The best gay bars in Orlando

Isn’t it endless fun to sit around and speculate which Disney characters were DEFINITELY gay? Scar from Lion King, for sure. Genie from Aladdin, no doubt. That’s probably just one of the many reasons the queer community seems to have a special penchant for Walt Disney World in Orlando, which is a hotspot for gay weddings and holds special Gay Days just for the LGBTQ community. But there’s another reason for gays to love Orlando besides Disney. Little known fact: it’s is the tenth gayest city in the US percentage-wise and its gay nightlife and gay bar scene is a testament to that fact.

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Yes, affordable, easy-going Orlando might not have any beaches but it’s still a great play for a gaycation. Here are some of the best gay bars and gay nightclubs in Orlando (as well as a few other fun gay hangouts and activities).

Photo: Nathan Waters

Parliament House is nothing less than a gay entertainment complex. We can’t confirm whether its claim to be the “gayest place on Earth” is true or not, but we can attest to the fact that it doesn’t get much gayer than this. The 10-acre lakefront complex is a one-stop year-round adult summer camp with seven bars, a live theatre, a lakefront ‘beach,’ pool, a billiards bar, a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and dance club all in one. There’s even a 112-room hotel on site so you never have to step foot off the grounds. Its Footlight Theatre, hosts locally produced pageants, female impersonation shows, plays and musicals. The resort been open since 1975. 

Photo: Freddy G.

Photo: David Lezcano

A laidback local bar called Barcodes caters to the beer-loving bear crowd and those who love them. The lodgelike atmosphere evokes burly hunters, but the kind who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Leather nights and Latin nights are a big deal as are underwear nights where admittance is prohibited unless you’re in your skivvies. It’s also got a backyard deck and a koi pond. Leather lovers and the over 35-crowd are also represented here. Nearby, Hank’s Bar is another basic neighbourhood bar. Shoot some pool and meet the locals. Known for its antique jukebox, outdoor patio, super cheap drinks, pool tournaments and trivia nights. Stonewall Bar, named after the place in NYC where it all started, is a two-story industrial chic space of poured concrete whose mission is to be inclusive of the whole gay rainbow. To that end, the casual facility is home to a Sky Bar, Video Bar, Meat Market Patio & restaurant. Sky Bar is an open-air bar located on the top floor with great views of the Orlando skyline.

Photo: Eeshan Garg

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Southern Nights Orlando is the quintessential megaclub. Local DJs and drag shows ensure a good time is had by all. Friday nights are hopping. Savoy Orlando is known for its shirtless go-go dancers, astutely named ‘The Men of Savoy,’ who perform daily from dinnertime to closing. The place has a loungy feel and has multiple rooms with two separate bars as well as darts and pool tables. The outdoor tropical patio is smoker-friendly. Thursday is Show Tunes night. 

An LGBTQ institution since 1972, Hamburger Mary’s draws a mixed crowd with an approach it calls a “flamboyant dining experience.” Said flamboyance includes Broadway Brunch, Dining with the Divas, and Cabaret Dinner shows. The venue also hosts MaryOke, HamBINGO, weekend DJs, and drag shows. Also a fun place for breakfast and mimosa brunch.

Photo: Juan Pablo Melo

Another mixed destination is the upscale Bösendorfer Lounge, tucked inside the moody and intimate Grand Bohemian Hotel. The lounge is named after the piano, which is the central focus. Listen to jazz singers croon while you sip on an impeccable martini. 

Brunch at the gay-friendly White Wolf Café & Bar is all about the Crab Cake Eggs Benedict. And the Country Chicken and Eggs. And the cinnamon rolls. And pancakes. The family-owned, eclectic establishment on Antiques Row is popular amongst the gays, the ladies who lunch and pretty much everyone else.

Gay Orlando, like the phases of the moon, can be divided into the Gay Days at Walt Disney World epoch in June and the rest of the year. It’s not an “official” Disney event, but that hasn’t stopped more than 100,000 LGBTQ’s from descending on Orlando for the weeklong event in what has amounted to one of the largest unofficial pride celebrations anywhere. Many say is one of the most moving experiences they’ve ever had.

And while Orlando will always be associated the horrific Pulse nightclub attack in and 2016 will forever be etched in the minds of Americans and gays across the world, there is now a onePulse Foundation, whose Facebook page proclaims: “We will not let hate win.” The monies raised will support a memorial and well as scholarships endowed in the names of all 49 victims. You can donate here

Walt Disney Park | Photo: Elijah Chan

Epcot Center Walt Disney World | Photo: George Pagan

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