Chicago is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse LGBTQ communities in the country, one that is near the top in size, diversity and splendor. It used to be that Chicago's LGBTQ neighborhoods could be easily limited to two areas: Northalsted, in Lakeview near Wrigley Field, and Andersonville, along Clark Street between Foster and Bryn Mawr. But those particular gayborhoods have expanded into nearby wards, to the point that you could add all of Uptown beyond Andersonville, and Edgewater and Rogers Park to the north along Lake Michigan, as destinations for LGBTQ folk from across the country. And Illinois as a whole is more than happy to roll out the welcome mat.
The centerpiece of summer fun for the LGBTQ community is Pride season in June. In a typical year, you’d find several celebrations across the city, but 2021 will be a bit different. Northalsted Market Days Festival has been pushed until later in the summer, and the renowned Pride Parade has officially been rescheduled for October 3. Chicago Pride Fest is tentatively scheduled for October 1-2, leading right into the parade.
Don’t worry, there are still ways to celebrate the season — Pride in the Park (which debuted in 2019) returns to Grant Park as a two-day festival on June 26 and 27. This music fest features national and local headliners and plenty of dancing, and it's open to all ages.
Seasonal fun aside, nightlife is the name of the game year-round, and Chicago's LGBTQ evening offerings have expanded in the same way that the community has spread into different parts of the city. In Northalsted, quench your thirst or get your groove on in standards such as Roscoe's and Hydrate. For a more upscale vibe, cross the street and check out the many layers of entertainment available at Sidetrack. There’s usually a crowd, but there’s also always plenty of space with different nooks to enjoy, especially the Video Bar or up on the rooftop during summer months.
Life isn't just cocktails and dance floors, though—when you're in Northalsted you'll want to enjoy some of the shopping you can't do anywhere else. If you're seeking out your best look in the big city, check out CRAM Fashion for stylish attire and accessories, Ragstock for affordable clothing or Beatnix for vintage.
Catch drag and trans showgirl experiences in different areas of the city. Just north of the Loop, dodge bridal parties and guys agog to check out art from some of the country's most beautiful performers at the Baton Show Lounge. At the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club, located just north of the heart of Northalsted, a posh venue with a huge martini menu guarantees good times.
Don’t overlook Andersonville, where you can relive the good old days at Replay, a lively neighborhood bar with retro arcade games, pinball machines and excellent food and drink. Keep with the laid-back vibe up in far-north Rogers Park—enjoy pints, pizza and commotion at R Public House, close to the beaches near Loyola's North Shore campus. Find a great neighborhood bar experience at Big Chicks in Uptown, and don't be afraid to come back for brunch the morning after.
Speaking of brunch … is there anything that goes hand-in-hand with nighttime revels better? Options are limitless, but you can’t go wrong with Wilde on Broadway, Lady Gregory's in Andersonville, Pick Me Up Cafe in Uptown or any of Ann Sather's three locations (all featuring their exquisite cinnamon rolls)—and that’s just to start. How many Sundays are there in a year again?
Chicago doesn't own the patent on this sort of fun—LGBTQ folks celebrate their lives throughout Illinois. Springfield PrideFest is celebrated annually in the state's capital city, and features a street fair, campy fun and music, capped by a drag show. An additional benefit is the Old State Capitol Art Fair, so check out its extraordinary group of regional artists with an eye towards glamming up your home. Peoria gets in on the action with a couple of events, as Peoria Proud and other downstate organizations will host a community cookout for LGBTQ families with games, door prizes and community tables, followed in the fall by a city-sponsored Pride festival.
All over Illinois, the vibrant LGBTQ community celebrates with flair and fun. Explore and get to know another side of the state.
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