Charlottesville Gay Bars Guide

Escafe, Charlottesville, VA
••• Escafe, one of the top gay and lesbian hangouts in Charlottesville, Virginia. photo by Andrew Collins

Progressive, charming, and set in a stunning expanse of the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside Shenandoah National Park, Charlottesville, Virginia is one of the prettiest places for a weekend getaway in the southern Mid-Atlantic region. It's famous as the home of the University of Virginia as well as the presidential homes (now museums) of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) and James Monroe (Ash Lawn-Highland), with James Madison's Montpelier just a 40-minute drive away.

This small city of about 44,000 is just an hour's drive from Virginia's capital city, Richmond, and a 2.5-hour drive from Washington, DC.

Charlottesville Shopping, Dining and Nightlife

Charlottesville has a handsome, tree-shaded pedestrian area known as the Downtown Mall, which abounds with great restaurants, cool cafes, lively nightspots, and interesting shops, and you'll find a number of other gay-friendly hangouts throughout the area. 

A popular, friendly hangout in the progressive and gay-friendly Virginia college town of CharlottesvilleEscafe (215 Water St. W, 434-295-8668) is a first-rate contemporary American restaurant during the day and early evening, before shifting into one of this small city's few gay bars in the evening. The kitchen is known for creative yet accessible fare, such as Asian-salmon po'boys with daikon-ginger salad and wasabi mayo, and flambed filet mignon with port wine, Bearnaise butter, and whipped potatoes.

In the evening, the cozy bar serves up a nice selection of wines by the glass, and the crowd runs the gamut, from gay frat boys from nearby University of Virginia to open-minded heteros. Escafe used to be along Charlottesville's historic Downtown Mall, but is now in a new space just a block away.

Charlottesville's other gay hangout is a private club, Impulse (1417 N.

Emmet St.), which although members-only does welcome nonmembers, but there are fees involved, and you must apply first online. The annual cost is $50, or $10 for a monthly membership. You can ask at the door or contact the club ( for more details if you're just visiting briefly.