Famed as the Gateway to the South, Louisville in Kentucky might not always have been on the ‘gay-dar,’ but that’s changing now. The state might not be as progressive when it comes to anti-discrimination laws and gender identity. However, it still has the reputation of being a welcoming and gay-friendly destination. The birthplace of the Old Fashioned and the Kentucky Derby has transformed into a bright pink and progressive spot on the LGBTQ travel map of the American Midwest. So much so that there is no dearth of gay hotels in Louisville with a warm and friendly attitude. But, that’s not all. This is largely because the city ranks 11th on the list of cities with the most number of gay residents! A whopping 4.5 percent of Lousiville residents identify as gay instead of the national average of 3.6 percent.
Now, Louisville might be no gay Charlotte or even gay Houston when it comes to gay-friendliness, but it’s as welcoming as they come. What’s more, it’s home to a bevy of annual LGBT Pride events, including not one but two Pride celebrations! Moreover, there’s also an LGBTQ film festival and a website Queer Kentucky dedicated to POV pieces and LGBTQ news. If you’re planning a Midwestern LGBTQ holiday, Louisville should definitely be on your list. To that end, here are the top 11 gay friendly hotels in Louisville.
Table of contents
- Vu Guesthouse
- 21c Museum Hotel
- The Brown Hotel
- Seelbach Hilton
- The Galt House
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Omni louisville
- The Hyatt Regency
- Aloft Louisville East
- Moxy Louisville Downtown
- AC Hotel Louisville Downtown
- Best Gay Neighborhoods in Louisville
- Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Louisville
- Best Gay Saunas in Louisville
- Best Gay Events/Shows/Tours in Louisville
Vu Guesthouse is one of the best gay hotels in Louisville and has been largely responsible for revitalizing the Smoketown neighborhood. The 34-room gay-owned boutique guesthouse is set in a former tobacco warehouse, but its new life now could very well be the setting for the next Liberace biopic. Think polished chrome fixtures, ornate headboards, studded wingback chairs, and tangerine and hot pink accents everywhere. What gay travelers will like all the more is the array of quirky rooms and suites with flashy floorplans and sexy walkthrough showers. Whatever bourbon-infused mischief you have in mind, Vu and its digs are ready for it.
Vu is run by prolific LGBTQ activist and local businessman George Stinson and his partner Ed Lewis, who’re also responsible for debuting Louisville’s first gay club way back in 1970! The hotel is part of The Village Louisville complex, which is also home to the three-storeyed gay men’s spa and sauna, Vapor. The orange and magenta entrance with twin lions at the hotel makes it feel like a 1930s Shanghai or Berlin speakeasy. The same devil-may-care decor continues in the restaurant, bar, and sleek lounge, which is a great place to meet other gay travelers and locals.
21c Museum Hotel
No list of gay friendly hotels in Louisville is complete without mentioning the 21c Museum Hotel, where contemporary art meets a boutique hotel. Whimsical flair and quirky additions keep the vibe intriguing throughout, something that gay travelers will love. Set on the edge of downtown, 21c is also a mere 10-minute drive from the gay bars at Highlands. Rooms and suites have interesting architectural details such as exposed beams and brick, complete with a soothing palette of grey and light hues. Plush beds practically invite you to enjoy a lie-in with your partner. Soft quilted robes, retro-style mint julep cups, and Nespresso machines radiate sexy romance, but the bathroom is the real ticket. Besides Malin + Goetz amenities, the bath is lit up by black lights during turndown. Sigh.
Mixed media and full-scale, dramatic art installations commissioned for the public spaces set this hotel apart in this Kentuckian city. Book a massage or a body treatment for yourself at the spa while the main restaurant serves delicious meals. However, it’s breakfast that’s the best feature, with southern treats such as shaved country ham and grits. Don’t miss cocktail hour at Proof’s bar for meticulously crafted cocktails and rare bourbons.
The Brown Hotel
The Georgian-revival gay-friendly Brown Hotel is the undisputed dowager duchess of all the hotels in Louisville. The 1923-opened hotel has seen the Depression, revived the hotel business during WWII, and even had a stint as a public building. Today, the hotel boasts old-world-style rooms and suites that come with luxurious touches such as mahogany beds and marble floors. Modern and swanky touches in the form of flatscreen TVs, iPod docking stations, and Wi-Fi aside, you’ll also find bathrooms as large as the rooms themselves. Deep-soaking bathtubs, plush robes, and bespoke bath products and toiletries lend an air of opulence. However, the most opulent of them all is the Muhammad Ali suite.
This eminently Southern and iconic Louisville icon instantly put the city on the foodie map and is perhaps best known for its Kentucky Derby week fetes. Just three years after it opened its doors, it created the now-signature Hot Brown, a piece of delicious, open-faced bacon, tomato, and turkey sandwich smothered in hot Mornay sauce and browned to perfection. Order a bourbon flight at the palatial lobby bar to wash it down. Did we mention it? The hotel also happens to be one of the Best Hotels Near Louisville Airport!
The grandest hotel in Louisville, Seelbach Hilton, is also one of the best gay friendly hotels in Lousiville. Having thrown open its doors at the turn of the 20th century, the Seelbach will appeal to gay travelers who love opulence. The Beaux-Arts hotel is the epitome of decadence and exquisite luxury, right down to its Bavarian-style rathskeller. The foyer is as imposing and grand as it gets, completely decked out in marble and with gilded staircases. The rooms and suites are equally grand, with everyone from former presidents and Rolling Stones to gangsters, including Al Capone, having checked in here. Historical fixtures blend in seamlessly with modern furnishings. The piece de resistance is the huge floor-to-ceiling windows and deep-soaking bathtubs in the bathrooms.
The rest of the hotel drips with 20th-century elegance, especially since a young F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the bar here. In fact, The Great Gatsby is said to have been inspired by the glamorous parties Fitzgerald attended here. In fact, Seelbach even makes an appearance in the novel and the 2013 film adaptation as well. Enjoy a swig of whiskey at the famous Oak Room, which is a formerly illicit billiard room that’s hidden behind an oil painting! Amidst modern offerings, a fitness center, concierge service, and a restaurant complete the picture.
The Galt House
Located right on the Ohio River, the Galt Hotel might be one of the largest gay hotels in Louisville. This iconic red-and-white Louisville skyline fixture is actually split between twin buildings that are connected by a skyway. What’s more, its classical style is akin to that of the historic Belle of Louisville steamboat, which is parked right out front in the river. In fact, it’s also the official host of the Kentucky Derby, so if you’re visiting around that time, make sure to book in advance. Choose from a mindboggling array of rooms and suites that are more than 1,300 in number! Moreover, they’re all spacious and contemporary and with stellar views of the river or the city.
Since the hotel lies right on the Ohio River waterfront, everything from the gym to the pool boasts mesmerizing views across the river and its bridges. So keep an eye out for the Belle of Louisville as you enjoy a romantic meal at the on-site restaurant or a sundowner at the lounge. The bA must-do here is booking a massage or a body treatment at the Xhale Spa on the property.
Hilton Garden Inn
Offering some of the best downtown Lousiville views is the Hilton Garden Inn, one of Louisville’s best gay friendly hotels. The hotel is particularly gay-popular because it’s home to 8UP, one of Lousiville’s hippest bars, and also its only indoor/outdoor rooftop bar. It’s the perfect place to see and be seen and mingle with sexy gay locals and travelers. Sip on delicious craft drinks and enjoy views of a great sunset before stepping out to explore the city’s gay scene. Do you want to impress someone you just met at one of Louisville’s gay clubs? Bring them to the rooftop bar and grill for a delectable meal with a view.
After a meal, why not head down to the decadent rooms and suites at the hotel? Besides minifridges and microwaves, all of them have Serta Suite Dreams beds perfect for rolling around, if you know what we mean! The best room of them all is the jacuzzi suite, which has a jetted bathtub for two right in the room, steps from the bed! Nevertheless, all other rooms also have deep-soaking tubs made for romance and other activities.
Looming over Louisville’s downtown skyline is one of the most modern and luxurious gay hotels in Louisville, Omni Louisville. The hotel’s lobby alone warrants a visit, complete with its striking modern artwork, polished floors, and vaulted ceilings. What’s more, one wall is entirely decorated with bourbon barrel lids right from the floor to the ceiling, with barrel-inspired chandeliers twinkling overhead. It’s like stepping into a modern bourbon distillery! Rooms and suites are contemporary with muted mid-century decor, curated in-room bourbon bars, and spectacular views of the Louisville skyline.
The rest of the hotel is similarly impressive, especially the minimalist Mokara Spa with its variety of natural detox wraps, massages, and body treatments. When it’s warm, enjoy a swim in the rooftop pool with views of the skyline. As evening sets in, sip on cocktails with your partner besides a flickering fire pit. Who said nightcaps couldn’t be romantic? Head to the Library Bar, sink into one of their plush sofas, and admire the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
The Hyatt Regency
The Hyatt Regency is yet another of the best gay friendly hotels in Louisville. Gay travelers who’re looking for a good, well-rounded, and amenity-filled hotel in the heart of downtown will love this place. What’s more, it doesn’t break the bank either, making for an excellent value-for-money offering at that. The best bit? It’s a short drive from Louisville’s gay bars. Rooms and suites are all traditionally furnished, albeit spacious and lovely. Cable flatscreen TVs, views of the city, iPod docking stations, and large work desks are standard everywhere. Bathrooms are little dens of luxury, all decked out in white and grey, and with bespoke toiletries and huge walk-in showers.
When we said the hotel is full of amenities, we truly meant it. The crown jewel is the divine indoor swimming pool with an entire wall of windows for the evening sunlight to stream in. A fitness center aside, the hotel also has a farm to fork concept and is home to a wonderful restaurant and even a Starbucks!
Aloft Louisville East
LGBTQ travelers who want to stay away from the bustle will like Aloft Louisville East, one of Louisville’s best non-bustling gay hotels. Even then, downtown and the gay scene are a mere 20-minute drive away. Rooms are comfortable and unfussy, complete with cloud-like beds, pillowtop mattresses, and goose-down duvets. Smart TVs and free Wi-Fi make it easy to spend an entire day indoors. What also helps is the fact that the bathrooms are swanky with huge walk-in shower areas and Bliss Spa toiletries. The best bit? The rooms are pet-friendly, too, in case Fido wanted to come along on vacation with you!
Just like other outposts, the Lousiville Aloft is rife with amenities and facilities. These include a fitness center and a wonderful indoor pool with chairs to lie back and lounge after a swim. While the Re:fuel by Aloft is great for a grab-and-go snack, it’s the violet-accented, sci-fi-like W XYZ Bar that serves cocktails that’s even better. It’s the perfect way to begin an evening of revelries in Louisville. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the Best Hotels in Louisville, Kentucky.
Moxy Louisville Downtown
Looking like a Tokyo Club on Louisville’s Whiskey Row, Moxy Louisville Downtown is one of Louisville’s swankiest gay friendly hotels. Aimed at millennials, LGBTQ, and otherwise, this neon-lit Marriott outpost is perfect for travelers who want to explore the city’s jazz clubs and cocktail bars. All rooms and suites at this hotel are fitted with modern amenities such as flatscreen TVs, minifridges, and iPod docking stations. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms, some with seating areas right beside, offer gorgeous views of the city. The best rooms are the corner ones, which come with huge wraparound windows with the best downtown views. Bathrooms are also modern and spacious, with seating areas in walk-in showers as well.
The rest of the hotel is an inimitable delight too. Play board and card games or foosball with fellow travelers in the wood-paneled game room. After a night of partying, head to Zombie Taco, whose Mexican fare is the perfect cure for a hangover. Oh, and did we mention? The check-in is right at the bar!
AC Hotel Louisville Downtown
The Marriott bolthole that is the AC Hotel is one of the overall best gay hotels in Louisville. An industrial-chic lobby with minimalist designs welcomes you within this place, which has stylishly designed rooms and suites. Mod-cons such as smart flatscreen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and desks make staying here a very comfortable prospect. Moreover, all rooms boast spiffy and immaculate bathrooms with large walk-in showers. If you want to splurge, go for the rooms that boast city views. The rest of the hotel is similarly impressive, such as the well-equipped and modern fitness center and the AC Lounge, which serves handcrafted cocktails and tapas plates. Begin your day with a buffet or à la carte European-style breakfast before heading out to explore the rest of the city.
Best Gay Neighborhoods in Louisville
Lousiville has not one but two LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods, which goes to show how gay-friendly the city is. At the top of that list is Old Louisville, which lies just a few minutes from downtown. It’s one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods and is even home to a charming Central Park perfect for all your outdoor fun. However, what makes it especially gay-friendly is the presence of Smoketown, which is home to the gay-owned Vu Guesthouse as well as the gay Vapor Spa. The other gay neighborhood is the Highlands and Cherokee Triangle, which is home to the next biggest bunch of gay bars along Bardstown Road. It’s also where Louisville Pride takes place.
Until recently, LGBTQ people were a relatively hidden subculture in Louisville, but Old Louisville was famed as Kentucky’s gay mecca for years. In fact, Central Park was a massive cruising spot from the 1950s to almost the 1980s. Despite the Highlands becoming more of a gay gathering mecca than Old Louisville, many members of the LGBTQ community call Old Louisville home.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Louisville
- Chill Bar: Chill Bar is one of the most fun gay bars you can be in Louisville, complete with a live music, dancing, specialty martini menu, and gorgeous undies-clad go-go boys! Their weekly lineup includes TV viewing parties, some of which are hosted by famous local drag personalities, drink specials, and go-go boys dancing their pants off.
- Play: Play is not only Lousville’s most thrilling gay establishment, but it’s also the largest LGBTQ+ nightclub in all of Kentucky! There’s no way you’re missing seeing this place in Butchertown – its exterior has a huge “Love” painted in rainbow-striped letters. This adults-only place has a patio, a dance floor, and three bars, as well as a fun lineup of drag performances.
Best Gay Saunas in Louisville
- Vapor Spa: Vapor Spa is the only private, all-male spa and health club and lies in the city’s Smoketown neighborhood. Enjoy the company of like-minded men at this three-storied spa which has an indoor pool, spa, sauna, steam rooms, gym, and even sexy shower areas.
Best Gay Events/Shows/Tours in Louisville
- Kentuckiana Pride: celebrating 20 years in 2020, Kentucikiana Pride typically takes place in June, with the celebrations having moved to october in 2020 and 2021. It takes place at the Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park, which is also where Louisville Pride Festival takes place in mid-September. The annual Kentuckiana Pride features an amazingly colorful Pride Parade through downtown Louisville as well as 100 vendors and a festival concert.
- Louisville Pride Festival: 2021 sees the sixth edition of Lousiville Pride taking place at Bardstown Road in the Highlands. Besides a wonderfully vibrant parade, there are also healthcare screenings, crafts and arts, local music and talent, and lots of performing artists.