Gay Nightlife in Orlando
When it comes to gay nightlife, there are really two Orlandos: the fun-loving mid-size Florida city with a fairly enthusiastic LGBT clubbing scene (for 51 weeks of the year), and the wildly popular gay circuit destination during which every gay club in the region is packed and even quite a few mainstream venues glow pink (for 1 week of the year, during the early June Orlando Gay Days at nearby Walt Disney World). Orlando also has a fun Gay Pride celebration in early October, but it draws smaller crowds than Orlando Gay Days. It seems entirely possible that some gay bars in town survive largely from the extra revenue they generate during Gay Days, but it's worth remembering that the area's theme parks draw a steady in-flow of LGBT visitors throughout the year, especially from late fall through early spring, so Orlando is a pretty solid gay bar-hopping destination at just about any time, being home to some truly iconic nightspots like the Parliament House... complex and Revolution (fka Southern Nights), which have been around for decades.
Note that Orlando also has a gay bathhouse and a few other venues popular for men meeting men, hooking up, and so on - check out the Orlando Gay Bathhouses and Sex Clubs Guide.
Gay Bar Guide on Other Florida Cities
- Fort Lauderdale Gay Bars Guide
- Fort Myers Gay Bars Guide
- Gainesville Gay Bars Guide
- Jacksonville Gay Bars Guide
- Key West Gay Bars Guide
- Miami Gay Bars Guide
- Naples Gay Bars Guide
- Palm Beach County Gay Bars Guide
- Pensacola Gay Bars Guide
- St. Petersburg Gay Bars Guide
- Sarasota Gay Bars Guide
- Tallahassee Gay Bars Guide
- Tampa Gay Bars Guide
There's no single gay neighborhood in Orlando - venues tend to be spread around the area, and Disney World and the theme parks are a 20- to 30-minute drive southwest - keep this in mind if you're staying there and planning to hit a few gay clubs (plan for a sober driver throughout the night, or to rely on cabs, which can be an expensive proposition - a taxi from WDW to downtown Orlando runs about $50 each way). Even if you're staying in Orlando proper (see the Orlando Gay-Friendly Hotels and Resorts guide for recommendations), distances among bars can be considerable. You will find one relatively pedestrian-friendly area, downtown Orlando and the neighboring and historic Thornton Park - from the several hotels in this area, you can walk to the gay nightclub Revolution, the fun restaurant-bar Hamburger Mary's, and several other mainstream but mixed gay/straight restaurants and lounges.
Here's a list with descriptions of several of Orlando's best gay bars and nightclubs, as well as a handful of notably gay-popular restaurants and cafés.
A Message About Pulse and Orlando's Amazing LGBT Community:
My heart goes out to our sisters and brothers in Orlando, and to all who have been affected by the senseless, tragic shooting at Pulse. For the time being, and until the club's owners announce their plans, I'm leaving the listing for Pulse in this guide. The owners of this club have been actively sharing words of support and sympathy from around the world on their Facebook page - check their feed to see an inspiring example of grace and unity in the face of tragedy. The owners of Pulse have announced that they eventually plan to open, as a way to memorialize the victims and "keep our hearts beating and our spirit alive."
Please give your patronage to the wonderful LGBT-owned and -friendly establishments in Orlando - and all over the world - whose staff work hard to create safe and supportive environments for the community. We go to gay bars to dance, drink, cruise, socialize, and share experiences with like-minded friends and strangers. I've been writing about gay nightlife for 25 years, but I confess that I've occasionally taken it for granted just how integral LGBT-owned and -supportive bars, clubs, cafes, and other businesses are to the communities they serve. Support your local gay bars!
If you're as heartbroken and horrified by the attack on Pulse as I am, please show up to vote in November, urge your friends to vote, and elect leaders who will do everything in their power to reform our gun laws, support LGBT equality, and pass legislation that protects people from discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion. The orange-skinned demagogic psychopath working to pit the LGBT and Muslim communities against each other must not succeed. We're better than that, and we're all stronger if we stand together. You can help by adding your name to online petitions in support of sensible gun control reforms.
Additionally, two organizations - Equality Florida and Orlando's LGBT Center - have set up GoFundMe pages to raise funds to assist victims and families of those affected by the tragedy at Pulse nightclub. You can donate here:
01 of 07
Pulse (1912 S. Orange Ave., 407-649-3888) has for years been Orlando's top gay club - a dazzling space with dramatic lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system that gives it the vibe and see-and-be-seen cachet of top clubs in South Beach. On June 12, the club was the site of a horrific, hateful attack that resulted in the death of 49 innocent people, and injuries to scores of others. Please show your support for Pulse and Orlando's LGBT community by contributing to the Orlando's LGBT Center GoFundMe page, which supports victims and families affected by the attack.
02 of 07
BarCodes (4453 Edgewater Dr., 407-412-6917) is one of the top bear (and, to an extent, leather-and-Levi's) gay bars in Orlando, a fun and cruise-y spot that draws mostly guys 35 and up and sees plenty of back-and-forth among patrons with nearby Hanks Bar (both are on Edgewater Drive, about a 10- to 15-minute drive north of downtown). If you're truly into leather, check out the Leather Nights held the final Saturday of each month. Other draws include karaoke on Mondays, and underwear parties on Wednesdays and Sundays.
03 of 07
Nestled inside the swish, art-filled Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando, darkly warm and inviting Bosendorfer Lounge (Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, 325 S. Orange Ave., 407-313-9000) is a favorite of cabaret fans, thanks to the live music presented in the evening on the magnificent Imperial Grand Bosendorfer piano - music ranges from jazz to soul, depending on the night. This sophisticated lounge also has an extensive wine and cocktails list (the coconut margaritas are a hit) as well as delicious bar food - for a full meal, follow drinks here with dinner at the hotel's chic Boheme Restaurant, which turns out artful modern American dishes like pan-seared kurobuta pork chops and Mediterranean baked salmon. There's a fun jazz brunch on Sundays.
04 of 07
Hanks Bar (5026 Edgewater Dr., 407-291-2399) is one of the oldest gay hangouts in the state - it's well north of downtown, near the similarly low-keyed neighborhood spot BarCodes, so plan accordingly - it's about a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown. Hanks is favored by a male bunch, mostly over 40, and there's definitely a horny vibe in this place - the guys here tend to be enthusiastically on the make, and bears and fans of leather and kink are particularly at home here. There's a great juke box (something like 10,000 songs are on it), plus darts, pool, and a patio. Hanks doesn't have a full liquor license, so beer and wine are your alcoholic options. Drinks are super-cheap, too.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
The legendary Parliament House gay resort (410 N. Orange Blossom Tr., 407-425-7571) has been a wickedly fun venue for cruising, boozing, and dancing for decades (since 1975, to be exact) - it's one of the largest GLBT resorts in the world, and while plenty of competing bars have come and gone, the nightlife options attached to this gayyed-up 10-acre motel complex remain as popular as ever. There are seven different bars and lounges total, offering everything from top DJs and dancing to karaoke (and, of course, "bearaoke"), trivia nights, happy hour drinks specials, drag bingo, and the like. The Bear Den is a clear favorite of the guys for which it's named, the Icon Lounge offers piano cabaret, and weekly rotating events like Thursday Latin Nights and Sunday T-dances. Friday and Saturdays are, as you might guess, the top overall clubbing nights. You might catch local plays at the Footlight Theatre, which is also a favorite Orlando venue for watching some of the... region's best female impersonators (the very campy drag shows are held twice nightly on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights - there's also drag during Sunday's T-dance). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the Rainbow Cafe - think traditional American chow: burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, chicken marsala, and pancakes and eggs in the morning. Patrons can also shop for Pride gifts, gay porn and toys, clubwear, and other items in the on-site shops. Of course, Parliament House also contains a 112-room hotel, so serious revelers (and those seeking affordable accommodations) might consider staying right on property - you can read more about the hotel in the Orlando Gay Resorts and Hotels Guide.
06 of 07
A mainstay in Orlando's gay clubbing community for more than three decades (although only since 2007 with its present name - before that, it was called Southern Nights), Revolution Nightclub (375 S. Bumby Ave., 407-228-9900) is just southeast of downtown Orlando, a five-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the gay-popular restaurants of historic Thornton Park and adjacent Lake Eola (it's also located just off the 408 East-West Expressway). Open nightly, this expansive 14,000-square-foot complex comprises a fun video bar called Hydrate, which has 20 monitors showing everything from music vids to campy comedy clips as well as pool tables, darts, and other games; a showroom called the Majestic Theatre & Lounge, which presents hugely popular drag shows, live music, and theater; the main Revolution dance club, which is one of the top spots in central Florida for clubbing; and a sprawling, attractively landscaped outdoor patio that's great for socializing and people-watching.... All in all, it's a reputable, well-run, and attractive club with pretty reasonably priced drinks (as big nightclubs go), and it's in a safe and convenient location (valet parking is available, but you can also park free close by). Compared with other clubs in town, Revolution tends toward a younger crowd, and there's somewhat of a mix of gay men, lesbians, and straights, although the vibe is predominantly male-centric - the one exception to the latter rule is the weekly Saturday night women's party, which features the entertaining Les Vixens burlesque show. The 18-and-over Thursday college nights obviously draw a younger set.
07 of 07
In the Atlantic coastal town of Cocoa, about 50 miles east of Orlando and close to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, cozy and welcoming Ultra Lounge (407 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, 321-690-0096) is the only real LGBT option in this part of the state. It's a friendly little bar with a nice beer and wine list, a menu of light food items, designer coffee drinks, and live music many nights. There's no real reason to venture all this way from Orlando just to stop in, but if you're in this part of the region, it's a nice little stop for a drink or a bite to eat.