A Local’s Ranking of the Best Gay Bars in Grand Rapids

best gay bars grand rapids mi

Pride month is right around the corner. Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally like me, let’s celebrate!

Put your favorite gay anthem on the stereo and crank the volume up.

I’ve got Born This Way by Lady Gaga spinning. What did you pick? Vogue by Madonna? I Will Survive? Timeless.

Okay, now that we’ve got the music going, let’s be honest.

While shops now flying Pride flags are now common in our city, that wasn’t always the case. Grand Rapids, like many places in the United States, was once hostile to the gay movement. Many gay residents fled Grand Rapids for bigger, more amenable cities like Detroit and Chicago the day they turned 18.

And while the movement, and the city, have come a long way, there’s still work to do. A disproportionate number of unhoused youth in Grand Rapids identify as LGBTQ+. Let’s do better.

Onward! Let’s look at some spots in Grand Rapids that fully embrace the gay community.

Map of the Best Gay Bars in Grand Rapids

The best gay dance club in downtown Grand Rapids: Rumors

If you’re headed down to Rumors, you’re on the right track, baby.

Rumors is smack dab in the heart of downtown. And they’ve got events every. Single. Night. I’m talking Fab Fridays. And kick(butt) karaoke on Wednesday. Check their website and see what’s going down (and when) at Rumors.

The staff here deserve a special shoutout. They’re universally fun, funny, and kind.

Put on your dancing shoes and dance the night away at Rumors. Just know that the dance floor gets packed, particularly when there’s a DJ. Spin and dance in bliss, knowing you’re in a safe space. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your next boo while twirling around the dance floor.

Sidenote: expect a modest cover most nights. Don’t worry. The cheap drinks make up for any cover charge.

  • Address: 69 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Website: Rumors

The best gay bar for a nightcap in downtown Grand Rapids: The Apartment Lounge

The Apartment Lounge is a stalwart supporter of the LGBTQ+ community in Grand Rapids. They’ve been serving stiff drinks, craft beer, and wine out of their current spot since 1988.

And The Apartment Lounge is next to the downtown library in the middle of Grand Rapids. It’s the perfect option if you’re looking to grab a drink before (or after) a performance at the Civic Theater. Or make the short walk to The Apartment Lounge after catching a show at the Van Andel Arena, 20 GLC Live, or any of the other downtown venues.

While “the APT” is a gay bar, everyone is welcome to come and grab a drink.

The best LGBTQ+ resort: The Dunes Resort

If you’re looking for an all-in-one hotspot for the gay community, look no further than The Dunes Resort. Located between the nearby beach towns of Saugatuck and Douglas (approx. 50 minutes from Grand Rapids), The Dunes has a multitude of nightlife options.

At The Dunes, you can have it all. They’ve got karaoke nights, bingo, and a bloody mary bar. There are even kink weekends if leather is your thing.

They’ve even got a live pianist. I said PIANIST gang. Grow up.

While staying there, explore nearby Saugatuck. The quintessential Michigan beach town has been a gay enclave for decades and is renowned for its bustling art and food scenes.

The best drag show in town: Michigan Drag Brunch

If you’re looking to go to a drag show, the queens at Michigan Drag Brunch put on the best drag show in town.

I suggest joining their mailing list to stay informed of upcoming shows – tickets to their shows evaporate like Beyoncé tickets, so make sure you buy them as soon as they’re announced.

What can you expect?

The drag shows take place at various Grand Rapids brunch hotspots. You’ll buy an entire table, typically with 2, 4, or 6 seats. And the ticket price will include brunch, a drink, and a two-hour performance of the best drag show in town.

Tipping is a long-standing tradition in the drag community. Don’t forget to bring some cash so you can tip your queens.

The best gay bar with food: Maggie’s Bar

If you’re looking for dancing or wild nightlife, Maggie’s isn’t the bar for you.

But if you’re looking for a pub feel and some excellent eats, Maggie’s is the perfect spot. They source their meat from the butcher shop located next door, so you know you’ll be having some delicious bites. Don’t sleep on their nachos – they’re top-notch. Or, grab their delicious signature burger, and make sure you get a side of fries with it.

Maggie’s is also home to RuPaul’s drag race viewing parties, as well as pop-up drag shows. Yas, queen.

Maggie’s is on Michigan Street, just east of medical mile. And it’s a bar for everyone, especially the LGBTQ community.

  • Address: 855 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Website: Maggie’s

The best gay-owned bar: Steel Cat Bar

While not technically a gay bar, Steel Cat is both gay-owned and a safe spot for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.

Located on Bridge Street, Steel Cat is the perfect option for a nightcap after you’ve dined at one of the amazing restaurants on Bridge.

They’ve got the first (and only) frost rail bar in the city. What is a frost rail? I won’t get too into the weeds and use words like “glycol.” Just know that when you order a beer at Steel Cat, it’s served to you at an ice-cold 32 degrees. I’ll drink to that.

  • Address: 640 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • Website: Steel Cat Bar