An alphabetical list of the best bars and nightclubs, plus a few gay-popular restaurants and cafés, in Tampa and its bustling nightlife district, Ybor City. The third largest (population 335,000) city in the state, and the largest city on Florida's Gulf Coast, Tampa has a sizable gay scene and plenty of GLBT nightspots and is also just a quick drive to the many gay bars and gay-friendly restaurants of St. Petersburg and the other beach cities along the Gulf Coast. Many of them are clustered in historic Ybor City, a neighborhood once dominated by cigar factories that now buzzes with bars and bistros. Others you'll find southwest of downtown, along the Henderson Boulevard corridor.
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Baxter's (1519 S. Dale Mabry Hwy., 813-258-8830) is in South Tampa, close to trendy Hyde Park and Bayshore Gardens, is draws plenty of regular with its cheeky amateur strip contests (and professional go-go boys), karaoke nights, and good drink specials. If you're not quite up for venturing to Ybor City's club district, Baxter's is a fun, easy-going alternative.
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The Body Shop (14905 N. Nebraska Ave., 813-971-3576), formerly known as Keith's, is up in North Tampa and caters mostly to gay guys and some women who live in this area, although a few tourists do venture up this way (or stop by on their way into the city coming from points north on I-75 and I-275). It's a friendly with one very distinguishing feature: the 1970s white Cadillac sticking out of the building facade (the car's rear poke's out of the building's side).
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One of the stalwarts of the Ybor City gay scene, Bradley's on 7th (1510 E. 7th Ave., 813-241-2723) is open nightly and features a variety of enticing themes: two-for-one drinks on Mondays, amateur strip contests on Thursdays, a drag-alicious "La Cage Aux Folle" evening on Fridays (with plenty of tasty go-go boys to watch, too), and dancing on the weekends. This is a real fixture in Tampa's "Gay-Bor-Hood".
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Ybor City's imposing Gothic-exterior nightclub The Castle (2004 N. 16th St., 813-247-7547) - complete with a dungeon bar, saloon, main dance hall, cozy tower bar, and breezy courtyard, hosts different club nights throughout the week, generally drawing a mixed gay-straight crowd. Special events - fetish parties, Halloween, concerns - also sometimes draw a significant number of gay and lesbian patrons.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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The generous drink specials are a big reason City Side (3703 Henderson Blvd., 813-350-0600), which lies just southwest of downtown, not far from Hyde Park and Bayshore Gardens, is so popular at happy hour. A standby in both the lesbian and gay-male communities since the '90s, the convivial, age-diverse crowd has karaoke, lots of video screens airing sports and gay-popular TV shows, and ample seating.
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The venerable - and very gay - burger franchise Hamburger Mary's (1600 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City, 813-241-6279) has a fun outpost in Ybor City, steps from that historic neighborhood's many GLBT clubs. It's inside Centro Ybor shopping and entertainment center and is a nice option for drinks (they serve until 3 am on weekends) or a full meal. The burgers are obviously a favorite, but Hamburger Mary's also serves creative salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, and a signature dessert: Mary Tyler S'mores. On late Sunday mornings, drop by for the famously dishy and delicious Mary's Drag Brunch & Show.
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A venue for hugely popular gay dance events on Friday and Saturday nights, Honey Pot (1507 E. 7th Ave., 813-247-4663) is a fixture in central Florida's GLBT community. The Steam Fridays parties typically feature porn stars, go-go dancers, and drag queens. While Tease Saturdays are a hugely well-attended lesbian party with dancers and sometimes live performances and appearances by celebs.
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Another of the hottie-filled gay dance clubs in historic Ybor City, Liquid Tampa (1502 E. 7th Ave.) offers a full complement of parties and dancing. The spacious club has three different bars set on two different levels, and there are handsome go-go boys lighting up the room many evenings. Regular features include a drag cabaret on Sunday nights, stripper contests, and other good fun. Liquid also books gay weddings.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Tampa's Rainbow Cabaret and Playhouse Theatre (4421 N. Hubert Ave., 813-877-7585) is an adult theater and sex club (it proudly bills itself "better than a bathhouse") a short drive north of Tampa International Airport. It's one of two noted cruising spots in Tampa, the other being Ybor Resort & Spa bathhouse in Ybor City. The Rainbow Cabaret rents lockers and guest suites and has all the features of a bathhouse (plus a patio), including sauna, steam rooms, mazes, and a video lounge, and the theater shows adult gay movies around the clock. Note that the club is in an industrial area a bit off the beaten path.
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A sister club to the famous Orlando gay bar of the same name, Southern Nights (1401 E. 7th Ave., 813-559-8635) in Tampa lies in the heart of the bustling club district, Ybor City, which is home to several other gay hangouts. This place tends to draw a mostly male crowd, including a somewhat hairy, buff, and muscular bunch (think of the sorts you'll see on Scruff). This is especially the case during Man Meat Fridays. Other nights are a bit more twink-minded, such as Campus Thursdays, and there's drag on other evenings. Best to check the club's website, as the vibe varies a lot depending on the evening.
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Formerly known as 2606, Studio 26 (2606 N. Armenia Ave., 813-252-3459) is a cruise-y men's bar with a bit of a bear and leather following. It's a short drive northwest of downtown, and interior comprises a small dance floor where strippers often strut their stuff, and a few different bars and lounge areas. Tends to draw more of a locals crowd than the clubs in Ybor City.
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Tampa's most popular bathhouse, the clean and nicely maintained Ybor Resort and Spa (1512 E. 8th Ave., 813-242-0900) is one of the better such facilities in the Southeast. It's situated close to several gay clubs and gay-friendly restaurants in historic Ybor City, and the resort functions not just as a bathhouse but also an affordable hotel (fairly basic, but with flat-screen TVs, good bedding, and shared bath/shower facilities - perfect if you're looking to cruise and socialize). Rates for hotel rooms start around $75 on weekdays and $100 on weekends. The bathhouse has more than 200 lockers and 40 rooms, plus a full complement of amenities: sauna, steam room, hot tub, maze and sling, video lounge, gym, and so on.