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LAS VEGAS FOR GAY AND LESBIAN TRAVELERS

All the way up through the early 2000's, Las Vegas adopted a don't ask-don't tell kind of attitude toward the gay and lesbian crowd. Hotels and casinos didn't care who you were sharing your bed with, they just wanted your money. Having said that, they certainly didn't do much to actively court the GLBTQ audiences other than the occasional sponsorship of a float at the city's gay pride parade or participation in a yearly White Party style "pride" weekend.

That began to change a few years ago. I wish I could say it was because the major corporations became more enlightened or understood that cultural attitudes in the country were "evolving" but really it was just because they, like many other companies, started to recognize the power of the gay dollar. It is estimated that GLBTQ people will spend an estimated $200 billion on travel this year and while they are willing to spend it anywhere they are much more inclined to spend it at places that actively court their business.

Although there is no exclusively gay hotel anymore (the Blue Moon closed in October of 2014), these days almost all of the major Las Vegas hotels and resorts run ad campaigns specifically targeting a gay and lesbian audience. Although none have exclusively gay bars... at least not until later this summer (more on that in a moment)... some have nights at their clubs and lounges that cater to a gay audience and several are even hosting pool parties for the GLBTQ audience and their friends. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau is even getting in on the action with its first ever gay themed television commercial.

The gay audience has even had a hand in shaping the entertainment scene in Las Vegas. While acts like Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Elton John, and Olivia Newton-John certainly have a broad appeal, it is their almost rabidly devoted gay fans that have helped to keep them relevant and selling tickets.

The next big frontier for gay and lesbian visitors to Vegas came when same-sex marriage became legal on October 8, 2014. All of the major hotel chapels and most of the smaller independent ones were already doing non-legally-binding commitment ceremonies and pretty much all of them were eager for the real deal to become law - not really because of any moral or social justice reason, but purely for an economic one. According to a study performed by the New York City, gay marriage generated over a quarter of a billion dollars in additional revenue to the city in its first year of being legal. Vegas wanted in on that.

While cultural attitudes are shifting, Vegas is also a town that draws a wide spectrum of people from all over the world, many of whom might not be comfortable with public displays of gay affection. Whether or not you choose to have a "that's their problem" attitude is totally up to you, but it is worth noting that much of the crowd here is often aggressively straight. You'll never hear the word "dude" used so often in your entire life.

So just be aware that if you decide to hold hands with your partner/spouse/weekend fling by the pool or plant a kiss on them after a great blackjack hand, you're bound to get some negative reactions. These reactions will rarely devolve into danger but just be aware of your surroundings.

Most of the gay life in Vegas, as in many other cities, is centered on the gay bars and clubs in town.

The Strip's first gay club located inside a hotel-casino is now open at Liaison at Bally's. It's in the former space occupied by Drai's After Hours, just off the main casino, and is being operated by Victor Drai himself. He's the same guy behind the new Drai's at The Cromwell and formerly of clubs like XS at Wynn Las Vegas. The 7,000 square-foot club goes swank-for-swank with the other high-end clubs in town complete with VIP bottle service, two dance floors, celebrity DJs, and more.

Elsewhere on The Strip, The Beatles themed Revolution Lounge at The Mirage has a very popular Sunday night gay party called Revolution Sundays; Tropicana is hosting a Saturday afternoon gay day club at their pool called Xposed; and Luxor is continuing their popular Temptation pool club on Sundays (in season).

Off The Strip there are plenty of gay bars around town that will suit just about any mood, budget, and taste. The nearby "Fruit Loop" as it is known (don't blame me; I didn't name it) is on Harmon Avenue just a couple of blocks south of the Hard Rock that used to be the epicenter of gay nightlife with half a dozen bars within steps of each other. Now there are only a couple - the very popular Piranha lounge and dance club and the neighborhood bar Free Zone. The long-running Gipsy nightclub closed awhile back although there is talk of reopening it soon with a new theme. The leather and levis Buffalo bar also closed - that crowd now mostly congregates at The Funhog Ranch on Twain, about a mile east of The Strip.

One of the most popular clubs in town is Share, a combination nightclub and ultralounge, located west of The Strip near the Orleans.

You can find more gay bars and clubs listed in the nightlife section of Vegas4Visitors.com.

Gay visitors to town may also want to consider visiting The Center, the LGBTQ community center, which just opened a new facility at 401 S. Maryland Parkway. In addition to the usual services that centers like this provide, they also have art shows, special events, and a monthly Pride Bingo event. You can learn more at thecenterlv.org.

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