Tucked in Northern Chicago near Wrigley Field, Boystown is one of the country’s most vibrant LGBTQ+ neighborhoods. The East Lakeview nabe offers a thriving community of shops, restaurants, and nightlife along Halstead St. and Broadway. The area is bounded by Lake Michigan on the east, Clark Street on the west, Irving Park Road to the North, and Diversity Avenue on the south.
Boystown is the first ever gay neighborhood to be recognized by a large city in 1997. Of course, its LGBTQ+ culture was present long before that. The neighborhood was created after smaller gay communites were pushed out of other neighborhoods centered around downrown in the 1960s. A year after the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, Boystown held its first-ever pride parade. The annual celebrations are still anticipated in the area each year, and many flock to the neighorbood for the city’s best gay bars, a diverse selection of vegetarian restuarants, and exciting theater offerings.
Boystown is known for some pretty good eats, spanning from laid-back restaurants to fancy date-night outposts. It has a few great vegetarian outposts, like Chicago Diner. Its soy, tofu, and tempeh based meals are just as delicious as the real thing, and patrons flock to the restaurant for things like vegan caramel crunch torte. If you’re looking for some Sunday fun, the nabe is also known for its delicious brunch spots, like Kuma’s Too and DryHop Brewers. There are also some old-school outposts, like Bobtail Ice Cream Company’s soda fountain vibes and The Coffee & Tea Exchange, open since 1975.
Unlike the Loop or Magnificent Mile, there aren’t too many hotels in Boystown. That said, there are places to stay, albeit no-frills accommodations. There’s a Best Western and the Majestic Hotel, a boutique stay near Wrigley Field.
Boystown Attractions & Tours
To really understand the history of the neighborhood, the Legacy Walk is a must. Since 2012, North Halstead Street became the world’s first outdoor musuem about LGBTQ. A collection of placards adorn the street’s rainbow-colored pylons. The plaques honor LGBQ heroes like Oscar Wild, Frida Kahlo, Harvey Milk, and Alvin Ailey. They are rotated every year on National Coming Out Day, October 11, so you can have a different experience on every visit.
Boystown’s charming streets are perfect for roaming to find unique shops and trendy outposts. Dig through the eclectic collection of vintage clothing and accessories at Hollywood Mirror, or grab funky sweaters and cheap sunglasses at Ragstock. You can also comb through the classic vinyl at Reckless Records or wander the aisles at Unabridged Bookstore.
From classic acts to some of the best comedy in Chicago, Boystown has a lot to offer in the way of entertainment. The Center on Halstead is an architectural delight as a LEEDS-certified building, and it’s home to the Hoover-Leppen Theater. The venue hosts an array of LGBTQ-themed events and even acts as a house of worship on Sundays. You can also be amused by illusionist Aaron Rabkin at Trickery, or let out a laugh at Annoyance Theatre.
Boystown Yearly Festivals and Events
June is Pride Month in Boystown, celebrated with an array of concerts, parties, and celebrations. At the end of June, the Chicago Pride Fest is a two-day celebration including three music stages, drag shows, DJs, dancing, and more. It all comes to a head at the Chicago Pride Parade, a four-mile procession held the last sunday in June. It starts in Boystown before finishing in Lincoln Park.
Boystown Beaches and Parks
While Boystown enjoys shoreline, it doesn’t have many sandy beaches. There is the Belmont Harbor Dog Beach, a small sandy beach perfect for kids and families, and you got it, it’s dog friendly.