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DNC Guide: LGBTQ+

Experience a truly welcoming big city

Chicago is proud to welcome visitors from around the world to our great city for the Democratic National Convention 2024. While you’re here, we invite you to come experience what makes Chicago a city like no other — and why we’ve been named the Best Big City in the U.S. for an unprecedented seven years in a row.

Chicago has a way of making everyone feel like they belong. We’re known as one of the most inclusive cities in the country, home to historic communities like Northalsted (the country’s oldest official gay neighborhood) and meaningful monuments to LGBTQ+ history. Come experience our diverse nightlife, LGBTQ-owned businesses, drag shows, and world-famous Pride celebrations events.

We’ve created these Chicago guides with five specially curated activities to help DNC visitors experience different aspects of our great city. To delve deeper and make the most out of your time in Chicago, keep exploring with our guide at the link below.

Explore our LGBTQ+ guide to Chicago

1. Explore our welcoming neighborhoods

Chicago Pride
Catch the Chicago Pride Parade in June

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in queer Chicago, these vibrant areas are home to welcoming residents, inclusive nightlife options, and LGBTQ-owned businesses.

Northalsted is the oldest official gay neighborhood in the country. The area’s proud history is on display with the Legacy Walk, which commemorates notable LGBTQ+ heroes and historic events. You’ll also find a vibrant array of inclusive nightlife and LGBTQ-owned businesses. 

Nearby, Andersonville is known for its deep Swedish roots, array of eclectic independent businesses, and diverse LGBTQ+ community. Tip: Come back for Midsommarfest in June to experience one of the city’s best street festivals.

If you love bars, live music, and nightlife, you’ll love Uptown. Catch a show at the PrideArts Theatre or experience drag queen artistry at the longstanding The Baton Show Lounge or at the unique dim sum and drag events at Furama. 

2. Live it up at gay bars and clubs

Sidetrack
Sidetrack

Chicago’s nightlife is a lot like the city itself — inclusive, diverse, and welcoming to all. It’s also a whole lot of fun. Our gay and lesbian bars have a little bit of something for everyone, with late-night lounges, dance clubs, burlesque and drag shows, and casual neighborhood watering holes in almost every corner of the city.

You can’t talk about gay bars in Chicago without talking about Northalsted, an LGBTQ nightlife mecca. Sidetrack is famous for its sprawling layout, huge video screens playing new and classic music videos, and an endless supply of boozy slushie drinks. 

One of the city’s oldest gay bars, Jeffery Pub is a neighborhood institution. The South Shore staple is also one of Chicago’s first Black-owned gay bars, making it all the more meaningful for the many regulars. 

In Andersonville, Nobody’s Darling is a Black-owned, queer cocktail bar that was nominated for a James Beard Award. And in West Town, Dorothy is a neighborhood lesbian cocktail lounge with a slate of fun and funky events.

La Cueva is a go-to for dancing, with regular karaoke and drag events. This popular Little Village spot has its own slice of LGBTQ+ history — they’re known as one of the oldest Latinx drag bars in the country. 

3. Explore LGBTQ+ history at local landmarks and museums

The Legacy Walk
The Legacy Walk

Chicago has a long and vibrant LGBTQ+ history that comes to life with our local museums, tours, and landmarks that celebrate the city’s LGBTQ+ heroes, milestones, and legacy.

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives is the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ+ circulating library, with over 14,000 volumes. In Rogers Park, the Leather Archives & Museum is dedicated to erotic art and artifacts. 

The AIDS Garden in Lakeview is a poignant memorial to the LGBTQ+ community, featuring a sculpture by Keith Haring. You’ll also find many landmark homes of notable queer residents, such as the Lorraine Hansberry House in Woodlawn.

The Legacy Walk features 35 (and counting) rainbow memorial markers, commemorating the life and work of notable lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender heroes. The markers, which are fixed to 25-foot rainbow monuments, bring the city’s rich LGBTQ+ legacy to life on the streets of historic Boystown.

4. Visit vibrant LGBTQ-owned businesses

Kit Kat Lounge is a divalicious dinner-and-a-show venue in Northalsted where contemporary cuisine is served with table-side performances by a cast of talented divas. Their famous drag brunches are always a can’t-miss experience.

For a more relaxed brunch atmosphere, check out local favorite Tweet in Uptown. Another popular LGBTQ-owned restaurant is Lexington Betty Smokehouse, serving award-winning Chicago-style barbecue in Pullman. 

Women and Children First is a bookstore that’s been a dynamic force on Chicago’s literary scene for more than 40 years. The list of legendary women authors who have read here includes Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton, Alice Walker, and more. Unabridged Bookstore is another long-time shop selling a variety of LGBTQ+ titles. 

If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, the city’s LGBTQ-owned business community includes a diverse selection of boutiques and shops, including Cowboys & Astronauts, The Brown Elephant, Provisions, Wolfbait & B-Girls, and SPACE 519

5. Come back for iconic Pride events

Parade marchers wil rainbow balloons at the Chicago Pride Parade
Chicago Pride Parade; photo by Adam Alexander

If you truly want to experience the diversity of Chicago’s LGBTQ scene, you need to plan a return trip for one of our unique events.

Chicago Pride Fest is a massive two-day pride celebration that takes over Northalsted every June. Each year, more than 100,000 revelers flock to the historic LGBTQ+ neighborhood to take part in the festivities, including three stages with live music, more than 100 arts and crafts vendors, food from local restaurants, drag shows, dance performances, a high-heel race, and more.

The celebrations continue at the Chicago Pride Parade, one of the city’s most popular LGBTQ+ events. A tradition for more than 50 years, the parade concludes the city’s month-long celebrations with a famous four-mile procession held on the last Sunday of June.

But Pride doesn’t end in June in Chicago. In August, Northalsted Market Days is one of the biggest street fests in the country and features live music on five stages, DJs and dancing, vendors, food, and more.

And the fall brings the Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, the second longest-running film festival of its kind, showcasing the artistic contributions of LGBTQ+ filmmakers, with a mission to educate and counteract stereotypes.

Explore all Chicago DNC guides