Despite being one of New England's largest cities, Worcester, Massachusetts, has never been known as a major LGBTQ destination. Still, you can find a few gay bars here, as well as some others that aren't exactly gay-specific but have earned a favorable reputation among the queer community.
Worcester is a college town, home to a whopping 11 higher education institutions, including Clark University, Worcester State University, and University of Massachusetts' Medical School. Needless to say, the after-dark crowd is young, for the most part, especially on "Worcester Mondays," when students get drink discounts at the bars and clubs.
Even with the high concentration of early 20-somethings, though, Worcester's nightlife scene is pretty tame when you compare it to bigger places. You won't find Vegas-style clubs or Manhattan-worthy martini bars in this humble city, but there are a few good watering holes to choose from, even for the LGBTQ community.
When you look at Providence, Massachusetts—less than an hour away, with a few thousand fewer people and one of the most robust gay nightlife scenes in the country—Worcester's LGBTQ bar offering seems a bit, well, scanty. Nonetheless, there is one dedicated gay bar in the city and a few mixed ones to boot.
- MB Lounge: Also known as "the Male Box," this is the longest-running gay-owned and -operated hangout in the city. It beckons an eclectic bunch—from bears to leather dudes—but caters mostly to an over-30 crowd. MB Lounge is neighborly, but not so tight-knit that newcomers don't feel welcome. Come in for a game of pool and stay to sing along to show tunes on the piano (Sundays only) or watch the game of the week on big-screen TVs.
- The Compass Tavern: While not technically a gay bar, The Compass Tavern has been known to attract a mixed crowd. It probably has something to do with the ever-lively dance floor, which is run by local DJs on weekend nights. For a mid-week outing, come for karaoke on Wednesday nights.
- Armsby Abbey: This one's for all the lovers of craft beer out there. Armsby Abbey has 22 beer on tap and delicious farmhouse-inspired creative cuisine to go with them. This attractive downtown tavern draws a diverse crowd of hipsters, foodies, and the like. LGBTQ-ers are welcome.
- Electric Haze: Electric Haze is a different kind of bar—a hookah bar—that didn't open as a gay-specific venue, but has certainly been friendly from the start, and frequently hosts LGBTQ events.
Festivals & Events
There's always something going on in Worcester that's catered to the gay community—whether it be brunch, a fashion show, or a screening of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"—but the mother of them all is, of course, Worcester Pride.
It's held every year in early September so that the resident college students can participate and it features so much more than run-of-the-mill pride events. Yes, there's a parade and a subsequent festival with food trucks, vendors, live music, and more, but there's also an annual pageant, drag shows, and a downright rowdy afterparty that's held at none other than MB Lounge.
If you can't make it in September, then perhaps you'll be around for the annual Drag Brunch in May, which is hosted by royalty of the previous pride festival.
On a more regular basis, there are queer dance parties taking place at venues throughout the city (such as Electric Haze, obviously) courtesy of Airspray. Keep your eye on the group's Facebook page to find out when and where the next rendezvous will be.
Tips for Going Out in Worcester
- Worcester is a spread-out city, so tourists might be inclined to rent a car to go sightseeing for the day. That being said, most of the nightlife is concentrated in the downtown area, with the LGBTQ venues all within a 25-minute walk from each other.
- While you're in the area, it's certainly worth checking out the LGBTQ nightlife scenes in surrounding cities like Boston, Providence, and Northampton, all within an hour's drive of Worcester.
- Keep in mind that Mondays are big party days for college students in this youthful city, so steer clear or, by all means, join in if you're into that sort of thing.
- For a late-night bite, get your chicken fix at Wings Over Worcester, which is a sponsor of Worcester Pride and is open until 2 a.m. on weekends.
- If you're looking for gay-focused happenings, check out Love Your Labels' event calendar (which includes an annual queer fashion show and Drag Queen Storytime at Redemption Rock Brewing Co.). Worcester Pride has been known to host events throughout the year as well.