Guide to Gay Nightlife in Providence

Friendly, creative, and gay-welcoming Providence is one of the great success stories among industrial Eastern U.S. cities over the past couple of decades. Just an hour south of Boston, this capital city of Rhode Island has a significant LGBT population, including plenty of students and staff at Brown University, Johnson & Wales, and -- to a lesser but still significant extent -- Providence College. The city's handful of gay bars are mostly downtown, in the hip DownCity neighborhood.

Providence is also home to New England's only two gay bathhouses: Club Body Center and Mega-Plex -- check out this Providence gay bathhouse guide for more details about both establishments.

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    waterplace park at night, providence, ri
    Waterplace Park in Providence, RI. Getty Images/James Lemass

    Part of an eclectic, thriving, multifaceted arts space in the middle of downtown, the Bar @ AS220 is a popular gathering spot among the city's creative spirits and open-minded souls. AS220 also contains performance spaces that feature plays, film, dance, and literary events; a series of galleries showing the works of more than 150 artists, a print shop, free youth-oriented arts programs; and more. As a social venue, AS220 Foo(d) serves creative, reasonably priced lunch and dinner fare, and the Bar @ AS220 is open every night but Monday for beer and spirits sourced from mostly smaller, artisan New England producers as well as wine. There's a nice cocktail list of well-crafted drinks. And profits are used to support AS220's arts and performance programming.

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    In the center of downtown, a short walk from several of Providence's most prominent hotels, Dark Lady/Alleycat is one of the top dance clubs in the region among both gay men and lesbians, with the crowds varying a bit depending on the night. Dark Lady used to be in a separate space down the street but moved beside the adjacent Alleycat space in 2011. In the Dark Lady space, there's a women's night on Wednesdays, and the well-regarded, occasional lesbian parties produced by Girl Spot take place here. Other nights, such as Thursday (college night), Friday (retro tunes), and Saturday (top local DJs) draw men and women of all ages. Drag shows and hot go-go dancers are also part of the fun. Alleycat is smaller and more intimate, more a spot for conversation.

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    The Roots arts and cultural center, right in the middle of downtown, is a fun place to watch concerts and other performances throughout the week. On Friday nights, the space hosts Luna's Ladies Night until 1 am, featuring live music (also sometimes comedy, poetry, or other performing arts), dancing later in the evening to DJ-spun tunes, and socializing. These events welcome everybody and are geared toward both "queer and straight women and their allies to celebrate our creativity, femininity, friendships, and power."

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    Quite a few gay clubs have come and gone in Providence over the years, but MiraBar has been bumping and grinding for decades, although it did move from its long-established location in 2012 to a space a couple of blocks away, still in the Jewelry District near the campus of Johnson & Wales University. The former space was torn down, and by all accounts, Mirabar's new location is looking good, making this still a favorite gay hangout in town for dancing, cruising, and enjoying a variety of theme nights, from karaoke to drag shows.

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  • 05 of 09

    Catering to a mostly male, 30s to 50s crowd, Providence Eagle is, like most LGBT venues in Providence, right in the center of downtown, which can it a fun part of a bar crawl through the neighborhood. The Eagle is, as Eagles tend to be, a favorite of guys into leather, uniforms, bears, Levi's, and the like. It's tops among downtown bars for cruising, with nightly themes that suggest a fun, sexually charged vibe: "Promiscuous Mondays," cruise-and-jockstrap parties on Fridays. There's no formal dress code, and leather is by no means expected, but you'll fit in a bit more here dressed down (jeans, t-shirts, etc.). There's a dance floor, and video monitors often play porn.

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    A downtown dance club behind City Hall, The Salon is right by the historic Haven Brothers Diner and is ostensibly a straight venue, but it's extremely LGBT-friendly. It's also a very popular place for dancing, comedy shows, small concerts, and other events, some with direct ties to the community (such as the occasional gay speed-dating parties). Dancing and performances take place in the lower-level club space, while there's an airy bar with picnic tables and bar stools upstairs.

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    Although this hipster dive bar in the ever-changing West End/Olneyville neighborhood isn't a gay bar per se, the Scurvy Dog pulls in a good mix of folks of all orientations and styles, with an emphasis on artsy types, tattooed dudes, musicians, and students.  Billing itself a source of "beer, booze, and rock & roll", the bar features a nice lineup of beers from craft breweries -- Dogfishhead, Berkshire Brewing, Long Trail, Magic Hat, and so on. Inside this no-frills dark hole, you'll also find a Gilligan's Island-theme pinball machine and a pool table. Grab a classic Rhode Island-style hot wiener at nearby Olneyville New York System while you're in the neighborhood. A few blocks east of Scurvy Dog, toward downtown, Loie Fuller's is another of this up-and-coming neighborhood's highly inviting and gay-friendly venues, serving exceptionally tasty French-American fare and featuring a terrific wine list.

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    The Stable is a welcoming, convivial downtown gay bar that's a perfect option for happy hour, pre-dance-club socializing, late-night hobnobbing, and conversation -- although it can get loud and crowded on weekends. The crowd is quite mixed male/female and tending toward the younger (20s and 30s) side. This is one of the newer gay bars in Providence, and both the decor and the attitude seem to reflect this -- it's a handsomely restored space with clean bathrooms, and the vibe is sophisticated yet friendly, with the staff generally eager-to-please. Drinks are well-priced, too.

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  • 09 of 09

    Gay revelers hanging out next door at The Stable also make up part of the regular crowd at Viva Mexico Cantina & Grill, a welcoming and festive Mexican restaurant with a lively bar known for its sangria, margaritas, and a good but small selection of tequila shots. The food here ventures away from the usual Americanized standards, with more authentic fare like sauteed beef tongue and shredded goat meat, but you'll also find all the classics on the lengthy menu.