LGBTQ Guide to Charlotte
Known for its warm and welcoming spirit, Charlotte is filled with LGBTQ-friendly ways to experience the city. From nosh to nightlife, here are our best bets for seeing the most of the Queen City.
AvidXchange Music Factory, located a few miles from Uptown, is the ideal place to dock if you’re looking for nightlife options. Check out live music at The Fillmore Charlotte, hear your favorite comedians go off script at The Comedy Zone Charlotte, snack on chips and guac at La Revolucion or grab a cold one at VBGB Beer Hall & Garden—and that’s all just for starters.
In the heart of Uptown, this rollicking night spot promises an evening fit for a queen. Start with dinner at BlackFinn Ameripubor Vida Cantina, then explore the bar scene. Strike City offers boozy bowling and dueling pianists face off at Howl at the Moon. For a more low key evening, catch a flick at the on-site movie theater, Studio Movie Grill.
Drag and Dancing
Whatever your zodiac sign, the stars are sure to align as you sit and sip on the patio at The Scorpio, Charlotte’s longest-running LGBTQ nightclub. Founded in 1968, The Scorpio is the perfect place to catch a drag show and spend the night busting moves and toasting cocktails on the dance floor.
Tucked away in West Charlotte, in the historic Smallwood community, The Nickel Bar is popular with the city’s African-American LGBTQ community. The club features DJs, drag performers and other entertainers, plus thrilling dance nights. Many of the events promote local or regional nonprofits or raise funds for community groups.
Located next to Sidelines Sports Bar and Billiards, Bar Argon invites thirsty patrons to mix and mingle in the Video Lounge, make moves on the dance floor, or scoot up to the bar for beer, wine and cocktails. On select nights, you can catch VJs and DJs spinning, and you can always catch your favorite throwback and record-topping music videos on the large screen TVs inside Bar Argon.
Sit Back and Relax
Situated in the eclectic and artsy Plaza Midwood, Petra’s welcomes a wide range of LGBTQ customers, straight allies, drag performers, spoken-word artists, singer-songwriters and more.
Located in the historic Dilworth neighborhood in a two-story home that was converted into a restaurant and bar in the 1980s, The Bar at 316 is one of Charlotte’s oldest gay-friendly establishments. The beautiful second-floor patio is the perfect place to sip a drink, feel the breeze and chat with friends.
Sidelines is the go-to spot for LGBTQ sports fans and aficionados. Grab a seat at the bar and watch your favorite basketball, baseball, soccer or football team or play your own game of pool, foosball, darts or giant Jenga®. The bar is an ideal spot to relax with a pint of beer while cheering on your favorite team.
Off the Beaten Path
Walking into The Woodshed is like walking into a home away from home. Owner Greg Brafford, a longtime philanthropist for HIV and LGBTQ causes, treats all guests like family. The spot features affordable drinks, pool tables, an outdoor patio and more.
Chasers is the city’s only gay, all-male exotic dance club. The bar, which opened in 1991, brings in talented female impersonators from all around the country and features “go-go boy” dancers who strut their stuff on stage. On the activity docket, you’ll also find karaoke, special guest performers and curated events.
Experience a spectacular show by one of Charlotte’s many LGBTQ-focused performance groups, including the Queen City Theatre Company, Charlotte Pride Band, the One Voice Chorus and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte.
The city’s diverse community embraces inclusive events that are beloved and most-anticipated each year. With a range of offerings, Charlotte Pride Week, which includes the two-day Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, a Charlotte Latin Pride Night and Community Expo, and Charlotte Trans Pride events, has something for everyone. Throughout the week, guests can enjoy panel discussions, religious services, mixers and dance parties. More celebrations include the Charlotte Black Gay Pride, a multiday event that combines art, entertainment and empowering discussions each summer, and the GayCharlotte Film Festival, which tells the story of the LGBTQ community’s impact on art via film each year in the late spring.
A local favorite, the NoDa Gallery Crawl is a hot spot for culture fans, drawing hundreds of people each first Friday of the month to NoDa. Revelers peruse the works in galleries and shops around the area, walking from one open door to the next and enjoying a glass of free wine or two along the way. A great way to get a feel for local talent, the South End Gallery Crawl runs on the first Friday of the month in South End, showcasing more art and fascinating designs.
Honor the man in the mirror with a trip to Emerson Joseph, Uptown Charlotte’s premiere grooming lounge for men. This is no ordinary barbershop. Luxury experiences, like hot facial towels, mini-manicures, massages, facials, waxing and even shoe shines, are all available at this posh outpost. Everyone can enjoy a chic, new cut and color, blowout, mani-pedi or waxing treatment at Shine Salon on East 7th Street.
Staycations and Spas
Guests and non-guests can book a rejuvenating spa service at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte’s two-level penthouse Spa & Wellness Center. The eco-friendly, LEED-certified hotel offers guests a stay or afternoon/evening of play in the lap of luxury. Work on your swing along manicured greens and top-notch tennis courts at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. Tack on a tranquil treatment in the full-service salon and spa or take a dip in the outdoor pool.
Catch Charlotte’s gay rugby team in action both on the field and out in the community. Founded in 2004, the Charlotte Royals support an inclusive environment, where people can learn about and play rugby while also working with local charities. The club welcomes members of all orientations. Check the team’s schedule to attend matches. Think you’ve got what it takes to compete? Look into joining the team.
Also encouraging self-expression, philanthropy and diversity, the Charlotte Roller Girls, founded in 2006, compete in intense flat track roller derby matchups that make for an exciting spectator sport. The league welcomes both women and men of all orientations and skill levels. Watch the team take on an action-packed bouts throughout the season. You can also catch the Charlotte Roller Girls out supporting the community through various events.
The Queen City Tennis Club is Charlotte’s only LGBTQ-focused tennis club. In addition to various social events for participants, the club offers organized play on park courts around the city, like Park Road and Veterans parks. Visit the website to view the schedule.
One World Dragon Boat is North Carolina’s first LGBTQ and inclusive paddle sport organization. The synchronized paddling team consists of 22 players who welcome all to join. Visit the website to view the schedule.
The Charlotte Rainbowlers represent the city’s only International Gay Bowling Organization and United States Bowling Congress-certified league. The Rainbowlers accept players of all skill levels. Visit the website to view the schedule.
The Charlotte Front Runners are dedicated to promoting physical fitness and community ties between LGBTQ participants and straight allies. Runners and walkers of all speed levels are invited to join walks or runs of varying distance each week, and they’re often followed by social gatherings, like lunch or dinner. Visit the website to view the schedule.
Founded in fall 2014, Stonewall Sports Charlotte is an LGBTQ and ally sports league that caters to both natural athletes and newbies. The league offers sports such as bowling, dodgeball, kickball, softball and volleyball, as well as a run club and community fundraising and outreach events. With chapters across the country, the nonprofit organization welcomes all players regardless of ability and is inclusive of the LGBTQ and straight ally communities.
300 East is an LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood eatery located in a converted old home in Dilworth, features eclectic American cuisine with Southern flair and seasonal style. Be sure to check out the popular Sunday brunch and mimosa specials. Known for its locally sourced ingredients, 300 East has been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Enjoy innovative sushi, global tapas and handcrafted cocktails at Soul Gastrolounge, a casual yet sophisticated lounge, complete with a side patio that overlooks the neighborhood.
The Common Market-Plaza Midwood combines community vibes with everyday convenience store goods, a deli, and a great selection of brews and cocktails. You’ll find patronage as diverse as the selection of specialty items. In fact, the friendly establishment describes itself as “A hodgepodge of people with stories to tell.”
Experience the award-winning sweets at Amélie’s French Bakeryin NoDa. This eclectic coffee shop and bakery offers an inviting and comfortable atmosphere. The shop’s famous sweets were even featured in the first installment of “The Hunger Games.” The candy-colored macarons and sinfully good salted caramel brownies are must-tries.
Find your favorite chain and department stores offering steal-like deals at Charlotte Premium Outlets and Concord Mills and look for luxury labels and exclusive retailers, like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, at SouthPark Mall. The Queen City thrives on locally owned businesses, and its unique boutique scene takes the spotlight. You’ll also find different boutiques in each neighborhood. Pick up hip and quirky finds at Boris+Natasha and vintage wonders at The Rat’s Nest in NoDa. Look for haute couture at Capitol in South Park and Tabor in Myers Park. And stock up on stylish accessories at Revolution Clothiers & Co. in Dilworth.
Gifts and Accessories
Make a stop at White Rabbit, which is known as “North Carolina’s gay-and-lesbian-everything store.” Located in the trendy Plaza Midwood neighborhood, this LGBTQ novelty and book store features art, clothing, literature and more. Nestled in Dilworth, Paper Skyscraper is the go-to shop for unique presents, books, funky collectibles and gorgeous gift wrap.
Some of the city’s best furniture shops share the same South End ZIP code. The neighborhood, which has deep textile and manufacturing roots, has become a haven for home décor. Explore High Cotton Home Company and The Furniture Connector, which are both owned by LGBTQ entrepreneur and design extraordinaire Rodney Hines. Alexander Scott, which moved from its original outpost in South End to its current location in Myers Park back in 2014, is also worth a look. The marketplace-style spot, which carries everything from the rustic to the classic, is owned by David Newcombe and Rusty Griffith, who are both involved in community activism.
This article was updated in July 2017.