Despite its location in the heart of Texas, Austin is one of the most welcoming places in the world for gay visitors and residents alike. When you’re in the mood to drink and dance, all of these lively bars and clubs will greet you with open arms.
The Austin Chronicle named Cheer Up Charlies "Best LGBTQ Club" in 2016 because of its truly welcoming vibe. In fact, the crowd is so diverse you might be surprised to hear that it's a gay bar. The spacious outdoor area and Arlo's vegan food truck give the bar a low-key vibe, even though the music is often loud.
A long-term survivor in a competitive bar market, Oilcan Harry’s has served as Austin’s gay HQ since 1990. The bar can get a little wild at times, particularly during major events such as F-1 weekend, South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Co-owner Larry Davis brings in a larger staff during these events to keep the madness under control. On a typical weekend, though, Oilcan Harry’s is pure fun, featuring non-stop dance music, karaoke nights, drag-queen contests and numerous charity events.
The back patio is a nice place to take a short break from the thumping music. 211 West 4th Street; (512) 320-8823
With several indoor and outdoor areas, Rain on 4th is well designed for strolling, dancing and mingling. A little more glam than most gay bars in town, Rain attracts a young and impeccably dressed crowd. A DJ by the name of Filthy Rich keeps the crowd moving on most nights. Live bands hit the stage on Sunday nights. Wednesday is karaoke night. 217 West 4th Street; (512) 494-1150
Known for attracting the most diverse LGBT crowd in Austin, ’Bout Time can be a little jarring if you’re not prepared for a little bit of everything. Here you’ll find every race, size, age, gender and sexual orientation you can imagine. What you won’t find is any hint of pretentiousness. There’s plenty of space, indoors and on the patio, and a very friendly vibe. Don’t miss the amateur strip-off every Wednesday. 6607 North Interstate 35; (512) 419-9192
5. The Iron Bear
As the name suggests, this is a bar for big, burly, hairy bear men. The actual percentage of bears varies widely from night to night, but the place always has the feel of a laid-back neighborhood bar. Beer is the drink of choice. Wednesday and Sunday are karaoke nights. Other theme nights involve specialized attire such as leather, military, latex and jock wear. In late 2018, the Iron Bear was rocked by two non-lethal fireworks being tossed on its front doorstep. No one was injured, but the crime remains unsolved as of October 2018.
121 West 8th Street; (512) 482-8993
While the club bills itself as a gay bar, some regulars refer to it as simply an "inclusive" bar. It's a multilevel dance club packed with all sorts of people. The club frequently hosts fundraisers to benefit the LGBT community. Every Friday night, the club presents the raucous "Tucked" drag show. Other theme nights include karaoke night, "Drag Bingo" and poker night. With five bars scattered around the indoor and outdoor areas, you rarely have to wait long for a drink. 404 Colorado Street; (512) 649-1212
Barbarella is a fun dance club every night, but it gets even more festive on TuezGayz. The DJs make sure to keep the music interesting, including danceable selections from the ’80s to current pop hits. The VJ known as Glitoris holds court on most Tuesdays, which means you can expect plenty of Beyonce, St. Vincent and indie and electro music. 615 Red River Street; (512) 476-7766