The name Detroit comes from the French word for "the narrows," so it’s no surprise that the city was founded at the slimmest part of the Great Lakes. The city eventually became a major industrial and commercial hub, attracting wave after wave of Irish, Polish, Greek, and other immigrants. Together with African Americans who migrated from the South, these peoples helped Detroit give birth to the US automobile industry a century ago.
Detroit today is one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. There is a strong, thriving gay community, interesting theater and performing arts, lush green spaces, and some of the friendliest people anywhere. The city has an intensely creative energy, but does require keeping your wits about you when out late at night. For safety, always park within the fenced and guarded parking lots beside many of the nightclubs.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is about 26 miles west of downtown Detroit. It’s a long ride to town in a taxi, about $45 to downtown. Smart bus service to all Metro Detroit areas has departures streetside at the lower level of the North Terminal bulding.
This is Motor City, so it’s no surprise that a car is the best way to get around. Parking is costly, though. Consider taking the People Mover, a monorail that runs throughout downtown Detroit. It's cheap and speedy.
Many of the bars are on or around main streets to the north of downtown - like McNichols, 7 Mile, 8 Mile or 9 Mile Roads, and along Woodward Avenue. Out this way is Ferndale, an independent and gay-friendly enclave with many shops, cafes, and nightclubs. Royal Oak at the end of Woodward likewise has stores, cafes, and theater to check out.
What to do
Main Art Theatre (118 N Main St) shows the area's best selection of independent film and foreign language cinema on three screens. The Royal Oak Music Theatre (318 W 4th St) is a favorite live music venue. The Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre (415 S Lafayette Ave) hosts a full season of plays and musicals, old and new. The Dirty Show is an annual event to promote, publish and propagate erotic art in all forms. Now one of the world's largest erotic art exhibitions, it last took place in February 2012. Check their site for future dates.
Media & resources
Between the Lines is the local gay community newspaper. Metra and HOTT are region-wide glossy gay magazines with photos and events. Metro Times is the alternative paper with arts events, reviews and listings. The blog MotorGay has bar listings, photos and news about the nightlife of gay Motor City.
MDSL, the Metro Detroit LGBT softball league, play their games each summer Saturday, and do social events at various clubs around town.
Detroit bars & clubs
Adam's Apple (18931 W Warren) neighborhood bar, mostly men, mixed ages, darts, jukebox.
Backstreet (15606 Joy Rd) venerable gay dance-club, 18+ nights, male dancers, cheap drinks.
Club Gold Coast (2971 E 7 Mile) longtime male stripper and drag club, restaurant, dance floor.
Gigi's (16920 W Warren) Monday & Friday go-go boys, female impersonations, dance floor, young crowd.
Escape Lounge (19404 Sherwood St), former Stingers, small mixed gay lounge, DJ music, after-hours until 6am weekends.
Hayloft Saloon (8070 Greenfield) men's cruise bar, bear and leather events, darts, pool, juke box.
Innuendo (744 E Savannah) small but busy club, dancing and drag shows, hip-hop and R&B music.
MaleBox II (23365 Hoover Rd), nightly gay bar, college, cowboy nights, special parties.
Menjo's (928 W McNichols) longtime favorite dance club and video bar, drag, go-go dancers, college and bear nights.
Pronto (608 S Washington, Royal Oak) video bar complex, attached to popular restaurant and bakery.
R & R Saloon (7330 Michigan) leather bar, theme nights, food, friendly crowd.
Rainbow Room (6640 E 8 Mile) dance, video and drag bar, 18+ crowd.
Soho (205 W 9 Mile, Ferndale) cocktail and martini lounge, mixed crowd, popular Wednesday karaoke night.
Woodward (6426 Woodward) video bar, mixed crowd, dance floor, R&B, hip-hop and house music.
Works (1846 Michigan Ave), gay/straight mixed 18+ dance club, picked up people from Backstreet.
Windsor, Ontario (Canada) bars & clubs
The Legends of 2012 (1056 Wyandotte St, E) full menu restaurant & patio, pan-sexual adult entertainment, nude dancers, acrobatics, fire shows, kink, & leather.
Club 783 (783 Wyandotte E), Windsor's new gay social night club, 5pm - 2am, 7 nights a week.
Atlas Global Bistro (3111 Woodward Ave) international cuisine, Sunday brunch.
Como's (22812 Woodward Ave, Ferndale) pasta and pizza until 4am, summer patio, boys night Tuesday, live music Wednesdays, Sunday brunch.
Just 4 Us (211 W 9 Mile, Ferndale) coffee bar, tasty sandwiches.
La Dolce Vita (17546 Woodward Ave) Italian cuisine, dine inside or on patio, elaborate Sunday brunch.
Om (23136 Woodward Ave) highly rated vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic restaurant.
Pete's Place (1225 Woodward Heights, Ferndale) big-city-style diner and carryout, brunch served all day, every day.
Pronto (608 South Washington, Royal Oak) gay- friendly restaurant, bakery, and neighborhood hangout.
Body Zone (1617 E McNichols), steam sauna, hot tub, videos, gym, tanning facilities, 18+, open 24 hours. Special nights include Leather, Black Out parties, and College Nights.
TNT Health Club (13333 W 8 Mile), men's club, indoor pool, weight room, steam, sauna, whirlpool, videos.
At the end of Woodward Avenue, the neighborhood of Royal Oak has some great restaurants, an art-house cinema, art galleries and lots of shops. Ferndale, where 9 Mile meets Woodward, is another gay area.
Chosen Books Of Michigan (120 W 4th St) new and used books and magazines.
Just 4 Us (211 West 9 Mile) books, cards, magazines, lube and gay items.
Blue Moon Video/DVD (7041 W 8 Mile) porn video sales and rentals, toys and lubes.
Escape Bookstore (18728 W Warren), adult books, magazines, DVD sales and rentals, video booths.
Fifth Wheel (9320 Michigan Ave) adult bookstore, magazines, male video peep shows and DVDs.
Elsewhere in Michigan
Click Ann Arbor for our guide to the nearby University of Michigan college town, and Grand Rapids for our guide to the West Michigan city. The Douglas Dunes Resort in Saugutuck/Douglas is a popular gay party escape at the sandy beach and waters of Lake Michigan.
In Pontiac, Michigan, check out Liberty Bar & Restaurant (85 N Saginaw) for STUD Sundays male dancers, and weekday karaoke and Euchre nights. Also, Reunion Nightclub (40 W Pike St) for their 18+ gay Saturday dance parties.
In Lansing, Michigan, the state capital and site of Michigan Pride, Spiral (1247 Center) is an 18+ Wednesday - Sunday gay dance club with Thursday male reviews, and Sunday drag shows.
Traverse City is a lakeside resort in NW Michigan, home to the Film Festival founded by Michael Moore, and the National Cherry Festival, both in July. Also here is Side Traxx (520 Franklin St), a video dance bar, open daily from 5pm, serving everyone, GLBTQ&S.
Comment has successfully been submitted.
Are you sure you would like to report this comment? It will be flagged for Guide moderators to take action.
Thank you. This comment has been flagged for moderator attention.