Australia is the unofficial spiritual home of drag queens. For decades, the country has treated them with the kind of reverence often reserved for royals and religious leaders. Dame Edna Everage led the charge for decades, but ever since 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert shone a spotlight on Sydney’s burgeoning drag scene, it’s been a full-on explosion of glitter and glam as the rest of the world began to realize just how tirelessly the ‘women’ of the scene worked to earn the love of audiences. Drag in Sydney runs the gamut: from hilarious ‘insult queens’ who heap abuse on unsuspecting customers, to ‘show queens’ at the helm of glitzy big musical productions, and the bevy of ‘scene queens’ who simply pop up at the bars and clubs for added effect, the art of drag is at its most inventive here. Get out and see a drag show while you’re in town—there’s nothing quite like them anywhere else in the world.
Wanna have a big night? ARQ is the place to do it: sweaty, shirtless men; pumping sound systems on two levels; debauchery all around. Sydney’s biggest, baddest gay club is also a great place to see drag. Don’t miss the amateur Drag for Dollars competition, held in the basement bar on Thursdays. It also has regular shows throughout the weekend and on Sunday nights. Expect a hangover.
The Shift has been drawing ‘em in for decades. Sydney’s oldest gay venue is a sprawling, two-level watering hole and dance club with four bars, a pool table, and regular programming that always includes drag queens. Its weekly Bingay night hosted by Charisma Belle is a riot, and proceeds go towards ACON, the leading HIV prevention organization in New South Wales. Come here on weekends for dazzling drag productions upstairs.
It’s trashy, it’s stinky, it’s possibly on the verge of being closed down by health inspectors—and I absolutely love Stonewall, which has a chintzy appeal that cannot be denied. While it has entertainment every night of the week, my pick is Polly’s Follies, a long-running amateur drag show that draws in curious customers every Sunday. It’s hosted by local drag legend Polly Petrie, who drinks champagne direct from a teakettle. How can you not love that?
This massive complex in the heart of Sydney's CBD is a hedonist's delight—floor upon floor of bars, clubs, lounges, and even rooftop pool bar. You might see a few queens swanning around the venue's Pacha nightclub now and then, but if you're after a show, grab a ticket to one of the dazzling quarterly I Remember House parties held in the atrium.