The Windy City is a rising star on the LGBT traveler’s map, with a number of gay bars and clubs that rival anything you'd find in New York City — there’s even a bar-packed neighborhood called Boystown. And the nightlife extends well beyond the typical dance spots. Here are the best gay bars and clubs in Chicago, in Boystown and beyond.
For the Sing-along: Sidetrack
Sidetrack is one of Chicago’s most popular hangouts in Boystown, with multiple bar areas, including an expansive wooden roof deck. It’s packed on summer nights and weekends, but quiets down on Monday evenings. That’s when the main bar downstairs fills up with musical-lovers, who belt out show tunes, Disney classics, and film scores.
For Dancing: Roscoe’s Tavern
Another Boystown mainstay, Roscoe’s Tavern sees hopeful patrons lining up outside its front door on weekend nights. Once inside, they can socialize at the main bar area while pop hits play from the speakers, or head further back (past two more bars) for epic dancing. Fog machines, disco balls, and pulsing lights make it one of the hottest spots in town.
For More Dancing: Hydrate
Less pop-focused than Roscoe’s, Hydrate is a Boystown club attracting lads and ladies looking to dance to electronic beats rather than Lady Gaga remixes. It’s packed on the weekends, and has surprisingly good martinis.
For the Dog Lover: The SoFo Tap
Away from the Boystown crowds, The SoFo Tap is a laid-back neighborhood bar where locals go any day of the week. Four-legged visitors are allowed on Saturday afternoons for an always-hilarious weekly dog party. It’s a great chance to meet the regulars (and their pups) while taking advantage of half-priced pints.
For the Alt Scene: Berlin
Berlin made its name in the 80s as a major destination for Chicagoland punks (gay and straight). Three decades later, it’s a come-one-come-all spot, where anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum is welcome — allies, too! Dance to electronic, house, disco, and Prince in this Lakeview club.
For the Drag Show: Club Escape
Most of the Boystown boys have never been to Club Escape on Chicago’s South Side, but they’re missing out. One of the only queer-friendly bars in the neighborhood, it’s got one of the most fabulous drag shows in town, hosted by sassy Mz. Ruff n’ Stuff. Head here on Saturday nights for the rowdy event, and keep an eye out for the amicable duo Harold and Rick at the bar.
For the Games: Replay
With three locations, (Lakeville, Andersonville, and a new one in Lincoln Park) Replay has solidified itself as the champion of Chicago’s gay gaming community. Classic arcade games like Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, and Mario Bros. are serious draws, though patrons also love the menu stacked with more than 70 bourbons and whiskeys. It's a great spot for a casual night out with friends or a date.
For the Cocktails: Elixir Lounge
A rotating menu of craft cocktails separates Elixir from its Boystown neighbors. The intimate lounge, with exposed brick and oversized drapes, serves as a necessary antidote to the surrounding mayhem. Friendly servers, no lines and (usually) zero sloppiness — what’s not to love?
For the Dollar Burger: Big Chicks
Big Chicks brings the crowds to Uptown on most nights of the week, and on weekends with full-on dance parties (often themed, like Madonna or 80s nights). But it’s on Mondays, surprisingly, that Big Chicks really shines: at least in the food department. Swing by before midnight and enjoy a quarter-pound burger (complete with a side salad) for just $1. Bless the Midwest.