Denver Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Denver gay travel guide to the best hotels, neighborhoods, gay bars, clubs & things to do.
The Gay Travel Experience: Denver, Colorado
Denver is known to be much more liberal than many other areas of the western United States, making it one of the most gay friendly cities in the region. A large year-round gay scene definitely makes Denver an attractive destination.
The city uniquely offers the urban perk of abundant restaurants, shopping and bars, while at the same time providing easy access to nearby breathtaking mountains.
Denver gay travel is ideal for those who want to enjoy a mix of urban gay culture and the great outdoors. If you love hiking and exploring national parks, but also like a drag show and a circuit party, Denver is for you.
I wasn’t in Denver long, but I had quite a jam-packed experience. Below, I’ll start with some of Denver’s best areas to stay, and then move on to fun experiences and gay nightlife.
Gay Denver: Hotels & Where to Stay
Denver has a few different popular areas to choose from. Regardless of which of these areas you choose though, you’ll likely take a few trips to explore the others.
Cherry Creek Hotels
The more upscale and spread out area of central Denver is Cherry Creek. It’s a popular neighborhood for tourists as well as for locals.
I stayed at The Jacquard Hotel, a wonderful luxury property in Cherry Creek. It is part of the Marriott collection, so if you’re part of their loyalty program, this could be a great choice.
They have a stellar restaurant on the lobby level called Narrative. Expansive, high ceilings and a crisp white design make Narrative an ideal dinner spot.
Hotels in LoDo & Five Points
Lower Downtown, or LoDo, is the heart of Denver. Five points is another popular neighborhood to the northeast of LoDo. This section of the city certainly has a bustle to it, especially after working hours when locals take to the streets.
LoDo hotels are best if you’ll enjoy bar hopping near Larimer Square, a quaint yet urban popular hangout area. Located about 20 minutes by car from the Cherry Creek neighborhood mentioned above, LoDo is one of the most popular places to stay in Denver.
Hotels in the Capitol Hill Gay Neighborhood
Capitol Hill is considered to be the official Denver gay area. However, the gay areas of Denver are actually spread out in pockets surrounding the actual Capitol Hill neighborhood.
For budget-friendly accommodations, Capitol Hill hotels are your best option. The neighborhood is right in between LoDo/Larimer Square and Cherry Creek, so you get the best of both worlds. Although It’s not as glitzy as the former two neighborhoods, it’s still a great option.
North Capitol Hill has the most LGBT activity, but you’ll also find local gay life to the south, along the eastern edge of the Baker neighborhood.
Since Denver is a newer city, and hence more spread out, I would not base your choice of accommodation on being close to the Capitol Hill or Baker gay areas. You’ll be able to easily hop around by car to these spots.
Denver Gay Travel Experiences
One of my favorite Denver experiences was actually quite a touristic one! I found Union Station at night to be a big highlight. The intense neon colors and lively atmosphere outside was so inviting. I recommend walking around Union Station at some point during your trip, even if it’s not at night.
You have to get cocktails at Cooper Lounge while you’re near Union Station. This classic, high-end bar is on the second level of the station. The best part about Cooper Lounge is that it’s a bit hidden from public view, so it feels super private.
Dress is more on the formal side, or at least smart/chic casual. They do take reservations, but I was able to grab a table without one, waiting only five minutes.
A Day Trip to Boulder
Many Americans are quite fond of Boulder, Colorado. The adorable town is home to a large student population attending the University of Colorado, so there’s quite a youthful vibe. Its only about a 40-minute drive from downtown Denver, so you should definitely check it out.
Head directly for Pearl Street Mall. It’s the number one place to visit in Boulder. Pearl Street is a long stretch of pedestrian walkway lined with shops, restaurants and bars. You can even pick up some marijuana or CBD products at a local dispensary (weed is legal in Colorado)!
Explore Mountains Outside Denver
Only an hour and a half outside of downtown Denver, there are several majestic sights you can plan to see in a single day trip.
Most popular is Rocky Mountain National Park. Navigate some epic trails to take in the dramatic landscapes here. The trails are just outside the dreamy vacation town of Estes Park, which serves as the base town for hikers.
Simply driving around Lake Estes is an experience in itself. You might even spot some wild elk on the side of the road! Definitely an authentic Colorado experience.
Stop at Saint Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock while you’re on your way toward Estes Park. This beautiful historic building will beg you for photo-op. Some travelers go inside, but many just take pictures around the grounds.
If you get there earlier in the morning, you might be able to see it without any other tourists.
While you’re out exploring Denver and the surrounding area, keep fresh and prepared for anything with these on-the-go essentials.
A night out in Larimer Square is a must for all gay travelers in Denver. This area is the most vibrant of the city and it’s easy to bar hop. You’ll be able to choose from countless restaurants for a nice dinner too. Larimer Square is busiest at night, so I would plan to head there after 7PM or so.
As the night progresses, bars and restaurants will fill and things will become rowdier. I guarantee you’ll find yourself loving the vibe of Larimer Square. But, you’ll have to trust me and see for yourself!
The Center on Colfax hosts Denver Gay Pride events. They’re one of the largest LGBTQ+ organizations in Colorado. If you’re planning on visiting Denver, aligning your visit with the pride festival events would definitely make for a fun time.
Show your LGBTQ+ support during the festivities with some awesome pride-themed clothing and accessories.
Restaurants in Denver
Grab dinner at TAG, a gay-friendly restaurant in Denver’s Larimer Square. They have all sorts of food and brand themselves as an establishment with “eclectic eats.” I ordered a ton of sushi with some of their delicious custom cocktails. The waiters were super friendly, too.
We stopped by Marg’s World Taco Bistro another night for some delicious margaritas and a quick Mexican dinner since they’re open later than many other establishments. The food was delicious, but the drinks were even better.
I passed by Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar quite a few times given it was right next to my hotel, but unfortunately didn’t get to try it myself. Bad Daddy’s is super popular for juicy burgers with gourmet toppings.
Keep in mind they’re only open until 9PM. If you’re a late eater like me, make sure to plan for an earlier dinner here.
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Denver Gay Bars
Denver is known for having a pretty substantial gay nightlife scene, especially for a state that is not super-liberal. There are a bunch to choose from!
During my time in Denver I only visited one gay bar, being cautious amid the Covid-19 pandemic. So in addition to the recommendations below, watch the virtual Denver gay nightlife tour video below, produced by Gay Star News.
Boyztown is the most well-known, classic Denver gay bar. They’re notorious for their male stripper shows, which start at 10 PM Tuesday through Sunday.
Daily happy hours at Boyztown attract rowdy crowds. They’re open until 2AM, so make the most of your night by starting it early. While Boyztown doesn’t have a reputation for the friendliest service, many travelers and locals still head here to see the gay dancer shows.
Tracks is one of Denver’s biggest gay venues and they sure know how to throw a party. They host various types of events including Circuit Saturdays, Jazz Night Fridays, Visibility Thursdays and an afternoon Sunday Funday party.
Indoor events at Tracks are on hold due to Covid-19, but they have an expansive outdoor space with large tents and space to move around.
X Bar Denver
You can definitely count on some hilarious drag queens at X Bar, another popular Denver gay bar. They have an indoor-outdoor space, great to take advantage of in the warmer weather. X Bar hosts popular dance parties too, with rotating guest DJs.
More Gay Bars in Denver
You’ll find a few other gay bars in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Along East Colfax Avenue is Charlie’s Denver, a country western themed gay bar.
Blush & Blu is just few blocks to the east. Here you’ll find a more relaxed atmosphere in a space popular with lesbian, transgender and queer partygoers.
Triangle Denver is one of the prominent Denver gay bars downtown. Expect more of a cozy, communal feel in their modern industrial styled space.
Triangle is a good bet if you want to start your night out on the calmer side, or maybe grab some food to fuel the rest of your evening. They have ample table and booth seating.
Denver’s Pride and Swagger is one last gay bar you should definitely consider. Stop by for brunch, a drag race viewing party or cocktails anytime!
Denver Gay Cruising
Midtowne Spa is the most popular Denver gay spa and cruising facility. They’re located in the Highlands neighborhood, not far from Downtown Denver. The facilities here are well-maintained and include a sauna, jacuzzi and stream room.
Lots of travelers are raving about Denver Swim Club, a gay sauna and cruising facility on East Colfax Avenue, northeast of the Cherry Creek neighborhood.
Last I checked, the Denver Swim Club website was not available, likely due to the sauna’s temporary closure during COVID. For more information, check Denver Swim Club’s Yelp profile.
Denver Travel Tips
Denver will certainly live up to its name as the mile-high city. I can definitely confirm that when trekking out to higher elevations in the mountains, you lose your breath much more easily! While it’s nothing debilitating, it’s worth mentioning that you can certainly feel a difference.
Is Denver LGBT Friendly?
To reiterate an earlier point, the city of Denver is LGBT friendly, no doubt. There is a significant gay community here as well. But as a tourist, you should remember that Colorado as a whole leans toward the conservative side. In my opinion, it would be rare for gay travelers to encounter issues.
Dinnertime in Denver
Remember that restaurants in Denver close a bit earlier in the evening as compared to other large U.S. cities. The majority of restaurants close at either 9PM or 10PM, with only a handful of places open later. These are mostly in LoDo.
Rent A Car to Explore
If you’re planning to explore the mountainous countryside outside of Denver to take any day trips, I highly recommend renting a car at Denver Airport.
There are various buses that transport you from airport arrivals to the rental car facilities nearby.
Denver Public Transit Options
If you’re content with staying within the city of Denver, public transit is definitely an option. Denver has expanded their public transit system significantly over the past decade. You can even catch a train from the airport to head into the city center.
The A-Line RTS train is easiest if you’re heading toward Union Station from the airport. There are also more routes to different locations via the SkyRide bus. Here are all the Denver Airport transport options.