You don't need to sashay south to keep warm this winter: just hit the bars and dance floors at some of the hotspots in our Top 5 cities for gloriously gay nightlife and things will heat up.
New YorkSocial stats: More than 50 gay bars, outrageously good clubs, and a slew of thrilling social options seven nights a week make New York the undisputed gay party capital of the country. Whatever your style, type, gender, or sound, it's here. And then some.
Hotspots: New York has an astounding number of places to go out to play. Click here or here for our favorites. Hip spots if you feel like changing things up a bit include the het-homo indie dance parties at mr. Black (Rebel, 251 W. 30th St.) and Brooklyn's gritty hipster den Sugarland (221 N. Ninth St., Williamsburg; 718-599-4044).
San FranciscoSocial stats: Few cities in the world offer such a broad range of LGBT nightlife options. Choices change literally on a daily basis.
Hotspots: The Bar On Castro (456 Castro St; 415-626-7220) offers floor-to-ceiling doors looking onto Castro Street and velvet-covered lounging chairs and sofas. It attracts an upbeat and mixed crowd. Mecca (2029 Market St; 415-621-7000) is an elegant bar/restaurant with a mostly dressed-up, stand-and-model crowd, busiest on Friday nights. There's a Ladies' Night, geared toward lesbians, on Thursday nights. Esta Noche (3079 16th St; 415-861-5757) is the undisputed hub of Latino gay life in the city, with an eye-popping array of go-go boys, hunky bartenders and, of course, drag queens.
Los Angeles Social stats: L.A.'s gay social life is eclectic both in scenes and venues. In WeHo, the most visible clubs cater to a young, muscular, and good-looking crowd, making the city a contender for attitude capital of the world, but even here ethnic and age diversity runs the gamut. Silver Lake, meanwhile, now attracts cute, young hipsters looking for an alternative to the WeHo scene.
Hotspots: The Abbey (692 N. Robertson Blvd; 310-289-8410) is a hybrid bar, restaurant and coffeehouse, and it succeeds in each category. Hunky bartenders serve dozens of martinis and mojitos at this West Hollywood icon. The lesbian-centered Normandie Room (8737 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-659-6204) is cruisy for the late-night crowd. Funky Akbar (4356 Sunset Blvd; 323-665-6810) caters to Silver Lake's new bohemians, with Moorish decor and the city's best jukebox. Factory (652 N. LaPeer Drive; 310-659-4551) and its neighbor Ultrasuede (661 N. Robertson Blvd; 310-659-4551) form the largest venue in West Hollywood; the design is futuristic and the lighting and sound systems are state-of-the-art.
TorontoSocial stats: There's a reason Toronto was chosen for the role of body double for Queer As Folk. Hot bars, hot boys (and girls!), and no shortage of social enthusiasm keep Canada's hottest gay city sizzling -- no matter how low temperatures drop outside.
Hotspots: Woody's (465-467 Church St; 416-972-0887) is a labyrinthine complex of five bars famed from Queer As Folk. It attracts the after-work crowd and has nightly events such as the "Best Chest Contest." Another famed QAF venue is the throbbing Fly NiteClub (8 Gloucester St; 416-410-5426), the 10,000-square-foot dance emporium that served as the original Babylon for the gay series. Gay folks also frequent super-club Circa, a mixed straight/gay venue in the predominantly hetero Entertainment District.
ChicagoSocial stats: Visitors will find Chicago's nightlife scene refreshingly less aggressive and style-conscious than New York's or L.A.'s. The majority of gay bars are in Boystown (Lakeview) on North Halsted Street, or farther north in Andersonville.
Hotspots: Sidetrack (3349 N. Halsted St.; 773-477-9189) is a video bar specializing in theme nights ('70s & '80s; show tunes; comedy night), and is busy most every night of the week. It's by far the most popular gay bar in Chicago. Roscoe's (3354 N. Halsted St.; 773-281-3355) is the stomping ground for a wide-eyed and barely legal set of young gays. Circuit (3641 N. Halsted St.; 773-325-2233) is Boystown's largest dance space, with 3D glitter-effect flooring and a young dance crowd. The city's freshest, hippest hotspots are Scarlet (3320 N. Halsted St; 773-348-1053), a chic red and exposed brick drinking den; and sleek Minibar (3341 N. Halsted St; 773-871-6227), home to the city's stand and model set.