Queer Girl City Guide: Burlington, VT


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Some call it the Portland of the east. Some call it Brrrrlington (yes, it snows a lot here). But everyone who’s right calls it Grrrlington and there’s a reason. Burlington, Vermont is a mecca for queer ladies of all shapes, sizes, and Birkenstock style-preferences. It boasts all the big city offerings with a small-town feel.

The Waterfront

The Waterfront

Although I’ve been a tried and true Vermonter since exiting the womb 23 years ago, I’ve only lived in Burlington for just over a year now. Good thing it’s a small city and it doesn’t take long to get to know your way around.

So let one Vermont native and one transplant to the great Green Mountain State show you the ropes!


So you want to drink and dance?

Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Burlington has got you covered. Some say there are no lesbian bars in town, but we say there are ONLY lesbian bars in town. Walk into nearly any bar in Burlington (or walk down any street or visit any farm or do any THING) and you will certainly see enough gay girls to make your head spin. That being said, there are a few go-to spots for the savvy queers.

The Three Needs (185 Pearl St) is the unspoken lesbian bar in Burlington. For whatever reason, that’s where all the ladies flock. And you should, too!

Half Lounge (136 1/2 Church St) is equally as gay—but more man-centric. They do have delicious half-price martinis on Wednesday nights though and a very cozy basement.

Higher Ground (1214 Williston Road) is absolutely the best place to see live music in town. Plenty of lesbians have performed there recently, including Tegan and Sara(!) And plenty of lesbians go just to watch.

The Monkey House (30 Main St) is another great spot to hear music in a cozy bar setting. They host great gay events, too (more on this later).

So you want to go on a date?

First thing’s first. The running joke is that in Burlington, you have to come out as straight. Especially if you have short fingernails and/or hair. You should know that at maximum, there are two degrees of separation between every lesbian in Burlington. EVERY LESBIAN. We’ll tell you again: It’s a small town. And everyone is on OKCupid. Really…everyone. One time I went to a party and realized I’d been on a date with every single person in the room. And I wasn’t the only one who came to this realization. It’s okay though, it’s like one big gay family. What could be better?

So you’re hungry?



You’re in luck! Food is a big deal in Burlington. You’ll likely hear “farm-to-table,” “locavore,” “know your farmer,” and other catchphrases of the local food movement enough times to make you want to trade in your desk chair for a tractor and get to work. If you’re in the mood for grazing, the Burlington Farmers Market (2 Church St) is the place to go. NOTE: There are lots of sexy farmers in Burlington.

If you’re in more of a sit-down mood, try The Farmhouse Tap & Grill (106 Bank St).

If coffee is your beverage of choice, you have many options in Burlington to find the perfect cup of joe and the perfect queer barista to serve it to you. Uncommon Grounds (42 Church St), August First (149 South Champlain), and Muddy Waters (184 Main St) are the best spots.

It’s a difficult task to find a place that isn’t gay-friendly. It’s Vermont, you guys. You want to know where the gaybourhood is? Burlington is the gaybourhood.


So you want to attend some gay events?

First Friday is a series of queer dance parties on the first Friday of every month at Higher Ground. Prepare to be surrounded by fabulous gays, fabulous music, and fabulous fabulousness. NOTE: If there’s a lesbian you want to avoid seeing, don’t go to First Friday. She will be there.

Pop-Up Queer Dance Parties are the other big deal in Burlington. They “pop up” at different locations each month. You never know where they’ll be, or who you’ll lock eyes with across the dance floor! What do you have to lose?

Life is a drag in Vermont

Winter is a Drag Ball is an annual event hosted by the House of LeMay at Higher Ground to raise money for the Vermont People with Aids Coalition — it always, always sells out and it’s always the biggest, gayest, most debaucherous party of the year. In addition to the drag sisters from the locally revered House of LeMay, performances include other local cabaret and drag favorites like The Goodwives, Kings Local 802, and BroLoko. Over the past 10 years Winter is a Drag Ball has raised over $100,000 for Vermonters with AIDS.

So you want to be an activist?

Out at the Oscars

Out at the Oscars

As far as we’re concerned, the sparkly stand out star of gay activism in Vermont is Outright Vermont (241 N. Winooski Ave). They do badass, powerful, impactful work to help keep LGBTQ kids here with us, like weekly group sessions, Queer Prom, and Camp Outright, a residential summer camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. They give more than enough opportunities to volunteer and work with the youths (if that’s your thing) or party with the queer community and raise money for the youths (which we all love, right?). Their fundraising events double as some of the biggest queerest events of the year, including OUT for the Oscars Red Carpet Gayla, and the fire truck pull.

So you need a new look?


Try Jade Lotus tattoo parlor (64 North St) for all your ink needs. My roommate got a badass Judith Butler quote tattooed on her wrist from this place—they know what’s up.

The Chop Shop (86 Main St) and Salon Lanier (113 College St) are your best bets if you need to freshen up your alternative lifestyle haircut.

So you’re feeling sporty?

Kayaking on the Waterfront

Kayaking on the Waterfront

Good for you! Whether you prefer to be a participant or a spectator, there’s plenty of sporty activities to fill all your needs. A pop-up softball league, Roller Derby, Rugby, and Hockey. My lady and I prefer to take kayaks out on the beautiful Lake Champlain, cruise down the waterfront bike path, or take a hike up Mt. Philo for a sunset view. The wilderness is one of the best parts of Vermont, you guys, and it’s completely accessible just a few minutes from downtown Burlington.

Mt. Philo

Breathtaking view from Mt. Philo

So what are you waiting for? Get to Grrrlington and start exploring. The queers are waiting.

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Lettie has written 1 article for us.


  1. When I visited my lil sibling and their partner (who met on OkCupid!), going to Radio Bean was fun. Nice cozy bar with great drinks and baked goods. <3 Burlington!

    • You’re right! That was a huge huge oversight on our part — I really can’t figure out how it happened. The truth is we were just writing about our immediate experiences of the community, and neither one of us have any direct experience with RU12? No excuse though, they’re a huge force in the LGBTQ community here!

  2. Seriously everybody come to Burlington, it’s awesome here. There should totally be a VT Autostraddle meetup please?

  3. “There are a lot of sexy farmers in Burlington.” ….Never has there been a statement which more accurately describes my life. Also, if any of you are ever in Burlington, spend a day at Shelburne Farms, because, seriously, it might just be the best place in the entire world.

  4. I stopped using okc a few weeks ago after one too many awkward dates lol. My coworker showed me cliqie.com and I’m a big fan of that over the others in terms of actually meeting people vs. just entertainment. It has a different approach that feels less sketchy cause you and your friends essentially act as “wingmen”. I like that it helps you find things to do too. Skout’s okay too, but still has it’s fair share of creepers

  5. !!!!!!

    I’m really excited about this.
    I hope you all move to Grrrlington now.

    (Now that it’s up, I’m realizing how much we left out!)

  6. Upstate ny is so neglected in national media that I just got super excited about that one sweatshirt. How sad is that?

  7. all of this is great and it’s a really exclusive community that’s hard to break into if you move to Burlington. you have to know someone or have an in.

  8. SLU alumna here too! It was a tough place to be a gaybie, and a tough place all around sometimes, but that photo did warm my heart a little.

  9. I realize this has already been pointed out, but I want to second the comment that RU12? (www.ru12.org) is a great organization that everyone in VT should learn about and get involved with. RU12? is a community organization and resource for adult LGBTQ* Vermonters (it’s the organization for serving adults, Outright serves youth). RU12? does a lot of amazing work around LGBTQ health care, anti violence programming, political and community organizing, and it is a community space for support groups and meetings. RU12? definitely belongs on any list of resources for LGBTQ* adults in VT– it’s where can turn if you need queer oriented services and support and/or to be part of a great community. Check it out at http://www.ru12.org or drop in!

  10. Hey all, we’re two girls from Los Angeles here in VT traveling on the job. Any suggestions on lesbian events or bars/lounges/clubs for this weekend? We’re thinking of checking out that First Friday.

    Thanks all!

  11. You can tell that this writer is not from here. I am a 6 minute walk from Monkey House (which is in winooski) and all i see are dudes and straight women. Yack!,

    • The Monkey House was mentioned because they hosted a few great events such as gay trivia night and a New Queer’s Eve pop-up dance party. I am from Vermont and am also aware that The Monkey House is in Winooski, but it’s close enough to downtown Burlington that I thought it deserved to be included. But I understand you wanting to avoid it on nights with nothing but dudes and straight women!

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