Known as the Mile High City due to its altitude (and, more cheekily, its laid-back attitude toward cannabis), Denver is a wonderfully quirky and inclusive destination for LGBTIQ+ visitors. The largest city for hundreds of miles in any direction, Denver serves as the rough-around-the-edges promised land for queer folks from all over.
The best of Denver’s LGBTIQ+ bars, clubs and breweries
Denverites hold a very come-as-you-are attitude: we helped to vote in the nation’s first openly gay governor, after all. Because of this, numerous gay clubs Denver have flourished over the years.
Tracks, for example, is a club that’s been around since the 1980s – and one of the first queer spaces I went to when I moved here over half-decade ago. My first foray there was for a spectacular drag-king show, followed by a night of dancing. Revelry aside, the club in RiNo (as locals call the River North Arts District) is also known as a longtime haven for LGBTIQ folks, a place where they could spend the night if they had nowhere else to go. It’s currently being eyed as the subject of a feature film.
For bar-hopping purposes, you can’t go wrong with heading over to Colfax Ave in Cap Hill – Denver’s historic gayborhood, where Pride flags hang from balconies and even outside churches on nearly every block. It also happens to be where I used to live, its queer-friendliness a big draw for me. Here you’ll find numerous other gay spots.
One of Denver’s top LGBTIQ+ spots, Blush & Blu is one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the USA © Leah Lynn / courtesy Blush & Blu
XBar is a favorite destination for alfresco liquid brunch on Sundays – yet there’s something going on every other night of the week, too, from karaoke to drag shows. Across the street is Charlie’s, a country-themed gay bar with a glittering cowboy-boot disco ball and bartenders that don cowboy hats. These days, it’s a bit less honky-tonk than it used to be, yet still well worth a visit, especially during Pride month.
Take a Lyft a few blocks up the road (Denver is very much a Lyft town) to Tight End, a relatively new gay sports bar where you can drink and eat pizza while watching WNBA or NFL games on any given day.
If sports aren’t your jam, you can always mosey over to Blush & Blu, one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the country. Yet it’s much more than that, serving as a community space for open-mic nights, karaoke, drag shows, trivia nights and more.
Finally, I have to give a shoutout to a couple of breweries. First up is Lady Justice Brewing, a Latina- and queer-owned brewery just on the edge of town. The other is a favorite of local queer writer and small business owner Ava Truckey: Goldspot Brewing Company, in northwest Denver.
“As a queer business owner that prioritizes queer vendors and spaces, Goldspot Brewing is one of my favorite places in Denver to be in community with other queer folx,” says Truckey.
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Denver’s queer food and coffee scene
It’s no problem if partying isn’t your scene: Denver also has plenty of queer-owned and/or queer-friendly places to grab a bite, sip a much-needed iced latte or pick up some sweet treats for home.
First up: Hamburger Mary’s. This popular bar and grill (with locations all around the country) serves up burgers, sandwiches, egg plates and – of course – plenty of drag entertainment, including drag bingo, brunch and competitions.
If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key, there’s also the LGBTIQ-owned Under the Umbrella cafe. This Congress Park staple is great for breakfast or lunch sandwiches, coffee and pastries. It’s a choice spot for getting some work done or grabbing a quick bite with a good friend.
Speaking of coffee, Denver has tons of options to choose from. While not all queer-owned, many fly Pride flags or display stickers on their windows to signal their support or allyship. If you do want to check out a queer-owned coffee shop, head south to the quirkily named Grounds for Dismissal. Owners (and wives) Carissa Beauchamp and Korah Sevier provide customers with locally roasted coffee and a highly customizable breakfast menu, making it a solid spot for vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-free crowd.
Some of the best LGBTIQ-owned food spots don’t have fixed addresses. Truckey (who shared her favorite brewery with me) also happens to be the owner of Butter Moon Bake Co., a small bakery specializing in biscuits, hand pies and scones. The treats are pick-up only, and she regularly sells them at the City Park Farmer’s Market when in season.
Owned by two husbands, Sabel Home offers home decor and gift items entirely sourced from within Colorado © Sabel Home
And if you want to do a little shopping…
Truckey also runs Offbeat Market, “a Denver community market that highlights women-, non-binary-, queer-, Black-, Indigenous- and people of color–owned businesses.” This hip and inclusive market takes place twice monthly, once each at The Block Distillery and at the aforementioned Goldspot Brewing. Among the vendors are That Witch Apothecary, which sells vegan bath and body products, shower steamers and salt soaks plus candles with names like Seaside Cyprus and Cottagecore; Velvet Moss Magic, vendors of handmade jewelry like silver cuffs with Sonoran gold turquoise gemstones and ammonite pendants; and Ollie and Iggy, a gender-neutral children’s clothing shop that will thrill any and all queer parents.
Not enough? Head over to South Pearl St, where you’ll find a bevy of cute, walkable eateries and shops, including a queer- and veteran-owned newcomer, Sabel Home. Owned by husbands Tyler and Justin Fukae, the shop was once located in Georgetown, a mountain town an hour outside of Denver. The pair opted to move just a year after opening and will soon be selling their wares (all 100% Colorado-sourced) to neighbors in Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood and beyond. From greeting cards and stationery to gourmet cooking gifts, books, soaps and more, we’re happy to have them.
Worth the Fight (WTF) Boxing Gym offers lively fitness classes in an inclusive environment © Worth the Fight Boxing Gym
Where to work up a sweat and feel good
For those looking to break a sweat in the Mile High City (outside of a hike), try taking a class at Worth the Fight Boxing Gym. Founded by wives Emily Stork and Gladys Santiago, the Uptown fixture is a fitness favorite.
“As gay women, we were inspired to open WTF Boxing to create a fitness studio environment that was welcoming to all,” says Stork. “We train our coaches to be sensitive to challenges LGBTQ folks may experience in gyms and hire a staff of coaches that includes queer people.”
If boxing isn’t what you’re after, there’s also VIBE Gym and Wellness Collective in Sunnyside. Offering strength training, yoga, barre, dancing cardio and more, the team here ensures inclusivity via gender-neutral bathrooms, free child care, quiet spaces and a scent-free environment. And the studio is loud and proud about welcoming trans and cis women, non-binary folks and people of all sexualities, races, and ethnicities.
For something more low-key, there’s also Courageous Yoga. The Cap Hill queer- and Indigenous-led studio prides itself in being an “identity-affirming safe(r) space.” Some of their classes include Slow Soul Flow and Grounding Vinyasa, with reduced pricing for all people of color.
Where to stay
There are plenty of posh hotels and down-to-earth hostels in the central Denver area, and you’ll find that most are gay-friendly overall. But if you want a place with plenty of charm that will make you feel like a true Denverite, you’ll have to stop by Flora House near Cheesman Park. This renovated Victorian mansion–turned bed-and-breakfast has six bedrooms and new (queer) owners who hope to continue to provide top-notch service to their guests. They’ve even incorporated a “pet for your stay” amenity, where guests can care for a betta fish in their room during their stay.
Actor Coleman Domingo speaks at the CinemaQ Film Festival, a highlight of Denver’s annual cultural scene © Jason DeWitt / courtesy CinemaQ Film Festival / Denver Film
Best times to visit
While Denver is queer-friendly pretty much all year round, you might want to plan your trip around a few events. The most obvious, of course, is Denver Pride. Our town goes all out for Pride, which takes place all June long. Expect plenty of bar hopping, drag shows and other parties – all culminating in a raucous two-day festival in the heart of Downtown Denver. If you’re traveling with family, make sure to take part in the Pride 5K, or simply pull up a chair to watch the Pride Parade make its way from Cheeseman and down Colfax to Broadway. (I watched it from the Capitol steps with my own son this past summer and had a stellar view.)
Come back in July, and you might also catch the Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo, where the Colorado Gay Rodeo will keep you on your toes with some bull riding and calf roping. If you fancy a fine film over a bucking bronco, come in August for the much more low-key Cinema Q Film Festival. Hosted by Denver Film and taking place at the Sie FilmCenter, the event celebrates the year’s best work by LGBTQ+ filmmakers.
With 300 days of sunshine, proximity to hiking and skiing, and plenty of museums and cultural hotspots, the Mile High has something for everything. No matter your taste, it’s never a bad time to visit Denver.