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Dallas has a Texas-sized reputation because of the JFK assassination, the city’s campy TV drama (“Who shot JR?”) and the city’s famous football team (the Cowboys), but Big D offers plenty of “steers and queers” for gay travelers seeking a good time.
You could easily spend an evening hopping around the bars and eateries along the Cedar Springs Strip, enjoying cocktails and go-go boys off The Strip or patronizing other gay-friendly venues around town. And while you may have heard about Dallitude (what city doesn’t have their share of pretentious queens?), the city’s friendly locals and diverse nightspots give its gay community a tinge of Texas charm.
The gayborhood (a.k.a. “The Strip” or “Oak Lawn”) is a two-block district running along Cedar Springs Road that has served as the city’s big gay heart ever since the late ‘70s, when the area’s first gay-owned bars and boutiques opened up. It’s also home to the city’s annual Pride parade and legendary Halloween block party. While The Strip gets busiest on weekends, you can enjoy first-rate people-watching there anytime.
With so many options, it pays to have a plan. Start with a sunset drink from JR’s second-floor balcony overlooking The Strip, or hit up the Warwick Melrose Hotel’s library bar for a posh pre-dinner cocktail. Then head to the Cedar Springs Tap House for dinner or drop by Woody’s — both have a sports bar feel, though the latter hosts musical sing-alongs, karaoke and the occasional drag performer.
Around 10 p.m., you can also take in some musical entertainment and a quality cocktail at Alexandre’s, a cozy piano bar that feels cosmopolitan despite its mini-mall location.
After a cocktail or two, stop by TMC (a.k.a. the Throckmorton Mining Company) for some go-go boys, a small dance floor, pool and friendly mingling on the front and back patios. You could also visit Havana to get your dance on — it’s usually packed after 10 p.m., but the largely black and Latino clientele can’t get enough of its Miami vibe.
If you’re hungry for more dancing, take a free line-dancing lesson weekdays at Round-Up Saloon (on weekends, their dance floor plays country music until midnight and then switches to pop). You can also tear it up at S4, whose thumping dance floor attracts a lively mix of queers along with the occasional celeb or furry. Drag fans should stop by S4’s second-floor drag venue, The Rose Room; it’s a raucous proving ground for young, hungry drag queens and seasoned pageant royalty alike.
Off the Strip
Though The Strip provides enough bar-hopping and people-watching to fill an entire night, some of the city’s hidden gay gems lie barely a mile or two outside of it.
Just around the corner you can walk to Pekers Bar — featuring all-night happy hours on weekdays and karaoke on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s also The Grapevine, a friendly dive with a basketball court, rooftop deck, a killer jukebox and a diverse live-and-let-live crowd from the city’s poorer and richer areas.
Northward you’ll find the Windmill Lounge, a longstanding one-room cocktail bar with a warm staff and killer drinks; the Tin Room, a delightfully sleazy dick-dancing bar filled with hot go-go boys; and the Dallas Eagle, a cruisey leather bar that regularly hosts local kink events and has a nighttime leather shop located right in the bar.
Off to the east, you should drop by Hidden Door, a low-end dive and patio where you’ll find colorful characters and cheap beer any night of the week. If you’re looking for more go-go guys, stop by Zipper’s (whose clientele skews a bit older) and BJ’S NXS (where the patrons are often as hot as the dancers). At both, a dollar can get you a long way. Right across the street there’s Pub Pegasus, a cozy, low-key dive with darts and pool.
If you’ve got a car, you can find several great spots bursting with character around the metroplex. Near Downtown there’s Club Los Rieles, a queer Latino cowboy bar with male and female go-go dancers, a huge bedazzling dance floor, cheap beer and a local taco vender to keep you boot-scooting for hours.
Just a stone’s throw from Oak Cliff’s beloved Bishop Arts District — a gentrified area of bars, boutiques and eateries — there’s Barbara’s Pavilion, a tiny but friendly neighborhood bar with a pool table, occasional karaoke and a patio; it gets busiest on weekends after 10 p.m.
If you’re willing to drive for a bit, check out Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth, a popular nightspot with a welcoming bar staff and occasional drag shows.
An hour away, check out Mable Peabody’s Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw Repair (yes, that’s its actual name) in Denton, Texas. The clientele varies between local adults and younger university students, but its regularly scheduled Thursday night queer variety show, Glitterbomb, has a drag, dance and striptease act great enough to rival any New York City burlesque show.
Last, if you’re looking to get laid, end your night at Midtowne Spa or Club Dallas bathhouses; Club Dallas claims to be the more upscale of the two, but both get plenty of action around last call at the bars.