As the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago is a hub for people of all different backgrounds. The LGBTQ community is no exception. Whether you’re searching for thriving nightlife or underground culture while in town, check out the best gay neighborhoods that Chicago has to offer.
The neighborhoods listed here are known for being the best gay areas in Chicago, but the truth is that practically everywhere in the city is a safe bet for LGBTQ acceptance. NerdWallet even lists Chicago as the 10th most gay-friendly city in the US.
The original and most frequented Chicago gay neighborhood, Boystown stretches along Halsted Street on the north side of the city. There’s no mistaking Boystown for anywhere else.
Visitors to this vibrant, walkable neighborhood will find themselves greeted by rainbow-colored posts that line the streets. Since the 1970s, this area has been a center of acceptance and free expression where the Chicago LGBTQ community thrives.
Boystown is the official home of the Chicago Pride Parade. It’s one of the largest pride celebrations in the world, with over a million in attendance each year. The community also hosts an annual street festival called Market Days, which features a concert lineup of prominent LGBTQ artists and booths filled with food, drinks, and crafts.
As the top visited Chicago gay neighborhood, Boystown doesn’t disappoint when it comes to things to do. Novelty shop Beatnix has everything from drag costumes and vintage clothing to gag gifts and other knick-knacks. The Chicago Diner is one of the city’s oldest vegan restaurants, where you’ll find award-winning milkshakes and burgers that are so good you’ll never tell the difference.For nightlife, Boystown is the place to be any night of the week. You can’t go wrong with any of the many bars and clubs found along Halsted St. A few local favorites are Sidetrack, Replay, and Progress Bar. With so many options, it’s hard to choose one, and it’s not uncommon for partygoers to try out multiple establishments in one night.
Though it’s always been a diverse neighborhood, Andersonville was unofficially dubbed “Girlstown” in the 1990s due to a flourishing lesbian community. Nestled between Uptown and Edgewater, Andersonville can be found on the north side of the city. Though most of the action occurs along Ashland Ave and Clark St. The community also takes pride in its Swedish heritage; many Swedish immigrants settled here in the 19th century, and their history is still reflected in the neighborhood’s culture today.
One reason that Andersonville is on the list of the best gay areas in Chicago is the neighborhood’s many places to visit. The Swedish American Museum is a main cultural attraction and can be a great alternative to the crowded museums in downtown Chicago. It’s surrounded by many authentic Swedish bakeries, such as Lost Larson and A Taste of Heaven.
Visitors to Andersonville should also stop by Women and Children First, one of the largest feminist bookstores in the United States with a long history of supplying LGBTQ-friendly literature to the Chicago population since the 1970s. There are also many gay-friendly places to eat and drink in Andersonville. Hamburger Mary’s is a local burgers-and-beer staple with menu items like “Buffy the Burger Slayer”. For nightlife, head to neighborhood gay bars like The SoFo Tap, where you’ll find themed events and fun games.
Pilsen is most commonly known as the center of the Latino community, but it’s also an up-and-coming Chicago gay neighborhood for LGBTQ individuals of all races.
This urban enclave is located southwest of downtown, just below the Near West Side and Little Italy. The neighborhood has grown rapidly in the past several years as high rents have driven people out of some of the north side communities. However, as a gateway for immigrants in decades past, this gay-friendly Chicago neighborhood has always remained welcoming to newcomers of any background.
While you won’t find the same flamboyant nightlife scene as in Boystown, Pilsen has plenty to offer those seeking the best gay areas in Chicago. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the National Museum of Mexican Art, which offers free admission. For food and drink, head to eco-friendly bar Simone’s or Skylark, an eclectic eatery known for attracting an eclectic and diverse crowd.
Don’t feel that you need to stick to certain areas of the city as an LGBTQ individual, whether you live alone or with a partner. Landlords are generally accepting of any type of household, as long as you’re able to meet financial requirements just like any other tenant. If you’re new to Chicago and want to experience different neighborhoods before settling down, try going with a furnished rental company like Blueground, which allows you some flexibility while you’re still figuring the city out. Every Blueground apartment comes fully-furnished, equipped and serviced. So, you don’t have to worry about buying furniture or setting up the internet. Just show up and start living. It won’t be long before it feels just like home.