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The bad news first. Contrary to its outsized personality and reputation, Las Vegas is a relatively small city with a population of only 600,000 so don’t arrive expecting a gay scene to rival that of New York City or Los Angeles (or even San Diego for that matter). But Vegas is nevertheless a nonstop party oozing queer campiness (think sequined showgirls, Magic Mike-style strippers and of course, Brittany and Cher) and a jackpot if you’re into apps like Grindr and Scruff (it’s easy to meet people without even leaving the resort). Thus, we love it. While it’s customary to roll the dice, placing a bet on these “must do” queer attractions is the safest move you can make.

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Take part in a gay shootout
Put your gun back in its holster, pardner: The weapon of choice at this annual event isn’t your pistol, but rather it’s your balls—as in tennis, bowling, soccer, dodge and more. The Sin City Shootout is the largest annual LGBTQ sports gathering in the world and brings an estimated 9,000 athletes to the city every January to compete in some two dozen sporting events, including swimming, golf, wrestling, running, ice hockey, rock climbing, volleyball, darts and more. Host hotels are the Tropicana and Platinum Hotel & Spa. Oh, and of course there are parties and events happening all weekend. Don’t forget your jock strap!

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Las Vegas Pride Night Parade | Photo: Courtesy of LVCVA

Show your Pride (in the dark)
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, which is probably why everything happens at night. The same is true of the Las Vegas Pride Night Parade, an annual evening march through the streets of downtown Las Vegas in October. Yes, there’s still plenty of glitter, activism, rainbows and skimpy outfits, but at night drag queens don’t have to worry about wilting under the intense Vegas sun. A festival happens on Saturday in Sunset Park southeast of the airport and, of course, there are numerous gaydar-worthy parties happening around town, including poolside events and nighttime bashes where attendees are encouraged to wear as little as possible.

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Temptation Sundays at Luxor | Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts

Sunbathe in Egypt
We’re not exactly playing it close the vest (to use gambling parlance) with the Egypt reference. We are of course referring to the Luxor Las Vegas, the hotel and resort famous for its pyramid shape and Sky Beam—the strongest beam of light in the world. Even stronger is the sunscreen you’ll want to slather on at long running Temptation Sundays, the only LGBTQ pool party on the Strip, and a weekly summer magnet for both visiting and local queers alike. Admission is $20 (very little comes free in this town), but it’s enough to get you six hours of pool time and all the eye candy you can handle. Everyone is welcome, but it’s pretty much man soup out there.

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7 Magic Mountains | Flickr photo: anokarina

Bet on lucky 7 (Magic Mountains that is)
The desert is a mecca for larger-than-life works of art. Think California fixtures like Salvation Mountain, the Noah Purifoy Art Foundation and Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch. Vegas has its weird collections, as well (check out the 18b Arts District north of the Stratosphere), including “Seven Magic Mountains,” a grouping of seven multi-colored towers constructed of piled-high boulders located about 10 miles south of the Strip. Easily the city’s most Instagrammable installation, the genius behind this ebullient burst of desert art is openly gay Swiss-born artist Ugo Rondinone. See it now; Seven Magic Mountains closes permanently spring 2018.

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The Arctic Room at Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace | Photo courtesy of Caesars

Visit a bathhouse (not that kind)
Sin City does have a gay bathhouse (Hawks Gym & Spa) where you can go to um, sin, but several Strip hotels are famous for having upscale, clothing optional and communal baths for both men and women (segregated by gender, of course). Check out the Bathhouse Spa at the Delano (at Mandalay Bay), which includes a redwood sauna, warm and hot whirlpools, a eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge, relaxation room and gym access. A more Romanesque option is the elegant Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace, an upscale day spa offering a trio of Roman baths heated to different temperatures and the chilly Arctic Room—where it actually snows!

Take in a Matinee
Desert temps are already lurching toward triple digits by the time Memorial Day arrives in Sin City, and thus it comes as no surprise that the Matinee Las Vegas Festival, a full weekend of pool parties and events, has become a Vegas fixture. By day, think muscle dudes and their admirers hanging poolside at an off-Strip host hotel in teensy swimsuits. At night, think muscle dudes and their admirers doing the clubland bump and grind until the wee hours. In our humble opinion, the highlight has got to be the Saturday outing at waterpark Cowabunga Bay featuring waterslides, splash pools, a lazy river and private cabanas (and queers galore!).

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Britney Spears at Planet Hollywood | Photo: Denise Truscello

See Cher…or Britney…or Celine…or Ricky
Want to experience Las Vegas at its queerest? Honestly, the LGBTQ bars aren’t even half as gay as some of the shows, and a theatrical performance really is an essential part of a Vegas weekend. Cher continues her 2017 run at the Park Theater at Monte Carlo with a handful of November dates; Britney Spears still reigns supreme at Planet Hollywood; Celine returns to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace after a year hiatus; and Ricky Martin has settled in nicely at the Park Theater. But never mind the superstars: Gay one-liners fly at Absinthe (our favorite show in Vegas) and in high-wire circus shows like O, Zumanity and La Reve, the homoerotic imagery is everywhere.

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The Neon Museum | Photo: Courtesy of Vox Solid Communications

Get hitched
Okay, this isn’t exactly a “must do” unless you’re 100% ready to actually say “I do,” but what we can promise you is that Vegas hoteliers and wedding chapel owners waited with baited breath for Nevada to legalize same-sex marriages (which happened in 2014). Our favorite spots for toasting nuptials would have to be the Wedding Suite at the Cosmopolitan, Chapel in the Clouds at Stratosphere or al fresco at the Neon Museum. By the way, Vegas is also a romantic place to get engaged. We know a guy who proposed to his boyfriend on the terrace at restaurant Lago, while the Bellagio Fountains swayed and onlookers cheered enthusiastically. (He said yes!)

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Liberace Mansion | Photo: Courtesy of LVCVA

Go behind the candelabra
The overly flamboyant, bejeweled and talented singer and piano player Władziu Valentino Liberace wasn’t gay—except that he totally, 100% was! Although not talked about publicly in his lifetime, he’s an enduring symbol of queerness and Las Vegas (and sequins!). In decline for decades since his death in 1987, the Liberace Mansion at 4982 Shirley St (1.5 miles west of the Strip) received the first Clark County Historical Designation in 2016 and is now available for charity functions and, yes, private tours! If you think Liberace’s feather boas were over the top, wait until you see the Sistine Chapel mural he commissioned for his master bedroom and bath.

Put on some lip-schtick
If you’ve ever gotten verbally slapped by a drag queen over mimosas and scrambled eggs, then perhaps you’ve already attended Drag Brunch by Voss Events in one of its sister locations in Miami, NYC, Orlando, Fire Island and Los Angeles. A favorite among stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race and local queens alike, the Sin City version happens every Saturday and Sunday at Señor Frog’s at TI (formerly Treasure Island), and includes over-the-top performances, audience interactions and bottomless cocktails. A breakfast buffet is available with the brunch package (but if you ask us, nothing beats Wicked Spoon, the buffet at the Cosmopolitan).

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