Progressive Portland, Oregon, offers numerous clubbing, bar-hopping, and late-night restaurant ventures for the LGBTQ+ crowd all over town, with a couple of clusters in the traditional downtown gay nightlife hubs of Stark Street and a few blocks away in Old Town Chinatown. You'll also find plenty of popular gay-friendly hangouts elsewhere, from mixed places on the diverse and hip East Side to trendy restaurant-lounges downtown, in the Pearl, and in the leafy Northwest/Nob Hill area. Several top Portland locales frequented by the gay and lesbian community include cruising venues. Also, with the city boasting so many microbreweries and hundreds of bars, there is an abundance of places to sip on a cocktail or craft beer. Festive events range from the big Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade to Black and Latinx pride events to a queer documentary film festival.
It's easy to move about Portland by using its public transportation options, including the MAX light rail system, streetcars, and rideshares. While the city is safe overall, it is wise to take typical precautions, such as avoiding isolated and dark streets at night and being aware of your environment.
From underwear nights at a bear bar to karaoke and live music, visitors will find Portland's gay scene full of excitement.
- Aalto Lounge: One of several gay-friendly but mixed hangouts in the cool Belmont Street area of Portland's East Side, Aalto Lounge caters to an unconventional crowd. The bar takes its name and aesthetic inspiration from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, and the interior is minimalist and relaxed. This is an excellent spot to meet a friend for a glass of wine or a pint of local IPA before dinner along nearby Hawthorne Boulevard.
- Dig a Pony: This handsome tavern in the Central East Side isn't a gay bar specifically, but LGBTQ+ folks frequent this long-ago drugstore, sipping old-school drinks like the Pink Moose with spicy tequila, lime and grapefruit, agave nectar, and bitters, or choosing wines by the glass. Nightly DJs entertain the typically artsy and well-educated crowd.
- Eagle: Up in North Portland, the unconventional Eagle is not only the northernmost gay hangout in the city and one of the region's favorite gay bear bars, the official home of the Oregon Bears. It's also a pretty raucous and sexy spot, with cheeky parties like Brief Encounters weekly underwear night. Unless there's a theme party, the Eagle is very welcoming of all ages and looks.
- Local Lounge: In the heart of Northeast Portland, this LGBTQ+ bar is relaxed and welcoming to everyone. Close to the inviting restaurant strips along North Williams Avenue, the Mississippi Avenue District, and the Alberta Arts District, the place offers an extensive menu of bar food from sandwiches to House-made Mac N’ Cheese, along with cocktails and beer on draft.
- Scandals: A popular gay cruising bar since 1979, Scandals is located in the former gay-friendly “Pink Triangle” section of downtown. This relatively intimate spot has live music weekly, Tuesday karaoke nights, street tacos and bowls of chili, and a festive atmosphere.
- Silverado: Previously known as Flossie's, this lovably racy bar and strip club has been part of Portland gay nightlife for many years and welcomes mixed crowds. The bar in Old Town Chinatown has two sections. In the nightclub, hunky male strippers dance fully naked—or, if you are looking for a quieter area, head to the lounge for a video bar, a pool table, and a full kitchen.
Clubs or Dance Clubs
If you are seeking a drag show, live alternative music, or just enjoying cocktails with friends, Portland offers some nighttime entertainment for all tastes.
- C.C. Slaughters: One of Old Town Portland's long-running stalwarts in the arena of gay nightlife, this is actually two bars in one—the main nightclub, CC Slaughters has loud music and a fun, mixed crowd of revelers—some of the city's best DJs spin tunes here. Adjacent, the glam Rainbow Room martini lounge is perfect for sipping a sophisticated cocktail and carrying on a conversation. The crowd tends toward young, flirty males.
- Darcelle XV Showplace: At this famed drag lounge, Darcelle XV, an over-the-top performer with a good heart (she's raised huge sums of money for local charities) was born in 1930 and has been a fixture in Portland's gay scene since 1967. Several performers impress at this zany, off-color Vegas-style revue show presented Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, during which a bar menu with pizzas, burgers, and such is available. No tour of the city's lively downtown gay circuit is complete without a visit here.
- Doug Fir Lounge and Restaurant: A darling among Portland's many hip music clubs, the retro-chic, and gay-popular spot is attached to the similarly hipster-frequented Jupiter Hotel in Southeast Portland, several blocks east of Burnside Bridge. The basement lounge presents many of the nation's top alternative acts, including quite a few LGBTQ+ favorites. Upstairs, the restaurant serves tasty mod-American fare.
- Holocene: Always an interesting venue for anything from album-releases to gay-friendly events to dance parties, Holocene attracts a diverse bunch nightly. The space is in the Central Industrial East Side, just across the river from downtown, and near other gay-hipster hangouts like Dig a Pony and Doug Fir Lounge.
Portland's got an impressive variety of restaurants for visitors checking out the town late in the evening. For a rooftop location with amazing views of the downtown skyline, head to Departure Lounge on the 15th floor of the swanky Nines Hotel. This exceptional Pan-Asian restaurant spearheaded by openly gay chef Gregory Gourdet has the sleek, retro look of a '60s airport lounge—the whole place is quite sexy, inside and out. Also noted for its delicious Pan-Asian cooking (and ornately colorful cocktails), hip Saucebox is part of an impressive group of restaurants with lively bar scenes opened by gay restaurateur Bruce Carey. The slick, contemporary downtown space pulls in a young, see-and-be-seen crowd. Crush Bar, a fun and eclectic gay-owned restaurant and watering hole, is attractively furnished and welcoming to everyone. The tasty food includes many vegetarian options and it's in a hip part of Southeast Portland—close to Hawthorne, Belmont, and Inner Southeast. A cross between a gay supper club and a laid-back neighborhood tavern, Hobo's has been a fixture in Old Town/Chinatown since the 1980s and has always drawn a colorful parade of community members, including plenty of straight allies. Enjoy the piano cabaret, pool tables, and festive weekends. An upscale business in the trendy Pearl District, Vault Cocktail Lounge has a memorable drinks menu and food ranging from a grains and greens bowl for vegetarians to Spanish octopus, plus late-night snacks like a hummus plate and a cheeseboard. It's a short walk from downtown's Stark Street gay bars and Old Town Chinatown's gay scene.
Events or Activities
Whether you would enjoy a hip hop dance party, a queer documentary film festival, or a large waterfront pride event with rallies and concerts, Portland is filled with a diversity of things for the LGBTQ+ population and its allies to enjoy.
- Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade: The city has gone all out for two days each June since the early 1970s in this bash held at downtown's Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It's one of the West Coast's largest Pride celebrations; expect live entertainment, art, food, rallies, marches, and more.
- Portland Black Pride: Each June, African-American LGBTQ+ community members have a chance to mingle and celebrate at events planned by Sankofa Collective Northwest, such as a family day at the park and music and poetry performances.
- Portland Latinx Gay Pride: As August comes to a close, the LGBTQ Latino community of Portland unites to enjoy events such as film screenings, ballet folklorico, drag shows, and beyond.
- CAKE: On the second Friday of each month, check out an all-inclusive dance party with DJs spinning hip hop at North Portland's Killingsworth Dynasty which serves up Caribbean-influenced plant-based burgers, bowls, and more.
- Blow Pony: One of the most famous gay parties in town, Blow Pony is a cruise-y and fun blowout held every fourth Saturday of each month at the Bossanova Ballroom in the Buckman neighborhood. The event has been known to feature celebrity DJs, and its attendees come from all walks of life.
- QDoc: Portland’s queer documentary film festival—said to be the only one in the U.S. with explicitly LGBTQ+ documentaries—features filmmakers from across the country who screen their works at the Hollywood Theatre over four days in late April and early May.
Tips for Going Out in Portland
- Uber, Lyft, and streetcars are useful and often easy ways to get around.
- The MAX light rail system is available daily, with most lines running until midnight. Be careful on the east-side train late at night, because some violent crimes have taken place.
- Since Portland is a frequently rainy city, plan ahead for the safest possible driving and road conditions, and if walking, to avoid being splashed by cars passing by.
- In Oregon, tips are not usually added to a bill, so if you are content with the service at a restaurant or bar, you may leave the waitstaff 15 to 20 percent of the total bill.