As gay and lesbian travel go, New Mexico in the Southwestern U.S. tends to be popular among couples seeking romance, not singles on the make. Albuquerque—despite being an overall welcoming place and the state's largest city—only has a handful of gay bars and clubs. Most of the city's gay or gay-friendly bars are in the hip Nob Hill section of town, which is also home to several restaurants and coffeehouses with an LGBTQ+ following and fun locally-owned shops and galleries worth checking out. So if you are visiting Albuquerque, and looking for some lively places to dance, mingle, and cruise, you'll find a few very inviting hangouts, and some great events, including a big PrideFest. There are also some gay-friendly road trips within a few hours, though upscale, artsy towns like Santa Fe and Taos have little in the way of LGBTQ+ nightlife.
With a selection of rideshares, getting around the city is easy. However, Albuquerque's crime rate is definitely high compared to many cities in the U.S., so before venturing out, take all the usual precautions, familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and avoid questionable areas.
Clubs and Bars
While there aren't many nightlife spots for the LGBTQ+ crowd in Albuquerque, those that exist are sure to provide a welcoming environment and plenty of entertainment from drag shows and karaoke to dancing and dining on tapas.
- Apothecary Lounge: Downtown is home to a swanky and beautiful indoor/outdoor tapas bar and lounge with an expansive roof deck that affords panoramic views of downtown and the Sandia Mountains. The mixed gay-straight venue at the elegant Hotel Parq Central on the historic Route 66 offers seasonal cocktails, local beer on tap, wine, and small plates with vegetables, cheese, fish, and other regional items.
- Albuquerque Social Club: Historic Nob Hill, which is bisected by famous Route 66, lies a couple of miles east of downtown. There you'll find Albuquerque Social Club, a private club for gay and lesbians, one of the neighborhood's and the city's most popular LGBTQ+ venues. You must be a member to enter "the Soch," but everyone is welcome (as long as they have a valid photo ID). The cost for an annual membership varies depending on if you live in the state or not. With a friendly staff, drag shows, karaoke, and other fun, the club draws sizable crowds, especially on weekends.
- Effex Nightclub: Just a few miles west of downtown is one of the city's most popular gay hangouts, Effex Nightclub. This attractive space was one of Albuquerque's first genuine "big city" gay nightclubs, though it has mixed crowds and all are welcome. It's a spacious venue with three levels: the main room, the lounge, and the rooftop patio—each with its own DJs—just off downtown's main drag, Central Avenue. Visitors will find dance floors with bars, a big stage, and a state-of-the-art sound system. Head upstairs and you'll find a huge roof deck bar that's ideal for chatting (and gazing up at those New Mexico twinkling stars). The Side Effex gastropub has a full menu with items ranging from nachos and French fries to a quinoa burger, plus handcrafted cocktails and several craft beers on tap.
- QBar Lounge: Located at the LGBTQ+ friendly Hotel Albuquerque in the Old Town neighborhood, QBar Lounge is an upscale, gay-friendly club and bar that features a diversity of activities from Latin dancing classes and a media room to a piano lounge and a billiards room. Sit in a comfortable booth and choose from the many wines available.
- Sidewinders Ranch: Drive a bit farther east of Nob Hill along Central Avenue, and you'll come to one of the most venerable gay nightclubs in town, which has the hottest club tunes, and a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, along with a great mix of people. Open daily, the club offers fun nights all week, including themed potluck parties and happy hours on Sundays, karaoke on Tuesdays, drag shows, pool tables, and more.
The city also has some less traditional LGBTQ+ nightlife options, including the highly inviting local coffeehouse-restaurant chain, Flying Star. These hip, smartly furnished hangouts are spacious and attractively decorated, often with fireplaces and most with large patios. There are several throughout Albuquerque neighborhoods. The one in Nob Hill along Central Avenue has the gayest crowd and evenings are sometimes cruise-friendly. Corrales' location also draws plenty of "family," but you'll feel quite welcome at any of them. All of the Flying Star locations serve three meals a day, including an all-day breakfast with vegetarian and vegan options, a wide range of coffees and teas, wine and beer, mimosas, and fresh-baked goods, and they also have free Wi-Fi.
If you are up for a bit of driving, you'll find some interesting things to do within a few hours of Albuquerque.
- Santa Fe, a one-hour drive northeast from Albuquerque, offers LGBTQ+ friendly nightlife such as restaurants, lounges, and live music venues, as well as a summer Pride event in June.
- About 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of downtown Santa Fe, the Gravity Nightclub & Lounge at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder has two dance floors and three bars. In addition, travelers can check out the casino, amazing Native American art, and various gourmet eateries such as Red Sage Restaurant—which uses ingredients from local farms and sells numerous wines—or Iguana Café for Mexican, New Mexican, and American entrées and desserts.
- Also be sure to consider the fabulous Mine Shaft Tavern, a lesbian-owned roadhouse cantina which features not only tacos, salads, grilled pizza, and other tasty items, but special events and live music on weekends. The festive spot is just an hour north of Albuquerque in the funky town of Madrid.
Events or Activities
Visitors may take comfort in knowing that Albuquerque has one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in New Mexico, and locals put on one of the state's biggest Pride events, as well as some smaller gatherings.
If you are in town in June, check out Albuquerque PrideFest held at Expo New Mexico each year. The event organized by Albuquerque Pride will celebrate its 44th anniversary in 2020. Entertainment includes an art show, classic cars, motorcycles, horses, dancers, floats, a children's area, shopping and food booths, and more during the three-day event. The parade is fun to watch or participate in: The route usually entails heading East on Central Avenue from Tulane Drive to San Pedro Drive and then entering the Expo. Albuquerque Pride also hosts many activities throughout the year, such as "Werk! The Stage" drag shows including food and drinks, women's dances, winter pajama parties, and beyond.
The Way Out West Film Fest, one of the largest annual film festivals in New Mexico, is usually held at a few local venues in October. Experience several days of films and shorts which detail LGBTQ+ experiences; buy tickets in advance online or at designated locations.
Tips for Going Out in Albuquerque
- In Albuquerque, Uber, Lyft, and zTrip (an app that is like a mix between a ride share and a taxi, with licensed and insured drivers) are available.
- The crime rate in Albuquerque is very high compared to other cities in the U.S., so use more caution than usual when going out at night and keep an eye out for auto theft and petty theft. Travel in groups when possible and avoid dark and unfamiliar areas. The downtown hub and the Nob Hill/University of New Mexico district are considered fairly safe, including at night.
- When getting ready to go out on the town, tourists will find T-shirts, shorts, and sandals the norm more than elegant clothing, but if going to the theater or other cultural events, dressing up is always an option.
- The "last call" time at clubs and bars is usually 2 a.m.