Desert Dreamin' in Scottsdale


Scottsdale, a dreamy desert oasis in the heart of Arizona, has cultivated its queer community and built up a number of hotspots and events for you and your fellow LGBTQ+ folks to relax, explore and experience. In fact, Scottsdale – where big city culture and pride meets small city charm and community – is a must-see (and do!) for gay travelers, a window into the modern western mystique. Corral your pals and saddle up for a rodeo of memorable moments, thrilling experiences and culinary crafts that'll make for the best gay getaway this side of the Rio Grande.

Scottsdale's neighboring sister city, Phoenix, throws a Pride Festival and Parade that is sure to put you and your friends in a reverie of joy. Drawing over 55,000 attendees from the two cities and nearby desert communities, the 42nd Phoenix Pride Festival (October 21-22, 2023) has a thrilling lineup of performances and festival activities you don't want to miss.

Heart hands at Pride parade
Source: Stock image

Pride revelers gather at Steele Indian School Park for two days of live performances across seven stages, including Grammy Award Winner Ashanti, Paulina Rubio and Zee Machine. The festival grounds also feature over 300 exhibitors – from tasty local bites to shopping opportunities and community resources, you'll find something to enjoy. And the best part? Proceeds raised by the festival are invested back into the queer desert communities for renewed support.

The pride celebration crescendos with the parade on Sunday, October 22. Find your spot alongside 3rd Street and enjoy dozens of decorated floats and colorful vehicles. The parade begins at 3rd Street and Thomas and heads North along 3rd Street, ending at Steele Indian School Park. Visit the official Phoenix Pride Festival website to plan your pride experience.

The Valley ups the pride ante with the annual Rainbows Festival, a celebration of the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Dubbed "Arizona's Greatest Street Fair," the two-day event features 150 businesses and sponsors, live entertainment and the recognition that diversity in the community is what makes us unique. Rainbows takes place in Heritage Square Park in downtown Phoenix and runs April 6-7, 2024.

Enjoy fresh, seasonal cuisine at The Herb Box in Old Town Scottsdale (shown: Grapefruit & Sugar Charred Salmon, Paloma cocktail, Market Street Short Rib Tacos, Spicy Mango Marg)
Source: Jenna McKone for Experience Scottsdale

All that celebrating is sure to work up an appetite for you and your loved ones where you'll dine in a warm and casual setting at beloved LGBTQ+ spots in Scottsdale. The jewel in the foodie crown is perhaps The Herb Box, a relaxed experience that goes beyond filling your stomachs with delectable cuisine. What started as a catering company has grown into two full-service restaurants and high-end private dining spaces. The Herb Box features artisan foods from local growers and flavors inspired by Scottsdale's Old West history. "I always stayed true to my roots," says owner and founder Susan Wilcox, "and never strayed from our original goal – to feed people good, nutritious, whole foods that taste awesome."

For an exquisite dining experience, pop into AZ88, a contemporary bar restaurant for locals and travelers alike to sip a craft cocktail and enjoy delicious bites from an upscale menu. Tucked away in Old Town Scottsdale, returning guests will notice the eclectic mix of art pieces on display that are in constant flux. When you're ready to make like Lady Gaga and "don't be a drag, just be a queen," you can make a case for it at Barrio Queen, a throwback Mexican restaurant to the flavors of Mexico's barrios (re: neighborhoods). Let the Dia de los Muertos-themed design transport you to the streets of Mexico as you nosh on mouth-watering dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Patio dining at AZ88 in Old Town Scottsdale
Source: Jenna McKone for Experience Scottsdale

Finally, Wok'N Roll sushi brings the flavors and the entertainment to a beloved LGBTQ+ hotspot that will keep you and your friends coming back for more. The sushi connoisseurs – in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale – features the best drag queen bingo nights in the Sonoran Desert. Catch your favorite local drag queens dazzle and delight, and if you find yourself with a winning bingo card, you're going home with an awesome prize. Stick around for karaoke every Friday night with DJ Dave, and belt out your favorite sing-alongs with your friends.

There's ample nightlife fun to be had in the desert and it starts with BS West, Scottsdale's popular LGBTQ+ bar and club. The glitzy space serves up refreshing drinks, boozy cocktails, and delicious bites every night of the week. And the events are even more spectacular – karaoke nights, drag shows, dance parties with live DJs and so much more. Or head over to neighboring Phoenix and make it a night to remember at Arizona's largest gay club – Charlie's. This sprawling dance club features multiple bars and outdoor patio for year-round events, entertainment and games. Visit the website to plan for special events like the annual shrimp boil, themed parties and more.

Patio dining at Old Town Scottsdale's Barrio Queen restaurant
Source: Barrio Queen

Plan Your Visit

Scottsdale is home to a number of exciting LGBTQ+ hangouts and events that are too fun to miss. Post up at one of Scottsdale's luxurious resort spas and explore all the queer happenings around the desert oasis. And don't forget to visit the Experience Scottsdale website to plan your dreamy desert getaway.

by Roger Porter

This story is part of our special report: "Experience Scottsdale". Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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