Atlanta has long been recognized as the gay capital of the Southeast, a tolerant oasis that draws queer residents and tourists from all over the country. The city’s enormous annual Pride celebration began in 1971 and today brings in hundreds of thousands of revelers to the city, with a deluge of events happening around Piedmont Park each autumn. Atlanta also hosts one of the world’s largest Black Gay Pride festivals each year over Labor Day weekend. Out on Film, the gay film festival, takes place each spring, while the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival presents sporadic programming throughout the year.
For decades, Atlanta’s most visible gay neighborhood was Midtown—especially around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street—with its concentration of bars and gay-friendly shops and restaurants. While one of the city’s much-loved gay landmarks, Outwrite Bookstore, has since closed, local favorites Blake’s on the Park and Gilbert’s Mediterranean Café remain as packed as ever. Recent years have found Midtown becoming more mixed and gay Atlantans less confined to any one part of town, with queer bars and businesses popping up from Decatur to Marietta.
Lesbians in Atlanta have an enviable resource in Little Five Points with Charis Books and More, a fixture that’s served the feminist community for three decades. Charis Circle, its programming arm, hosts a vibrant assortment of events and workshops. The city has had less luck keeping a girls-only nightlife scene afloat over the years. My Sister’s Room in East Atlanta deserves major props for outlasting the odds.
For gay men, the bar and club scene in Atlanta offers several options on any given night of the week. Mary’s in East Atlanta has been cited as one of the best gay bars in the country, drawing an eclectic clique of hipsters and bears. Burkhart’s Pub (1492 Piedmont Ave., 404/872-4403, Mon.-Fri. 4 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 2 p.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 2 p.m.-midnight, no cover) is full of the blue-jeans-and-ball-cap crowd; it shares a parking lot with Felix’s on the Square (1510 Piedmont Ave., 404/249-7899, Mon.-Fri. 2 p.m.-2:30 a.m., Sat. noon-2:30 a.m., Sun. 12:30 p.m.-midnight, no cover) and Oscar’s Atlanta (1510 Piedmont Ave., 404/815-8841, Mon.-Sat. 2 p.m.-3 a.m. no cover). Bulldogs Bar (893 Peachtree St., 404/872-3025, Mon.-Sat. 4 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover) remains a longtime favorite for African-American men. The leather scene congregates at the Atlanta Eagle (306 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404/873-2453, Mon.-Fri. 7 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 5 p.m.-3 a.m., cover varies, up to $5), but it’s become far more mixed as a younger crowd has cycled in.
The biggest and most popular gay dance club, The Jungle Club Atlanta is the go-to spot for touring DJs and theme nights. The Heretic (2069 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404/325-3061, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3 a.m. cover varies, up to $10), an Atlanta standard for more than two decades, still knows how to fill a dance floor on weekends.
Gay travelers should check out the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide, a portal operated by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau that features a wealth of listings for lodging, events, and community organizations. The city’s main gay publications, GA Voice and David Atlanta, are also handy resources.