An LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Denver, Colorado

Denver Pride

Denver PrideFest + Evan Semon

With nearly 3 million people in its greater metro area, Denver, Colorado, is one of the region's most progressive, queer, and creative enclaves—with an enviable, iconic state flag to boot! In fact, the Mile High City scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's 2020 Municipality Equality Index (as did Boulder), while Denver has also ranked as boasting one of the country's largest LGBTQ populations per capita. In May 2019, openly gay Colorado Governor Jared Polis (the second LGBTQ person elected to such a position and the first openly gay parent to serve as a Congressman back in 2008) signed a statewide ban on the reviled, cruel, and ineffective practice of "conversion therapy," while the state sees many outstanding protections and resources for LGBTQ people, including youth.

Much of the LGBTQ nightlife scene is found in and around the Capitol Hill "gayborhood," while other parts of town with significant queer presences include Cherry Creek and RiNo (a.k.a. the River North Arts District). To get the scoop on Denver LGBTQ news and updated what's ons, grab a copy or download Out Front Magazine, one of the country's longest-running, indie regional queer publications (founded in 1976!). Denver's official tourism office, Visit Denver, includes plenty of content for LGBTQ travelers, including a three-day weekend itinerary, nightlife, the city's queer history, and more. And longtime alternative weekly Westword and online magazine 303 also feature some queer culture news, scoops, and updates.

Denver PrideFest

Paul Shio

Events & Festivals

Denver saw its first LGBTQ pride parade in 1975. June's annual two-day Denver PrideFest continues to get bigger and better with an estimated attendance of 450,000 and highlights including a 5K run, festival, and marketplace, family-friendly activities, and parade. Fall sees the nonprofit Denver Film organization present an LGBTQ film festival, CinemaQ. This being cowboy country, Denver's annual events calendar typically sees at least one event from the International Gay Rodeo Association.

Inside Denver's Performing Arts Complex

TripSavvy / Jennifer Broome

The Best Things to Do

Kick-off your trip by taking the self-guided LGBTQ history walk. Developed by AARP Colorado and the GLBT Community Center, this audio tour is available via the Geotourist app for Apple and Google Play. Also, be sure to stroll and explore the following neighborhoods: RiNo, Highlands, shop-filled Cherry Creek, LoHi (Lower Highlands), and South Broadway.

This year will see the opening of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based art collective Meow Wolf's namesake museum, an interactive kids-friendly affair with work by 110 local artists. The strikingly designed, angular Denver Art Museum sees some incredibly cool LGBTQ-interest exhibitions, which have included a Yves Saint Laurent retrospective. A 2021 highlight, South Africa's Simphiwe Ndzube receives a first solo U.S. exhibition here, "Oracles of the Pink Universe," through Oct. 10, 2021.

Comprising almost a dozen venues, the Denver Performing Arts Complex offers some art for almost every taste, including a 2,225-seat opera house, 2,679-seat concert hall, multiple theater spaces, and an outdoor sculpture park that also hosts Shakespeare Festival performances. In 2019, Denver launched a Fringe Festival and features an eclectic, LGBTQ-inclusive line-up of shows (2020 saw Multitudes, a one-person show about iconic gay poet Walt Whitman).

An indie publisher of graphic novels, Kilgore Books & Comics also operates a fantastic retail location with second-hand publications as well. At the same time, LoDo's Tattered Cover is known for stocking a juicy LGBTQ selection.

The Best LGBTQ Bars and Clubs

Plant yourself in the Capitol Hill "gayborhood" to start an LGBTQ bar and club crawl. Kick things off at Denver's oldest LGBTQ bar, the unpretentious R&R Lounge, which dates back to the 1950s when it was originally named "Coral Lounge. Fun fact: the R&R stands for Rick and Roger, the original owners, who changed its name during the 1970s.

An industrial-tinged, friendly video bar, Pride & Swagger (the wall cheekily reads "no pride, no swagger, no service") serves up strong libations, Drag Race viewing parties, and some brunch grub. Country western rules at nightclub Charlie's Denver, which celebrated 40 years in 2021 and has sister locations in Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Puerto Vallarta. Besides cowboy hats and some line dancing, expect drag queen Trixxie Deluxxe's mimosa/bloody mary/beer bust on Sunday afternoons, "Drag Race" viewing parties, drag BINGO (Wednesday nights), and more drag-y events.

One of Denver's longest-running LGBTQ institutions, Tracks first opened in 1980 as an after-hours bar (and spawned the legendary Washington, D.C., club of the same name, which ran until 1999). Tracks' current 8,000 square foot nightclub incarnation in RiNo was renovated in 2015 and features theme nights, including the queer burlesque show "Queeriosity" on select Fridays, sexy choreographed male dance revue "Bolt" on Saturdays and live jazz music on Wednesday nights.

Theater queens and creative types congregate on Broadway's Li'l Devils Lounge, which features a sizable outdoor patio space, seasonal and frozen cocktails, and Denver craft beer, themed parties and events, and appearances by local show cast members. Meanwhile, The Triangle posits itself as Denver's "premium LGBTQ bar." Located in a historic, restored Downtown building, Triangle serves locavore-centric craft cocktails and food, Sunday beer busts, drag bingo brunches, "tequila, tacos, and music" on Fridays and an after-pride block party.

Opened in 2010 on Capitol Hill's East Colfax Avenue nightlife strip, X Bar keeps things lively with plenty of dancing, viewing parties, drag shows featuring local superstars including drag king Kaptain Inherpants and "the nicest queen in Denver," Miss Zarah, and a weekly Drag Brunch at its Saffron Grill on Sundays. Situated about a dozen blocks east on Colfax, a new gay sports bar, Tight End, was opened in Spring 2021 by X Bar's owner and features two turf-covered patios, TV screens, and of course, pitchers of beer. Blush & Blu, located across the street, is a rarity: a lesbian bar—only 15 remain in the U.S., according to The Lesbian Bar Project—although explicitly open to all. Open six days a week, 3 to 6 p.m., sees a happy hour, while weekly events include a "Savagely Sassy Open Mic" on Wednesdays, karaoke on Thursdays, and Sunday "tracksuit brunch" from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Inside Union Station

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

The Best Places to Eat

Denver is definitely a foodie city and breakfast and brunch, in particular, are beloved with superb restaurants specializing in brekkie fare. Those include Capitol Hill's tellingly named Jelly, Cherry Creek and Downtown's Syrup (there are two additional locations), and Snooze AM Eatery, which boasts an always buzzing location at Denver's incredible Union Station, a 100-year-old hub for not only trains but also art installations, boutique shops, and plenty of other restaurants, cafes (Pigtrain Coffee Co. is a must), and bar stocking dozens of local craft brews and spirits.

Solid pub and international fare is also served at some of Denver's LGBTQ bars and clubs including The Triangle, while X Bar is home to a location of Mediterranean cuisine venue Saffron Grill.

Where to Stay

There are quite a few LGBTQ-friendly properties in Denver. A restored Victorian 1891 mansion was turned into Denver's award-winning, LGBTQ-friendly bed and breakfast, Capitol Hill Mansion, whose owner Carl S. Schmidt II runs the property with his daughter, Bailey Claire.

In 2018, the upscale 50-room boutique property The Ramble opened. The RiNo district's first hotel boasts a contemporary design with rustic accents (like antique Persian rugs and plank wood), a sister venue to New York's renowned craft cocktail innovators bar Death & Co., Pan-Latin dim sum style restaurant Super Mega Bien from James Beard award-nominated chef Dana Rodriguez, and the DC/AM cafe, If you're an art lover, downtown's 165-room The ART lives up to its name with a 22,000-LED light installation by Leo Villareal, a gallery curated by Dianne Vanderlip of Denver Art Museum, an excellent bar/lounge, Fire, with outdoor terrace, and more modern works throughout the property.

The extremely LGBTQ-inclusive, 40-year-old Kimpton Brand (which supports and contributes to The Trevor Project) opened the 200-room, Alpine modern design-influenced Hotel Born at Union Station in 2017 and features an art collection of over 200 works by local artists and a handful of excellent F&B outlets including Sunday Vinyl wine bar, where a DJ spins for your pleasure.

Opened in 2017 in the LoDo district's Dairy Block, The Maven also features some design/art-centric flourish (like door numbers represented by doornail formations), plus Southerwestern restaurant Kachina Cantina and a cocktail bar.

And those with an affinity for socializing at hip, VIP membership brand Soho House will enjoy a new addition to Denver's hotel scene, The Clayton Members Club and Hotel, which opened in May 2021. Modernism informs the 63 guest rooms' interiors, while guest and members' only amenities include a rooftop pool and lounge and several dining spots, including a craft cocktail bar.

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