They call Cincinnati the “Queen City,” and it’s true that it gives a royal welcome to gays. For a relatively conservative city, Cincinnati has an unusually vibrant gay community, with a large pride celebration held on Memorial Day Weekend to kick off Pride Month in June. In early September look for Pride Night at Kings Island. Downtown was the traditional gay neighborhood, but over the last decade gay people began gradually moving toward the Northside.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport is about 13 miles south of downtown Cincinnati in northern Kentucky. Taxis to the center of the city cost about $30. Some hotels in Downtown Cincinnati or in Covington, just across the river, offer free airport shuttle services.
A rental car or a taxi are the best ways to get around Cincinnati if you're venturing beyond the very walkable Central Business District. For city bus information see the GoMetro website of SORTA, The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.
Northside is one of Cincinnati's most active gay neighborhoods, classic homes, an eclectic mix of businesses and entertainment venues, and a long tradition of community activism; also home to a handful of gay bars. The Greater Cincinnati's GLBT Community Center was also here, but became a "virtual" on-line Center after closing their physical location, in November 2013.
Downtown is home to several gay bars, clubs and restaurants. Fountain Square is at the center, dominated by the bronze fountain named The Genius of Water. Intended as the cultural and recreational hub of the city it's used for lunch-breaks, rallies, and other gatherings.
Over-the-Rhine, just north of downtown, boasts a large, 19th-century urban neighborhood of historic architecture. A center of the local arts community, it's again re-emerging as a trendy shopping and dining district, after some false starts during the past decade, and a lack of the money needed to restore the buildings. See their chamber of commerce and OTR Brewery District websites.
The Ludlow Strip in Clifton has a cluster of interesting shops, restaurants, and cafes near the University of Cincinnati. If a good movie is what you crave, the Esquire Theatre (320 Ludlow) has all the best current art-house films, before or after dinner.
If Cinncinnati seems conservative, Northern Kentucky recently proved more so. Longtime home to two or three neighborhood gay bars, local limits were defined in September 2013 as Covington undercover police shut down a male stripper show and cited four dancers for showing bare butt and "touching" customers. The 701 Bar closed soon after the incident.
Rainbow Cincinnati published GLBT News, the area gay paper with online listings and news - but the website hasn't been updated since December 2014.
CityBeat is the local alternative weekly paper for area news, plus dining, arts and entertainment listings.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Cincinnati listings pages.
Popular with gay visitors to Cincinnati, especially this year during Pride events, the Millenium Hotel (150 W. 5th; 866-866-8086) has downtown convenience and reasonable rates.
Just across the river the Weller Haus (319 Poplar St, Belleview; 800-431-4287) is a five room gay-friendly guesthouse in a pair of 1880's era Victorian Gothic homes. All rooms have private baths and modern amenities.
See more hotel options at our hotel map and listings page.
Bars and restaurants
Below Zero (1120 Walnut St), nightly up-market downtown lounge, mixed gay ambience, piano, cabaret, drag divas, karaoke and show tunes sing-alongs.
The Cabaret (1122 Walnut St), no-cover 100 seat theatre, drag cabaret show bar, two sows nightly, full martini menu, mixed crowd.
Club Glitter (1133 Sycamore St), new 18+ downtown drag showbar, reviews, pageants, divas galore.
The Dock (603 Pete Rose Way W), Wednesday through Sunday 18+ gay dance club, high-energy music, throbbing lights, relaxed video bar with pool table at front, patio bar and summer volleyball sand court. Themes nights, drag shows, open weekends until 4am.
Home Base Tavern (2401 Vine St), Clifton neighborhood bar, former Little Bit, relaxed and mixed crowd, pool games, karaoke, TV sports, jukebox, WiFi and bar munchies.
Main Event (835 Main St), by the folks from the old Subway Bar, has dancing for a mixed crowd, plus munchies including pizza and sandwiches.
On Broadway (817 Broadway), small, friendly downtown bar, neighborly mixed crowd, big screen videos, outdoor patio; live entertainment includes drag shows; also bear and leather special events.
Parkside Cafe (1024 E. McMillan St), popular for breakfast, lunch or just coffee; also with Sunday brunch and free Wi-Fi internet access.
Shooters (927 Race St), country-western music dance bar of many years, much wood, mostly male crowd.
Sidewinders (4181 Hamilton Ave), Northside cocktails, fresh-roasted coffees, espresso drinks, tea varieties, vegan lunch, bagels, sandwiches, soups, cakes and cookies. Cozy inside, courtyard patio, free WiFi.
Simon Says (428 Walnut St) downtown business district favorite for men -- especially bears, with strong drinks, and a long, colorful history.
Sitwell's Coffeehouse (324 Ludlow Ave), laid-back cafe/bar, all-ages and types college-town hipster crowd; rec-room ambience, burritos, sandwiches, baked goodies, coffee and milkshakes, free WiFi. Two doors from Esquire art-house cinema.
Tillies (4042 Hamilton Ave), new locals' Northside neighborhood bar at old Serpent location; live jazz, men/women mix.
CLOSED: Serpent (4042 Hamilton Ave) - Oct 2014 - Northside men's leather bar, very low lighting, outdoor patio, pool room and leather shop.
See another 30 restaurants at our map and listings page.
Old Street Saloon (13 Old St, Monroe), "Cheers for Queers" between Cincinnati and Dayton; Saturday floor shows, Thursday karaoke and taco bar. Annual bike run and Miss Old Street annual drag pageant --each September.
Newport & Covington KY
Across the river in Kentucky, there are several places of interest. For more information on the district, including their Mardi Gras, Maifest and Oktoberfest celebrations, see the website of the MainStrasse Village Association.
Bar 32 (701 Bakewell St, Covington), mixed neighborhood karaoke and party bar; martinis, cocktails, shots, imported beers and ciders. Formerly the 701 Bar.
Crazy Fox (901 Washington Ave, Newport), a mixed gay/straight andTransgender crowd, live music and games.
Rosie's Tavern ( 643 Bakewell St, Covington), gay/straight, men/women mix, neighborhood sports bar, games, pool table, jukebox, pub grub, live music first Saturdays.