Although it's not the largest city in the U.S. state of Virginia, historic Richmond is the capital and has a wealth of museums, hip neighborhoods for dining and shopping, and a growing LGTBQ+ population. This lively city on the James River has a handful of popular gay bars and clubs, plus a few mainstream spots with strong followings in the community. One of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods is the Fan District near Virginia Commonwealth University. Also, check out the Museum District—including the funky West End Carytown shopping area with its main drag, West Cary Street—and don't miss the city's gay theater and Pride events.
Richmond isn't the safest of cities, but travelers can still have a hassle-free evening out on the town by taking some precautions and paying attention to their surroundings. Go out in groups of two or more, and be off the streets by around 1 a.m. when possible. Avoid the Chamberlayne Avenue area, and note that areas around the Fan District, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Shockoe Bottom can become sketchy at night, so avoid walking alone or on side streets. While all of the night hangouts are typically safe, steer clear of confrontations inside/outside of nightclubs, especially in Shockoe Bottom.
Bars and Restaurants
While gay-friendly bars and eateries in Richmond may be limited, the reliable ones offer exciting variety, from game nights and drag shows to wine bars with Mediterranean fare.
- Barcode: A cheerful gay lounge and restaurant and one of the city's oldest gay-owned businesses, Barcode draws plenty of revelers. This convivial venue with a restaurant serving up nachos, salads, and more is a fun spot for Tuesday Game Nights, Thursday Martini Nights, and other events. It's close to the convention center and many downtown hotels and attractions.
- Babes of Carytown: One of Richmond's longest-running and most beloved LGBTQ+ businesses, this reliably fun, lesbian-centric (but all-welcoming) bar and restaurant offers dancing, late-night drinks, Karaoke, drag shows, and a generally friendly crowd. The venue has a dress code to be aware of before attempting to enter.
- Secco Wine Bar: This hip and elegant bar in the Fan is a nice place to gather for distinctive wines, cocktails, and craft beers, delicious cheese and charcuterie plates, and pan-Mediterranean cuisine.
- McCormack's Irish Pub: A festive hangout in the lively Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, this pub has craft beers, food, and events such as HorrorSundayz film showings and stand-up comedy shows.
- Can Can Brasserie: This Carytown favorite is a lovely French restaurant/bakery known for its inclusive environment. Can Can also hosts wine dinners and has drink specials, and is open late, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Clubs and Live Music
Those looking for some gay-friendly clubbing and live music in Richmond can explore the few top spots, which feature everything from ladies' nights with DJs to belly-dancing classes and Latin lounge music.
The popular downtown establishment Godfrey's (open to ages 18 and up) is both a gay dance club and restaurant, and it's one of the top venues in the state among clubbers, college students, and others. Godfrey's hosts several weekly parties such as Freaky Fridays drag shows set to hip hop and rhythm and blues music or Ladies' Nights the first Saturday of each month, featuring DJs, drink specials, and drag shows. The crowd is a catch-all of the gay community, very mixed racially and welcoming toward men and women of all ages.
Fallout is a private, alternative club in Shockoe Bottom that represents diversity and inclusion and welcomes those ages 18 and up. This venue offers comedy shows, live music, belly-dancing classes, and beyond, but does have a dress and behavior code.
Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe is a great place to enjoy drinks, a healthy dinner, sustainably-grown coffee, and art exhibitions. Live music—from Latin Lounge to smooth jazz—adds to the good times. The Richmond locations are in Shockoe Slip or the Scott's Addition Historic District, where you can also stroll around the nearby taprooms, cideries, and distilleries.
Festivals and Events
Virginia celebrates its local Pride Month each September, with Virginia PrideFest being the main event: It's a free day the whole family can attend to enjoy entertainment, activities, shopping from many vendors, and food. Other events include special Pride Nights, queer film showings, and a Pride Crawl, which entails tasting some of the city's best beers, ciders, and spirits.
The critically-acclaimed Richmond Triangle Players host several plays during the year—including world premieres—in the Robert B. Moss Theatre, a landmark in the Scott's Addition Historic District.
Tips for Going Out in Richmond
- Utilize the various handy resources, such as GayRVA.com, Diversity Richmond, and Richmond Region Tourism's gay visitor site.
- Check out Animal, a queer collective of DJs, musicians, artists, and others that creates Richmond nightlife events.
- If you're planning to visit historic college town of Charlottesville (about 70 minutes by car from Richmond), check out the Charlottesville Gay Bars and Dining Guide.
- Options for transportation when you go out on the town include taxis as well as rideshare apps such as Uber or Lyft. The GRTC Transit System's bus schedules might also fit your transportation needs.