When it comes to gay nightlife, there are really two sides to Orlando: the city during Walt Disney World's Orlando Gay Days in early June and the city during the rest of the year.
While there's always something to do in the thriving LGBT club scene of Orlando any time of year, the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community takes over almost every venue in the city during Gay Days in June and the city's Gay Pride celebration in early October.
Due to the popularity of the area's theme parks among the LGBT community, Orlando is a great destination for any persuasion year-round, but it's especially busy from late fall through early spring when northeastern tourists come to Florida to escape the winter chill. No matter when you come, you're sure to find plenty of opportunities for bar hopping to 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.
Getting Around: Gay Neighborhoods in Orlando
There's no single gay neighborhood in the city, and venues tend to be spread from downtown Orlando to Disney World and the other theme parks, which are about a 30-minute drive to the southwest. Keep this in mind when you're planning your itinerary for the night; if you plan on drinking, consider taking a cab out instead of driving yourself.
Taxis can get rather expensive, though, since a taxi from downtown Orland to the Walt Disney World area costs $50 each way. Even if you're staying in a gay-friendly hotel or resort in Orlando proper, you'll still have to travel considerable distances between some nightlife destinations.
However, downtown Orlando and the neighboring and historic Thornton Park are both relatively pedestrian-friendly areas. From the several hotels nearby, 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.
BarCodes is one of the top bear (and, to an extent, leather-and-Levi's) gay bars in Orlando. This fun and cruisey spot draws mostly guys 35 and up and sees plenty of back-and-forth among patrons with nearby Hanks Bar. As both of these popular bars are located on Edgewater Drive about 15 minutes north of downtown, you can easily transition between them if you're not finding the right vibe. However, If you're truly into leather, check out the Leather Nights held the final Saturday of each month at BarCodes. Other draws include karaoke on Mondays and underwear parties on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Hanks Bar is one of the oldest gay hangouts in the state. Located near the similarly low-keyed neighborhood spot BarCodes, 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 hunt for a partner, and bears and fans of leather and kink are particularly at home at Hanks. There's a great jukebox (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, but the drinks are super-cheap.
Nestled inside the swish, art-filled Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando, darkly warm and inviting Bosendorfer Lounge is a favorite of cabaret fans. Live music is presented in the evenings on the magnificent Imperial Grand Bosendorfer piano, and the 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. However, for a full meal, you can 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. The restaurant also has a fun jazz brunch on Sundays.
The legendary Parliament House gay resort has been a wickedly fun venue for cruising, boozing, and dancing for decades (since 1975, to be exact). Known for being one of the largest GLBT resorts in the world, there are seven different bars and lounges in this 10-acre motel complex, offering everything from top DJs and dancing to karaoke, trivia nights, happy hour specials, drag bingo, and various other events.
The Bear Den is a clear favorite of the guys for which it's named while the Icon Lounge offers piano cabaret and weekly rotating events like Thursday Latin Nights and Sunday T-dances. 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, and there's also drag during Sunday's T-dance).
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the Rainbow Cafe, which features 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 the property.
Address375 S Bumby Ave, Orlando, FL 32803-6228, USA
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 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.
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 straight people, although the vibe is predominantly male-centric.
However, there is also a weekly women's party on Saturday nights, which features the entertaining Les Vixens burlesque show. The 18-and-over Thursday college nights obviously draw a younger set, too.
Pulse has for years been Orlando's top gay club, a dazzling space with dramatic lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system that gave it the vibe and see-and-be-seen cachet of top clubs in South Beach. On June 12, 2016, 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. Since then, the club closed its doors but the community around the club, its patrons, and the family and friends of victims have rallied together to form the Pulse Foundations, which organizes fundraisers, special events, and remembrance ceremonies throughout the year.