Providence proves that size isn't everything. Rhode Island's compact capital has everything from stripper bars to drag clubs and raucous bathhouses to pounding discos, meaning there’s something for everyone. And most nightspots are conveniently located within walking distance of one another in a downtown club district.
And, boy, do the locals like to party! Even on cool, drizzly nights you see throngs of revelers on Richmond Street, the heart of the club zone. There's milling about or queuing up outside a variety of clubs catering to crowds that are straight, gay, and in-between. The atmosphere can resemble that of New Year's Eve or Fat Tuesday, with a charge in the air. The annual Pride celebrations take place in mid-June and there are year-round fund-raiser events around town.
Few major American cities have this small-town feel anymore, but folks here are friendly and helpful, so ask around for what's going on. Bar websites are often badly maintained, and local media doesn't cover the bar scene well, so word of mouth is your best guide. The scene is younger here too, with many 18-plus events, Providence being a college town. Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University are all clustered nearby. In a city of only 160,000 people, the student population contributes a sizable youthful demographic, full of spunk.
But Providence has long thumbed its nose at Puritan sensibilities. Co-founder Roger Williams turned his back on the puritanical Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 —one step ahead of the stocks and perhaps the gallows. The city remains a contrarian enclave in many ways, and everyone is made to feel welcome.
The city has also long enjoyed a reputation as New England's recreational sex-getaway, providing pleasures denied in other regional cities. Since neither Boston, nor anywhere else in New England, has a single bathhouse, you'll need to come to Providence for a night at the two tubs - the city has two. Also, erotic male dancers often strip all the way here.
TF Green International Airport, served by most major airlines and several low-cost carriers, is just south of Providence in Warwick, Rhode Island. Another option is to fly into Logan Airport, Boston, about an hour north of Providence by train or car.
From other cities in the Northeast, you can easily reach Providence by train or bus, especially those in the Boston to Washington corridor, with frequent Amtrak service.
You may want to rent a car to get around. Public transportation is hard to figure out, but RIPTA has bus departures from downtown Kennedy Plaza to most anywhere in the city -- and asking for directions can provide a conversation ice-breaker while waiting for the bus.
Media & Resources
The general circulation alternative weekly, the Providence Phoenix, is a gay-friendly source for news, events listings, and reviews. MotifMagazine is another publication for keeping up with the local scene, in print and online.
The RI PrideFest takes place in mid-June each year -- see their PrideRI guide to all events, bars, and restaurants, plus a map.
BearProvidence has activities throughout the year, and the website of Northeast Leather lists the events around the group's annual April Northeast LeatherSIR / Leatherboy contest weekend, plus other special dates. FLAG (Fits Like a Glove) is another area leather social organization.
The Imperial Court of Rhode Island at Providence presents a number of fund-raising events for good causes throughout the year, including the Red Party in January, Fire & Ice in February and their Coronation Weekend in April.
The Flickers Arts Collaborative sponsors the RI International Film Festival in early August - last year with 204 cinematic works over six days. See dates and schedules online.
For a city map with locations of businesses, museums and entertaiment venues, see our gay Providence listings pages.
Clubs, bars and restaurants
Most of the gay bars, clubs and bathhouses, along with many restaurant options, are within a six-block area in downtown Providence, making diner and a pub crawl easy.
AS220 (115 Empire Street) part incubator, part bazaar, unjuried and uncensored arts forum. The Food restaurant soups, salads, sandwiches, fish, veggie/vegan meals; fruity tropical cocktails, unique jukebox music.
Chris Harris Presents, veteran local producer does circuit dance parties at venues in Boston, Providence and around New England, including Ego/ Loft 71 in Providence.
Club Ego (73 Richmond St), gay nightclub, drag shows, Electric Tuesdays, 18+ Thursdays through Saturday dance nights; #Twerk Fridays Hip Hop and "Reggay," plus The X Room all-male reviews on Sunday nights.
Dark Lady & Alley Cat (17 Snow St), classic gay bar, 'at-home' feel. Mix of many ages and ethnicities. Packed for weekend 18+ dancing, drag shows, go-go boys, contests, Pong & Thong nights; relaxed weekday conversations, overstuffed leather chairs.
Deville's (345 S Water St), old Providence favorite returns to new location, women & men, live music, food/brunch, pool table, 18+ nights.
Hush/ Body Shoppe (257 Allens Ave) - CLOSED? - nude male strip shows, up-close stages, private man-man dances, shower shows, regular guys to porn stars. Former Touch/ Trixx.
Mediterraneo Caffe (134 Atwells Ave, Federal Hill), Italian restaurant, indoor and outdoor seating, excellent Italian food, fun, sympatico staff. Upstairs terrace busy, Euro-style weekend nightclub, though not especially gay.
Mirabar (15 Elbow St), upbeat, always 18+ dance club, college guys Strip Poker amateur contests, karaoke, Wet Underwear contests, Sunday Tea Dances; Pride Block Party.
Providence Eagle (198 Union St), leather and denim-clad bears, cubs and friends party bar. Male videos, cruising, Jockstrap and fetish nights, dancing; Fits Like a Glove and Bear Providence events.
Roots Cultural Center (276 Westminster St), live band concerts, regular jazz nights.
Stable (125 Washington St), former Wheels bar, now with total make-over as upscale video and dance bar. Big crowd in a cozy space.
Union (200 Union St) connects to Eagle, karaoke nights, big screen music videos and movies, a uniquely Providence mix of people.
In Taunton, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes drive northeast from Providence, Bobby's Place (60-62 Weir St) is a mixed dance club and video bar with pool tables, comedy, karaoke nights, live music acts and piano sing-alongs.
Woonsocket, northwest of Providence almost to Massachusetts, is home to Stadium Theatre, with concert performances, musicals, ballet, theater classics, and film screenings.
Club Body Center (257 Weybossett St), second floor walk-up at center, with exercise room, playroom equipped with games and pool tables, porn video lounge, steam room, tanning booth, and showers. Day passes $5, fetish shows. CBC never closes.
Mega-plex (257 Allens Ave) in same erotic mall as Hush. Saunas, showers, private rooms for overnight stays, dry sauna, steam room, video rooms and single rooms. Events include blackout nights, and special bear nights. Rumored to be closing.
Annie Brownell House (400 Angell Street), gay-friendly College Hill B&B, convenient to Brown University and RISD, under a mile from downtown. Full breakfast served daily at this 1899 Colonial Revival home; each room with private bath.
Hilton Providence (21 Atwells Ave) full-service luxury hotel, 274 guestrooms, downtown, adjacent to the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Hotel Dolce Villa (65 DePasquale Sq) gay-friendly full-service boutique hotel in Federal Hill Italian neighborhood near downtown. A perfect base for checking out Providence's cultural, culinary and club scenes. Restaurant with outdoor seating.
Hotel Providence (311 Westminster St) elegant, almost swanky, and far pricier, adjacent to the club district downtown.
Providence Biltmore Hotel (11 Dorrance St), landmark building, 294 spacious guestrooms and suites, cityscape views, luxury spa; McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant with sreaks and 30 fresh fish and seafood varieties.
Wyndham Garden (220 India St), 136 rooms, harbor waterfront views, restaurant and bar, WiFi throughout, (the former Radisson).