Voted by Travel + Leisure readers as one of America’s friendliest cities, Milwaukee is a progressive destination that welcomes all visitors. The city’s pride shines brightest when PrideFest kicks off festival season in June each year, but there’s fun to be had all year long. With a vibrant gay nightlife scene, TAG-approved hotels, sanctuary restaurants, and tons of LGBTQ-owned shopping and dining options, here are five ways Milwaukee continually celebrates our LGBTQ community:
HRC Rating - Every year, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases its Municipal Equality Index for cities and states across the country to examine how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are for the LGBTQ people who live and work there. In 2018 and 2019, Milwaukee received a perfect score of 100, a feat accomplished by only 15% of the cities, and was showcased as a success story in the HRC’s report. The score is based on criteria such as non-discrimination laws, municipal services, and the city leadership’s position on equality, among other factors.
PrideFest - This entirely volunteer-run festival is the nation's only pride festival held on permanent festival grounds. During the day, you’ll find nearly 100 artists and performers on the 8 stages, featuring local music, health & wellness information from LGBTQ non-profit organizations, discussions on important topics in the LGBTQ community, and, of course, the can’t-miss dance party at the Dance Pavilion. At night, the party continues with fantastic national headliners, like Cindy Lauper, Blondie, Ani DiFranco, and Todrick Hall. In addition, during the festival, all of Henry Maier Festival Park’s permanent restrooms are gender neutral to promote inclusion.
Walker’s Point - This Milwaukee neighborhood has been a hub for the LGBTQ community since 1959, when the first gay bar in the area, The Nite Beat, opened their doors. Today, when LGBTQ-friendly bars are abundant across all neighborhoods of the city, 2nd Street in Walker’s Point remains the LGBTQ epicenter of the city. With the city’s oldest lesbian bar, Walker’s Pint, LaCage Night Club, one of the city's best dance floors with nightly drag shows, or a more laid-back experience at Kruz, Walker’s Point has something for everyone.
This Is It! – The oldest continually-operating gay bar in all of Wisconsin! This Milwaukee staple opened in 1968, and after the bar’s expansion in 2019, became the only LGBTQ bar in Milwaukee to host 18+ nights. In addition to a dance floor and performance space, This Is It! teamed up with the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project to install historical panels highlighting the history of the gay bar scene in Milwaukee as part of their expansion.
Milwaukee LGBT Community Center - This organization aims to make the Greater Milwaukee Area a more inclusive place with their focus on anti-violence, healthy relationships, counseling, and more. With free support groups, counseling services, a food pantry, and clothing closet, this incredible organization ensures that Milwaukee’s LGBTQ community always feels safe, welcome, and celebrated. For more LGBTQ resources, the award-winning Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce connects LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses throughout the state.