As North Carolina grows and evolves, the Triangle has become a haven for LGBTQ folks seeking support and safe spaces in which to explore their identities. Raleigh and Durham, in particular, play host to thriving LGBTQ communities that offer opportunities for queer people to find one another and connect in meaningful ways.
This overview in no way encompasses all of the places LGBTQ people mingle, but it’s a wonderful starting point. Bars have historically been central gathering spaces for queer folks, and this list reflects that. For folks seeking alternatives to bar culture, check out resources like the local Queer Exchange groups on Facebook.
330 West Hargett Street, 919-831-8888, legends-club.com
A classic gay bar and dance club in the heart of downtown, Legends is a massive complex with multiple, intersecting components, allowing for more small-scale gatherings throughout the week and debauched dance parties on the weekend. In addition to a regular roulette of well-known Raleigh drag performers, Legends offers themed evenings like College Night, Burlesque performances, and amateur drag competitions. If you’re looking for a quintessential gay club experience a la Queer as Folk, this is the closest you’ll find in The Triangle.
415 South Salisbury Street, 919-900-8194, rubydeluxeraleigh.com
Raleigh’s response to a need for an intimate, queer-oriented bar, Ruby Deluxe bills itself as a place for everyone—as long as you’re not an asshole. It’s operated by Tim Lemuel and functions as a sister space to his other businesses, local dive The Night Rider and music venue The Wicked Witch (both at 416 West South Street). Ruby is an inclusive LGBTQ bar that intentionally facilitates programming and physical space for trans folks and queer people of color. Check out Ruby’s The Body Party, monthly Drag King Competition, and karaoke nights—or just pop by after midnight on the weekends for a packed crowd and a who’s-who of the Raleigh downtown scene.
2 West South Street, 919-832-8855, flex-club.com
Another staple in the downtown nightlife scene, Flex is a basement dive bar that caters to a predominately cis, gay male clientele. Most nights, customers can expect a karaoke experience, but Thursdays play host the venue’s iconic Trailer Trash Prize Nights, a drag review with prize giveaways throughout the evening. Cheap drinks and a fairly predictable night—Flex is always a decent time.
The District Raleigh
317 West Morgan Street, #117, 919-977-5440, thedistrictraleigh.com
We wouldn’t say The District is an LGBTQ restaurant, per se, but it’s certainly frequented by Raleigh’s LGBTQ community and provides a welcoming atmosphere for queer folks of all generations. Stop by on a Sunday afternoon for a friendly “come as you are” atmosphere—and try the chicken quesadilla.
117 West Main Street, 984-244-7243, thepinhook.com
The Pinhook has been around “since forever,” according to its website, but actually more like 2008, when owner Kym Register opened it as a DIY music venue and community center. But it’s grown into perhaps the best-known LGBTQ space in the Triangle. What you can expect depends on the night—the bar plays host to small-scale concerts and dance parties and packed drag performances.
711 Rigsbee Avenue, 984-244-7117, thebardurham.com
Durham’s other LGBTQ bar, The Bar, is nestled next to local fixture Surf Club. With a massive dance floor and huge backyard, The Bar is perfect for both dancing the night away and smoking cigarettes on the patio while shooting the shit with friends. It’s been around for over two decades and bills itself as the “OG Bull City LGBTQ Home Base.” An important space for queer folks of color in particular, The Bar has always been there for us.
405 1/2 West Rosemary Street, 919-960-6101, nightlightclub.com
Chapel Hill spaces dedicated to the queer community are few and far between. Nightlight, however, is a gem that regularly hosts live bands, dance parties, and karaoke nights for the arts community. Best-known for its weekend-long experimental noise showcase Savage Weekend, Nightlight provides an intimate setting for a diverse array of artists, many of them LGBTQ, to showcase their work and experience community.
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