For a city its size, Milwaukee (population 600,000) has a surprisingly good selection of LGBT nightspots, although as with many other cities around the country, the numbers of fallen a bit in recent years. Still, you'll find plenty of great places to meet and mingle in this hip metropolis that's undergone a bit of a renaissance in recent years. Many of the gay hangouts are in Walker's Point (and adjacent Harbor View), to the south of downtown, and you'll find plenty of mixed and rather trendy spots nearby in the Historic Third Ward and also - farther south - Bay View.
Here's a look at some of the top LGBT hangouts in this friendly and picturesque city on the shores of Lake Michigan. For tips on where to meet other guys looking for action, check out the Milwaukee Gay Bathhouses and Sex Clubs Guide.
01 of 10
La Cage - gay bar
Not only is La Cage (801 S. 2nd St., 414-383-8330) the largest gay club in Milwaukee, it's actually the largest in the state of Wisconsin, or at least that's the claim. The longest-running gay club in the city, La Cage is smack in the center of the bustling gay nightlife district in historic Walker's Point, just south of downtown - several other gay bars are within easy walking distance.
There's always plenty going on at this reliably packed complex, which has several distinct spaces, including a couple of dance floors, ETC cocktail and martini bar, and plenty of different nooks and crannies. And given the popularity of the DJs here, there's usually a good mix in here - gays, lesbians, straights, pretty much all ages.
02 of 10
Harbor Room - gay bar
A bit southeast of the main GLBT nightlife scene in Walker's Point, the Harbor Room (117 E. Greenfield Ave., 414-672-7988) is Milwaukee's top leather gay bar, also drawing a mix of bears, men in uniforms, and other cruisy guys. Theme nights (jock straps and nipple ring on Tuesdays, leather and boots on Wednesdays) and one of the better scotch, wine, and beer selections of any gay bar in town account in part for Harbor Room's popularity.
03 of 10
Woody's - gay bar
A popular spot with members of Milwaukee's many gay sports teams (including softball, soccer, bowling, volleyball, and darts enthusiasts), Woody's (1579 S. 2nd St., 414-672-0806) is on the south end of Walker's Point, about 15 blocks down 2nd Street from the city's other gay sports bars, Ballgame. NTN Trivia challenges, Friday through Sunday beer busts, and cheap happy hours are part of the draw at this laid-back spot that draws a mostly male, all-ages crowd of gay sports fans.
04 of 10
Metro Lounge - mixed bar/restaurant
In the lobby of the gay-friendly Metro Hotel, an upscale boutique hotel a couple of blocks from downtown's Cathedral Square, the Metro Lounge (411 E. Mason St., 414-272-1937) is a great spot for happy hour (or a bottle of wine on Thursdays, when they're half-price all night long). Because the hotel has a bit of a GLBT following, you'll often spot "family" in the lounge, or up on the roof at Zen On Seven, a lounge that's only open for special events. It's a nice option downtown, which has only one true gay bar (the nearby This Is It lounge). The swish Metro Lounge adjoins excellent Cafe Metro restaurant.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Hybrid Lounge - gay bar
One of the only gay establishments on Milwaukee's East Side, the Hybrid Lounge (707 E. Brady St., 404-810-1809) has quickly become a favorite neighborhood hangout, drawing an eclectic bunch from students who attend nearby University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to locals who frequent the lively cafes and offbeat shops along eclectic Brady Street. Hybrid Lounge is a bright and cheerful space with hardwood floors and tall windows looking out onto the street. Happy hour specials are well-priced, making this a fun after-work haunt, and a pool table up front is a main focal point.
06 of 10
This Is It - gay bar
You have to search a bit to find the only gay bar in Milwaukee's downtown area - the aptly named This Is It (418 E. Wells St., 414-278-9192) is centrally located but through a discreet door along the middle of East Wells Street, just west of Cathedral Square. And what a great little find it is - you can walk here from downtown hotels and restaurants, and inside you'll find a classic retro-fabulous speakeasy with Tiffany-style lamps, a long bar and a bench of comfy seating with small cocktail tables. This Is It has a certain Mad Men-esque chic - guys in suits drop by early in the evening, while the late crowd is more eclectic and includes a lot of patrons strolling in after having attended local theater productions and concerts, or having had dinner at one of downtown's many fine restaurants.
07 of 10
Fluid Lounge - gay bar
On the same Walker's Point block as such popular hangouts at La Cage and Walker's Pint, convivial Fluid Lounge (819 S. 2nd St., 414-643-5843) is an excellent choice among the neighborhood's many gay bars for happy hour - it's particular well-known for its extensive list of martinis, such as the "Gay Polack" with Pravda vodka, triple sec, cranberry, and orange juice, or the "Carol Brady", a refreshing concoction of Skyy Citrus, lemonade, and chambord. Two-for-one specials are a hit at happy hour, and there's an enticing drink special on offer just about every night of the week, plus very popular bingo-themed parties about once a week.
08 of 10
Walker's Pint - gay bar
Charmingly quirky Walker's Pint (818 S. 2nd St., 414-643-7468) , whose name is a play on the Walker's Point neighborhood in which it's located, is a welcoming tavern with a mixed lesbian-gay following. Overall this is a bit more of a women's hangout than other bars in the neighborhood (its official motto is "Lock Up Your Daughters"), but guys are made quite welcome here, too. Live bands sometimes perform here, and there's pool, darts, karaoke, and a cool juke box. On warm evenings, relax on the attractive patio. Walker's Pint is across the street from two other popular Milwaukee gay bars, Fluid and La Cage.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Nomad World Pub - mixed bar
Although you won't find many specifically gay hangouts north of downtown Milwaukee, the funky and atmospheric Brady Street neighborhood has a number of shops, restaurants, and bars with a significant gay following, with the decidedly quirky Nomad World Pub (1401 E. Brady St., 414-224-8111) leading the way. The globally themed bar has live music many nights and one of the city's best selections of beer - on tap you can sample Founders Dirty Bastard, Magic Hat #9, Saison Dupont, Smithwicks, Tripple Karmeliet, and many others. From the list of cans and bottles, consider Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter, Duvel, Hitachino White, Kronenburg 1664, Lindmans Framboise, Negra Modelo, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, and good ol' favorites like PBR and Schlitz Tall Boys. The crowd tends toward scruffy, hip, collegiate, curious, and arty.
10 of 10
At Random - mixed bar
Although the south Milwaukee neighborhood of Bay View has one of the city's stronger representations of GLBT residents, it doesn't actually have any gay bars - most of those are located just a short drive north in Walker's Point. However, Bay View does have its share of quirky, offbeat, and very gay-friendly cafes, restaurants, and lounges, with a particular retro-inviting highlight being At Random (2501 S. Delaware Ave., 414-481-8030). This slightly off-the-beaten-path lounge specializes in foofy, old-school, tropical cocktails, including more than a few with ice cream in them. The dark lounge with kitschy furnishings (including creepy clown paintings) is a big part of the appeal - if John Waters filmed his movies in Milwaukee, he'd likely shoot a few scenes at At Random.