Greenwich Village, New York City, United States
Julius', tagged the oldest gay bar in NYC and one of the oldest taverns in the city, is the cash-only dive-y joint with good burgers that made LGBTQ history and changed the law in 1966 when three Mattachine Society members staged a "sip-in" and were refused service. The men's challenge to the prohibition of serving alcohol to gays was reported in The New York Times under the headline "3 Deviants Invite Exclusion by Bars." The Society then challenged New York State liquor laws in the courts, winning and opening the way for gay bars three years before Stonewall. Now on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, it celebrates the sip-in annually and has a monthly Mattachine party. Music is by jukebox. The crowd is eclectic. Film buffs may recognize it from "Boys in the Band," "Next Stop Greenwich Village" or "Love is Strange."
West Hollywood, Los Angeles, United States
What began as a discreet gay coffee shop in 1991, impresario and activist David Cooley has built into The Abbey Food & Bar, a local institution and two-time winner of the MTV Logo Best Gay Bar in the World award. A high-energy venue in a church-themed, Spanish-inspired villa, it has several dance floors, four bars, go-go boys and girls swinging from the ceiling, a gothic-style patio, inspired cocktails and delicious bites. It's all-welcoming and has special events and Wednesday ladies nights hosted by Girl Bar.
West Village, New York City, United States
Cheap beer on draft, upbeat bartenders, and a somewhat goofy décor--Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and lots of vinyl--Cubbyhole is one of the few remaining lesbian-only bars in the city; hetero ladies are welcome but the boys should sit this one out. True to its name it's a very tiny place, so don't expect to be doing any dancing.
Gayborhood, Philadelphia, United States
Now in its fourth decade, gay-owned Woody's is the granddaddy of LGBTQ nightlife in Philly, but its founder Bill Wood moved on in 2007 to open the upscale restaurant Knock. Today's version attracts the over-21 crowd, including straights and bachelorette parties. It has morphed into several distinct venues with different flavors and different hours. The pub/video bar is open nightly.
Dupont Circle, Washington DC, United States
With two dancefloors, a lounge area, and first-floor restaurant, Cobalt has a lot to offer. The crowd is young and attractive, and there are regular themed nights for the Bear and Leather scene. Cover is $10 with a $20 drink minimum, but the bartenders are friendly, the drinks are well-made, and the music is loud. You'll probably want to check your coat, because it can get warm and crowded.
Nashville, United States
Play delivers the art of female illusion and an energetic dance floor. Men and women are welcome, but it's the fierce divas in drag that get most of the attention. Show times Wednesday through Sunday, which do attract the frequent bachelorette party.
Capitol Hill, Seattle, United States
Plastered with photos of naked men and hung with phallic pinatas, Pony caters to the gay male in search of stiff drinks, dancing and shenanigans. Though the bar itself is narrow and small, it has an outdoor patio complete with a fire pit and a glory hole in the bathroom. Entrance is usually free, but cover charges apply for special events.
Gayborhood, Philadelphia, United States
Boxers on two floors offers a pool table, brick-oven pizza, tap beer and a multitude of flat screens for sports fans. Gay-owned and -operated, it also sponsors its own teams: The Philadelphia Firebirds women's tackle football and the Philadelphia Falcons soccer team. Weekly theme nights include a Texas hold-em tour on Tuesdays and frat night on Thursdays. And then there are the bare-chested bartenders in their boxers of course.
Lake View, Chicago, United States
Patrons of Sidetrack have been indulging in video bar show tunes since the 1980s, when the LGBT spot set down roots in Boystown. Packed most nights, it's a belt-it-out, sing-a-long kind of place, with Musical Mondays drawing the largest weekday crowd.
Old Town, Key West, United States
For over 25 years, 801 Bourbon has been home of Sushi and her 801 Girls. You may have seen the drag diva on CNN being ceremoniously lowered in a six-foot red high heel as a countdown to the New Year in Key West. Out front is good for surveying who's going by on Duval Street. In the back is a fetish bar.