Gay Las Vegas
A hedonistic reputation, flashing neon lights and over-the-top spectacles make Las Vegas one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. But Sin City is constantly reinventing itself, touting family-friendly resorts one year and its massive concert venues and outreach to the gay market the next.
Attractions continue to satisfy the growing number of gays who flock here each year. Same-sex couples holding hands in the glittery casinos and well-built gay men dancing the night away at the most popular bars and clubs are increasingly common sights on the Strip.
Las Vegas doesn't have one gay neighborhood. Much of the city's gay nightlife centers around two strip malls -- the Fruit Loop and the Village Square Commercial Center -- off the Strip, but residents are scattered across the whole valley.
McCarran International Airport, is roughly three miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip and about five miles from downtown. Many taxi companies serve LAS and fares are set by the Nevada Taxicab Authority. Most hotels offer a shuttle bus to and from the airport.
Another option to get downtown is the fleet of buses operated by the RTC, or Regional Transportation Commission. Bus routes 108 and 109 provide direct service to and from the airport.
The best way to take in The Strip's many attractions is by foot. A number of walkways take pedestrians over busy Las Vegas Boulevard and nearby streets. The double-decker Deuce Bus is a great way to travel between the Strip and downtown. It costs $6 for two hours, or $8 for a day pass, and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. See RTC.
The Las Vegas Monorail will convey you in cool comfort back and forth along the Strip between 7am and 2am (until 3am Fri/Sat/Sun and until midnight Mon). Tickets may be bought online or from machines located at the stations. Single fare tickets are $5, and they offer 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7-day passes.
Las Vegas itself is quite spread out, so a car is necessary for any excursions beyond the Strip, downtown and their immediate surroundings.
What to see
The majority of the Strip's attractions stretch along Las Vegas Boulevard from Sahara Avenue to Russell Road. This is where you'll find the massive resorts that feature battling pirate ships, exploding volcanoes and roller coasters that whiz around scale models of the New York skyline.
A couple of miles north of the Strip is downtown Las Vegas, a throwback to the city's early days. Here you can gawk at many of the city's original casinos along pedestrian-only Fremont Street. Now called the Fremont Street Experience, it features a four-block canopy covered with twinkling lights.
Locals are quick (and some are even proud) to point out that gays have successfully integrated into mainstream Las Vegas. Although there isn't really a gay neighborhood, the majority of the city's gay bars and clubs are clustered around the Fruit Loop, on Paradise Road near East Harmon Avenue, and the Village Square Commercial Center, on Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway. Crowds can be thin during the week, but the bars and clubs are usually packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Both the Fruit Loop and the Village Square Commercial Center are a short taxi ride (or a 15-20 minute walk) from the Strip.
The Erotic Heritage Museum on Sammy Davis Jr. Drive is another option for those with a couple of hours to kill. Curator Laura Henkel presents sexual freedom as artistic, spiritual and political imperatives. Sponsored projects have included the Queerotica Competition, and the Tickles My Fancy installation from the collection of gay artist Jerry Zientara.
Head to the canyons
Located in the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is within striking distance of some of the Southwest's most dramatic landscapes, and some gay and gay-friendly companies offer comfortable and convenient ways to explore them.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, west of Las Vegas on State Route 160, is so close to the city the skyline is visible from a number of overlooks. The park is famous for its sandstone outcroppings, prehistoric sand dunes and dramatic cliffs along the 65-million-year-old Keystone Thrust.
The Calico Hills, on the park's 13-mile Scenic Loop, remain a popular destination for local rock climbers and hikers. Animal lovers come for a glimpse of wildlife, ranging from rattlesnakes and raptors to ground squirrels and desert tortoises.
Red Rock Canyon's unique attractions include prehistoric pictographs, found near Willow Spring Picnic Area. Archaeologists speculate that the tribes who once lived in the canyon put their handprints on the rocks to announce births. The tribes' origins, however, remain a mystery.
A series of trails gives visitors access to the park's more remote areas. Chris Brennan of Pink Jeep Tours routinely navigates his retrofitted vehicle over the aptly named Rocky Gap Road. The three-and-a-half-hour tour includes several pauses at scenic overlooks throughout the preserve. At one stop, you can explore a dry river bed and the steep slopes along the canyon's base.
More than one million people visit Red Rock each year, but that number is dwarfed by the hordes of visitors to the Grand Canyon, one of the world's most popular national attractions. The park is a five-hour drive from Las Vegas, but a handful of companies offer helicopter tours from Boulder City that land inside the canyon, within the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
The flight from Boulder City takes roughly 35 minutes. It passes over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before making a 3,500-foot descent into the canyon. Mischa Maliski of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours says the National Parks Service banned scenic tours within national park boundaries a decade ago, after a series of crashes. Now, flights must land just outside the park on Hualapai land. Visitors are treated to a small picnic lunch and a champagne toast before returning to Nevada.
On the town
When you think of Vegas, do you imagine the glory days with entertainers the likes of Liberace, Sinatra and Elvis; or elaborate shows of Cirque du Soleil of today; the legendary mobsters, or the antics of Howard Hughes? The Boulder Dam was an original big attraction, and mushroom clouds on the horizon drew visitors to watch atomic bomb tests from their hotels in the 1950s. In the popular imagination this city always held the allure of larger than life, forbidden, unrestricted and risque experience, with just sufficient hints of danger, attracting millions from more conventional hometowns to this "magic kingdom" for adults.
Elaborate themed hotel casino resorts such as the Venetian, the Paris and Circus-Circus, with their tacky interpretations of reality, can be forgiven as appealingly over-the-top indulgences. Others, modern and high-tech, include the Wynn, a trendy celebrity hangout.
Bright lights, endless entertainment, 24-hour liquor licenses, ubiquitous slot machines or high-stakes tables of the top-end establishments are the hallmark of life here, night and day. Gambling, banned for 32 years, was re-legalized only in 1931 and marriage and divorce laws were relaxed, creating the basis for the "Sin City" allure. Despite recent attempts to introduce a more "family friendly" image, gaming remains the financial lifeblood of the region.
Prostitution, another American no-no, though permitted at state-regulated brothels in rural Nevada counties, is a misdemeanor in larger cities like Las Vegas (since 2004). But escorts remain discreetly available in the casinos, and openly advertised along the strip.
Recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries are up and running across Nevada. State residency is not required for anyone 21+ to purchase cannabis with valid ID, but consumption is restricted to private residences, not public places. See the Potguide directory to Las Vegas.
Events and entertainment
Las Vegas offers the hottest shows on Earth -- for a price, of course, and you need to reserve ahead. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the Blue Man Theatre at the Luxor, the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the Monte Carlo, the Palazzo, the Venetian, the Westgate, and the Wynn (shows include Le Rêve), are a few of the venues to check out.
Drag Brunch at Señor Frog's/ Treasure Island (3300 Las Vegas Blvd S), Saturday and Sunday "Top Queens & Bottomless Cocktails" - with stars of RuPaul's Drag Race and Vegas' finest female impersonators. The FrankMarinosDivas superstar female impersonation shows, formerly at the Linq Resort & Casino, closed in summer 2018.
Cirque Du Soleil shines with six resident shows being performed in Vegas: The Beatles Love at the Mirage; Michael Jackson One at the Mandalay Bay; "O" at the Bellagio; Kà at MGM Grand; Cirque's most erotic/sensual show, Zumanity, at New York New York; and Mystère at Treasure Island.
Aussie Heat, the firm-bodied dancers from Down Under who strip, (not strippers who dance badly), do shows and lap dances Friday through Sunday nights at V Theatre/ Planet Hollywood for a mostly female audience, but gay-friendly too. Also at Planet Hollywood, Criss Angel Mindfreak, formerly at the Luxor, has new show opening in December 2018.
Lady Gaga will play 74 shows at MGM Park Theater in her December 2018 through November 2019 residency - see here for details and tickets. Cher will play 9 dates in March 2019 at Park Theater/ Monte Carlo Resort. For tickets to these and other shows around town click Best of Vegas. Sin City Times lists shows of LGBTQ interest throughout the year.
Big LGBTQ annual events include the January Sin City Classic Sports Festival, an LGBT softball tournament plus more events in 18 different sports; Hustlerball Vegas 2018 on MLK Weekend; the Matinee Las Vegas Festival with 8 parties and 20 superstar DJs over a four-day Memorial Day Weekend; and Pride Las Vegas with night-time parade and festival, in October.
Las Vegas Pride main events take place in October, but there are more ongoing events throughout the year.
Visit Las Vegas, a comprehensive online guide to the city from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, also has gay listings.
The Gay and Lesbian Community Center, at 401 S Maryland Pkwy, has a comprehensive calendar of events for local organizations. Sexual health clinics, film-club nights and social groups -- plus internet access at their cyber center, a lending library, and more.
Although their museum closed in 2010, the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts continues to fund scholarships and keep their informative website in operation.
The Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, "dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of ...guilt" have events throughout the year. Check their site or look for them at Oink Night at the Fun Hog Ranch each each third Saturday of the month.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, see our Las Vegas gay map & listings pages.
The Aria (3730 Las Vegas Blvd), world's most exclusive retail shopping, dining from world-renowned chefs, unique casino experience, luxurious spa, extraordinary shows of Cirque du Soleil.
Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S), rooms decorated with plush fabrics, rich hues, comfortably furnished, sweeping views of Lake Bellagio, pools & courtyards; shopping, spa, casino, entertainment includies Cirque du Soleil shows.
Mandalay Bay (3950 Las Vegas Blvd S), with gay-friendly ads: "come out and play" - and sexy models promoting sauna. One-stop vacation destination, full-blown entertainment, hot nightclubs, cool music venues, sleek lounges on the Strip- plus pools, steam, and eleven restaurants.
Tropicana Resort & Casino (3801 Las Vegas Blvd S), after a recently completed $200 million transformation, one of the original casino resorts offers best-in-class hotel rooms and suites, a large casino, new spa and fitness center, three restaurants and a food court, the Laugh Factory comedy club and live music in their Tropicana Lounge.
The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (3752 Las Vegas Blvd S - formerly the Mandarin Oriental) offers luxury rooms, heated pools and spa, along with an escape from the gaming scene (no casino), and fine dining at Twist Restaurant by a Michelin-rated chef.
The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (3799 Las Vegas Blvd S); the Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd S) with gay lounge and pool events; New York New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd S); and Encore at the Wynn (3131 Las Vegas Blvd S) are some more options among the many resort casinos, each with nightlife entertainment, gaming, dining and luxury accommodations.
CLOSED: Blue Moon Resort (2651 Westwood Dr), gay men's sex-charged oasis; Riviera (2901 Las Vegas Blvd S), resort, casino, entertainment, dining, shops.
See our map & listings tab for many more local lodging and resort options, plus the locations and weblinks for businesses we list below.
Gay bars & clubs
While each of Las Vegas' gay bars has a unique flair to it, most have gambling and inexpensive drinks in common. There are all sorts of machines on which to try your luck, and "busts" at nearly every club on certain days and times. You can drink, cruise and gamble 24/7 in most places here. See photos of local nightlife in our gallery pages.
Badlands Saloon (Commercial Center, 953 E Sahara), 24/7 gay video bar, bingo, karaoke, trivia, pool and other games; Underwear nights, drag and comedy shows, Country music jukebox and Line Dancing.
Bastille on 3rd (1402 S 3rd St, Downtown), Las Vegas' first gay bar, cozy, intimate, pub/bar, eclectic mix of locals and tourists, happy hours 11am-2pm and 4-8pm, WiFi, AMI Jukebox, Buzztime trivia, gaming machines. Was Snick's Place.
Charlie's (5012 S Arville), one of four with Chicago, Denver, and Phoenix; popular country & western locals' hangout, dance classes and hoedowns, funky disco nights, Drag Bingo, Diva and undies nights, go-go boys. Events include monthly 2nd Wednesday Hanky Panky Pride Underwear Nights.
Eagle (3430 E Tropicana), beyond leather/levi mixed men's bar, game room, karaoke, bodt painting, underwear night strip-off for free drinks, variety shows.
Flex (4371 W Charleston), a bit off the strip, cheap drinks, game room pool tables/ 24/7 video poker; weekend DJ dance party, go-go boys, drag shows, and karaoke.
Freezone (610 E Naples), Fruit Loop dancing, go-go and shot boys and girls, drag shows and karaoke. Informal diverse scene mixing tourists and locals, men and women.
Fun Hog Ranch (495 E Twain), men's club, Levi/leather gear nights, bears' events, darts, gaming, pool table, trivia games, videos, down-home "be yourself" atmosphere, before dance clubs cheap drinks; 3rd Saturday Sin Sity Sisters contest nights.
Garage (1487 E Flamingo), cheap drinks, video poker, juke box music at conversation volume, pool tables, darts, friendly crowd and bartenders.
Phoenix Bar (4213 W Sahara Ave), gay/mixed bar/lounge southwest of The Strip; karaoke, DJs, go-go boys, drag shows, burgers/sandwiches, Underwear Parties.
Pirahna (4633 Paradise Rd), high-energy dancing until dawn, underwear contests, go-go dancers, drag shows, Boylesque cabaret and burlesque performances, Latin nights, special theme parties.
Quadz Bar (4640 Paradise Rd), 24-hour gay/mixed video bar, gaming, pool tables, darts, show tunes nights, beer busts.
Spotlight Lounge (975 E Sahara Ave), gay lounge/video bar open 24/7, 365 days/year, video poker, pool games, WiFi.
XS Nightclub (3121 S Las Vegas Blvd), upscale mixed club/lounge with guest star DJs, at The Wynn Social club/restaurant complex.
CLOSED: Goodtimes (1775 E Tropicana); Krave; Krush (4740 Arville); Liason/ Bally's (3645 S Las Vegas); Onyx Theater (953 E Sahara); Rendezvous (4740 Arville); Revolt/ Saxe Theater (3663 S Las Vegas); Revolution/ Mirage (3400 S Las Vegas); Share (4636 Wynn).
Saunas & playground
Men's play spaces and workout clubs conveniently located in the Village Square Commercial Center, just across the parking lot from one another, and neighbors to Badlands Saloon, and Hawks.
The Entourage Vegas (953 E Sahara, Suite A-19), "hottest and safest playground in Sin City" 65 rooms, 60 lockers, dry sauna, indoor Roman-style pool, gym, Jacuzzi, dark room, sling room, huge, cavernous steam room maze; BLT - Black & Latino Tuesdays, Bears/Wise Wednesdays.
Hawks Gym (953 E Sahara, Suite B-35), busy everyday, locals and out-of-towners, Las Vegas's only gay-owned and operated men's gym for men. For special occasions they fill fast. State-of-the-art gym, reputation for cleanliness, 22 rooms, huge, well-equipped communal dungeon. Monthly CumUnion sex parties on the third Saturday of each month.
The casinos have some of the best restaurants and buffets in town. Some of the most popular are at Bally's, Bellagio, Mirage, MGM Paris, Planet Hollywood with their Spice Market Buffet, and Orleans with their French Market Buffet-- all on Las Vegas Boulevard.
See our maps & listings/restaurants tab for Las Vegas restaurant suggestions, with locations and website links.
Las Vegas is a shopaholic's dream where you can buy just about anything at malls and outlet centers throughout the city. The casinos all have shops, some of the best around. Some must-sees include: Fashion Show Mall (3200 Las Vegas Blvd S), one of the largest shopping malls in the USA; Las Vegas Outlet Center (7400 Las Vegas Blvd S); and Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood (3667 Las Vegas Blvd S).
The Village Square Commercial Center (953 E Sahara), an open air shopping mall built in 1960, has over 150 unique shops & restaurants. It has plenty of parking, and several gay bathhouses, shops, bars and the community center are located here too.
The Forum Shops at Caesar's (3570 Las Vegas Blvd, S), around 160 specialty stores and fine restaurants, Fall of Atlantis animatronic show; Louis Vuitton, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Cartier and Gucci fashions and an Apple store too.
Get Booked (4640 Paradise Rd), men's clothing, books, videos, gifts, magazines, plus T-shirts and underwear.