This post is featured in Autostraddle’s Here/Queer City Guide! Excellent!
The Queer City Guide: Denver Edition!
Denver, Colorado. You are great. You are gay. I love you, sweet city.
I am a new resident of Denver, first coming to the city in the fall of 2010. I came out a year later (what can I say? I love mountains! Get it?) and started to learn about the LGTBQ culture of my beautiful city. Are you kidding me? Our PRIDE is one of the top ten rated in the nation!
(Urlacher (right) and I enjoying 2012 PRIDE!)
A couple of months ago, my veteran lesbian girlfriend realized that we sucked at hanging out with the queer folk. We then made it our mission to seek out cool queer hangouts in Denver, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
Charlie’s (900 East Colfax Avenue) – This bar will cover not only the queers in your life who love two-steppin’ to some country, but to those who just want to shake their ass in scantily clad clothing. It’s split into two separate dance floors, hosts karaoke and dance lessons, and everywhere you turn there’s a cute lady!
Recommended: Saturdays here are always bumpin’. I rarely make it there (see churches below!) but when I can, it’s always a treat.
There Urban Whiskey Bar (1526 East Colfax Avenue)/X Bar (629 East Colfax Avenue) – There Urban Whiskey Bar, formerly known as tHERe Coffee Bar & Lounge, is taking a stab at it. Its former sister bar, Her Bar, has also been renamed X Bar, and they’re not as top-notch as what they used to be (from what I’ve heard). Still, cheap drinks and lesbians. Win.
Black Crown Lounge (1446 South Broadway) – This is located behind Black Crown Antiques in Denver’s South Broadway antique district, and it does not disappoint. It hosts a gorgeous interior and two lush, garden-esque outdoor patios. This place screams sexy first date, and is my favorite lady bar to date.
Hamburger Mary’s (700 East 17th Avenue) – A small chain of 12 restaurants, Hamburger Mary’s hosts Drag Queen Bingo, Mary-oke, and Dream Girls Cabaret Drag Shows. Not the best food, but lovely drinks and sure to bring you some laughs. Mary’s is definitely a fun place to start off a night on the town.
Sputnik (3 South Broadway) – Are you a queer lady who loves hipsters? Sputnik is your place to be. Cheap drinks, tasty apps, and great people watching. It’s in a cool part of town and a great place to start/end your night. There’s a photo booth, too, so come prepared to say cheese!
Tracks (3500 Walnut Street) – So. There’s this thing called First Friday in Denver. Most people hear it and think of the Santa Fe Art District Art Walk, which is exactly what it sounds like – taking the first Friday of the month and making a beautiful, artsy evening from it. When the LGBTQ community hears it, we think of Tracks. LGBTQ group Babes Around Denver hosts First Friday at Tracks, home to THOUSANDS OF SWEATY QUEER LADIES DANCING IN A FEW BIG ROOMS. I put it in caps so you could shout it in your head. I personally love me some Tracks. There are different rooms for different tastes: 80’s, rap, and Top 40. There’s a twinkly-lit smoker’s patio (with its own bar!) and cute. Girls. Everywhere. Genderqueer, butch, femme, and everything in between hang out here, but be sure to go with a friend – gang fights happen in the neighborhood that Tracks is posted (Five Points), so be aware of your surroundings!
Fun Fact: That photo is of Exhibit A and I clearly dancing and having a terrible, horrible time. Don’t go to Tracks. Obviously, nobody has fun, smiles, or laughs. Ever.
Rock Bar (3015 East Colfax Avenue) – I have to laugh as I type this. Rock Bar is so dingy and gross at 8 pm that you’d question going in, but I swear to you, after a few beers and a few hour’s time, Rock Bar is a super secret awesome queer dance party! It’s an odd mix of super straight frat bros and queers, though, so if you’re not into that, don’t go there. It’s also farther down Colfax than some people like to travel, but its walking distance from my house so I have to say I’m all about it. Be ready to dance and drink cheaply, because this bar is straight out of your college town!
Watercourse (837 East 17th Avenue)/City, O’ City (206 East 13th Avenue) – Vegetarian or vegan? Queer? Love secretly cruising on cute girls while nonchalantly talking with friends? Both of these lovely sister restaurants are for you! The tastiest food and definitely most consistent, hands down.
Side note: Watercourse is more sit-down, third-date, and City O is hanging with pals, first-date.
Vine Street Pub (1700 Vine Street)/Mountain Sun (1535 Pearl Street Boulder, CO)/Southern Sun (627 South Broadway Street Boulder, CO) – I am in love with Vine Street Pub. Probably because it is a block away from my house and does $3.50 grilled cheeses (!!!). Its parent restaurant, Mountain Sun (and sibling restaurant Southern Sun) is located in Boulder.
Recommendation: They brew all their own beers, and they all rock!
Highland Tap and Burger (2219 West 32nd Avenue) – I wouldn’t say this is a queer establishment, but when my girlfriend and I went there we realized that there were lesbians everywhere. Basic American burger joint with the flavor turned way up.
Racines (650 Sherman Street) – Racines is a Denver staple, located off of Speer Boulevard right outside of downtown. They’ve won awards for Top Gay & Lesbian Watching, Most Popular Gay Dining Destination, and Outstanding American Cuisine.
Recommendation: Definitely family-friendly! Kiddos are all over this place, so if that’ll make your hangover worse, maybe steer clear.
King Sooper’s (1155 East 9th Avenue) – I know this is weird, having a grocery store on this list. But this King Sooper’s location is known as Queen Sooper’s in the LGBTQ world. I think half of the people only shop there to search for other cute queers. Delightful.
Denver Area Tennis Enthusiasts (DATE) – With a cute name like that, who could say no? DATE sponsors the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Association’s Rocky Mountain Open every year and their season is May through August
Denver Gay and Lesbian Flag Football League – Twenty teams (that’s 280 slots!) for all the rough and tumble you desire.
OUT Spokin’ – Denver’s LGBTQ bicycle club. Also does philanthropy!
Denver Area Softball League – Okay, their website is kind of a mess, but the DASL is an LGBTQ-friendly league that has both open league and women’s league. And that’s pretty legit.
St. Mark’s Coffeehouse/Thin Man Tavern (2019 East 17th Avenue) – Hipster coffee shop/bar, connected and serving each other’s drinks. Get work done while scoping out people, then switch over and meet friends for a drink.
Fun fact: I’m writing this article at their outside patio with my dog right now!
Denver Bicycle Café (1308 East 17th Avenue) – The. Cutest. Girls. Work. Here. Cheap coffee, cheap food, cheap beer, and you can get your bike fixed!
Stella’s Coffeehaus (1476 South Pearl Street) – Full of DU graduate students studying and a great place to just read a book and talk about life. Cute patio with heat lamps for the fall in a cute neighborhood.
Paris on the Platte (1553 Platte Street) – I assume all people love cheese the way I do, and they have a killer cheese plate selection. I’ve been here for work meetings over coffee, drinks with old friends, and to watch my girlfriend play a set. Their open mic has some of Denver’s best talent; check it out on Monday nights!
Gypsy House (1279 Marion Street) – I went here with fellow Autostraddler Vanessa on a blind friend date…with each other. It was awesome. We sat outside, talked about how hard it is to meet queer ladies (you can’t just go up and be like “Hi! I think you look like a cool lesbian. I’m completely basing this off of your nail length and tattoos. Want to be my friend? I promise I’m not insane!”) and then stared at cute girls walking dogs for the afternoon. It was beautiful. Now we’re awkward pals together. It’s great.
City Park, Washington Park, Cheesman Park (parks located in those respective neighborhoods) – These are both neighborhoods that are gay-friendly and parks, all in one! I am not kidding you, find me a day that you can walk through any of those three parks without seeing one cute queer that catches your eye, and I’ll be shocked. All of the parks host awesome events throughout the summer season, too! Here’s the thing about Denver: when you’re in the shade, it’s legitimately like, 20 degrees cooler (no humidity!) So, on a hot day, head over with some friends and get your picnic on, and get some courage to ask the cute girl tossing a Frisbee to join you. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Dog parks (All. Over!) – I think that dog parks are pretty much the best place to find yourself a cool queer chick at any time of the day. The one closest to my house in City Park is boasting some friendly doggies and some friendly ladies. Recommendation: 9:30 am and 5:30 pm. The sun’s not blistering at either of those times!
Open Spaces (Surrounding the greater Denver area) – Open spaces are awesome. They’re huge parks that you can let your dog off leash, you can walk around, run the perimeter…anything. Colorado is super fit, in case you didn’t hear, so if you’re looking for fun with your queer pals, I’d recommend hitting anything outdoors. Recommendation: If it’sy your first time in high altitudes, stick with open spaces before deciding to climb a 14,000 foot mountain. You’ll thank me later. Also, WATER.
Breweries – Denver has so many breweries that are queer-friendly that I can’t even begin to list them all. But if you’re a beer drinker, I’d recommend checking them out. If whiskey’s more of your thing, Stranahan’s does tours as well!
Concert Venues – Again, Denver is known for the music scene. There’s downtown music, and not too far outside of the city is the ever-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. My favorite park about Red Rocks is that you can go there during the day to hike. Some people even run up and down the theater steps, because they enjoy when their lungs live in their throats or something.
DU – My girlfriend’s alma mater, Denver University has a very public Pride Portal, for “LGBTIQA-related sites” and their Center for Multicultural Excellence hosts different events for the queer community
Iliff School of Theology – This is where I’m scoring my Masters of Arts in Social Change! Iliff is known as an all-inclusive community, with queers just. Plain. Everywhere. FLAME is the group for LGBTQ students and allies, and the Social Action Committee brought in the beautiful Rev. Amy DeLong (read about her here if you haven’t!)
CU Boulder – There is a huge student network of clubs for the queer folk here, including QPOC (Queer People of Color), QWIC (Queer Women in Community), and Biphoria. Cheers, Boulder!
Denver and Boulder are known for their open and affirming churches. Well, at least they are to me. Here are a few that I’ve either attended or heard great things about:
First United Methodist Church – Boulder (1426 Spruce Street, Boulder) – This is my church! My amazing girlfriend works here as the Family Life Ministry Director, which is what made me start going, but two weeks in I knew I had found my home church. It’s pretty much the coolest. Open, affirming, and as of this year, performing LGBTQ marriages! Family-friendly and just all around lovely.
Christ Congregational UCC (2500 South Sheridan Blvd) – The UCC is known for usually being open and affirming. If you haven’t been to church in a while, I hear this is a great place to start!
House for All Sinners and Saints ELCA (2201 Dexter Street, inside of St. Thomas Episcopal Church) – With a name like that, why wouldn’t you try it just once? Started by an Iliff student, the church now has hundreds who attend. They rocked a chocolate fountain in the baptismal font for Easter, they do a blessing of bikes, and Beer & Hymns. Amazing.
The Center (1301 East Colfax Avenue) – The Center boasts the title of the third-oldest LGBT community center in the United States. They host delightful events year-round!
Out Front Colorado (3535 Walnut Street) – One of the oldest running queer magazines in the country, Out Front appears at events and hosts them as well. Any time you see an Out Front photographer where you are, you know you’re in the know. You know?
One Colorado (1245 East Colfax Avenue, Ste 204) – One Colorado is the group that’s on the Hill, causing a ruckus in hopes of making a change in legislation for us queers here in Denver and across Colorado. This nonprofit seems to do it all – they work for anti-bullying in schools and supporting fair-minded legislators across the state.
Gender Identity Center of Colorado (1151 South Huron Street) – The GIC provides support, outreach, and advocacy for all forms of gender expression, including but not limited to cross dressers, those who identify as transsexual, and everything in between. They provide support groups and therapists, as well!
HipChicksOut – There’s First Friday…and then there’s Second Friday. HipChicksOut does a fantastic job of having ladies night events across Denver, going into bars and clubs that are normally not considered queer bars. They take them over and always have a great time! Cheers to that idea!
In summary, Denver is a fantastic place to be queer. It took me moving here to come out publicly, and it was the best decision of my life. I am always 100% comfortable in who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing here as a queer woman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re thinking of coming for a visit, come find me! I will probably be at any of those places above, orrrr hanging out on my front porch drinking whiskey. You’ll know me when you see me, I promise.