Washingtonians take pride in their mobility and adaptability. It seems as if most people here are from somewhere else, brought to the nation's capital by jobs in the government, one of the related industries or in the military. Maybe that's why it's so easy to get to know people in this company town.
There's brass at the Pentagon, but it's the buff young marines who run laps near the Navy Yard barracks (in tight, very brief shorts) you'll want to polish. Perhaps you'll find one of them in the dark corners at the Eagle, or amid the crush of shirtless hunks at the Green Lantern. Used to be you could ask, not tell - but there have been a few changes in these past 20 years!
Washington is an easy city to navigate, divided into Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest quadrants. The Capitol building is at the center, and streets spread out in a grid pattern. Avenues named for the states cut through at angles.
The main gay center of gravity is the Dupont Circle neighborhood. One of the country's most pleasant gay districts, Dupont Circle is full of sidewalk cafes, bars, clubs, shops, and lots of interesting people.
Within easy walking distance. P Street Beach is a green oasis alongside Rock Creek, perfect for daytime tanning and nighttime liaisons (police do patrol here, so be careful). Rock Creek Park runs through much of the city, on either side of the winding eponymous stream and parkway running through the woodlands.
Washington has two airports, plus another that's conveniently close, near Baltimore, Maryland. The Ronald Reagan National Airport (simply 'National' to locals) is small but ideally situated across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia. From here the Metro connects you directly to downtown.
Washington Dulles International, 26 miles west of downtown, has Washington Flyer Coaches leaving every 30 minutes for Metro's West Falls Church station. Baltimore/Washington International (aka the Thurgood Marshall) has easy rail and bus connections to both cities.
Union Station (50 Massachusetts Ave NE) the arrival point for Amtrak trains, is also a destination in itself. It's filled with shops and restaurants. From here, Metrorail takes you most anywhere else in the city.
Rather than dealing with heavy traffic and difficult parking, leave your car in your hotel's garage. DC's Metro will comfortably get you where you're going with six MetroRail lines and over 90 stations across the District, Maryland and Virginia. Dupont Circle has a station on the Red Line. Metro also has bus service with 1,500 vehicles on 325 routes, and 11,500 area bus stops. For rail-to-bus or bus-to-rail discounts or free bus-to-bus transfers you'll need to use their SmarTrip rechargeable farecard.
Bicycles are permitted on Metrorail (two per car) on weekdays except during rush hours 7-10am and 4-7pm and all day Saturdays, Sundays and most holidays. Capital Bikeshare has 2500 bicycles at over 300 stations in the District, suburban Maryland and Virginia, including many Metrorail stations. Taxis are convenient, especially late at night after the Metro has closed (stations are open roughly 5am-midnight weekdays, and 7am-3am on weekends).
Media and resources
Two Washington gay papers can be found free at most gay businesses. Metro Weekly covers the nightlife scene, with good photos and useful website. The Washington Blade is one of the best and most influential LGBT weekly newspapers in America, with news, features, columns, reviews, plus arts and entertainment listings.
GoGayDC has LGBTQ Community Club events listings throughout the DC, MD, and VA area.
The Washington Post is the daily newspaper of record for the local DC Capital Region and the world, with news, reviews, arts and entertainment and events, in print and on line. City Paper is a weekly alternative paper with general listings, a&e, and restaurant reviews.
Centaur MC sponsors the January Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend with the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest, and a bi-annual recreational Labor Day Weekend event in the woods, among their other activities. Also see the CodeDC, DC Boys of Leather and MTTA websites.
Prime Timers DC does cocktail socials, dinners and annual summer getaways to Rehoboth Beach for older gay men.
Brightest Young Things is a good arts and entertainment website with lots of photos, and an LGBT tab on the header bar.
The DC Center is Washington's LGBT community center for programs, services, activist organizations, and online information.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Washington DC map & listings pages.
Accommodations Dupont Circle & NW
Doubletree (1515 Rhode Island Ave NW; 202-232-7000) large boutique hotel, off Scott Circle; 15 RIA American restaurant and bar, fitness and business centers.
Glover Park Hotel (2505 Wisconsin Ave NW, Glover Park; 202-337-9700), large kitchenette suites, patio, fitness center, near Georgetown with great views, all amenities.
Residence Inn (2120 P St NW; 202-466- 6800), kitchenette studios, breakfast, fitness center, WiFi access; close to Dupont Circle gay venues.
Swann House (1808 New Hampshire Ave NW; 202-265-4414) lovely B&B, rooms with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, swimming pool.
William Lewis House B&B (1309 R St NW; 202- 462-7574) Edwardian-style B&B, near tourist sights and gay bars, special Sunday breakfast.
Bars & Clubs Capitol Hill, SE & Anaccostia
Bachelor's Mill (1104 8th St SE), neighborhood institution, karaoke, pool tournaments, weekend dance parties, roof patio bars, 7 nights of entertainment; Miss Star Black America pageants, plus first Friday and every 2nd/3rd/4th Saturday parties by Omega.
Banana Cafe and Piano Bar (500 8th St SE), piano and karaoke bar above Cuban/Puerto Rican/Tex-Mex restaurant; live entertainment, vibrant colors, cool drinks, Caribbean art.
D.C. Eagle (3701 Benning Rd NE / Anacostia Freeway), long-time, no-attitude leather/bear cruise bar moved to newly renovated 3-level building east of Anacostia River near Minnesota Ave Metro station. Restaurant, dance/ entertainment club, Levi/leather and bear cruise bar, roof garden bar; DistrktC 2nd Saturday monthly dance nights.
Hamilton's Bar & Grill (233 2nd St NW), neighborhood bar, popular with lesbians but all welcome, 10 beers on tap; burgers, wraps, sandwiches, salads, nibbles.
CLOSED: Phase 1 (525 8th St SE), nation's oldest lesbian bar, dancing, queer indie/ punk/ hip-hop, drag-king shows, live music
Bars & Clubs Dupont Circle & Adams Morgan, Logan Circle & McPherson Square
Annie's (1609 17th St NW), "Annie's Paramount Steakhouse," a local favorite for 60 years, popular gay Upstairs Lounge.
Cobalt (1639 R St NW) three-floor dance club above Level One restaurant, with 30 Degrees lounge, karaoke, mostly men in their 20s and 30s; 18+ Hot Body Contests, Bearracuda dances and Rumba Latina nights.
DIK Bar at DuPont Italian Kitchen (1637 17th St NW), mixed crowd bar above pasta/seafood and sandwiches restaurant with Saturday/Sunday brunch; laid-back and comfortable vibe.
Duplex Diner (2004 18th St NW) 50s style diner with busy Thursday nights drinks, conversation, and the company of many of DC's most interesting people; nightly from 6pm.
Fireplace (2161 P St NW) two-level video bar, comfortable and cruisy, games, busy afternoon and evening, mostly men.
Floriana Restaurant + Dito's Bar (1602 17th St NW), Italian fine dining, wines, cozy gay-popular basement bar.
Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct, behind 1335 L St NW), two levels, always cruisy men's bar, karaoke, tightly packed for "shirtless men drink free Thursdays," 495 Bears and Otter Den DC events, plus underwear nights.
J.R.'s Bar and Grill (1519 17th St NW) video bar, chinos and button-down crowd, mostly guys, showtune sing-alongs.
Larry's Lounge (1840 18th St, NW), gay/mixed neighborhood gay bar and kitchen, dog-friendly patio.
Number Nine (1435 P St NW), stylish cocktail lounge on two floors, fruity drinks, mostly male crowd, former Mova location.
Trade (1410 14th St NW), Logan Circle gay dive bar, all day everyday Huge Happy Hour cocktails.
Bars & Clubs Southwest
An isolated corner of DC, between the SW Freeway and the Anacostia River, was known for 35 years for its gay enclave of two big nightclubs, three nude male stripper bars, a bathhouse and a gay adult bookstore. With 18-plus admission policies and on-stage work opportunities attracting many young guys from surrounding states and beyond, the area provided safe meeting places and coming out spaces for two generations of gay men.
Relaxed and socially fluid, the scene mixed rural southerners, West Virginia and Pennsylvania farmboys, the urban streetwise and suburban adventurers, along with college students and military guys from all over. There were also foreign embassy people, Senate pages, congressional and executive staffers and some from much higher up on the down low, who walked the uptight corridors of power just a few blocks away during the day. Party politics were forgotten and status leveled, if only briefly, and while those with money paid, most guys played for free, crashing for the night at the apartment of a local.
Then suddenly it was gone. Everything on the O Street SE block was bulldozed to make way for the new Nationals' ballpark, which opened in 2008. Secrets/Ziegfeld's, one of the strip clubs, reopened a few years later in SW, across South Capitol Street, at the old Pier 9 dance club location. The bathhouse, the Glorious Health Club, found a new home in NE. But that era and that scene are gone now, in these, our different times.
Secrets/Ziegfeld's (1824 Half St SW), features totally nude male strippers Wednesdays through Sundays from 9pm, plus amateur strip contest nights and flamboyant Friday and Saturday night drag shows.
Bars & Clubs - U Street corridor & beyond
Cafe Saint-Ex/Gate 54 (1847 14th St NW) basement dance club below restaurant, mixed gay/straight crowd, eclectic music.
DC9 (1940 9th St, NW), live music concert bar, dancing, karaoke, videos, young mix; burgers, chicken, shrimps, snacks.
The Dirty Goose (913 U St, NW), signature martinis, craft cocktails, southern-inspired cuisine, and LGBT hometown hospitality nightly until 1am.
Nellie's Sports Bar (900 U St NW) big- screen TV patio bar near Howard University; basic, hearty food, games, karaoke, Sunday drag brunch.
Rock Hard at The House (3530 Georgia Ave NW), Thursday and Sunday totally nude male dancers for men, 9pm-1am non-stop performances; guest porn stars, chocolate-dipped nude male entertainers. Other nights feature female strippers.
Town (2009 8th St NW), weekend nightclub by Howard University, Friday/Saturday dancing on two floors, nightly 10:30pm cabaret drag shows, summer outdoor patio. Alternate Saturday Rawhide's CW line dancing. Every Friday 6-10pm DC Bëar Crüe Happy Hour, then 18+ night dancing, performances and go-go boys. Final year: closing July 1, 2018 (building sold for redevelopment).
Uproar (639 Florida Ave NW), Levi/leather men's bar, rooftop patio; restaurant sushi, burgers/sandwiches, tacos, wings, sharing plates.
Bars & Clubs Outlying
Freddie's Beach Bar (555 23rd St S, Arlington) locals' restaurant and bar favorite with a diverse crowd, live entertainment and drag shows, beyond the Potomac in N Virginia.
PW's Place (9855 N Washington Blvd, Laurel), gay sports bar with food and internet on Route One, in Maryland, midway between Washington and Baltimore.
Periodic events include: Bear Nonsense 2nd & 4th Fridays each month at The Rock & Roll Hotel rooftop patio bar; The Crucible, members-only alternative/fetish club nights; Daryl Wilson Productions for DC Black Pride, Labor Day Weekend and other special dates; Mixtape DC, queer dance party at various venues around town, usually on second Saturdays each month; Omega Parties at DC Black Pride, Freedom Weekend and other events; and Rich Morel's Hot Sauce parties in DC and Baltimore. Women's events include Unleashed, TMS Entertainment with second Saturday monthly dance parties; and the Women's Festival. Check websites for dates and locations.
Crew Club (1321 14th Street NW), 24-hour cruising for 18+ men; steam and sauna, TV lounges, gym, tanning.
Glorious Health Club (2120 W Virginia Ave NE), men's club steam, showers, gym, snack bar, take-out food deliveries. Open 24 hours just off New York Avenue. Monthly CumUnion sex parties for men, on 4th Saturdays; and 1st and 3rd Saturdays CODE Leather/Fetish play parties.
Areas around Dupont Circle, especially along 17th Street from P to R Streets and throughout the Adams Morgan area of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW offer many restaurant and cafe options of international cuisines and price range. A cluster of Asian restaurants can be found in Chinatown (Metro: Gallery Place). Below see a few of interest, gay and otherwise; and for another three dozen options see our map and listings/restaurants pages.
Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St NW, U Street corridor) restaurant, bookstore, internet cafe; political, arts, and literary gatherings, weekend brunch to 3pm.
Cafe Saint-Ex (1847 14th St NW), lunch/brunch and daily dinner with three-course prix fixe options from frequently changing menu. Attached to Gate 54 art deco hangar-like DJ-music lounge.
Duplex Diner (2004 18th St NW, Adams Morgan) gay-fave happy-hour bar and kitchy diner restaurant with American food of burgers, mac & cheese, open daily.
Dupont Italian Kitchen (1637 17th St NW) indoor or sidewalk seating on busy Dupont area restaurant strip; pasta, salads, seafood, chicken and sandwiches downstairs, mixed-crowd DIK Bar above.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe (1517 Connecticut Ave NW) Dupont Circle landmark bookstore and cafe, breakfast and morning papers from 7:30am, lunch, dinner, busy 'til after midnight day and night, seven days; indoor and sidewalk seating, live entertainment, full-service bar.
Lafayette Room (One Lafayette Square) elegant Hay-Adams Hotel dining room across from the White House; elaborate Sunday buffet brunch.
Level One (1639 R St NW), casual chic, classic American dining below Cobalt gay nightclub; music, outdoor seating, popular brunch.
Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th St NW) breakfast and lunch with the power elite from 7:30am weekdays, or weekend brunch; richly furnished, great food selection, excellent service.
Perry's (18 11 Columbia Rd) American Contemporary cuisine with Asian touch in Adams Morgan, also with Sunday brunch and drag shows.
Soho Tea and Coffee (2150 P St NW) Dupont area Internet cafe, sandwiches, deserts; all-ages gay hangout, especially on weekends.
Bite the Fruit (1723 Connecticut Ave NW, Dupont Circle), former Adam & Eve/Leather Rack, fine tailored leather clothing, accessories, toys, adult magazines and videos.
Capitol Video Sales (1729 Connecticut Ave NW, Dupont Circle) adult video DVDs, magazines, oils and toys.
CityCenter (New York Ave NW, to H St NW, between 9 and 11th), has 38 upscale stores, restaurants and cafes. Macy's (1201 G Street NW) department store, and dozens of other shops are clustered around the nearby Metro Center Station. Find more stores around Wisconsin Ave at M St NW in Georgetown, including the local Apple Store (1229 Wisconsin Ave NW).
Gallery Place (7th & H Sts NW), another DC commercial center, has retail shops, restaurants, pubs, a multi-plex cinema, and bowling.
Kramer Books (1517 Connecticut Ave NW), Dupont Circle bookstore and cafe, newspapers and magazines of the world, gay selections.
Whole Foods (1440 P Street NW), organic/natural foods market, local produce, deli/bakery, beer/wines, fresh soups/sandwiches and prepared foods. Also at 2201 I St NW, in Foggy Bottom, and 2323 Wisconsin Ave NW, Georgetown.
Yes! Organic Market (2123 14th St NW), natural and organic gocery foods since 1970; fresh-daily sushi, sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, hot soup, cut fruit, fresh juice to order, coffee, pastries and flowers. Also 1825 Columbia Rd NW, Adams Morgan, and five more area stores.