Festive, fun and flamboyant—America’s hippest LGBTQ neighborhoods are the place to be in June, when the community comes together to celebrate freedom, inclusion and fabulous style. From the palm trees and poolside cocktails of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, to the fascinating finds and clubby nooks of Andersonville in Chicago, to the historic flair and tasty delights of Logan Circle in Washington, D.C., here are three colorful spots to fly your flag during Pride Month.
Fabulous Nightlife in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake
Gregory Alexander and Loren Granich, Club Impresarios
When most think of gay culture in Los Angeles, West Hollywood immediately springs to mind. But the city’s deepest LGBTQ roots are actually in Silver Lake, where bars in the 1960s and ’70s served as the city’s original gathering places for the queer community. Nowadays, the gentrifying neighborhood is known for attracting hip denizens to high-end cafés and boutiques. However, gay-owned businesses like Akbar, Eagle, and Rough Trade Gear have been surviving here for decades. And for more than 10 years, it has also been home to the successful dance party A Club Called Rhonda.
When he turned 21, Rhonda co-founder Gregory Alexander’s parents gifted him a cool $500. Instead of spending it on a night on the town, the California native rented a downtown Los Angeles warehouse and threw himself a party. There was house music, a confetti storm and 21 bottles of cheap bubbly. From that moment he was hooked on crafting the best time ever.
Alexander and his bestie, Loren Granich, started hosting raucous underground events across L.A., attended by friends including “Born This Way” songwriter Jeppe Laursen, Poolside bandmate Filip Nikolic and fashion designer (and Alexander’s ex-beau) Jeremy Scott. As word spread and lessons were learned, Alexander and Granich began solidifying a vision—and a name—for a judgment-free dance party where the tunes were throbbing and “strong looks” were encouraged. It wasn’t just about having a good time. The pair created an inclusive nighttime atmosphere unlike anywhere else in L.A.
“Loren and I never found anywhere that felt like home—music we liked, cheap drinks, no $50 covers, a place I could be just as comfortable as a gay man that Loren could be as a straight man,” Alexander says. “When we started A Club Called Rhonda, it was cool to see people from all different backgrounds come together. It felt like the places we’d always heard about, like Paradise Garage and The Loft. We never got to experience that golden age of clubbing.” The duo launched A Club Called Rhonda in 2008 at an East Hollywood venue. A year later, they moved to Silver Lake and began hosting Rhonda at El Cid, a bar/restaurant best known for hosting flamenco performances. By the time the soiree reemerged, Rhonda already had a reputation as one of the most fabulous parties in L.A. “From that point,” Alexander says, “we knew we had something big on our hands in a neighborhood that didn’t really have a nightclub contingent.
“There was also a walkability that I don’t think existed in Silver Lake,” he continues. “It was cool to see that people were able to grab beers at Akbar or the Eagle, and then head over to our venue for a dance-club environment.”
Eventually, Rhonda outgrew El Cid and slinked to the Latinx nightclub Los Globos, where it’s been for years. On Rhonda nights, Alexander harnesses his experience designing shop windows to transform the space into a glittering fantasia with affirmational neon signs and mirrored mannequin legs. Outside, there’s a drag queen instead of a doorman. Over the past decade, the duo has hosted the party at various venues in L.A. as well as different cities—San Francisco, Miami, Berlin, Mexico City—but Alexander believes Silver Lake will always be Rhonda’s home, despite the neighborhood’s evolution.
“I still love the area, especially in comparison to the camera-ready parts of West Hollywood or Santa Monica,” he says. “Silver Lake isn’t as gritty as it used to be, but there’s a lot of creative people and queer history here. It’s sad some of those spaces have gone out of business, so it’s important to support the ones that are still here or opening up.”
For more on Los Angeles, see our city guide here.
Art and Community in Chicago’s Andersonville
Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, Artist and Gallerist
“I was trying to figure out how to navigate a career in art after graduating from school,” says Michelle Peterson-Albandoz of her decision to open Las Manos Gallery in Chicago in 1994. Four years later, the art space moved to North Clark Street in the city’s Andersonville neighborhood, becoming a pioneering queer business in what was once a Swedish district.
Corner sidewalk inlays honor the 1855 founding of the area. At one time, Chicago had more Swedes than any city in the world except Stockholm, and many of them resided and worked here. By the time Las Manos opened, things had changed. The women’s community had taken root, anchored by the feminist bookstore Women & Children First.
“The lesbians were here initially,” says gallery partner Michael McGuire. “And then the gay men started leaving Lakeview.”
Though second to the longer established Lakeview neighborhood in terms of the city’s LGBTQ population, those in Andersonville tend to be more settled, more invested in the future of the community. This presence has both revitalized and shaped the character of the area, from the offbeat shops, chic bistros and gay hangouts to Midsommarfest, Andersonville’s June street fair, which combines Swedish tradition with a strong LGBTQ influence.
Peterson-Albandoz praises Andersonville as unique, quirky and committed to preserving a village vibe. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neighborhood is home to numerous houses and commercial structures from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Vintage benches line the side streets. Murals adorn several buildings, and large stone planters accent the sidewalks, which often feature a mobile puppet theater. This abundant charm is reflected in the area’s distinctive storefronts and eateries. Andersonville is often called “the ‘shop local’ capital of Chicago.”
“I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go in this neighborhood,” says Peterson-Albandoz. “To survive here a business needs to have a unique point of view or a one-off aesthetic.”
In this Las Manos has succeeded. Showcasing the work of both established and rising local and national artists, the gallery features graphic, often architecturally inspired pieces. And though vastly different on the surface, certain themes tend to overlap in the creations of McGuire and Peterson-Albandoz, who frequently bounce ideas off one another. “Our work is not political in a didactic way,” McGuire says. “We live the politics, and our art reflects that.”
Peterson-Albandoz enjoys working with wood, citing its inherent beauty: “Wood doesn’t require much of an illusion. It’s already its own subject. I just celebrate the material.” An outdoor space in the back adds to the gallery’s charm. “It was the courtyard area that got me,” Peterson-Albandoz says. “It felt very New York.” McGuire has since transformed that rear patio into an event area. “Andersonville is smart without being pretentious,” Peterson-Albandoz concludes. “It has a Midwestern, Big Shoulders vibe, and yet it’s sophisticated. It really is the little village that could.”
For more on Chicago, see our city guide here.
History and Architecture in Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle
Eric Broermann, Real Estate Executive
Eric Broermann talks about Logan Circle in a way one might describe a trove of family heirlooms. “Swann Street is one of the most picturesque places here,” he offers. A real estate executive and Air Force veteran, he has unique insight into the neighborhood, which was founded in the 19th century in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. “In the fall, the ginkgo trees create a sea of yellow against the beautiful homes. Just mind your feet,” he cautions with a chuckle. “Ginkgo can smell, but they’re absolutely stunning!”
As we stroll through the neighborhood, it’s impossible not to notice the imprints of LGBTQ life, a legacy of recent decades when the community spread east from its original hub in Dupont Circle. The prevalence of progress pride flags along commercially pulsating 14th Street NW hint at its biggest annual event, the Capital Pride Parade.
Years of evolution are stamped on the architecture, with luxury condos carved out of former churches, auto showrooms transformed into contemporary art galleries, and a French bistro in an erstwhile Laundromat, with the original roof cresting preserved.
The past pervades these lanes, which spin out diagonally from the namesake circle. Elegant Victorian residences, erected for post-Civil War Union leaders, were later owned by affluent African Americans. Many became WWII housing, with some morphing into bordellos before gentrification in the 1990s.
Two districts in the neighborhood are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Broermann even lived in the basement of a house where jazz legend Duke Ellington once resided. “I found out only because tour groups would stop outside,” he explains.
Broermann bought his first home here in 2004 and subsequently set up his business two blocks away. “It was definitely a different vibe then,” he says. “The neighborhood was changing and reestablishing itself with new nightlife spots, which was a cool thing to live through.”
These days, the quarter is a hub for libation and living, where drag brunches, wine tastings and jazz nights all blend seamlessly, catering to the Beltway’s firmament of politicos, yuppies and interns. The recent prosperity is the latest in a string of vivid moments for the area.
Broermann recounts: “My first memories of living in Logan are lower-level bars where you could get really good craft cocktails, going by the Black Cat with a line out the door, same thing with Trade bar. We just loved walking around and picking different restaurants to dine in.”
That spontaneity forms the crux of Logan Circle. “It’s an exciting area,” Broermann adds. “Some of it reminds me of my start here in D.C. It was the first time I felt safe holding hands with my partner. I could just truly be myself. And I haven’t lost that feeling after all these years. It’s still an extremely inclusive and vibrant community.”