The charming, colonial seaside city of Charleston has long been a popular weekend getaway for gay and lesbian couples. Even though the city isn't really known as a major gay nightclub destination, Charleston is an open and accepting city with a growing number of bars, restaurants, and lounges. While most of them don't explicitly cater to lgbtq+Q+ customers, the crowds are diverse, and all are welcome.
It's definitely possible to have a great time dancing, watching drag cabaret, and mingling with locals and tourists in this sophisticated city with a metropolitan area population of over 750,000.
Whether you want to have a quiet drink or dinner with a few close friends or you're looking to dance the night away, Charleston has plenty to offer the lgbtq+Q+ community with its bars and overall nightlife scene.
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Popular Gay Events and Venues in Charleston, SC:
Charleston, South Carolina offers a vibrant lgbtq+Q+ scene with a variety of gay events and hotspots to explore. Here are some Charleston's gay events and popular destinations:
- Charleston Pride: Charleston Pride is an annual lgbtq+Q+ pride celebration that takes place in September. The event features a diverse range of activities, including a parade, live performances, parties, and community gatherings. It provides an inclusive space for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to come together and celebrate diversity.
- lgbtq+Q+ Nightlife: Charleston has several gay-friendly bars and clubs that offer a lively nightlife experience. Some popular hotspots include Dudley's on Ann, a long-standing gay bar known for its welcoming atmosphere and drag shows; The Cocktail Club, a stylish lounge with craft cocktails and a rooftop bar; and The Commodore, a trendy gay-friendly spot featuring live music and creative drinks.
Gay Bars and Hotspots in Charleston, SC:
- Dudley's: Located at 42 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403, Dudley's On Ann is a long-standing gay bar in Charleston. It's known for its friendly atmosphere and diverse crowd. The bar offers a variety of events throughout the week, including karaoke nights and drag shows. It's a great place to meet locals and visitors alike. More Info
- Recovery Room Tavern: While not exclusively a gay bar, the Recovery Room Tavern at 685 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, is a popular spot in the local lgbtq+Q+ community. Known for its laid-back vibe and extensive beer selection, it's a great place to relax and meet new people. More Info
- Affordabike: Affordabike at 573 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, is a bike shop that hosts a monthly "Queer Ride" - a casual, friendly bike ride through downtown Charleston. It's a fun, inclusive event that's open to everyone. More Info
- Charleston Queer Prom: An annual event that provides a safe, inclusive space for lgbtq+Q+ individuals to enjoy a prom night experience. It's a fun, empowering event that's open to all ages. More Info
Gay-friendly Hotels in Charleston:
- The Spectator Hotel (Gay-Friendly): Embodying the elegance of the 1920s, The Spectator Hotel offers luxurious accommodations and attentive service. Each room is uniquely designed, featuring vintage decor and modern amenities. The hotel also boasts a speakeasy-style bar and a farm-to-table restaurant. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link
- Wentworth Mansion (Gay-Friendly): Set in a beautifully restored mansion, the Wentworth Mansion offers luxurious accommodations in an intimate setting. Guests can indulge in elegant rooms, a rooftop cupola with stunning views, and fine dining at Circa 1886 Restaurant. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link
- The Francis Marion Hotel (Gay-Friendly): Standing as a Charleston landmark since 1924, The Francis Marion Hotel offers classic Southern hospitality and comfortable accommodations. Guests can enjoy well-appointed rooms, a rooftop lounge, and a variety of dining options. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link
- The Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina (Gay-Friendly): Situated on the waterfront with panoramic views, The Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina provides a relaxing retreat. The resort offers spacious rooms, a private beach, multiple pools, a full-service spa, and waterfront dining options. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link
Late-Night Restaurants in Charleston
If you're looking for a cool place to fill up your stomach before, between, or after drinks, Charleston has a wealth of hip restaurants that serve incredible dishes. Many casual restaurants also offer performances, live music, or other events throughout the week.
If you're craving Mexican or Tex-Mex food (or perhaps just a margarita), El Jefe offers tacos, 12-inch burritos, chili con queso, and other mouth-watering dishes until midnight every night (until 1 a.m. on the weekends). It's also conveniently located around the corner from Dudley's. If you're in town on a Wednesday, stop by for the weekly Wig Out drag performance.
Another late-night hot spot is The Griffon, located in the French Quarter. This dive bar offers all types of fried snacks, burgers, and sandwiches. The bar and kitchen are both open until 2 a.m., so you can continue drinking without going hungry.
Bars and Clubs in Charleston
Charleston only has one gay bar, but it's one you won't want to miss. In fact, Dudley's on Ann was named one of Yelp's top 50 gay bars in the country. Since it's the only option in the city, Dudley's proclaims itself to be "everybody's bar" and aims to serve the whole community. On weekends, everyone flocks to Dudley's for dancing and their creative, original cocktails, but during the week, there are plenty of reasons to visit as well, such as drag shows, karaoke, and daily happy hour specials, to name a few. Dudley's is open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is located on Ann Street in the popular King Street district.
For sheer elegance, it's hard to top the posh lobby bar adjacent to Grill 225, inside the sumptuous and gay-friendly Market Pavilion Hotel. This ornate space is the perfect spot for a glass of wine or a martini, perhaps before you dine in the excellent restaurant or at one of the many other terrific eateries within a short walk. If the weather's nice, consider having cocktails up on the rooftop bar of the Market Pavilion, where you'll enjoy a panoramic view of the historic Charleston skyline.
Tips for Going Out in Charleston
The majority of bars and places to go out are concentrated around the south end of King Street. You can start here and easily barhop on foot.
When your legs get tired, move around downtown Charleston on the DASH Trolley. All three lines of this tram are free of charge for all riders.
Spring and fall are the most popular seasons to visit Charleston. Plan well in advance if you come during these months.