18 reasons why Capitol Hill is the epicenter of Seattle gay life

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Cozy coffeehouses, hipster beer bars, boujee ice cream shops, and secluded bathhouses all snuggle together on Seattle’s culture-drenched Capitol Hill neighborhood — the gay epicenter of Emerald City. Rainbow-painted sidewalks and Pride flags dot the district making it the gayest of gayborhoods in all of Seattle. But let’s be honest, Seattle is welcoming to everyone. 

With two annual Pride festivals, a handful of hot gay bars — including one of the very last lesbian bars in the US — thirst-inducing drag shows, cute queer bodegas, and for-a-cause thrift stores, there’s a favorite flavor for every person on the block.

Here’s GayCities’ round-up of the 18 best spots to eat, drink, relax and shop in Capitol Hill, Seattle.

Julia’s On Broadway – best drag brunch in town

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Sometimes you just need a good drag brunch. And by good, I mean great — solid food, amazing performances, and a down-right fun time. Julia’s on Broadway is Seattle’s longest-running, continuous drag show and it’s best enjoyed during weekend brunch. Snag tickets online and expect to see throwback performances by Madonna, Cher and, of course, Britney, bitch.

Wildrose – Seattle’s oldest lesbian bar

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

It’s a mad world out there and sometimes lesbians just need a place of refuge to throw down a few beers. That place is Wildrose — Seattle’s longest-running lesbian bar and one of the only remaining lesbian-specific bars in the US. But don’t worry, cool dudes can drink here, too. Founded in 1985, The Wildrose Bar offers a cheap drink, ahem, Taco Tuesdays, and popular block parties particularly hyped around Pride.

Diesel – bears, beers and bikes

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

If ever the regular crowd of twinks and jocks aren’t your thing, just head to Diesel for beers and bears, literally. Owners Mike Reis and Mark Hurst’s Diesel Bar is there for all the “Bears, Bikers, Buddies, Bubbas, Blue Collars & Bad Asses” according to their website. Seattle’s premier Bear Bar is inclusive and welcoming to all — which I can attest to because I fully expected a needle scratch when I walked in for a photo, but the crowd was just like one big bear hug.

Seattle Steamworks – bathhouse on ‘The Hill’

Chris Peterson / Steamworks

Of the two gay bathhouses found in this vibrant pocket of Seattle, Steamworks is the highest-rated and liveliest looking from the exterior and interior. In short, you can’t miss their bright yellow and concrete gray facade, as if to indicate there’s a lot of excitement or relaxing happening inside.

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See everything gay Seattle has to offer in our City Guide.

Doghouse Leathers – give a dog a bone

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Remember that early 2000s song about letting the dogs out? Well, this is where they go in Seattle. Workers wear puppy masks and leather gear all while helping patrons shop for fun fetishes. Leather not your thing? Take a few paces down the street to Babeland, an unstuffy adult store offering a section for LITERALLY everyone.

Gaslight Inn –  cutest little B&B

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Hands-down, the most gorgeous, LGBTQ-friendly bed & breakfast is Gaslight Inn. Owner Stephen Bennett designed the Victorian-inspired abode as a place for queer travelers to call home for a night or two. In addition, the b&b has Seattle landmark status and is walking distance from Capitol Hill’s finest restaurants, bars, and shops.

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Saint John’s Bar & Eatery – dinosaur-obsessed dining

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Some call it the gayest gastropub in Capitol Hill, others simply love a good Jurassic Park-themed date night. Drop-in for a bite, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and expect T-Rex murals, delicious grub, and rainbow flags.

Big Little News – a very queer neighborhood bodega

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Founded by LGBTQ nightlife entrepreneurs Joey Burgess and Tracy Taylor, this little Capitol Hill shop offers a big selection of specialty magazines, beer, wine, champagne, gifts, and snacks. Perfect for a pit stop between bar hopping.

Cone & Steiner – gay-owned corner store

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Inspired by her great-grandfather’s drive and need for community, this is queer owner Dani Cone’s concept of the corner store. The exterior is welcoming with fresh flowers and ripe produce. Step inside and plan to spend 30-minutes or more looking around at the local selections of beer, ice cream, and curated foods.

UP NEXT: Capital Thrill and more…

See everything gay Seattle has to offer in our CityGuide.

Capitol Thrill – probably the gayest gift shop on the planet

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Owner Jeff Gonzales tells GayCities, “Capitol Thrill is Capitol Hill (Seattle)’s queerest retail store. We feature independent brands and artists, with a focus on offering goods from queer, BIPOC, and women-owned companies. We design and manufacture many of our own products, which makes much of what we carry unique and not available in other retail outlets.” If that’s not enough, the back of the store is a mini art gallery featuring local, queer, BIPOC, and ally artists.

Sugar Pill – locally-sourced apothecary

Shelves of perfectly placed glass bottles and tinctures line the walls of owner Karyn Schwartz’s SugarPill in Capitol Hill. Greeting all customers with a warm smile, stop in for her special selection of medical herbs and spices. Or snag some products geared to home, health, and happiness. Schwartz tells GayCities, “I’ve lived in Seattle for 30 years and I’ve had the store for 11 years. [It’s] your community herbal apothecary.”

The Vajra – good vibes and good folx

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

It’s small, but it’s filled to the brim with mystical measures for anyone with a soulful spirit. Expect several people in the shop at all times in this cozy, queer-frequented crystal shop offering incense, candles, gems, jewelry, and meditation supplies. Also, if you’re interested in tarot card readings they offer that, too.

Out of the Closet – thrift for a cause

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Thrifting is a way of life in Seattle — even the city’s Macklemore made bank on that fact. Rather than heading to bigger name thrift shops, stop in for a stroll at Out of the Closet in Capitol Hill, where the selection ranges from thoughtful hipster to full-on fanny packs and highlighter color hoodies. And, best of all, profits go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

See everything gay Seattle has to offer in our CityGuide.

Naked in Seattle?

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Surprise! Public nudity is totally legal in Seattle. In fact, there are no laws against being nude in the streets – but acting upon being naked, whether solo or with other naked folks, is very illegal. As long as you keep to yourself, don’t harass others, or enter public buildings while nude, you can let your bare self feel the rainy, Seattle air.

R&M Dessert Bar – Late Night Sweet Tooth



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Late-night dessert craving? Hit up R&M Dessert Bar and taste sweet creations handmade by gay couple Rod Gambassi and Marc Adams. Inspired by family recipes, this chef-driven dessert experience serves up cookies, pies, tarts, and more. And during COVID, a walk-up window for to-go sweets.

Capitol Hill Pride: Not Your Guncle’s Corporate Rainbow Party

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Long live authentic pride festivals, with nearly naked people, glitter-bombed bodies, and lots of unified chanting. Capitol Hill bucks the trend of big corporate Pride parades and hosts their very own to honor the community where it all began. Alternatively, Seattle Pride is big, bold, and beautiful, and arguably one of the best events to attend in the United States. And while we love to see T-Mobile and Alaska Air throwing t-shirts and free condoms, the real spirit of Pride, and the meaning behind it, can be found on The Hill.

Gay City Health ProjectSeattle’s LGBTQ Center

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

Gay City is the definitive hub for LGBTQ individuals seeking affirming and responsive resources, wellness, and community. Plus, The Michael C. Weidemann LGBT Library lives here at Gay City, offering anyone interested a wide collection of 6,000+ books covering LGBTQ topics.

Lambert House – Safe House For All

Rachael A. Jones / GayCities

The Lambert House is Seattle’s center for LGBTQ and allied youth ages 14-23. The safe house encourages empowerment, social and life skills, and most of all, a protective place to stay. It’s important for any round-up to feature a city-safe spot for anyone that feels lost, alone, or rejected by family or friends.

See everything gay Seattle has to offer in our City Guide.


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