Alisha Babbstein is the archivist at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. A native Oregonian, Portland suits her love of books, the outdoors, and beer.
In many ways, Portland is exactly what you think it is: the city of countless coffee houses and microbreweries, food trucks and foodies, bike lovers and buskers, and beard lovers and hipsters galore. What you might not know, though, is that Portland is regularly ranked as one of the top 10 gay-friendliest cities in the US! Whether you are looking for gay choirs, lesbian square dancers, drag kings and queens, dancing at the club, trivia, or just a place to be out and among the masses, Portland has a place for you.
While there is no specific ‘gayborhood,’ the gay and gay-friendly establishments are everywhere, so just look around. In fact it is getting harder and harder to point to establishments that are not gay friendly. Everywhere you go you will be among friends! Check out the list below for just a few gay, gay-owned, and gay-friendly places to visit and activities do while you are in town.
Though not specifically a gay event, I would be remiss not to mention Last Thursday on Alberta (http://www.lastthursdayonalberta.com/). Here you are sure to find yourself among a great concentration of queer and queer-friendly folks. On the last Thursday of every month the bohemian art community lets loose in the Alberta Arts district. Galleries, studios, and restaurants open up and present great new art, and all along the sidewalk independent artists peddle their stuff. You will find a different musician or band playing a wide variety of music on every corner. You will be among people juggling, dancing with fire, and wobbling on stilts – it’s a big ball of positive creative energy. And the last Thursday in July is the 27th – perfect!
** From the Convention Center, walk 0.5 miles North on MLK to NE Weidler. Jump on the #17, and get off at NE 27th and Alberta. You will be in the heart of the party.
The nightlife is where you will really feel at home in gay Portland. Downtown Portland holds one of the city’s small gay entertainment epicenters. Just off of West Burnside Street you’ll find a number of gay bars and gay-friendly restaurants, including the long-running gay bar Scandals (http://www.scandalspdx.com/). Established in 1979, Scandals is one of Portland’s oldest gay bars, and is really the only left in Portland’s original “Pink Triangle.” Scandals is known for their stiff and tasty cocktails, Tuesday karaoke nights, and weekly performances by local bands and DJs. You will find Scandals at 1125 SW Stark St. Portland, OR 97205.
** From the Convention Center, jump on the Blue or Red line WEST and get off at the Galleria/SW 10th Ave Station. Walk a quarter mile west on Stark St.
Looking for a drag show? Check out Darcelle’s, Embers and Crush.
Darcelle’s (http://www.darcellexv.com/) boasts one of the longest running drag queen shows in the country, with shows Wednesday-Saturday. These queens are professionals and you won’t be disappointed. Tickets are $20, and of course you must be over 21! You will find Darcelle’s in Old Chinatown at 208 NW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97209.
** From the Convention Center, get on the Blue or Red line WEST and get off at the Old Town/Chinatown stop. Walk two blocks west on Davis St.
Embers also hosts shows Wednesday-Saturday, with a $5 to $10 cover, depending on the night. It is what you might call the quintessential gay dive of Portland. The queens here have a reputation for sass and the shows are slightly more amateur-ish. But with their own brand of Portland charm, you are sure to have a good time. You will find Embers at 110 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209.
** From the Convention Center get on the Green line. Get off at NW 5th and Couch St. Walk 3 blocks west to Broadway.
Crush (http://www.crushbar.com/) is a gay bar in spirit but open and friendly to all walks of life. It is a very safe space with amazing and diverse events for all types of sexual expression. The bar has one monthly drag king show (the only one devoted to kings in town), and you are in luck – in July the show is Thursday the 27th at 8:30pm. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. It’s drag kings galore with just a touch of burlesque and cabaret. You will find Crush at 1400 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214.
** From the Convention Center you may want to take an Uber or Lyft. It is only 1.5 miles, but the bus isn’t direct!
There aren’t any lesbian bars left in Portland, but Bossonova Ballroom and Trio Club host Portland’s Hot Flash (http://www.hotflashdances.com/portland.html) dance on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month. If you are in town a day early and looking for a night on the town, check it out! $8 cover at the door.
** From the Convention Center it’s a half mile walk south to E. Burnside. Uber and Lyft would be good options as well, especially on the way back to your hotel!
And finally, for all you line dancers out there, we have Stomptown (https://www.meetup.com/Stomptown/), our home for LGBTQ country line dancing! No dress code, no partner necessary, and no experience required. Just $10 (cash only) and a good attitude and you’re all set. You will find Stomptown in Norse Hall at 111 NE 11th Ave.
** From the Convention Center it’s just a 15 minute walk south and east. And again, you can call an Uber or Lyft for the ride home.