucson, the guys at BOTOP, Bears of the Old Pueblo, always have something going on, but their biggest date is La Fiesta de Los Osos weekend, in mid-September; check their calendar for monthly socials and annual special events.
For locations and website links to city businesses and resources, see our gay Phoenix map & listings pages.
Bars and clubs
Gay clubs in Phoenix are somewhat spread out. The scene offers a wide range of options for cowboys, leathermen and bears, full-nude male strip bars, Latino nightclubs, cocktail lounges, drag shows galore, and laid-back neighborhood bars and cafe/restaurants for both men and women.
Anvil (2303 E Indian School Rd), men's leather and fetish bar, underwear or shirtless nights, wet boxers and hot bods contests, gear nights, beer busts, pool tables, karaoke, special leather and bear theme events, Dirty Daddy Dancers.
Bar 1 (3702 N 16th St), small nightly neighborhood gay video bar, pleasant/ comfortable early hangout, jukebox, palm-shaded patio, fireplace, pinball, darts and pool games, karaoke, underwear nights, large patio.
Bliss Rebar Restaurant, Bar & Lounge (901 N 4th St), downtown lunch, happy hour, dinner, weekend brunch and late night LGBT favorite; Chillaxin Sunday Phunday DJs and karaoke.
BS West (7125 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale), popular dance club; full schedule of weekly events that includes karaoke, drag shows, male strippers, plus beer busts, BBQs and special events; go-go dancer auditions every 2nd and 4th Wednesday.
Bunkhouse Saloon (4428 N 7th Ave), mostly men, bears and leathermen, pool, darts, outdoor patio, fire pit, poker nights, karaoke, underwear nights, holiday theme parties.
Cash Nightclub & Lounge (2140 E McDowell Rd), mostly women, darts, pool, line and 2-stepping dancing, poker, karaoke, free internet access, flat screen TV videos, large comfortable patio.
Charlie's Phoenix (727 W Camelback Rd), long-time popular Western-themed bar, mostly men, wet and strip shows, drag shows, 2-Step and Line dancing lessons, volleyball games. Friday/Saturday afterhours until 4am.
Cruisin' 7th (3702 N 7th Street), karaoke, Leather nights, drag revues, Dirty Daddy Dancers, Exotic Transexual Pole Dancers, and Wild Men of the West Dancers.
Dick's Cabaret (3432 E Illini St), no alcohol, naked male strippers in constant rotation, private "VIP" sessions. "Love it one night, hate another -- depends who's on stage, but always a real slice of Americana."
FEZ (105 W Portland St), LGBT-popular American cuisine casual restaurant/bar, Mediterranean flair; burgers, sandwiches, entrees, drinks, weekend brunch.
First Draft Bar (300 W Camelback Rd), beer, wine, cider, coffees and food bar at Changing Hands Community Bookstore; new and used books, audiobooks, author readings, workshops - also with Tempe bookstore.
Karamba (1724 E McDowell Rd), hot men dance to Latin beats on weekends, weekday and Sunday drag shows, karaoke, good mix and easy vibe, weekend tacos, quesadillas and burritos.
Kobalt (3110 N Central Ave), boasting one of region's best mixes of people, nightly events rotations, very popular happy hours, karaoke, drag shows, cheap strong drinks.
Los Diablos (1028 E Indian School Rd), neighborhood cocktails and karaoke bar, TV sports and RuPaul, food, patio; formerly Friends Bar.
Mi Patio (3347 N 7th Av), good and affordable Mexican food; tacos, burritos, fajitas, tostadas, enchiladas, chimis, Huevos Rancheros, excellent service.
NuTowne Saloon (5002 E Van Buren), men's cruise/locals' bar, pool table/games, beer busts and BBQs, bar food/burgers, karaoke, video movies, WiFi, patio.
Oz (1804 W Bethany Home Rd), small neighborhood gay pub, pool tables, outdoor smokers' patio, underwear auctions, Texas hold'em poker, darts, bingo, karaoke, Friday/Saturday go-go boys.
Plazma (1560 E Osborn), neighborhood video sports bar, games on TV, pool tables, karaoke, Saturday male review shows.
The Rock (4129 N 7th Ave), neighborhood gay bar/saloon, mostly men, jukebox, live music, patio, karoake, games, drag cabaret shows, Bearracuda bears' dance parties.
Stacy's @ Melrose (4343 N 7th Ave), old church building dance club, men/women, gay/mixed, cowboys' and theme nights
Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar (2603 N Central Ave), contemporary lunch and dinner, wine/cocktails, burgers, salads, shared plates, sandwiches; large patio, community bar.
Toasted (formerly on N 7th Ave), 'grilled cheese gastropub,' soups, beers, Mimosas and Sangria; drag show brunch - moving to new downtown location - see link.
CLOSED: Apollo's (5749 7th); Bar on Central (718 N Central); Rainbow Cactus Saloon (15615 N Cave Creek); Roscoe's on 7th (4531 N 7th); Twisted Peacock (3108 E McDowell); Zoan (4301 N 7th); Zorfs (1028 E Indian School).
Chute (1440 E. Indian School Rd), bears and leather men, friendly atmosphere for all. Saturday Leather Night; gymnasium, steam shower, two leather sling rooms, relaxation areas, nice after-hours crowd. Off Chute Too (4115 N. 7th Avenue), their store, with cute undies, t-shirts, magazines, and kinky stuff.
Flex (1517 S Black Canyon Hwy), always open, pool, jacuzzi, steam room, gym, lockers, and private rooms. Mondays Buddy Nights 4pm to midnight, Tuesday/Thursday half-price rooms 4pm to midnight, and Wednesday noon to midnight. Also early-bird specials.
Where to stay
The Arizona Royal Villa (4312 12th St; 602-266-6883), private retreat for gay men, clothing-optional grounds and pool, overnight or day guests. In central Phoenix, near shopping, restaurants and light rail.
Arizona Sunburst Inn (6245 N 12th Pl; 602-274-1474), gay oasis in the Valley of the Sun; mostly men, clothing optional sunbathing, swimming and spa, massage therapy. Stay 7 nights and last night free. Wi-Fi internet, expanded Continental breakfast.
Clarendon (401 W Clarendon Ave; 602-252-7363), general public boutique hotel in Midtown, pool, cabanas and rooftop bar, free international phone calls, fitness facility, free WiFi, restaurant Gallo Blanco with breakfast all day and special cocktails.
Hotel 502 (502 W Camelback; 602-264-9290), gay-friendly central hotel, with Light Rail access, spacious rooms, inexpensive rates, heated resort-style swimming pool; hosts the Arizona Gay Rodeo each February, 2015-2017.
ZenYard Guest House (830 E Maryland Ave; 602-845-0830), gay-friendly urban guest house oasis in the middle of the desert; Bed & Breakfast and mini resort with full breakfast, solar-heated salt water swimming pool and Jacuzzi hot tub, private entrances.
CLOSED: Orange Blossom Hacienda (3914 E Sunnydale Dr, Queen Creek), rustic 3-guestroom Chandler Heights B&B; mountain views, fireplace, patio, pool, gourmet breakfast.