The largest city in Missouri, Kansas City is something of a magnet for lesbians and gays who grew up not just in the immediate region but throughout the neighboring Plains states. It's certainly no Boystown, Chicago, but KC's Midtown-Westport district, just south of the city center, is home to a particularly thriving LGBTQ+ community. Queer-friendly hangouts range from casual sports bars and cocktail lounges to sex clubs (yes, there's one pseudo bathhouse here). Whatever your taste is, you're sure to be satiated by the city's small-yet-exuberant gay scene. Come during June to join in on KC's many Pride festivities.
Many tourists flock to the City of Fountains to sway to blues tunes in dimly-lit jazz clubs. This, after all, is what Kansas City's nightlife is known for. The gay bars, however, behold a different, perhaps more progressive kind of feel. There are rainbow flag-flying country-western bars where gays and lesbians go to do the old "Boot Scootin' Boogie," then there are more high-energy DJ dance clubs, karaoke, and cabaret.
- Sidekicks Saloon: The bright-red brick-and-wood building in Midtown that has long housed Sidekicks has seen quite a few line dancers and two-steppers in its day. Its friendly crowd and sweeping dance floor make it fun whether you're a fan of country-western or not. Drag shows, Latin nights, and good drink specials are all part of it, too.
- Bistro 303: An airy and contemporary cocktail bar in the heart of Westport's festive dining and retail district, Bistro 303 is one of KC's gay hot spots for happy hour, martinis, and casual-but-sophisticated dining. The menu is big on shareable plates: hummus, calamari, pizzas, and beef-and-artichoke roulades.
- Woody's Classic Sports Pub: Crowds of people are constantly crowded around the pool tables, beer-in-hand, at Woody's, which is a great venue to watch local sports teams.
- Sidestreet Bar: As its name suggests, this cozy neighborhood bar is on a quiet side street in Union Hill, making it a favorite hangout with the many gay men who live there. It's laidback and caters to the bearish/leather set, but by no means exclusively so. Not a typical tourist destination, but a good stop if you're doing a gay KC pub crawl.
- Uptown Arts Bar: Come for the cabaret, stay for the drinks and comradery.
Kansas City doesn't have much in the way of clubs (sports bars and country clubs are more of a thing in this Midwestern hub). One can't-miss venue, though, is the gay-popular Missie B's. This two-story club has several notable features: a leather and sex boutique on the upper floor, which also has a small dance floor and a lounge called Bootleggers that's home to the leather-oriented Bootleggers Club of Kansas City; a back patio; and a show stage on the ground floor that presents highly entertaining drag/female-impersonation shows. There's also karaoke, beer busts, live cabaret, and all sorts of other inspired entertainment, depending on the evening.
Where there is alcohol, you can be sure that food is nearby. Whether you're looking for a pregame dinner spot with table-side drag or a more traditional dining experience with a subtle gay leaning, you'll find it in KC.
- Hamburger Mary's: Everyone's favorite campy gay burger chain has an outpost in this Midwestern city. Be sure to stop by for HamBINGO (a charity bingo hosted by Mary's best drag queens) on Wednesdays through Saturdays, or the very popular monthly beer busts.
- Michael Forbes Bar & Grille: This gay-owned and operated 63rd Street eatery is popular with the locals. Tourists will enjoy exploring the adorable neighborhood it's in, too.
- Hereford House: There are several locations of this classic steakhouse chain dotted around the city, but none are closer to the LGBTQ+ scene than its historic location in the Crossroads.
- Osteria Il Centro: This place has been one of the city's more romantic neighborhood trattorias since it opened in 1995. Back then, it was just up the street from Kansas City's most popular gay bar, Cabaret, which has since closed but the gay following it rendered stuck. Here, you can dine on a nice mix of authentic, well-prepared Northern Italian dishes: shrimp carciofi, caprese salads, and thin-crust pizzettes.
Events & Festivals
KC PrideFest is among the biggest and most robust pride celebrations in the middle states. Typically kicking off at the end of May or early June, this LGBTQ+ celebration occupies Berkley Riverfront for several days. The event has been known to host national headliners like Grammy-winner Maya and local celebrities like Hamburger Mary's drag queens alike. Happening simultaneously at Quixotic is the Transfiguration Music and Arts Pride Festival, which is meant to be a more indie version of PrideFest. This alternative aims to "move away from a singular idea of what it means to be queer or gay or trans in the Midwest." Fashion, music, and pop culture are at the forefront of Transfiguration's focus.
Tips for Going Out in Kansas City
- Most Kansas City bars close at 1:30 a.m. (sometimes even earlier on weeknights), while others who have special licenses—such as Sidekicks, Woody's, and Missie B's—typically stay open until 3 a.m.
- The Midtown-Westport region is about 2.5 miles south of Downtown, which is a five-minute Uber ride from many of the popular hotels.
- If you're looking to mingle with gays in the Kansas City area but aren't in the market for a wild night out, you could always book a room (or a locker) at Hyde's, a private, men-only gym and guesthouse in Midtown.
- Kansas City is no Los Angeles when it comes to drink prices, so a Saturday night probably won't break the bank. In any case, Missie B's is among the cheapest places to drink in the city.
- You should order a Caribou Lou at least once while you're in town. The drink, made of 151 proof rum, coconut rum, and pineapple juice, originated in Kansas City back in 1995.