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Southern Pride: A Guide to Raleigh’s LGBTQ Scene

Raleigh is an increasingly inclusive Southern city with tons to offer LGBTQ residents and visitors. Come check it out for yourself!

By Annette Benedetti on December 11, 2019

LGBT|Raleigh NC skyline

Southern Pride is our monthly column exploring and celebrating LGBTQ culture in Southern cities. This month we’re heading to the Tar Heel State to check out the scene in Raleigh.

Before moving to a new city, it’s a good idea to chat with people who already live there. After only a couple of conversations with folks residing in Raleigh, you’ll notice a trend: the community isn’t afraid to have hard conversations, and that’s something they are proud of. The city and its residents face challenges head on. As a result, Raleigh is becoming an increasingly inclusive Southern city that queer individuals and families are happy to call home.

If living in an inclusive Sun Belt city with access to exceptional outdoor recreation, plenty of LGBTQ community activities and an energetic downtown sounds ideal, then you’ll want to check out why we think Raleigh has some serious Southern pride…

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Forget Gayborhoods

While some cities have specific neighborhoods that are considered “gay,” the entire city of Raleigh seeks to be inclusive. Stores, restaurants and bars that cater specifically to the LGBTQ community are located throughout the city. The majority of shopping establishments and eateries in the downtown area are welcoming of all walks of life as well. 

Of course, there are also a host of LGBTQ-owned businesses in Raleigh that offer a variety of products and services. The Green Monkey is a popular example. Founded by Rusty Sutton and his life partner of 30+ years, Drew Temple, The Green Monkey sells offbeat gifts created by local artisans. Customers can enjoy an LGBTQ-friendly shopping experience complete with beer and wine. The store even offers events that range from bingo and trivia to drag shows.

The welcoming vibe found in Raleigh extends to the North Carolina Research Triangle: Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Instead of heading to a single neighborhood or area labeled “inclusive,” LGBTQ individuals living in the Triangle can join Triangle LGBTQ Couples & Friends and attend events throughout the area. The group currently has 750+ members, and some of the member-hosted events include potlucks, outdoor adventures and nights out on the town. 

Epic Outdoor Adventure

While Raleigh hasn’t always garnered attention for its outdoor recreation, that is changing fast. Along with being home to stunning parks, including Dorothea Dix Park with its 308 acres of green space open to the public, the city boasts 180 miles of greenways and a bounty of trails that can be explored by bike or on foot. The newly opened White Oak Creek and Black Creek Greenways offer 15 miles of continuous paths to explore. And Lake Johnson Park, William B. Umstead State Park and the Neuse River Greenway trail are local outdoor enthusiasts’ favorites. 

If you want to get out on the water, Raleigh has some beautiful hidden gems perfect for canoeing, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking nearby. They include Lake Wheeler Park and Paddle Creek. Frequent meetups give LGBTQ residents an opportunity to meet others with similar interests while exploring the area’s amazing outdoor recreation.


Tons of Community Support

Community support is available whether you are looking for yourself or your children. The LGBTQ Center of Raleigh provides a variety of programs for adults, women, transgender individuals, youth and more. From activities to educational opportunities to local resources, the Center is a hub of support for local individuals and families. Along with offering programs and resources, community members can receive STI and HIV testing for free, helping everybody maintain their sexual and personal health. 

Individuals seeking spiritual and religious support have a multitude of places to turn to. There are a variety of affirming faith groups throughout the area including St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church, St. Marks Episcopal Parish and A Place Called Hope. A list of options can be found on the LGBT Center of Raleigh website

Fun with Flair

What is quality of life without plenty of opportunities for fun? When Friday night hits, if you’ve got the urge to go dancing and watch drag shows, not to worry: Raleigh has options. Some of the most popular LGBTQ clubs and bars include Legends Nightclub which has been an LGBTQ-friendly space in Raleigh for over 25 years. Legends is divided into four distinct lounges: the Dance Club, the View Bar, the Patio and the Spotlight Theater featuring the Spotlight Divas (Pro Tip: bring the green, this is a cash-only establishment).

Flex is a dive bar in downtown Raleigh that welcomes both queer and straight individuals. It is known for fun karaoke nights and SINGO, a unique bingo and karaoke mashup on Wednesday nights that is just as fun as it sounds. Ruby Deluxe is a venue that calls itself a DIY queer space that’s open to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks. This underground bar presents drag shows, dance parties and local bands.

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Of course, along with the standard local LGBTQ night scene, residents can expect plenty of Pride-related celebrations. North Carolina Pride at Night takes place in Raleigh and promises to be packed with festivities and The North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is held in the Triangle’s nearby city of Durham. 

Opportunities to gather with others who are thrilled to show their pride, celebrate and come together as a community is abundant in this vibrant Southern city.

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