When it comes to beach vacations, LGBTQ+ travelers flock to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the south, San Diego, California, out west, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in the Mid-Atlantic. This East Coast hangout is far less tourist-popular than its neighbors—Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the north and Ocean City, Maryland, in the south—but it has to be one of the most gay-friendly slices of coastline around.
Rehoboth Beach is a charming small town with a year-round population of only about 1,400, but during summer, that number can multiply by a dozen or more. Each of Rehoboth's little hamlets attracts a different kind of crowd (North Shore, for instance, has a reputation for being a lesbian hangout whereas Poodle Beach beckons young gay men). It is very much a summertime destination, though—many businesses close up shop in the fall—so do your research before booking a trip in the off-season.
It's always 5 o'clock somewhere at Rehoboth Beach, which means drinking during the day is just as—or perhaps even more—commonplace as drinking after dark. Restaurants often synonymous with bars and vice versa. There's hardly an eatery in town that doesn't serve up margaritas.
- Purple Parrot Grill: You can expect the bartender to pour your beer while wearing a swimsuit in this quintessential gay beach bar. Purple Parrot Grill's open-air dining area is a lively place to have an afternoon drink or nighttime romp. On Sunday nights, Tara Austin and the Birdcage Bad Girls take the stage in drag. Fridays and Saturdays, on the other hand, are reserved for karaoke.
- Blue Moon: As a restaurant, this casually elegant spot is a legitimate star with foodies of all stripes. As a bar, Blue Moon has been a favorite for LGBTQ+ folks since it opened in 1981. Reservations are a good idea, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats: It's something of a mecca for fans of unusual craft beers, and especially those of hoppy IPAs: Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, which sells its beer all over the country and has several other outposts in different cities, calls Rehoboth Beach home. It's not gay-specific, per se, but it's right on the main drag and a great option for tasting top-quality beer. It isn't unusual for this convivial taproom to host a live band now and again (and it serves pretty tasty pub food, too).
- Iguana Grill: Located a few blocks from the boardwalk, this colorful Victorian beach house bar and restaurant has been a favorite destination for locals and visitors since 1994. The bar showcases an impressive selection of tequilas. Try one of the featured flights with a pair of Chesapeake fish cakes and soak up the laidback vibe on the breezy patio.
- The Pond Bar & Grill: Among the many bustling bars and eateries in downtown Rehoboth, The Pond Bar & Grill has arguably the strongest LGBTQ+ following, although it also attracts patrons of the straight variety. Popular for such themed evenings as Speed Bingo Wednesdays, Trivia Challenge Thursdays, and live music on many nights (especially weekends), The Pond is the sort of no-attitude, welcoming place in which regulars and newcomers feel equally at home.
If you're looking for something a little more high-energy than your average beachside bar, then set your GPS to Diego's Bar Nightclub, a tropical sort of place with regular DJs, karaoke, and a spacious dance floor (Rehoboth's largest). Come for "Yappy Hour" specials from 4 to 8 p.m. and stay to close down the dance floor (1:45 a.m. on weekends).
Tips for Going Out in Rehoboth Beach
- Be sure to visit the CAMP Rehoboth (standing for "Creating a More Positive Rehoboth") events calendar for LGBTQ+ happenings during your stay.
- Last call in Delaware is 1 a.m. Some bars stay open an hour after they stop selling alcohol to give customers time to finish their drinks. At the latest, bars in Rehoboth close at 2 a.m.
- This East Coast destination may be a bit difficult to get to, considering its distance from any major airport, but once you arrive, you can pretty much travel the entire place on foot.