Guide to Gay Nightlife in the Pacific Northwest

CC Slaughters and the Rainbow Room Lounge, Portland, Oregon

The dance floor at CC Slaughters
Andrew Collins

CC Slaughters—actually two bars in one—is a long-running Old Town Portland stalwart in the arena of gay nightlife and located in the same area as famed drag lounge, Darcelle XV Showplace.

The main nightclub, CC Slaughters is a dark, rambling space with a small but potent dance floor, loud music, and a fun, mixed crowd of revelers. Some of the city's best DJs spin tunes here. Adjacent, the glam Rainbow Room Lounge is a mod, elegant space that's perfect for sipping a sophisticated cocktail and carrying on a conversation. CC's has no cover charge except for occasional special events and parties.

CC Slaughters is especially popular midweek for dancing, and there's also a popular Sunday T-Dance. The crowd tends toward male, 20s and 30s, and fairly flirty and fun. That being said, women and straights are more than welcome.

The smaller and quieter side bar attached CC Slaughter's, the stylish Rainbow Room Lounge offers an elegant alternative to the city's generally more old-school and somewhat dive-y gay nightlife options. When you've been dancing all night down the hall in CC's, or you've met a cute reveler there and are looking to have a conversation, Rainbow Room makes for the perfect venue. 

The lighting is soft except for the sleekly back-lit bar, and there's comfy lounge seating throughout this space occupying a former storefront on the corner of Northwest Davis Street and 3rd Avenue. The Rainbow Room also serves light bar food—cheese plates, calamari, fish-and-chips, buffalo wings, and the like. The drinks menu is one of the best of any gay establishment in town, with a decent list of wines and beers.

219 NW Davis St.

Aalto Lounge, Portland, Oregon

The exterior signage at the Aalto Lounge
Andrew Collins

In the vibrant Belmont Street area of eastern Portland, the Aalto Lounge is one of several gay-friendly but mixed hangouts (i.e., the Side Street Tavern, Stumptown Coffee) catering to a decidedly artsy, unconventional crowd. The bar takes its name and aesthetic inspiration from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, its interior feeling very minimalist and relaxed.

This is excellent spot to meet a friend for a glass of wine or a pint of hefeweizen before dinner along nearby Hawthorne Boulevard, or perhaps pre-clubbing downtown. Come here on Sunday nights, when there is an especially strong GLBT following. 

3356 S.E. Belmont St.

Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon

Patrons line up at the bar at the Doug Fir Lounge
Andrew Collins

A darling among Portland's many hip music clubs, the retro-chic and gay-popular (though predominantly hetero) Doug Fir Lounge and Restaurant is attached to the similarly hipster-infested Jupiter Hotel, several blocks east of Burnside Bridge. The dark and sexy basement lounge presents many of the nation's top alternative acts, including quite a few queer favorites (Bob Mould, Bitch & The Exciting Conclusion, Ferron, and plenty of others). Upstairs, the restaurant serves extremely tasty mod-American fare.

830 E. Burnside St.

Silverado, Portland, Oregon

The bar scene at the Sliverado
Andrew Collins

The lovably racy and slightly scandalous Silverado has been a stalwart of Portland gay nightlife for many years. The bar has two sections: The main club, where a few hunky (and generally quite hung) strippers dance on stage or in a small cage to one side. Head upstairs, and a loft-style bar area looks down at the dancers, along with the hordes of guys ogling them. The main room leads to a small, inviting patio area that's a bit quieter and is also a popular place to mingle. From here, you can access a smaller, more laid-back bar (pictured here), which has a pool table, a long bar with stools, and several tables and chairs. This is a good spot simply to chat with friends, meet local guys, and enjoy a somewhat mellower pace.

The main room is usually pretty packed on weekends and weekdays alike, drawing not only guys who love to watch guys dance, but also plenty of others. If you're a fan of male dancers, Silverado is a must—it's one of the best such venues in the country.

318 S.W. 3rd Ave.

Scandals, Portland, Oregon

Street view of Scandals in Portland, Oregon
Andrew Collins

With a charmingly cheesy name that hints at its age, Scandals is a genuinely festive and friendly video cruise bar. It's a relatively intimate spot with a friendly staff and the crowds here range from sparse early in the week to packed to the rafters on weekends. It's a still a notch below trendy, which means that although you will find plenty of cute guys in here of all ages, you rarely will encounter attitude.

1125 Stark St.

Darcelle XV Showplace, Portland, Oregon

The revue at Darcelle XV Showplace
Andrew Collins

"That's no lady... That's Darcelle XV and Company."

Some say Darcelle and her merry, naughty cast of voluptious cohorts have been entertaining Portlanders since the Truman administration. There's sketchy evidence that Darcelle arrived in Portland with Lewis and Clark. In fact, Darcelle XV, a hammy over-the-top performer with self-effacing wit and a good heart (she's raised huge sums of money for local charities) has been a fixture in Portland's gay scene since 1967.

Roughly 10 performers make up the cast at this longtime favorite hangout, where zany, off-color Vegas-style revue shows are presented Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. No tour of the city's lively downtown gay circuit is complete without a visit here. Darcelle is in Old Town, right by a couple of other favorite gay nightspots, C.C. Slaughter's.

208 N.W. 3rd Ave.

Steam Bathhouse, Portland, Oregon

Exterior of the Steam Bathhouse in Portland, Oregon
Andrew Collins

Smartly and attractively designed Steam Portland is one of the most inviting gay saunas in the country. Located on the East Side, fairly near the Hollywood and Lloyd Center neighborhoods, and just a 10-minute drive from downtown, this low-slung, contemporary building is in a fairly quiet, nondescript, mixed industrial/residential neighborhood. It's a safe area and there's plenty of well-lighted parking on the street.

As bathhouses go, Steam is mid-sized—it tends to feel its most busy on weekends, but like many saunas, the crowds vary greatly during the week. Usually you'll find a good mix of guys in their 30s and 40s, with a decent smattering of younger and older men, too. The vibe is relaxed and low-keyed and the interior is beautifully designed, with a somewhat industrial-looking aesthetic—high ceilings, soft lighting (private rooms have dimmer switches), and a fantastic steam room, which is typically the most popular part of the club. There are ample supplies of condoms and lube and in warm weather you can lie out on the expansive, enclosed sundeck.

2885 N.E. Sandy Blvd.

Hawks, Portland, Oregon

Entrance and sign for Hawks PDX
Another Believer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 In 2012, Portland's fans of cruising enjoyed the opening of a new gay sex club and bathhouse, Hawks, which opened just across the Burnside Bridge from downtown in the Inner Southeast neighborhood. Opened by the same team behind the popular gay sauna Hawks in Las Vegas, this well-kept and attractive facility is making a concerted effort to attract aficionados of S&M, group sex, and role-playing.

There are three slings, glory-hole rooms, an orgy area, a water sports area, fisting parties, bear events, and other creative elements. You'll find lockers, a cedar-paneled sauna, a steam room, and an industrial vibe that's something of a throwback to classic gay sex clubs of yore.

CC Attle's, Seattle, Washington

Exterior of CC Attles at night
Andrew Collins

A friendly, no-attitude neighborhood gay bar with a particularly loyal following among bears and cubs, CC Attle's opened in the early '90s and has, along with its casual restaurant Cadillac Grill, been a fixture of Capitol Hill's gay cruise seen ever since. Dinner (simple, stick-to-your-rib pub fare like burgers, turkey melts, chicken-fried steak) is served nightly, and there's also brunch available on weekends throughout the afternoon.

CC's is home to the Northwest Bears and stages an official "bear night" the first Saturday of each month, but you'll always find a pretty bearish bunch here, tending toward age 35 and up.

Steamworks Bathhouse, Seattle, Washington

Entrance to Steamworks in Seattle at night
Andrew Collins

Known as Club Seattle for many years, the Steamworks Seattle bathhouse is part of the well-reputed chain of Steamworks bathhouses, which has additional locations in Chicago, Berkeley, Toronto, and Vancouver. Steamworks has a diverse following—pretty much all types of cruisy men frequent the bathhouse, from younger club kids to older guys. That being said, the Seattle branch of Steamworks isn't as popular as the others, which is perhaps just a reflection of sex-clubbing being a little less in vogue in Seattle than in the other places. Steamworks Seattle is open 24/7.

1520 Summit Ave.

Mad Myrna's, Anchorage, Alaska

Sign for Mad Myrna's in Anchorage, lit up at night
Andrew Collins

The largest and most popular gay entertainment complex in Alaska, Mad Myrna's is right in downtown Anchorage, just a few doors from the Anchorage Identity Gay & Lesbian Community Center.

Although there's a big entry sign on 5th Avenue, you enter the club through a door in the back. Inside you'll find pool tables and a long bar on the left, and a good-size dance floor to the right. Mad Myrna's has a large following, drawing a mix of men and women of all ages, plus quite a few straight friends of the community. Theme nights include country line dancing on Wednesdays, Divas drag variety show on Fridays, and frequent fund-raising events for the local GLBT community. It also hosts occasional events thrown by The Last Frontier Men's Club, a nonprofit social club catering to Alaska's leather, bear, uniform, and cowboy community.

530 E. 5th Ave.

The Raven, Anchorage, Alaska

The Raven bar in Anchorage
Andrew Collins

A low-key gay bar just a couple of blocks north of the other main gay hangout in Anchorage, Mad Myrna's, the Raven has a popular following with the city's bear and leather scene (including members of Anchorage's leather men's club, The Last Frontier Men's Club).

708 E. 4th Ave.

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