Make friends at a DC bar, take a tour of the city and delve into the neighborhoods with this weekend guide to LGBTQ+ DC.
As home to the Supreme Court and the headquarters for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s capital is at the center of many historic milestones in the LGBTQ+ community. While the headlines may capture the advocacy efforts in DC, this city is also home to a vibrant LGBTQ+ community — and it’s one of the most welcoming destinations for LGBTQ+ visitors. Whether you’re here to see some living history or want to get social with the locals, Washington, DC offers a diverse array of things to see and do.
Do some quintessentially DC sightseeing with a visit to the Supreme Court
The highest court in the land has been the site of many landmark decisions, including the June 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal. “No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority opinion. The Supreme Court is open for free tours Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
See the city in style with Fiat Luxe Tours
Politico-turned-tour guide Andrew Rawls launched this luxury tour company in 2014 and offers more than two dozen tours – or he can work with you to build a custom one. Be sure and have him include the Human Rights Campaign headquarters as a tour stop. Rawls, a dedicated philanthropist, donates a portion of the tour fee to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC.
Grab a late lunch (and a drink) at Nellie’s Sports Bar
Nellie's Sports Bar on U Street - LGBTQ Bars in Washington, DC
DC’s first gay sports bar opens for business at 3 p.m. on Fridays with a dance party to kick off the weekend. Find a flat screen, order a burger and a cleverly named cocktail (We’re partial to the Swedish Fish: Vigilante gin, pineapple, Sprite and a splash of Chambord) or hit the dance floor and get ready for a late night. Sunday afternoons on the upstairs patio is also a big draw, especially with discounted mimosas.
Stroll down 17th Street NW
With rainbow-colored crosswalks, it’s obvious that this Dupont Circle neighborhood street is the place to be. A few blocks east of the neighborhood's namesake circle, 17th Street NW is home to JR’s. If you’re looking for a speakeasy feel, try Dito’s, located in the basement of Italian restaurant Floriana. The Lilliputian lounge serves up cocktails and great conversation. Or pick a theme night at JR’s: the longtime gay bar does Retro Fridays, Sunday Fundays and even drag-themed trivia on Wednesday nights. In an unofficial nod to the nabe’s LGBTQ+ scene, look for the “Frank Kameny Way” street sign at 17th and R streets. Kameny, an astronomer by trade, became a gay rights activist when he was fired from the U.S. Army in 1957.
Scope out the city’s iconic monuments from a rooftop pool, restaurant or bar
The LGBTQ+-friendly Embassy Row Hotel is a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association and it was named “one of the best rooftop pools in America” by USA Today. The bar stays open until 11 p.m. on summer Friday and Saturday nights, and delights with its cocktails and nibbles. But that’s just one of DC’s many rooftop hot spots.
Experience the diversity of DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood
It may heat up at night, but Adams Morgan's cozy restaurants and trendy shops also make it a must-see during the day. Explore the shops along 18th Street NW and then cap off a dinner at Duplex Diner with dancing and drink specials (all wines are half off for Wine-O Wednesday, plus there's Rosé All Day on weekends).
See DC’s OG LGBTQ+-friendly neighborhood, Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle remains one of the District’s most popular swaths of real estate, boasting a plethora of restaurants and shops, and plenty of outdoor activities (pick-up chess game anyone?) on its central grassy circle. You’ll want to pop in to Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café, a longtime independent bookstore with a robust LGBTQ+ section.
Catch a performance at one of DC’s many theaters
The region’s theater and performing arts scene is one of the best in the country and taking in a show is an obvious add to any itinerary. Whether you pick an iconic theater with a mainstream show like The Kennedy Center or check into what some of the edgier spaces are doing, such as Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Penn Quarter or Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE. Engaging and progressive works are produced all across the city.
There’s always something happening in DC
Sample brews at DC's only 100 percent gay-owned brewery
Not only is Red Bear Brewing Co. the District's only 100 percent gay-owned brewery, it's also one of the newest addition to the city’s local craft beer scene. Red Bear’s three founders all met in Seattle before moving to DC, and the Pacific Northwest vibes are on full display from the homebrewed suds to the massive 7,000 square-foot space in NoMa. The industrial chic spot adorned with Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood pours hoppy West Coast IPAs, creative ales and a number of other brews catering to all preferences on a menu with plenty of personality and jokes.
Looking for more things to see and do? Explore DC neighborhoods and save a little cheddar with these free and almost free activities.
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