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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded St Louis article click DailyXtraTravel
St Louis has come a long way since its founding by the French in 1764
as a fur-trading junction. Today, the Gateway City is a gay-friendly
destination marked by its diverse neighborhoods, eye-catching
architecture and local charm, drawing from its unique geographic
location bordering the Midwest to the east and the Ozarks to the west.
And though the city has fallen from its glory days -- as the
fourth-largest US city at the time, St Louis hosted the World's Fair
and Olympic Games in 1904 -- it is in the midst of a massive makeover,
particularly to its downtown area, complementing an already expansive
list of entertainment, dining and nightlife attractions sure to entice
the most cosmopolitan of travelers.
Beyond its iconic Gateway Arch, whose observation area offers
views of up to 30 miles on a clear day, the Clydesdale horses of the
Anheuser-Busch brewery and the city's many parks, St Louis's gay
centers are also vibrant and diverse. The gayborhoods are incredibly
multi-faceted, offering something for art lovers, beer drinkers and
theater queens alike. From the bustling Manchester Road bar strip in
the Grove to the Victorian architecture and parks of Grand South
Central; the urban, artist-friendly Central West End 'hood to the
cobblestone streets of the Soulard historic district, there will always
be something for you in the Lou.
Lambert-St Louis Airport, located approximately 13 miles from the heart
of downtown, is the city's main gateway. Set aside $30 for one-way cab
fare or hop on the Metrolink light rail. The trip into the city will
take just over half an hour. Alternatively, the Airport Express shuttle
vans head directly to many downtown hotels.
The city's light rail line, opened in 1993, and bus lines connect many
of the popular places you'll want to see, but a car might be worth it
for convenient travel between the somewhat scattered gayborhoods. And,
while the city does have taxis, you'll want to call ahead as drivers
won't be seeking your street-side hail.
What to see
Staying downtown, you will have easy access to many of the city's more
traditional tourist haunts and some of its best shopping, dining and
wandering. Be sure to hit the Citygarden, a large urban oasis completed
last year and loaded with paintings, sculptures and flora. It feels
straight out of the pages of a Lewis Carroll story. And, if you like
drinking under the stars, visit the rooftop terrace of the Moonrise
Hotel for a cocktail.
As you venture out of the Loop, head due south for some of the
Midwest's best museums and more outdoor space. Both the St Louis Area
Museum and City Museum are in Forest Park, one of the nation's largest
If you're chasing historical flavor,
visit the Soulard district. It is home to Clementine's, which claims to
be the first gay bar established west of the Mississippi River. The
neighborhood's farmer's market, which has been in operation since 1779,
is a favorite among locals, as is the annual Mardi Gras celebration,
one of the most rambunctious in the country.
And then there is Central West End, which playwright Tennessee
Williams called home. The 'hood, owing to its location near St Louis
University, has an artistic feel and is full of sidewalk cafes,
galleries, boutiques and coffee spots. Both this neighborhood and the
Grove are where you'll get much of your cruise on.
The Grove.The hub of the city's gay community, the Grove is where
you'll find the largest concentration of gay nightspots and rainbow
Central West End. While not as gay as the Grove, this
neighborhood has a lot to offer the artistically inclined. The 'hood
also plays host to a number of prominent gay-friendly festivals and
Grand South Grand. The host 'hood to the city's annual
PrideFest, this area is also home to a number of ethnically diverse
restaurants and some beautiful Victorian-styled homes.
Plenty of room to frolic
If your idea of a satisfying use of vacation days calls to mind rural,
outdoorsy scenery, then Missouri's Cactus Canyon Campground should hold
a spot on your short list of "must visit" destinations.
Cactus Canyon, located in Ava, a four-hour drive southeast of St
Louis, is one of the nation's largest and most popular gay men's
camping sites. Totaling more than 720 acres, the ever-increasing
property offers plenty of space for visitors to indulge in an adventure
far removed from the concrete jungle of metropolitan life.
It's an adventure that men have frequently had a difficult time
leaving behind in the 11 years since property co-owners Jim and Chaz
first opened the gates. Many visitors return on a yearly basis, and
some have come to the site every year since Cactus Canyon's opening.
"It's purely an amazing place," Jim told Guide magazine. "The
peace and tranquility make it difficult for people to leave. And we
keep getting busier every year, with people coming from farther away
all the time."
He said every season is like welcoming back old friends.
"It's so nice to have our regular customers come back every
year. It's like a homecoming every weekend in the spring," he said.
Cactus Canyon has grown immensely since its 1999 opening. Today,
the amenities range from more primitive camping and RV hook-up sites to
rustic cabins, in addition to a swimming pool, dry sauna and hot tub.
The vast property presents plenty of opportunities to fish, hike or
strike up a volleyball match.
Weekends at the Canyon offer a range of themes catering to guys
whose interests fall outside the mainstream, including line-dance and
two-step-intensive cowboy roundups, "leather in the woods" and several
weekends catered to bears and bear-lovers. And silver daddies, there's
a weekend set aside for you, too.
Perhaps the best, and most unique, part of your stay at the
Canyon is that it's all clothing-optional, offering refuge for those
who'd rather not have those pesky layers of fabric between them and
their vacation. It's a policy that has gained many fans among the
property's return visitors.
"You can run around naked almost anywhere on the property," Jim
says. "Some people barely make it through the gates and they have their
For more info
For a list of the area's bars, restaurants, hotels and other
businesses, see our map. And for complete coverage, click into
Theater's "bad boy." The New Line Theatre troupe takes musical theater
in a sexy, provocative direction. Their production of Evita runs July
The best things in life. It's true, they're free. It is said that St
Louis plays host to almost as many free -- or very cheap -- attractions
as DC, so save some money for your bar tab by spending your days
wandering through the city's many museums and outdoor spaces.
Don't hate the straights. While the city has great gay bars, some of
the most energetic nightspots are geared to the omnisexual. But in true
Midwestern fashion, everyone gets on just fine.
Need a pick-me-up? One of the city's most acclaimed gay attractions is
the Coffee Cartel, a 24-hour coffee shop located in the Central West
End. It has an edgy, cruisy-at-times vibe.
PrideFest St Louis 2010
St Louis's annual Pride celebration, in Tower Grove Park, is packed
with entertainment, food, vendors and 90,000 attendees. The parade
launches Sunday at noon.
Mr Heartland Bear 2010
The Show Me Bears' annual contest is a weekend full of beastly fun.
3858 Market St
Gateway Regional Rodeo
The Gateway Gay Rodeo Association presents this weekend for cowboy
chasers, only nine miles south of downtown St Louis.
10 Tucker Dr, Caseyville, IL
The Festival of Nations
This multicultural festival is one of the most cele-brated annual St
Tower Grove Park, 4256 Magnolia Ave, St Louis, MO
Mr Midwest Leather
St Louis plays host to this year's Midwest International Mr Leather
Bad Dog Bar & Grill, 3960 Chouteau Ave.
St Louis International Film Festival
The 19th-annual festival features provocative films from around the
The metro St Louis area's gay community is served by the Vital Voice.
The Riverfront Times is the city's gay-friendly alternative newsweekly.
Take a break from cookie-cutter hotels
at two guesthouses in the
Soulard area, both owned by gay couples
who live on site, know the
history of the city, and can fill you in
on gay life. Book early, as
they both fill quickly.
B.&B. (1829 Lami; 314-771-1542)
home, fireplace, wi-fi, sunny garden
with hot tub.
St. Louis Guest
House (1032-38 Allen; 314-773-
townhouses overlook Clementine's,
kitchenettes, wi-fi, hot tub in
Click HERE for more area accommodations.
Bars & Clubs
The gay scene isn't centered in one
neighborhood in St Louis. There are
several clusters of gay life, each with
it's own character.
Bars & Clubs:
North Midtown to
Central West End
(5 South Vandeventer) three bars on two
levels, dance floor,
drag cabaret shows, restaurant.
The Zone (16 South Euclid,
Central West End) known as the
Loading Zone, hot guys, video bar, show
Bars & Clubs: South Midtown and the
The district blossomed recently when
several new bars opened.
(3960 Chouteau Ave) new Grove location of a well established bar for biker, leather, and fetish-loving men.
(3515 Chouteau) top dance club, drag
crowds, easy parking, 18-plus nights.
Erney's 32 Degree
Vodka Bar (4200 Manchester) huge
sipping station, comfortable lounge.
(4112 Manchester Ave) formerly called
video bar, dance floor, open-air patio
Clubhouse, (3858 Market) time-
honored institution, denim
and leather bar, shop, tournaments and
(4199 Manchester) best selection of top
liquor, relaxed and tranquil atmosphere.
Lounge (4054 Chouteau Ave) newly
opened, fast becoming the
Bars & Clubs: Soulard
Grill (1027 Russell) Mardi Gras
atmosphere, local hangout, bar and
grill, friendly vibe.
(2001 Menard) New Orleans-style bar,
popular holiday pig roasts.
Bars & Clubs: South Grand to South
Goosed (3196 South Grand)
primarily for women, mixed crowd,
(3503 South Spring) neighborhood bar,
drag and variety show.
Pub (7101 South Broadway) took
over Korners old
location, drag shows and
(7109 South Broadway) recently
and games, drag shows, live
Across the river
Sissy's (602 Belle St, Alton)
near Argosy Casino, two
levels, dance floor, female
impersonators, huge patio.
Briefs, (55 Four Corners Ln,
Centreville) non-stop totally nude strippers, public or private shows, 18-
South Grand's dining options include
Vietnamese, Thai, Latin American,
and Chinese. Soulard, the Central West
End, and the Grove area on
Manchester, have lots of options as
Grill (1027 Russell, Soulard)
nothing-fancy menu, booths and sidewalk
Restaurant (925 Geyer, Soulard)
satisfying servings, traditional fare
and local recipes.
(4580 Laclede Ave, Central West End)
cuisine, house-made country pate, full
Cartel (2 Maryland Plaza,
Central West End) open 24
hours, big variety of coffees and ice
cream, youthful crowd.
(3606 Arsenal, Tower Grove Park) gay
email, coffee, sandwiches and baked
(4121 Manchester) everyday bar and
grill, basic and
hearty food, friendly gay atmosphere.
O My Darling
Cafe (2001 Menard, Soulard) at
Orleans and local fare, nightly
specials, weekend brunch.
(3195 South Grand) authentic Vietnamese
service, lunch and dinner menus.
Market (Lafayette at Seventh)
since 1838, fresh
produce, baked goods, famous donuts.
Bread (3114 S Grand) a St Louis
sandwiches, baked goods, internet.
Garden Cafe (910 Geyer) omelets,
pastries, good coffee, inside or garden
seating, relaxed vibe.
(4224 S Grand) unforgettable old-fashioned cold treats for hot
summer days respites.
(4590 Laclede, Central West End)
Village-style bistro, open for lunch,
brunch and dinner.
Louis (2625 Samuel Shepard Dr)
complete sauna facilities, private sling room, outdoor pool, Sunday buffet.
(3211 South Grand) stuff seen nowhere
else, amazing emporium, leather store, safe piercing and tattooing.
Priscilla's (3550 Grand) the city's best selection
toys and accessories for every
|Author Profile: Joseph Erbentraut
Joseph Erbentraut is a Wisconsin-born freelance writer and editor
currently living in Chicago. His articles on politics, music and
culture have been featured in the Village Voice and other publications.
He also blogs at Chicagoist.