4 min

Dallas & Fort Worth

Finding the unexpected deep in the heart of Texas

The Dallas World Aquarium is located in central Dallas and boasts an indoor ecosystem complete with jungle and waterfall. Credit: Matt Mills

In 2003 the US Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that decriminalized homosexuality across the United States. But Texas, along with two other states, has yet to officially strike unenforceable anti-gay sexual morality laws from its penal code. There are no state protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation for either housing or employment. And not only is there no state recognition of same-sex partnerships, let alone gay marriage, anything like it is specifically prohibited under state law. It’s the US Bible Belt, the Republican south. It bears an overarching socially conservative zeitgeist.

Why on earth then, with all that being true, would gay travellers want to visit the state’s third-largest urban centre, Dallas/Fort Worth? Very simply, for the gay communities — the people, culture and spaces — to be found there.

The area is home to enough gay people to earn it a score among the top 20 US cities on the Gay Index, as developed by demographer Gary Gates and made famous by urban theorist Richard Florida. There are, for example, at least 20 gay bars, restaurants and other gay and gay-friendly businesses in Dallas/Forth Worth. They range from huge to tiny and milder to wilder, and they offer something for every taste. There’s an impressive arts scene as well: theatre, fine art, film and especially country music.

To see and do

Though there are good public transit options, these are not pedestrian cities, so getting around may take some planning if you’re travelling without a car.

Often called The Strip, the commercial centre of gay social and retail spaces in Dallas lies in the Oak Lawn neighbourhood, just north of the sparkling new performance spaces of the Arts District. Stretching along both sides of Cedar Springs Rd, between Oak Lawn Ave and Throckmorton St, The Strip is a tidy but busy collection of gay clubs, restaurants and clothing retailers. Standouts in the area include the huge and welcoming mostly dudes western bar, the Round-Up Saloon (

For the club set, Station 4 nightclub ( is just across the street. Be sure to catch the world-class drag show, Thursdays through Sundays, upstairs at The Rose Room theatre and lounge ( It’s a spectacle not to be missed.

Breakfast at Buli (, have lunch at Hunky’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers ( and try dinner at Black-Eyed Pea.

Located three blocks east of downtown, Deep Ellum is a bohemian enclave with a funky and eclectic mix of shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs in what was once an impoverished warehouse district. One of Dallas’s top attractions, Deep Ellum is alive with graffiti art colouring the walls and a big slice of humanity carousing the streets, shopping, drinking and eating (

Bishop Arts District, centred on Davis and Bishop streets just south of the city centre, is a cluster of restaurants, boutiques and services. This gay-friendly enclave is just five minutes from downtown Dallas. You’ll find friendly merchants and a small-town-square atmosphere — definitely a unique area to discover (

For accommodations, check out the historic and lovely Daisy Polk Inn ( It’s a small and quiet B&B within easy walking distance of the action.

The fine-art aficionado will be impressed. The Dallas Museum of Art (, the Kimbell Art Museum ( and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth ( each have incredible collections of world-class work.

And for those visiting Texas for the cowboys and Western culture, the Fort Worth Stockyards ( is the place to be.

Getting around

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ( has TRE rail service ( to Union Station and seven more Dallas locations operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit ( Single-fare rides, good for 90 minutes on a single bus, cost $1.75 for local and $3.50 for system-wide trips (exact change is required). Day passes are $4.

This city sprawls in every direction, so a car is the easiest way to get around. The Oak Lawn area is walkable, but during the hot and humid season you may crave the air-conditioning of a car more than its wheels.

Dallas’s Stonewall

In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 29, 2009, a band of police entered the newly opened Forth Worth dance and hangout bar, The Rainbow Lounge. It happened within hours of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The cops behaved badly, shoving patrons around before arresting a number of them on trumped-up charges. One of those arrested, Chad Gibson, suffered a brain injury while in police custody and barely survived.

The gay communities in Dallas and Fort Worth mobilized in protest against the raid. An investigation subsequently revealed that The Rainbow Lounge ought not to have been raided at all. Two officers were fired, all outstanding charges were dropped, and Gibson went on to receive damages for his injuries. The Rainbow Lounge remains a popular spot in Fort Worth, with a documentary film, Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, making the rounds on the festival circuit this year. As was the case with the 1981 Toronto bathhouse riots, The Rainbow Lounge raid effectively galvanized gay people across Texas to press their governments for change and to demand fair treatment from law enforcement.

“Those events have left a very positive legacy,” says Todd Camp, artistic director of Forth Worth’s gay film festival, Q Cinema. Camp was in the bar the night of the raid and helped organize the community response. “We have seen some truly stunning changes in city politics and how LGBT citizens are treated in Fort Worth in the aftermath,” he says

Trip advisor

Bars & Clubs
Round-Up Saloon

Daisy Polk Inn
Warwick Melrose Hotel

Restaurants & Cafés
Black-Eyed Pea
Dream Café Uptown

Saunas & Sex Clubs
Club Dallas
Midtowne Spa

Shopping & Services
Leather Masters
Lost Antiques



Fri, Aug 10–Sun, Aug 12, 2012. Various venues. A Week of Leather is the annual Leather Knights run, bar crawl and formal dinner party. Mr AWOL contest, spa excursion, cocktail parties, tea dance at the Dallas Eagle, cigar social and more.

Dallas Pride
Sun, Sept 16, 2012. Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, 2pm from Cedar Springs Rd; Festival in Lee Park, noon to 8pm. Events and festivities, live entertainment and parties.