Although the LGBTQ scene in Little Rock, Arkansas, is much more subdued than in big southern cities like Austin or Memphis, there are a few places for the gay community to mingle with kindred spirits.
Known as "the biggest little city in the South," Little Rock is home to more than 1 million people, tons of fun bars, and a diverse culinary scene. LGBTQ folk are in good company, seeing as Little Rock has in the past been ranked the 11th "gayest city" in the country (a feat for such a small place). There's no shortage of gay-friendly bars and clubs to find yourself in after dark.
If you're a lover of the nightlife, then concentrate your time in Little Rock around the downtown area—River Market Street, especially—where many of the watering holes are. There is no designated "gayborhood," but the bars and clubs here are extremely inclusive of the LGBTQ community.
- Chaps Bar: Located in North Little Rock and originally known as Old Rusty's Oyster Bar, Chaps has become one of the best gay bars in the metro area over the decades. The atmosphere at this friendly dive bar is akin to "Cheers!" While everyone may not know your name here, they just might if you play your jukebox cards right.
- Six Ten (610) Center: This hip hangout serves tasty bar food alongside its extensive drink menu. It's not exclusively a gay bar, but Six Ten tends to draw a large LGBTQ crowd, especially for Wednesday night drag bingo and Thursday karaoke. The menu combines American classics with Cajun traditional dishes like gumbo and boudin.
- White Water Tavern: This rustic, cabin-like bar is full of woodsman-style decor and offers inexpensive beer, food, and bar snacks. Live music performances are common, and while it's not exclusively a gay bar, it does often host queer musicians. Come on a weekend to see a show.
Little Rock's club scene is so robust it would give any bigger city a run for its money. Some are even gay-leaning.
- Club Sway: Little Rock's resident gay club features a huge central dance floor surrounded by video screens and a state-of-the-art sound system conducive to hours of dancing. Sway has been known to host a mean themed party and drag show. Since it opened in 2010, dozens of entertainers from "RuPaul's Drag Race," as well as several international nightlife legends (Amanda Lepore), have performed at Club Sway.
- Triniti Nightclub: This Friday-only club is the place for the LGTBQ crowd, even though it's not technically gay-specific. It has three bars: LeBistro, 501, and 701, with 701 playing host to weekly drag shows. LeBistro boasts a more relaxed atmosphere and an outdoor patio whereas 501 is the DJ-led dance floor.
- Discovery Night Club: Located next door to Triniti, Discovery Night Club (also called "The Disco") is a sprawling venue whose multiple rooms offer a fun and bizarre vibe. The queer crowd really shows up for weekly drag shows and everyone shows up for the dancing, gay or not. Sometimes, you'll find the professional dancers occupying the bar. Come after midnight if you're looking for a crowd.
Festivals & Events
Little Rock doesn't have much in the way of gay events save regular drag shows and bingo at the LGBTQ bars. But Little Rock's River Market district plays host to the Central Arkansas Pride Fest every October. It features musical acts like in the past Betty Who, who remade the "Queer Eye" theme song, and is always centered around a theme.
Adults will love the alcoholic beverages on offer while taking in a Pride Talk and, meanwhile, their kids can play in the family zone. Food trucks and vendors offer plenty of food and shopping opportunities, too. On the afternoon of the event, a festive and rainbow-colored parade makes its way down President Clinton Avenue. While the festival only lasts one day, there are often events surrounding it (pool parties or gay rendezvous at downtown bars).
Otherwise, there are a couple of other happenings throughout the year that aren't technically gay-leaning, but welcoming nonetheless. They include the Main Street Food Truck Festival in September and Feast in the Field (an al fresco dinner party to benefit Arkansas farmers) in June.
Tips for Going Out in Little Rock
- Arkansas bars are required by law to stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., but some clubs stay open until the wee hours of the morning. Triniti, for instance, doesn't close until 5 a.m.
- Little Rock stores don't sell alcohol on Sundays, so arrange for your Sunday funday revelries ahead of time.
- Keep your eye on the Central Arkansas Pride website for announcements and events catering to the gay community.