From the sexy Crew Club bathhouse to dance clubs, sex clubs, drag shows, nude go-go dancing, specialized clubs for every variety of gay men and women, special hotels, gay restaurants, and more, Washington, D.C., establishments have it all.
The Famed Crew Club Bathhouse
The Crew Club bathhouse on 14th Street has been the favorite gay sex club in the nation's capital for years, and it's centrally located near Logan Circle—a 15-minute walk along P Street from Dupont Circle, the city's historically gay neighborhood. Back when it opened in 2000 or so, it was considered a bit off the beaten path because Logan Circle had yet to experience the gentrification that has since turned it into one of Washington's hottest neighborhoods, buzzing with trendy restaurants and bars, plus popular and gay-friendly hotels like Kimpton's Hotel Rouge and Hotel Helix.
These days, Crew Club regulars fear that rising rents might eventually price it out of the area. For now, this 24-hour gay sex plex is going strong. Prices are in line or even a bit cheaper than similar facilities in other major cities. Special weekday nooner deals are popular. And the club is nicely maintained and has a modern feel, with attractive lockers and rooms, and there are fully equipped workout, steam, and sauna facilities.
Since Baltimore no longer has a gay bathhouse, Crew Club draws quite a few visitors from there, as well as the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
The City’s Wider Gay Nightlife Scene
Crew Club is a key element of Washington, D.C.’s lively gay nightlife scene, with a great mix of diverse bars in various neighborhoods. Several bars in the nation's capital have been going strong for more than 30 years. In Washington, you can find pulsing dance clubs, seemingly secret neighborhood bars tucked down alleys, racially and socially diverse clubs, and some fun lesbian hangouts. There's really something for every taste and style.
Much of the action is centered near or around lively Dupont Circle, nearby Logan Circle, and the U Street Corridor, but you'll find several great gay bars in other parts of the city, notably Capitol Hill. Washington, D.C., is one of the few cities in the country that allows fully nude dancing, and that's one reason it's been infamous for its gay go-go clubs.
Favorite D.C. Gay Bars, Dance Clubs, and Drag Shows
- A favorite gay haunt is Annie's Paramount Steak House, on the famed 17th Street gay bar corridor, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. This retro-fab establishment has been a gay fave for cocktails, old-school steak dinners, mimosa brunches, and steak-and-eggs breakfasts for decades.
- One of the country's most prominent and beloved gay bars catering heavily to African Americans, "The Bachelor’s Mill" on 8th Street SE welcomes all to its elegant townhouse on the eastern edge of Capitol Hill. The dance club is known for great hip-hop and fun karaoke nights and pool tournaments. With large TVs airing football and basketball games, it's also a popular venue for Monday night sports parties.
- A favorite of young professionals, twinks, college students, and other see-and-be-seen types of men and women in the District, Cobalt dance club and 30 Degrees lounge on R Street NW along with the ground-level restaurant Level One comprise a full-on gay entertainment complex and a fixture along Dupont Circle's busy 17th Street strip.
- The longtime hub of the city's gay leather scene, DC Eagle on Benning Road NE is one of the nation's most prominent such bars.
- Even compared to other long-running gay bars and restaurants on 17th Street near Dupont Circle, the Dupont Italian Kitchen at 17th Street NW is old school. The very traditional restaurant serving predictable Italian fare is on the ground floor, while the so-called DIK Bar upstairs is a relaxed, friendly space that feels a bit like a gay cocktail party and tends to draw a lot of regulars.
- The homey Fireplace on P Street NW is a veritable Dupont Circle institution, having occupied this corner for decades. The two-floor bar is a catch-all of locals and more than a few tourists who tend toward a 35-and-over set that’s diverse in race and style.
- Like the other JR's gay clubs in Houston and Dallas, JR's on 17th Street NW caters to a fairly young and professional crowd. Expect plenty of Beltway insiders, especially during the legendarily popular happy hours. It's a classic video bar, with a slightly more intimate loft space.
- The venerable Phase 1 on 8th Street SE opened in 1970 and underwent a renovation in 2015, making it one of the oldest continuously operated lesbian bars in the world. This lively spot near a few other longtime gay bars keeps things interesting with drag king shows, great music, pool, live performances, and jello wrestling. In 2012, this place opened a branch, Phase 1 of Dupont, on 22nd Street NW.
- The latest in a long line of mega dance clubs that have catered to the District’s fervent circuit-party crowd, massive Town on 8th Street NW is in the U Street corridor, several blocks northeast of Dupont Circle. With two big dance floors and multiple bars, Town pulses into the wee hours and has great drag shows.
- The Navy Yard neighborhood, several blocks south of Capitol Hill, has long been the heart of the nude dancing action. The Ziegfeld's/Secrets complex on Half Street SW is a must if you're a fan of nude dancing and drag shows.
- If you need to stay overnight, there are plenty of gay hotels and inns in Washington D.C. You have only to ask.
The Nearby Baltimore Scene
Keep in mind that D.C. is less than an hour's drive from Baltimore, which has more than a dozen gay bars of its own, making for a fun bar-hopping excursion if you're seeking a change of pace.
NOTE: For each of the establishments mentioned above, please check their websites for addresses, prices, and other more specific information that's subject to change.