Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

The term “gay Texas” is commonly associated with clubbing in Austin, Dallas, or even Houston. San Antonio, the country’s second most populated state, may not immediately spring to mind as an LGBTQ+ destination. But this thriving city, founded over 300 years ago, is alive with LGBT pride – and I was astounded by what I learned on a recent visit.

When I asked residents what they enjoyed best about their community, many said it was a wonderful location to raise a family. Among the attractions are Sea World, Six Flags, multiple waterparks, and a swarm of museums. Residents may also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year, owing to weather that is always warm — but not as humid as nearby Austin or Houston. LGBTQ families have taken note as well. According to the Pride Center San Antonio, the city boasts one of the largest numbers of queer families in the country.

Interactivity in queer art

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

Hopscotch, an LGBTQ-owned art gallery specializing in immersive art and optical illusions, is housed in an unpretentious downtown building adjacent to popular Travis Park. On the ground level, Hopscotch offers a wonderful lounge and lounging area with large windows that allow guests to people-watch on all of the neighboring downtown streets. The bar serves cocktails, beer, wine, and a great assortment of non-alcoholic beverages — “zero-proof” cocktails. The current cocktail menu is titled “Hopscotch in Space,” and it has out-of-this-world concoctions such as Ziggy Stardust, which is prepared with Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka, lemon, butterfly syrup, violette, and electric dust. Ticket holders may browse the galleries below with their beverages, which is a lovely choice!

Visitors may also nibble here because Hopscotch works with a variety of food vendors and food trucks to give menu options. There’s even a monthly calendar of which merchants will be present on which days on the gallery’s website. ChurroStar was providing delectable desserts including drizzled churros with a choice of dipping sauces the day I attended.

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

Descending the steps to the lower level reveals 20,000 square feet of galleries intended to stimulate thinking, experience, and invention. Exhibitions fluctuate, however there are presently 14 different immersive works of art to engage in. Color Therapy (Polis, Austin, Texas), in which you are surrounded by gradually changing hues; Lightlines (Cambell Landscape Architecture, Austin and San Francisco), in which you wander through a mazelike area surrounded by otherworldly vertical red lines; and Quantum Space (Kuflex, Moscow), in which elementary particles appear to follow and consume your shadow as you move through the space, were among my favorites.

GAZE, a collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign, is also well-liked here. It envisions “a world in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals are guaranteed equality and accepted as full members of society at home, work, and in every community.” Visitors navigate a glass-like maze with encouragement phrases mirrored on several panels. It was a poignant and joyful event, especially because the bulk of visitors were opposite sex couples with their children, as well as school groups — and they all looked open to the teachings of inclusiveness.

A distinctive club

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

While in town, I went to The Bonham Exchange and was pleasantly pleased by how fascinating and distinctive this venue was. The Turner Hall building was built in 1891 as a German Social Club and was renovated to an LGBTQ club in 1981 by downtown developer Arthur P. “Hap” Veltman. Tina Turner, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, RuPaul, The Bangles, and others have performed at the venue during the previous four decades. Sandra Bullock’s film Miss Congeniality was partly shot here.

I was given a tour of the facility by the owner, Lee Haines, and his manager, Tom, and I was blown away by its vastness — and the diversity of moods one might discover here in a single evening. Bonham’s main floor has a massive bar and dance area that seems like the greatest gay bar in most cities, yet it’s only one component of the venue. Across the hall is a smaller bar and several rooms with pool tables and other sports bar-like amenities. Another bar in the back offers a laid-back vibe, with regulars greeting each other as they enter. A vast two-story open dance floor area with mezzanine viewing spaces is also positioned near the back of the structure. A local drag queen staged a “Best Chest Contest” at midnight the night I was there, which was a lot of fun because it required numerous men removing their shirts in order to win the main prize.

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

There is also a huge outside patio area and a massive ballroom on the third level, which contains another bar and can accommodate larger events such as drag performances. While officially a homosexual establishment, the entire scenario is so well-executed and interesting that “they can’t keep the straights out,” as Haines remarked. That was most definitely my experience. There were many straight couples here on date nights, dancing and partying unconcerned that they were at a homosexual bar. It was a magnificent universe I could never have envisioned even 20 or 30 years ago.

Visiting The Strip

Why San Antonio Could Be the Gayest City in Texas

The Strip is the city’s gay entertainment zone, commonly known as St. Mary’s Strip. Just north of downtown San Antonio and near San Antonio College, you’ll find a little bit of everything here (a local community college).

Luther’s Café has been a queer-owned burger establishment and informal LGBTQ eatery since 1949! It includes indoor and outdoor seats as well as a laid-back feel and is located adjacent to the city’s famed rainbow crosswalks. Luther’s is well-known for its milkshakes and comfort food specialties such as the Red Top Irish Beef Stew, but it also holds drag shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m., as well as karaoke, drag brunches, and Pups and Beers, when you can bring your dog to the bar and enjoy $3 pints.

 

 

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