The name Detroit comes from the French word for "the narrows," so it’s no surprise that the city was founded at the slimmest part of the Great Lakes. The city eventually became a major industrial and commercial hub, attracting wave after wave of Irish, Polish, Greek, and other immigrants. Together with African Americans who migrated from the South, these peoples helped Detroit give birth to the US automobile industry a century ago.
Detroit today is one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. There is a strong, thriving gay community, interesting theater and performing arts, lush green spaces, and some of the friendliest people anywhere. The city has an intensely creative energy, but does require keeping your wits about you when out late at night. For safety, always park within the fenced and guarded parking lots beside many of the nightclubs.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is about 26 miles west of downtown Detroit. It’s a long ride to town in a taxi and not cheap, reckon on $60-70 to Ferndale/ Oak Park or Downtown with tip and surcharges. Smart bus number 125 service to Detroit has departures streetside at the lower level of the North Terminal building. Fares are inexpensive, starting at $2, but the trip could take 90 minutes and may require a transfer, depending on the time of day.
This is Motor City, so it’s no surprise that a car is the best way to get around. Parking is costly, though. Consider taking the People Mover, a monorail that runs throughout downtown Detroit. It's cheap and speedy.
Many of the bars are on or around main streets to the north of downtown - like McNichols, 7 Mile, 8 Mile or 9 Mile Roads, and along Woodward Avenue. Out this way is Ferndale, an independent and gay-friendly enclave with many shops, cafes, and nightclubs. Royal Oak at the end of Woodward likewise has stores, cafes, and theater to check out.
What to do
Main Art Theatre (118 N Main St, Royal Oak) shows the area's best selection of independent film and foreign language cinema on three screens. The Royal Oak Music Theatre (318 W 4th St) is a favorite live music venue. The Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre (415 S Lafayette Ave, Royal Oak) hosts a full season of plays and musicals, old and new.
Media & resources
Metro Times is the alternative paper with arts events, reviews and listings. The blog MotorGay has bar listings, photos and news about the nightlife of gay Motor City, but their listings no longer appear to be updated.
MDSL, the Metro Detroit LGBT softball league, play their games each summer Saturday, and do social events at various clubs around town.
Over the border, in Windsor Ontario, the Windsor Pride Community Centre has services and events. The Windsor-Essex Pride Fest takes place in August with a downtown festival and parade, along with entertainment and other events.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Detroit listings pages.
Detroit bars & clubs
Adam's Apple (18931 W Warren), neighborhood bar, mostly men, mixed ages, darts, jukebox.
Club Gold Coast (2971 E 7 Mile), nightly 18+ gay club, erotic male strippers, drag shows, restaurant, dance floor.
Escape Lounge (19404 Sherwood St), former Stingers, small mixed gay lounge, DJ music, after-hours until 6am weekends.
Gigi's (16920 W Warren), drag cabaret show bar, Monday College Night go-go boys, dance floor, young crowd.
Hayloft Saloon (8070 Greenfield), men's cruise bar, bear and leather events, darts, pool, juke box.
Inferno Detroit (1641 Middlebelt), Inkster gay nightclub, drag shows and pageants, all-male reviews, men's nights, movies, live bands, Saturday dancing, theme parties.
Innuendo (744 E Savannah), small but busy club, dancing and drag shows, hip-hop and R&B music.
Menjo's (928 W McNichols), 15,000 sq ft complex includes the longtime gay club with karaoke, disco dancing, live music, pornstars, TV sports, leather and bear nights, plus the Sunday Tea Dance; the Olympus Theater, with shows, performances and special events; and the New R&R Bar and patio, the return of Detroit's epic dive bar for men. F Gear, their leather lifestyle store, is across the way.
Pronto (608 S Washington, Royal Oak), video bar complex, attached to popular restaurant and bakery; lunch, dinner, Saturday/Sunday brunch.
Soho (205 W 9 Mile, Ferndale), cocktail and martini lounge, mixed crowd, dancing, trivia nights, popular karaoke and drag bingo nights.
UFO Factory (2110 Trumbull St), social club indie music shows and art exhibitions in Corktown; Jennyoke nights, Suck It! gay parties. Laika Dog Kitchen hot dogs and grilled cheese, Saturday/Sunday brunch.
Woodward (6426 Woodward), video bar, mixed crowd, dance floor, R&B, hip-hop and house music.
CLOSED: MaleBox II (23365 Hoover Rd, Warren), gay bar, college & cowboy nights, lube wrestling, contests; R & R Saloon (7330 Michigan), leathermen and bears, theme nights, food, Sunday keggers.
Body Zone (1617 E McNichols), steam sauna, hot tub, videos, gym, tanning facilities, 18+, open 24 hours. Special nights include Leather, Black Out parties, and College Nights.
Windsor, Ontario (Canada) bars & clubs
Boom Boom Room (315 Ouellette Ave), mostly straight 19+ dance club, Hip-Hop & Reggae Fridays.
Caesar's Windsor (377 Riverside Drive E), gaming casino, 80+ tables, slot machines; hotel, restaurant, nightclub.
Red Lounge (783 Wyandotte E), Windsor's gay/straight-friendly social night club, 5pm - 2am, 7 nights a week. Former Club 783.
CLOSED: Legends of 2012 (1056 Wyandotte St E), mixed gay crowd, all welcome, drag shows, nude male strippers.
Como's (22812 Woodward Ave, Ferndale) pasta and pizza until 4am, summer patio, boys night Tuesday, live music Wednesdays, Sunday brunch.
Five15 (515 S Washington Ave, Royal Oak), gay coffeehouse, drag queen bingo; coffes and teas, frappes, smoothies.
La Dolce Vita (17546 Woodward Ave) Italian cuisine, dine inside or on patio, elaborate Sunday brunch.
Om (23136 Woodward Ave) highly rated vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic restaurant.
Pronto (608 South Washington, Royal Oak) gay- friendly restaurant, bakery, and neighborhood hangout.
See a dozen more restaurant suggestions at our map & listings pages.
At the end of Woodward Avenue, the neighborhood of Royal Oak has some great restaurants, an art-house cinema, art galleries and lots of shops. Ferndale, where 9 Mile meets Woodward, is another gay area.
Elsewhere in Michigan
Click Ann Arbor for our guide to the nearby University of Michigan college town, and Grand Rapids for our guide to the West Michigan city. The Douglas Dunes Resort in Saugutuck/Douglas is a popular gay party escape at the sandy beach and waters of Lake Michigan.
In Pontiac, Michigan, check out Liberty Bar & Restaurant (85 N Saginaw) for videos, cocktails, karaoke, burgers and Sunday Brunch.
In Lansing, Michigan, the state capital and site of Michigan Pride, Spiral (1247 Center) is an 18+ Thursday - Sunday gay dance club with patio, fire pit, College Nights, theme parties and drag shows.
Traverse City is a lakeside resort in NW Michigan, home to the Film Festival founded by Michael Moore, and the National Cherry Festival, both in July. Also here is Side Traxx (520 Franklin St), a video dance bar, open daily from 5pm, open to all, LGBTQ&S.