LGBT Travel Guide to Las Vegas

Illuminated Cityscape At Night
Kittitouch Katemanee / EyeEm / Getty Images

Las Vegas is a prime LGBTQ attraction for not just the strip—it's also about the drag! Some of the "RuPaul's Drag Race" series' favorites, including Yara Sofia, India Ferrah, Coco Montrese, Derrick Barry, Farrah Moan, and Shannel have made Sin City their home over the past decade, with many performing regularly at nightclub Piranha Ultra Lounge and Senor Frog's Drag Brunch.

RuPaul's Drag Race even launched a Vegas live stage revue at the Flamingo in 2019, which is scheduled for a second run from January to March 2021 with cast members Aquaria, Asia O'Hara, Derrick Barry, Eureka O'Hara, Kameron Michaels, Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Shea Couleé, and Yvie Oddly (you can check out the original run in the six-episode VH1 docuseries, "RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue").

Drag aside, Las Vegas has tons to offer LGBTQ visitors and the thousands of temporary and permanent locals that populate its shows, hotels, restaurants, and attractions, not to mention its wide array of indie downtown businesses and thriving creative culture in the Arts District, which saw addition of a brand new gay bar in Spring 2020, The Garden. There's also Las Vegas' famed gay nightlife zone just east of the strip, affectionately known as the "Fruit Loop."

Las Vegas Pride
 Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The city saw its first LGBTQ Pride events transpire in late spring 1983, and the now annual Las Vegas Pride celebration typically takes place circa National Coming Out Day in October (Senator Elizabeth Warren took part in 2019's edition!).

Celebrating its third edition in 2020, late Fall's Las Vegas Queer Arts Film Festival spotlights an exceptionally diverse line-up of short films including local work, while a jewel in its crown entails a fierce annual vogueing ball.

Check out the website for Las Vegas' tourism office, Visit Las Vegas, which includes listings of LGBTQ+ nightlife.

Lady Gaga at Park MGM
Courtesy of Park MGM

The Best Things To Do

Before we get to attractions on The Strip, spend some time exploring other parts of Las Vegas including its Downtown and Arts District. A fantastic starting point in more than one way, The Neon Museum is a testament to some of Sin City's most iconic hotels, attractions and institutions thanks to its collection of signage (some of it restored to its former neon-lit glory) for the likes of the Liberace Museum. Tim Burton was so enamored with the Neon Museum that he created a special exhibition that ran from 2019-early 2020: be sure to check out TripSavvy's Complete Guide to The Neon Museum for all sorts of hot tips and scoop on this must-visit.

2012 saw opening of Las Vegas' world class The Smith Center For The Performing Arts, which hosts touring Broadway productions as part of its Broadway Las Vegas Series (a partial 2021 line-up includes Hadestown, "The Cher Show," "Tootsie," "Frozen," Aaron Sorkin's version of "To Kill A Mockingbird," and "My Fair Lady"), and is home to seasonal performances by Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre. Gold LEED certified and Art Deco-inspired (the design team includes David M. Schwarz Architects, Inc., the firm behind Fort Worth, Texas' Bass Performance Hall and Nashville, Tennessee's Schermerhorn Symphony Center), The Smith Center boasts three distinct indoor performance spaces—the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall, 240-seat Myron's Cabaret Jazz room, and 250-seat Troesh Studio Theater—plus a grassy, outdoor 1.9 acre Donald W. Reynolds Symphony Park for concerts, an outdoor courtyard, and more. Don't forget to check out the visual art, from outdoor installations and sculptures to indoor paintings and photography, scattered around Smith Center's five acre campus.

During summertime, the weekly pool party at Luxor, Temptation Sundays, is a must and celebrates its 12th anniversary in May 2021. Consider reserving a VIP chair or cabana via the website in advance for extra special comfort in between dips.

The Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas, each custom built for its respective venue, are elaborate spectacles rife with cutting edge technology and art design, derring-do, and at least a bit of queerness (sometimes a LOT, even). Overseen by the company's openly gay Senior Vice President of Business Development, Jerry Nadal, they include the eye-popping, stunt-filled fantasia Ka, the Beatles music-driven Love, literally water-filled O, burlesque revue Zumanity, Michael Jackson One, and Cirque's inaugural Las Vegas production, which opened in 1993, Mystere at Treasure Island.

Coincidentally, Nadal's husband, Mark Lubas, works for a company that produces a couple of Las Vegas blockbuster Hollywood movie-related attractions, The Hunger Games: The Exhibition and Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., that are a lot of fun with interactive elements/games and dozens of actual props, sets, costumes, and paraphernalia from the films themselves.

Drag brunch at Senor Frog's features some RuPaul's Drag Race royalty and bottomless cocktails. There are two seatings/showtimes, at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., from Thursday to Sunday, which you can reserve online.

Opened in late 2018, the Park Theater is home to residencies including Lady Gaga's ballyhooed Enigma, Cher (in October/November 2020) and Bruno Mars. Keep an eye out for more! You can also catch some queer icons—well, drag queen simulations of them—at the Tropicana's Legends In Concert. The line-up of impersonators is constantly changing, and can include the likes of a Joan Rivers, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, and Freddie Mercury.

The Best LGBTQ Bars and Clubs

Most gay bars are located in the Fruit Loop to the strip's east, and quite a few offer gaming machines within, including one of the longest-running Las Vegas LGBTQ nightlife venues, Freezone Las Vegas. Open 24/7 and marked by a pair of giant wings by the entrance (get your phone's camera ready!), the line-up at this nightclub-bar-restaurant includes dancing, karaoke, drag performances, and open bar on some nights from 9-11pm.

Piranha Ultra Lounge is Las Vegas's most happening, sassy nightclub and where you can see "RuPaul Drag Race" stars Yara Sofia and Shannel plus local drag talents Hot Chocolate, Paloma Makary (whom hosts the club's weekly Latin Night), and Lacherry Wild among others.

The handiwork of Sin City's innovative LGBT nightlife promoter Eduardo Cordova, brand new gay bar The Garden opened in Downtown's Arts District in 2020. Serving chef Jorge Castillo's comfort sharing plates (angus beef sliders, truffle parmesan fries) as well as cocktails, the indoor space is decked out in aqua and mossy green tones with velvet booths, wood and brass elements, and a DJ booth that resembles a fireplace, while an outdoor garden patio features flowers, water fountains, and small tables and chairs for comfy kikis.

Country Western-themed Badlands Bar is open 24/7 and goes far beyond line dancing and country sounds with a weekly Latin night on Thursdays, go-go dancers and current EDM and dance tunes on Saturdays, special events like "Don't Be A Drag," a sort of open mic-style drag competition for all styles of queen, king, and non-binary performer on first Saturdays; Drag Race viewing parties; and the exotic variety show, "Latenight Tease." There's a daily 2-4-1 cocktail happy hour at QuadZ Video Bar, with plenty of dancing on weekends and weekly "Drag Race" viewing parties.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2021, neighborhood-y gay sports bar The Garage is also 24/7, and playful with its auto body shop theme and decor. Expect plenty of locals, a pool table, darts, and other games, heavy pours, and outdoor patio seating. Las Vegas Eagle goes beyond the leather and bears with drag shows, underwear parties, country western nights, karaoke, and more, while The Phoenix - formerly Escape Lounge - packs drag, karaoke, darts, and more into its nearly 5,000 square foot space.

Besides drag, drinks, and go-go boys, Flex Cocktail Lounge features classic Las Vegas video bar fixings - yes, there are slot machines! - and themed nights like Wednesday's "Dragaoke," beer busts, and every fourth Friday's Bears Las Vegas party. Showtune queens can get their piano crooning on at Don't Tell Mama, while fans of unpretentious, neighborhood dive bars will love Spotlight Lounge.

The Best Places to Eat

You can grab a casual bite at a handful of LGBTQ bars and clubs, including The Phoenix, The Garage, The Garden, and Freezone. However, one is spoilt for choice in Las Vegas when it comes to trying hotly desired brands from around the country and high-end celebrity chef venues alike.

Out lesbian celebrity chef Susan Feniger, of Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales" and Bravo's "Top Chef Masters," serves up delicious modern Mexican creations at Border Grill at Mandalay Bay (with fellow chef Mary Sue Milliken). And L.A. chef, and Korean food truck maestro, Roy Choi brings succulent fusion and modern pop art to Sin City at Park MGM's Best Friend.

The Cosmopolitan
Courtesy of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Where to Stay

The Park MGM Las Vegas made its much anticipated debut in December 2018 —along with a Lady Gaga residency at its 5,200 seat Park Theater—in the former Monte Carlo. The property also shares its space with upscale boutique-style, sister hotel NoMad Las Vegas. At 2,992 and 293 rooms respectively, the latter feels straight out of Manhattan's Soho neighborhood with its sophisticated metropolitan vibe and classy contemporary decor, plus a dedicated pool, the plush NoMad bar, and a restaurant situated in stunning library-style setting (25,000 books line its floor to ceiling shelves).

A glitzy, buzzy and funky LGBTQ fave, The Cosmopolitan refreshed its 2,895 rooms in late 2017, while it remains a hub of trendy food/retail outlets from around the country with a subversive edge. Its multi-level Chandelier Bar is a prime selfie and cocktail sipping space, and don't forget their hidden, legit NY-style pizza slice spot. Opened in 2009, the Mandarin Oriental was bought in August 2018 and is now the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas: an 18-month renovation project commenced in 2019. One of the strip's only casino and smoking-free five-star properties (a refreshing departure for those preferring low-key, sophisticated and luxe surroundings when not out and about), its 392 rooms occupy the building's 4th-22nd floors (the reception and sky lobby are located on the 23rd—don't miss its Moet & Chandon champagne vending machine!).

Another recent rebirth to the far north end of the strip (and easily accessed by the efficient Las Vegas Monorail), the SLS and W Hotel have become a 21st Century incarnation of a classic institution, The Sahara Las Vegas, which retained the latter's Philippe Starck design, trio of outdoor pools, and restaurants including Bazaar Meat by José Andrés.

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