Explore Washington D.C.

D.C. for LGBT Travelers

Washington, D.C. may not wave its Pride flag as vigorously as, say, San Francisco, but the capital’s LGBT roots run just as deep. After all, this is where famed poet Walt Whitman met the love of his life, Peter Doyle while riding a streetcar one night in 1865. Though born and raised in New York, Franklin Kameny, a gay rights pioneer and co-founder of the D.C. branch of advocacy group Mattachine Society, also called Washington home. The Human Rights Campaign is headquartered here, and this is where the highest tribunal in the land legalized gay marriage in the landmark case, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Those roots have given life to a vibrant and flourishing gay community, rivaling not only San Francisco’s own, but those of major cities around the world. A 2013 New York Times article even wonders aloud if D.C. is “the gayest place in America.” According to Census Bureau statistics, it just may be.

Luckily for visitors, that means there are plenty of ways to soak up the local color. Start at LGBT hub Dupont Circle for a dose of history (try a guided walking tour with Rainbow History Project), and then make your way through the hip bars, shops and restaurants of Logan Circle and Adams Morgan, two other hotspots for alternative lifestyles.

Visitors in June find the city draped in rainbow bunting for Capital Pride, while those who pass through in late October find bon vivants in drag competing to win the popular 17th Street High Heel Race. But no matter the time of year, visitors find a capital city with a jumping nightlife scene, beloved watering holes and rich history.

Nellie's Sports Bar

Rooftop patio and indoor bar with theme nights (Monday poker, Tuesday karaoke, Wednesday trivia), DJs and popular drag brunch. M-Th 5 pm-1 am, F 3 pm-3 am, Sa 10:30 am-3 am. Sun. 10:30 am-1 am.

Dupont Circle

During America's Gilded Age, this area became a promenade for old money and the nouveau riche. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, embassies and other contemporary institutions have reclaimed the zone's elegant mansions.

Hank's Oyster Bar

Chef Jamie Leeds with her famous “Meat and Two” (one protein like molasses short ribs or fried oysters with two sides) in multiple outposts. Wines and cocktails like “i know what boys like” (bacon-washed rye and blended scotch whiskey). L, D, Br, times vary by location.

Rainbow History Project

Tours of key spots in LGBT history from notable residences to protest hotspots, meeting places and even bars. Guided walks by appointment (email info@rainbowhistory.org). Free downloadable brochures for self-guided excursions available online. 

Adams Morgan

Restaurants, funky shops and bars in this international area known for adventurous nightlife and global cuisine. Main drags: 18th Street and Columbia Road NW.

Duplex Diner

Lively spot for burgers, sandwiches, meatloaf, tacos, tater tots and "lemon squeeze" signature cocktail. $5 Stoli cocktail happy hour M-F. Dance floor. D (daily), Br (Sa-Su).

Gay Men's Chorus

First openly gay chorus to tour Cuba (2015), singing a variety of numbers from classical to show tunes for more than 35 years at venues around town (Lincoln Theatre, Atlas Performing Arts Center, Kennedy Center). See website for schedule.

Number Nine

Upscale bar with chic second-story video lounge dubbed 9 1/2. Mixologists pour classic and new cocktails with nightly happy hour specials. M-F 5 pm-close, Sa-Su 2 pm-close.

Signature Theatre

Artistic director Eric Schaeffer and company stage contemporary plays and musicals (often Sondheim) in a $16-million space with two theaters and easy parking.