Unassuming as it may be, Madison, Wisconsin, is a mecca for the lgbtq+Q crowd. It probably has something to do with the youthful demographic that University of Wisconsin-Madison attracts and the city's reputation as a "liberal bubble," often having different political opinions than the rest of the state. The outdoorsy, progressive, and well-educated settlement that straddles Lake Mendota and Lake Monona ​offers a small-town alternative to big city living for gays and lesbians. It isn't often that a city this size—with a population of about 250,000—has so much pride. In fact, Madison was celebrating pride before pride was even a thing.

The lgbtq+Q community here would gather at what was called MAGIC picnics, de facto Pride fests, during the '80s or perhaps even before. This is where the name of its annual OutReach Magic Festival, now held every August, came from. In addition to having a bustling gay-friendly nightlife scene, even bigger gay bar hubs are just down the road (Milwaukee is a 75-minute drive and Chicago—boasting one of the country's largest gay scenes—is a two-hour drive away).

A college town with an ever-changing and enthusiastic gay community, Madison is a fun town to visit and live.
Expect the University to influence much of the culture in the area and--with the exception of Club 5--most of the action in Madison culminates around the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods. Very walk-able and easy to navigate means you can spend less on getting from point A to point B and more on enjoying the local foods, drinks, and delights. Though far enough to warrant a taxi ride, Plan B is worth checking out as the club is huge and has rooms that cater to the yin, the yang and everything between.

Stay updated with gay events in Madison, WI|

Upcoming Mega Events Nearby

Popular Gay Events and Venues in Madison, WI:

  1. Madison Pride: Held annually, Madison Pride is a vibrant celebration of the lgbtq+Q+ community. The event features a parade, live entertainment, food stalls, and community discussions. It typically takes place in August, but be sure to verify the current year's dates.
  2. OutReach lgbtq+Q+ Community Center: OutReach has been serving the Madison area for over 40 years. The center hosts a wide array of events throughout the year, from the Pride Parade to film festivals and community gatherings. You can find more about their current activities on their website.
  3. Fruit Fest: An annual music festival celebrating diversity and inclusivity, Fruit Fest usually takes place in June in the historic Marquette neighborhood.

A list of Gay Bars, Clubs and Hotspots in Madison, WI:

  1. Shamrock Bar & Grille: Located a block from the Wisconsin Capitol grounds, "The Sham," as locals call it, opened in 1985 and draws a mostly male bunch—although it is female-friendly—of all ages, from students to longtime locals.
  2. WOOF'S: This sports-themed hangout in the same area cultivates more of an older, sports-loving lgbtq+Q crowd, as well as bears, leather daddies, and the like. When the big game isn't on, you can expect the screens in this dungeon-esque, cash-only bar to be displaying slideshows of nude men.
  3. FIVE Nightclub: Prior to Prizm, there was FIVE Nightclub (known as Club 5 back in the day). This place has a large disco, lounge, and patio for summer evenings. The drawback to FIVE is its distance (4.5 miles) from downtown. The neighborhood it's in, sandwiched between fast-food restaurants and strip malls, isn't especially inviting, either. In any case, this longtime Madison staple is deserving of its party place reputation.
  4. Sotto Club: While not branded as a gay club like the others, Sotto's downstairs dance floor is known to attract an lgbtq+Q crowd. For a cover charge, you can join the throng of sweaty bodies bouncing to EDM in the basement of this Henry Street bar.

Festivals in Madison

The OutReach Magic Festival is one of the city's biggest events of the year and one of the most robust pride celebrations in the Midwest. Put on by OutReach lgbtq+ Community Center, this block party brings food, music, and more rainbow flags than you could count to the streets of Madison every summer. Before there was ever an official pride celebration, Madisonites held an annual MAGIC picnic in Brittingham Park. MAGIC was an acronym for Madison Area Gay Interim Committee. The picnic was held in conjunction with a volleyball tournament played by the national gay volleyball league on the same weekend. This is how the current pride event got its name.

Today, the OutReach Magic Festival is held on the 600th block of State Street each August. It's comprised of rallies, food stalls, entertainment, information tables, and more, but as of 2018, no parade.

Tips for Going Out in Madison

  • Most bars and clubs are within walking distance of the city center, save FIVE Nightclub, which is 4.5 miles away.
  • Expect to pay a cover charge at nightclubs. Sotto's is known to be particularly strange and arbitrary (example: $3 if you enter after midnight).
  • Madison bars typically close at 2 a.m. on weekdays and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.
  • Michelangelo's Coffee House and A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore and Coffeehouse offer gay-friendly atmospheres and a caffeine fix for when you wake up with a hangover the morning after.

Gayout Rating - from 0 ratings.

More to share? (Optional)

No description
  • Size:
  • Type:
  • Preview: