find your people

This undiscovered state capital helped create ‘Barbie’ and is home to a fabulous gay ‘hood

Sacramento native Greta Gerwig’s directorial vision for “Barbie” captured the imagination of audiences worldwide. She is rightly celebrated for her unique narrative style and deep connection to her hometown. Gerwig’s 2023 blockbuster brings a piece of her Sacramento soul to the silver screen, offering a story that’s as bold and complex as the city that shaped her. 

​​Greta Gerwig’s fondness for her Sacramento roots shines through her stories. Take her film “Lady Bird,” a directorial debut that garnered five Oscars nominations, for instance. A St. Francis High School girl cruises over the city’s Tower Bridge with her mom, listening to books on tape. It was a scene from her own life, growing up in the city. Rich in amazing places to explore, Sacramento mirrors Barbie’s knack for transformation and discovery, making the city of half a million souls a haven for dreamers and doers alike. 

(Photo by MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Just as Gerwig, now 40, embarks on a journey to redefine the classic childhood toy Barbie – a symbol of endless possibility – Sacramento is an undiscovered gem, a lively urban playground with everything from a vibrant queer ‘hood to gourmet dining and adventures in nature.

Allow us to introduce you to the new Sacramento. Like the “Barbie” of native Gerwig’s telling, it can be anything you make it.

While we were all paying attention to gay enclaves like Palm Springs and West Hollywood, Sacramento figuratively hit the gym, took cooking classes, and went on a reflective spiritual journey. Now he’s ripped and ready to pull you in, boasting multiple ways to find your people.

Find your chosen family

Greta Gerwig isn’t the only noteworthy person to know and love this city. Notable talents like Brie Larson, Joan Didion, and Angel Deradoorian called Sacramento home. Among Sac’s stellar roster, Patrick Harbison is at the top of our list.

Patrick (right) and his husband Charles.

Patrick Harbison, a true “local boy,” was born and raised in Sacramento. He has worked for over 15 years in public relations, becoming a cheerleader for the place. Most recently, he worked on the election campaign for Steve Hansen. If elected, Hansen would be the first openly gay mayor in the state capital’s history, putting an exclamation point on an already LGBTQ+-friendly metropolis.

Patrick lives in the Midtown neighborhood with his husband Charles and appreciates the city’s diverse culture. “Sacramento is home to me for many reasons, but the inclusivity and allyship throughout the city are among the top reasons I choose to live here,” he tells GayCities in an interview. 

Patrick and his husband dining on The Tower Bridge.

When friends visit Sac, Patrick sends them to The Sawyer in the DOCO District. With its rooftop pool and cosmopolitan atmosphere, The Sawyer is a great launching pad for your stay. From there, Patrick recommends catching a Kings NBA game at the Golden 1 Center or the latest show at Capitol Stage, then exploring Lavender Heights, Sacramento’s gayborhood, and the surrounding Midtown area.

Lavender Heights is the epicenter of gay nightlife in Sacramento, a scene made all the more illustrious by its large LGBTQ+ community. The intersection of 20th and K Street is always bustling with block parties, farmers markets, and community gatherings, thanks to the Sacramento LGBT Community Center’s line-up of recurring events. 

Anetra performing at Faces nightclub in Sacramento.
photo via Faces Nightclub

The area radiates friendly vibes, making it a popular destination for anyone wanting a party in Sac. The nightlife, particularly at places like The Mercantile Saloon, Bolt, Faces, and Roscoe’s, reflects the city’s inclusive spirit. In addition to these beloved watering holes, we want to shout out a few of our Lavender Heights favorites:

The Depot

Next to the rainbow crosswalk in the center of the gayborhood, The Depot is the perfect place to kick-start the evening. It exudes the welcoming ambiance of a house party. It feels like you’re among friends, even if you’ve never met anyone there. 

Four ladies on the pool table at The Depot in Sacramento.
photo via The Depot


With two stories of drinking and dancing under a giant disco ball, Badlands is the place to be on the weekend. Whether you start or end your night here, you’re bound to have a great time. 


Three dance floors, a swimming pool, and happy hour make this eclectic hot spot a Sactown favorite.

Find your muse

Phoebe Verkouw is on an eternal adventure to find joy in sustainable fashion. Known as The Dress Fiend on social media, Phoebe uses her platform to encourage others to ditch fast fashion through positivity, taste, and style.

Phoebe feels culturally enriched by everything that her city provides. “Sacramento has something for everybody,” she tells GayCities. “Once you have figured out things you enjoy, Sacramento will welcome you with arms wide open.”

“For example, if you love art, get involved with wonderful art intuitions like The Crocker Art Museum and Verge Center for the Arts. Or if you like food, explore our diverse Farmer’s markets. If vintage is your thing, try the Sacramento Antique Faire.”

No matter where you turn, this city is ready to inspire. Of all the many hip, artsy places that have emerged in the city’s cultural renaissance, here are a few of our favorites to check out:

Old Soul Coffee

Nestled amidst brick and wooden beams, Old Soul Coffee exudes the ambiance of a 90’s coffee shop. It is a sanctuary where the creatives of Sacramento converge, enveloped in the melodies of Salt-N-Pepa echoing in the backdrop. The walls are adorned with art by local artists.

photo courtesy of The Lavender Library

The Lavender Library

For all those on a more introspective journey, The Lavender Library, an all-volunteer LGBTQ+ archive in Sacramento, enriches the community with global queer narratives. It offers an extensive collection of queer media and amplifies queer voices through a local comedy event called The Other Mic.

The Snug

The queer folks that run the The Snug are having a blast. Given the grace to explore the intersection of identity, style, and panache, the people behind the bar make this cocktail lounge a cut above the rest. We should note: If you sport visible tattoos, they might mistake you for one of their own and put you to work. 

photo courtesy of The Snug

Shady Lady

If you want dark and sultry vibes, you’ll love the crowd at this speakeasy. Layered in a red and black velvet ambiance, Shady Lady will send you into a deliciously old-fashioned, salty dive with drinks like the Vieux Carrés and “Dark Webs”.

Second Saturday

When attending this street festival, you’ll want to start at the block party on the corner of K and 20th. DJs, dancing, and the spillover from all the local gay bars fill the streets. This monthly event, planned as a walking tour of the central Midtown area, unites entertainers and local vendors in the gayborhood for an art and live music experience.

Find your drinking buddy

Tina Reynolds has carved a niche in Sacramento’s LGBTQ+ community with her socially conscious visual communications firm Uptown Studios. Since her firm’s inception in 1992, Tina has emerged as a committed partner to local nonprofits and businesses, helping to create a community where everyone is encouraged to express themselves authentically.
Tina Reynolds, Uptown Studios

When it comes to making new friends in town, Tina recommends checking local event calendars. “Showing up is half the battle,” she tells GayCities. “Don’t be shy to introduce yourself – Sacramento is a very friendly town.”

Sacramento has always loved a good drink, so you won’t have to look hard for your new home away from home. 

photo courtesy of Nico Wine

Revolution Winery

If you’re looking for brunch on the patio, there is Revolution Winery. It houses wine production on-premise and sources grapes locally, most from the Central Valley AVA, and boasts the largest fine wine grape production in the country, outproducing Napa and Sonoma combined. 

Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar

For those who want to treat themselves when happy hour rolls around, visit Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar next door to the Estelle Bakery. Raymond Irwin serves as chief champagne officer, offering recommendations for vintage bottles of bubbles.

Nico Wine

If you’re into wine from new-wave, small-scale international producers, check out Nico Wine on R Street. Grab a glass (or let’s be honest, a carafe) of Gruner Veltliner and enjoy people-watching from its patio. Situated in the center of the Ice Blocks neighborhood, you’ll be serenaded by an accordion player that plays for the cool kids outside of Salt and Straw. 

Find your foodies

Geographically speaking, Sacramento is uniquely positioned for culinary excellence. Close to California’s wine country, Napa and Sonoma, as well as UC Davis and over 200 local wine producers in the area, the country’s leading institution for agricultural and viticulture education, Sacramento is America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.

photo courtesy of Camden Spit & Larder

Of the many great eateries that call this city home, we want to highlight the cream of the crop.

Estelle Bakery & Patisserie

Just a stone’s throw away from the electrifying energy of the Golden 1 Center is the Estelle Bakery & Patisserie, located in the heart of DOCO. As you place your order, the scent of freshly baked, strawberry-filled, frosted croissants wafts, promising a bite of heaven. For something savory, the ham and egg breakfast brioche can turn any morning into a celebration of flavor, especially when enjoyed with a cup of the homebrew. 

photo courtesy of Solomon’s Vinyl Diner

Solomon’s Vinyl Diner

At Solomon’s Vinyl Diner, the ambiance pays homage to music chain Tower Records founder Russ Solomon. Here, you can enjoy your Bloody Mary under a mural of Prince and grab fries for the table while surrounded by walls adorned with vinyl from all decades and genres. A selection of thoughtfully curated music plays as the staff pours custom cocktails and slings diner classics, like biscuits and gravy.

Camden Spit & Larder

For something classy and comforting, try the British-inspired cuisine at Camden Spit & Larder. London-born Chef Oliver Ridgeway showcases his talents with classic dishes such as Scotch eggs. The restaurant’s interior, much like a fusion of a cozy library nestled within a warehouse, promises a dining experience that’s as artful as it’s tasty.

photo courtesy of The Snug

Sacramento is proud of the richness and vibrancy fueled by its queer community. A magnetic mix of natives, returnees, and new arrivals is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive space where every hue of the rainbow is celebrated. 

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