Portland, Oregon, is one of the most liberal cities in the country. The Rose City is so left-of-center that its culture has been lovingly mocked in a popular comedy series (dubbed, “Portlandia”). It is this very culture, this “Keep Portland Weird” mentality, that makes Portland an excellent city for LGBT residents and visitors alike.
This post, just one in a series of LGBT Destination Guides, is filled with LGBT-friendly places to eat, sleep, and play. These are some of our personal favorite spots in Portland.
One LGBT Neighborhood
Ask five Portlanders where to find the “gayborhood” and you probably will get five different answers. Members of the LGBT community are dispersed among the city’s different neighborhoods and they tend to migrate toward areas that align with interests outside of their sexual or gender identities.
Having recognized that Portland’s LGBT community is largely decentralized, one small part of the city deserves to be mentioned when talking about the “gay area.” The Gay Triangle (now more appropriately the Burnside Triangle) once was the epicenter of the city’s queer scene. This formerly seedy little section of the city was home to a bathhouse and multiple gay clubs. In recent years, the area has become decidedly more upscale and less narrowly appealing.
Viewfinder Tip: Portland has a world-class transit system. Visitors easily can use it to explore the city without ever getting into a car.
Two LGBT Fun Facts
Portland elected Sam Adams as mayor in 2008, making it the first major U.S. city to have an openly gay mayor.
Powell’s City of Books, one of the world’s largest bookstores, has a massive LGBT section that has served as a key resource for the city’s LGBT community since 1971.
Three LGBT-Friendly Activities
“Gaymers” Meet-ups. Portland has an active “Gaymer” community that meets frequently to play both digital and tabletop games. So if you’re into LAN parties or Star Trek Catan (or you even know what these things are) you should go get your game on with the “Gay Geeks” of PDX.
Darcelle XV Showplace. With the title of longest-running drag show on the West Coast, Darcelle XV Showplace is a bona fide Portland institution. Drop in to watch some legendary queens stomp the stage, or catch Darcelle XV herself do “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Q Center. The Q Center “provides a safe space to support and celebrate LGBTQ diversity, equity, visibility, and community building.” The welcoming space is a great way to learn about LGBT-focused events in the city and to gain a better sense of Portland’s thriving queer community.
Four LGBT-Friendly Hotels
Ace Hotel, Portland. When the gay-owned Ace Hotel rejuvenated the old Clyde Hotel building in downtown, it also played a key role in transforming the surrounding area. Located right in the heart of what was once Portland’s main gay area (see above), it now serves as a central meeting point for a section of town that rapidly is becoming the hottest spot in the city for all visitors.
The Heathman Hotel
The Heathman Hotel. There are a handful of truly iconic hotels in Portland, and The Heathman definitely is one of them. The National Historic Landmark boasts a distinctly Pacific Northwest upscale vibe: comfortable, luxurious, traditional, modern. Art and literature lovers, take notice: With an extensive contemporary art collection and a library that houses more than 2,500 author-signed books, you might find it difficult to leave.
The Nines. While the accommodations and heart-of-town location make The Nines one of the most popular boutique hotels in the city, the rooftop lounge really makes the property stand out. Also of note: Pan-Asian cuisine, 1960s airport lounge-inspired décor, and an openly gay chef.
Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront. This waterfront hotel offers views of the expansive Columbia River, snowy Mt. Hood, and the city’s iconic bridges. Add to the mix outstanding service (some of the best we’ve ever encountered) and a brand that is running a very cool, LGBT-focused campaign, and it’s clear why this hotel makes the list.
Five LGBT-Friendly Bars and Restaurants
Hobo’s. There are few places in the world were you can “run the table,” then lean on the piano and sing, “Ya Got Trouble” from “The Music Man.” Hobo’s, with a piano bar up front and pool tables at the back, is one such spot.
Ringlers Annex. You don’t just “walk into” Ringlers Annex, you descend into this dark, cavernous bar through the sidewalk. The subterranean Gay Triangle hotspot draws a perfectly mixed crowd: You might drink an Old Fashioned with a drag queen on your right and some bros on your left. Ringlers welcomes all.
CC Slaughters. If you are looking for a place to dance the night away, this is it. In an era where nightclubs seem to be getting more and more exclusive, it’s nice to have a place where the drinks are cheap, the music is fun, and the vibe is unpretentious.
Saucebox. When locally revered gay restaurateur Bruce Carey opened this now-landmark restaurant in 1995, the loungey concept seemed completely fresh to still gritty Stumptown. Since then the eatery has helped usher in an über-hip era across the city. Saucebox remains one of the best restaurants in the city. It still feels just as fresh as it did on Day No. 1.
Food trucks. No, there is nothing particularly “gay” about Portland’s food trucks. But there is something very LGBT about the diversity, openness, and come-one-come-all nature of the food truck scene. That and some damn good food.
What do you feel makes a city especially LGBT friendly?