When you think of gay bastions, Columbus, Ohio is probably not the first city that comes to mind. So when Experience Columbus invited me to visit their city and see what it was all about, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly expecting much. Even some of the people I know (who have not visited Columbus) asked why I would want to go to that city. I always said, “I guess I’ll find out.” The city definitely proved itself by a long shot. It’s boasts a pretty awesome arts environment, great restaurants and awesome food, and, believe it or not, a lively and exciting gay scene. Gay Columbus will definitely surprise you!
Columbus is the 15th largest city in the nation and it’s not surprising it has a sizable LGBT population. What is rather unexpected is the city plays home to over 20 gay bars, clubs, stores, and restaurants. There’s even a gay thrift shop that raises money for AIDS healthcare and offers free HIV testing. Diversity plays an important role in this city’s history as many different ethnic neighborhoods give the city its identity; from the refugee communities from Ethiopia and other places to the German and Italian communities. As a result, the city is open and accepting of all walks of life. At no point did Alfred and I feel unsafe as we explored the city and even showed one another affection in public with no issue at all. There were even signs in most shops, restaurants, and stores stating they were a judgement-free zone and supportive of the LGBT community.
Up and Coming Gay Columbus
Since Columbus, Ohio has the third highest per-capita LGBT population, the city is very open-minded and is one of the up-and-coming gay cities of America according to NewNowNext. It’s Gay Pride event is one of the largest in the country, drawing in over 200,000 attendees each year. Nevertheless, Columbus doesn’t have a huge reputation for being a gay destination and it’s mostly because people write it off so quickly. People just don’t know all that Columbus has to offer. While it is certainly no New York City of San Francisco, it’s a city on the rise and an affordable destination with a bright and flamboyant gay community.
There’s something for everyone in this city but here are six gay bars I recommend when you visit Columbus!
Gay Columbus: Union Cafe (782 N High Street)
Located in the Short North, otherwise known as Columbus’s main arts district and gayborhood, Union Cafe is one of the most popular gay establishments in Columbus. It is the place to see and be seen. While this bar definitely knows how to serve up a good drink and fun party at night, it’s a restaurant by daylight. So you can grab dinner and then hang out in a casual atmosphere for drinks later. Fair warning: It can get really packed so be prepared. Union also serves a pretty great brunch on Sundays and has karaoke night on Mondays!
Gay Columbus: Level (700 N High Street)
Located a couple blocks from Union, this cocktail lounge is a bit upscale and also serves food. It’s sort of the same deal as Union where it is a bit more subdued during the day and more of a party scene at night. Level also offers Sunday Broadway and Disney musicals night…which is popular with many of the LGBT folk!
Gay Columbus: Boscoes (1224 S High Street)
Head to Boscoe’s for a drag performance and a nice cocktail. Located at the opposite end of High Street, this bar is laid back and great for hanging out with friends. Boscoe’s hosts various themed nights and are known for bringing in famous drag queens. The bar also puts on a sort of male review show which you won’t want to miss!
Gay Columbus: Toolbox Saloon (744 Frebis Avenue)
Toolbox Saloon, located in the German Village area of Columbus, is quite the risqué bar. The biggest draw of this bar is the male strippers. Who doesn’t like naked men, right? Aside from this, they host themed nights including an Undies Night and put on all kind of shows including drag!
Gay Columbus: A.W.O.L. (49 Parsons Avenue)
This bar caters to mostly men and is the place to go if you’re into leather, rubber and other fetishes. A.W.O.L. hosts various nights including skin, bear events, karaoke, among others. The crowd skews older but everyone is welcome!
Gay Columbus : Club Diversity (863 S High Street)
Located close to Boscoe’s, this piano bar serves up some mighty fine martinis with a touch of karaoke too! The crowd is definitely gay but you’ll find it’s more of a lovely mixture most nights. If you identify as lesbian, this bar swings more in that direction.
Gay Columbus: Axis (775 N High Street)
Columbus’s main night club is across the street from Union Cafe. The club is just like any club you might go to with the beats turned way up, alcohol flowing, and tons of dancing. Axis brings in international DJs and adult performers sometimes. The club hosts nights including 18+ college nights, jocks in the showers, and male-reviews. Don’t miss out on the drag performers too!
Check out another off-the beaten track city– Providence, Rhode Island!
Small town, America is great…Ptown is the gayest small town around!
What are the gayest destinations in the US? Learn more here!
What do you think? Willing to give Columbus a try?
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