Atlanta has long been recognized as the gay capital of the Southeast, a tolerant oasis that draws queer residents and tourists from all over the region.
The city’s enormous annual Pride Festival (www.atlantapride.org ) began in 1971 and today brings in hundreds of thousands of revelers to the city, with a deluge of events happening around Piedmont Park or the Atlanta Civic Center. The city also hosts one of the world’s largest Black Gay Pride Celebrations (www.inthelifeatl.com ) each year over Labor Day weekend. Out on Film (www.outonfilm.org ), Atlanta’s gay film festival, takes place each spring.
For decades, the city’s most visible gay neighborhood was Midtown — especially around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street — with its concentration of bars and gay-friendly shops and restaurants. The area is home to Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse (www.outwritebooks.com ), an always-packed gathering spot, and Blake’s on the Park (www.blakesontheparkatlanta.com ), a long-standing watering hole. Recent years have found Midtown becoming more mixed and gay Atlantans less confined to any one part of town, with queer bars and businesses popping up from East Atlanta to Marietta. Still, this is the South, so same-sex PDA might draw unwanted attention in any area of the city.
Lesbians in Atlanta have an enviable resource in Charis Books (www.charisbooksandmore.com ), a Little Five Points landmark that’s served the feminist community for three decades. Charis Circle, its programming arm, hosts a vibrant assortment of events and workshops. The city has had less luck keeping a girls-only nightlife scene afloat over the years, though My Sister’s Room (www.mysistersroom.com ) deserves major props for outlasting the odds. The venerable nightspot recently relocated to East Atlanta. Bellissima Lounge (www.myspace.com/bellissima_lounge ), which opened in 2008, has proven to be a popular newcomer to lesbian nightlife.
For gay men, the bar and club scene in Atlanta may not be as lively as it was a few years back, but there’s still lots to do on any given night of the week. Mary’s (www.marysatlanta.com ) in East Atlanta has been cited as one of the best gay bars in the country, drawing an eclectic, alternative audience. Burkhart’s Pub (www.burkharts.com ) is often full of the blue-jeans-and-ball-cap crowd, and it shares a parking lot with two smaller gay bars, Felix’s on the Square and The Oscar’s. Bulldogs Bar (893 Peachtree St.) is a longtime favorite for African-American men. The leather scene congregates at the Atlanta Eagle (www.atlantaeagle.com ) or the Heretic (www.hereticatlanta.com ), though the latter has become a more mixed dance club recently with more circuit boys and younger guys flooding in.
Gay travelers headed here should check out the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide (www.gay-atlanta.com ), a portal operated by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau that features a wealth of listings for lodging, events, and community organizations. The city’s two main gay publications, Southern Voice (www.sovo.com ) and David Atlanta (www.davidatlanta.com ), are also handy resources.