The state's political center and the less populous half of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, St. Paul is situated along the banks of the Mississippi River. With a compact, manageable downtown and some of the Midwest's most charming historic neighborhoods, down-to-earth St. Paul makes for a delightful getaway. Although it's less trendy and somewhat more conservative than Minneapolis, it does have a comparatively small but cohesive LGBTQ+ community and a few gay bars to boot.
St. Paul has but a mere fraction of the gay nightlife scene that neighboring Minneapolis has (which includes clubs in addition to a handful of designated LGBTQ+ bars), but there are a few special places preferred by the local queer community nonetheless.
- Black Hart of Saint Paul: Black Hart, formerly known as Town House Bar, calls itself an LGBTQ+ soccer bar. In fact, it's the oldest gay nightspot and the most popular women's club in the Twin Cities, located across from a strip of shopping centers in western St. Paul. The crowd here is mostly lesbian, but men do make occasional appearances, especially for the popular drag shows. Country line dancing, karaoke, or traditional dance tunes could be on offer depending on the night of the week. There's a small piano lounge in the back for classier evenings.
- Camp Bar: Though not technically an LGBTQ+ bar, this watering hole is a popular St. Paul gay haunt. It's conveniently located in the downtown area near many hotels and restaurants. In terms of demographic, you'll get anything from the older "suits" who frequent the upscale piano cabaret in front to younger club kids who favor the expansive dance bar. Sometimes, you'll catch a drag act here, too.
Nothing about St. Paul's culinary scene makes it especially gay-friendly, but the entire city is overwhelmingly welcoming. These are just a few eateries that the LGBTQ+ crowd has given their stamp of approval.
- W.A. Frost: One of the most esteemed and romantic restaurants in the city is gay-friendly W.A. Frost, which occupies a handsome turn-of-the-20th-century building along Selby Avenue's stretch of popular restaurants in the upscale, historic Summit Hill neighborhood. As elegant as W.A. Frost is inside, the lush and spacious back patio is the best summertime date destination.The menu features everything from salads to seafood and a lengthy list of wines, too.
- Happy Gnome: Striking the perfect balance between a cozy neighborhood tavern and a first-rate restaurant, the cheerily-named Happy Gnome occupies a grand, creeper-covered brick building with a distinctive turret, fitting in well with the many stately homes in the surrounding historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood. It specializes in creative gastropub cuisine and serves an astounding list of craft beers on draft (plus a few hundred in bottles). Come to cure your Sunday hangover with Gnome Benedict and a pint.
- Dark Horse: Located in the city's historic warehouse district, known as Lowertown, this gay-friendly bar and restaurant fills up nightly with fans of classy craft cocktails (including a mighty fine mojito). There's also an extensive list of special whiskeys and bourbons, plus plenty of microbrews to choose from. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, but you'll find the biggest crowd here during happy hour.
The Twin Cities convene for the annual pride festival, which takes place in Minneapolis' Loring Park each June. The event occupies an entire weekend with concerts, fireworks, food vendors, a traditional Rainbow Run, and the beloved pride parade. Hundreds of exhibitors join in on the festival fun, attracting half a million people to this scenic park. If you're interested in learning more about Twin Cities Pride or the events it holds throughout the year, then pick up one of its magazines or listen to the podcast.
Tips for Going Out in St. Paul
- Minnesota bars are required to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m., so you can expect St. Paul's nightspots to be closing up shop around then.
- Minnesota is also the last U.S. state to outlaw 3.2-percent alcohol beers, so be on the lookout for weak brews during your pregame supermarket run.
- If you venture out of walkable reach late at night, you can take an Uber or the Light Rail, which runs all night long on weekends.
- The Twin Cities Gay Scene Facebook page will keep you updated on any upcoming beer busts, drag shows, and jockstrap parties that may be happening around Minneapolis and St. Paul.
- While you're in the area, don't forget to hop over to Minneapolis and check out its gay nightlife scene, too. St. Paul's sister city is teeming with LGBTQ+-friendly bars and even nightclubs (one thing St. Paul is most certainly lacking).