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LGBTQ in Midtown, History and Today

It is impossible to speak of LGBTQ history and culture in Midtown without mention of the Lavender Heights District. The neighborhood is rich with the history of Sacramento’s vibrant community; and attracts local and regional residents and tourists to the area’s many LGBTQIA+ owned clubs, restaurants, salons, galleries, and retail stores. Lavender Heights is located at the heart of Midtown at 20th and K Streets and is the home of our weekly Midtown Farmers Market.

History of Lavender Heights

In 1978, just nine years after the Stonewall Riots, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center was originally incorporated as a special assistance program based in Midtown, Sacramento. The Center is Sacramento’s oldest non-profit serving the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

In 1984, the Rev. Jerry Falwell appeared on television and denied that he ever referred to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) as vile and satanic and its members “brute beasts” on his Old Time Gospel Hour. Falwell offered $5,000 to anyone who could prove that he had.

The Rev. Jerry Sloan of MCC in Sacramento called Falwell’s toll-free number, purchased a copy of the tape as proof, and demanded payment of the $5,000. When Falwell refused, Sloan sued with legal pioneer Rosemary Metrailer and won. With $5,000 in hand, the Lambda Community Fund was reorganized to later become what we know today as the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

In 1985, Faces Nightclub was the first gay club in Sacramento when it opened its doors at 20th and K Street. “When I opened it, it was where everyone who was gay could go, that was 33 years ago,” Faces owner Terry Sidie said, in an interview with ABC10 in 2017. The establishment of Faces paved the way for other LGBTQIA+ businesses to open in the immediate area, which earned its name Lavender Heights.

In 2015, Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen, Sacramento’s first openly LGBTQ+ council member, invited the Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce to be part of a community coalition to pursue official city designation of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Midtown Sacramento historically known as “Lavender Heights.”

The goal of establishing Lavender Heights as an official district was two-fold: to serve as a memorial and landmark referencing the history of Sacramento’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community; and to attract local and regional residents and tourists to the area’s many LGBTQ+ owned clubs, restaurants, salons, galleries, and retail stores.

As a “flagship” landmark to spotlight the new district, the city approved the installation of a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of 20th and K, the heart of Lavender Heights. The rainbow crosswalks were designed as a celebration of the region’s LGBT community and are similar to those in other U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and West Hollywood. This project was a collaborative effort of the Midtown Association, the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, and Councilmember Steve Hansen. The crosswalks are maintained and supported by the Midtown Association, which is committed to ensuring Midtown remains a thriving center for culture, creativity, and vibrancy.

In 2017, a documentary was released about a woman who founded the Sacramento LGBT Community Center (then called the Lambda Community Center) after bringing a successful lawsuit against a reverend. Titled “Legends of Courage: The Rosemary Metrailer Story” highlights actions leading up to the legal action against the Rev. Jerry Falwell, which led to the founding of the Center by Metrailer in 1984. 

In 2019, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center moved into its forever home at 1015 20th street, in the heart of the Lavender Heights district. The Center continues to offer peer support groups for a variety of marginalized populations, community resource referrals to meet individual basic needs, education, and training to improve the competency of businesses and organizations to LGBTQ+ issues, numerous artistic expressions, and cultural activities that build community, and volunteer opportunities that empower individuals to give back.

In 2021, Midtown Association partnered with WEAVE Inc., The Sacramento LGBT Community Center, The Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, Faces Nightclub, and Outword Magazine to launch PRIDE, Pronouns & Progress: Gender Inclusion Training, a new grant program and series of workshops for interested Midtown and Central City businesses. The free, hour-long inclusivity training sessions for grant recipients will be led by WEAVE in a virtual format to focus on three primary topics: educating interested businesses about gender identities, gender rights in the workplace and beyond, and the importance of pronouns that go well beyond he/him/his and she/her/hers to include gender-neutral or inclusive pronouns. 

In February 2022, as part of a partnership between Midtown Association and the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, 10 vibrant new banners are now proudly displayed on 20th Street between J and K Streets — including in front of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. The colorful banners were specially designed to demonstrate and celebrate #MidtownLove, acceptance, and inclusion in the heart of Lavender Heights. In addition to the banners on 20th Street, the new eye-catching and whimsical “Love is in our roots” rainbow vegetable art wraps were installed on utility boxes on 21st Street.

Today, Lavender Heights is home to weekly farmers markets and seasonal block parties and serves as the hub for Pride events to celebrate LGBTQIA+ culture and community. Amenities such as the rainbow crosswalks and public art further declare the neighborhood as a space for people to take pride in being unapologetically themselves.

 

LGBTQIA+ Businesses In Midtown

 

View the Map                                    View the Guide

 

Lavender Heights Events

Lavender Heights is full of weekly, seasonal, and annual events:

 

Midtown Farmers Market – Every Saturday Year-round

Shop from 5 blocks of local farmers, artisans, and vendors from the Lavender District. Midtown Farmers Market is open every Saturday year-round. Learn More

 

Makeup & Mimosas Drag Brunch – Every Sunday at Badlands

Sundays are a Drag! Sip on mimosas and watch extravagant performances from local Drag Queens every Sunday at Badlands. Learn More

 

Drag Queen Bingo – First Thursday of the month at Mango’s

Drag Queen Bingo is a monthly charity fundraising event located hosted at Mango’s Sacramento. Come play bingo every first Thursday and enjoy comedic performances by Drag Host-with-the-most, DoMe Moore. Learn More

 

THIS916 Block Party – May through October

THIS916’s seasonal block party series brings 20th Street between J and K Streets to life with local and renowned musical artists. Learn More

 

Sacramento Rainbow Festival – Labor Day Weekend

Sacramento Rainbow Festival is a huge street celebration of Pride that takes over the intersection of 20th & K Streets. This festival brings top notch live entertainment and local vendors together for a celebration of Sacramento’s LGBTQIA+ community to raise public awareness and funds for LGBTQIA+ charitable organizations. Learn More

 

Find more events

 

LGBTQIA+ Resources

Sacramento LGBT Community Center: The Sacramento LGBT Community Center creates events, programs, and pathways to services that help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people feel welcome, needed, and safe. The Center’s website provides several links to community resources including Advocacy, Arts and Culture, Community, Social, Health & Wellness, and more.

Rainbow Chamber: The Sacramento Rainbow Chamber has a member directory of LGBTQ-owned and ally-owned businesses in Sacramento. If you are looking to support these businesses that give back to our community check out the directory!

Visit Sacramento: Visit Sacramento has featured LGBTQ+ friendly itineraries, blogs, and more for visitors and residents alike.

One Community Health: One Community Health is a non-profit health care provider serving the needs of the Sacramento Community. The center is a proven leader in LGBTQ health issues, including HIV and AIDS health issues, and is regarded as a safe space for LGBTQ community members to receive healthcare.

Outword Magazine: Outward Magazine is the leading LGBTQ magazine for Central and Northern California. For over 25 years, they have been producing content for queer locals that includes local queer news, events, and highlights of community members.

 

Come see Lavender Heights for yourself and tag @exploremidtown on social media! Make sure to also check out our LGBTQIA+ Business Guide and support LGBTQIA+ owned businesses in Midtown!

10 Reasons Why You Should Live in Midtown

 A walk in the neighborhood has a whole new meaning when you live in Midtown. Living in Midtown means being a short walkable distance to restaurants. It means the Farmers Market is often your grocery store. It means brunch on weekends. And that coffee shops are often also your office. The perks of being a Midtown resident are endless.

Here are our top 10 reasons why you should live in Midtown!

1. Foodie haven

         

 There is a reason Sacramento is known for being the farm-to-fork capital! From mouth watering brunch (check out our blog on our Favorite Brunch Places in Midtown), to fresh and locally sourced entrees, to several  amazing dessert shops to satisfy any sweet tooth, Midtown is bursting at the seams with talented restaurants and cooks. Foodies are in absolute heaven when visiting the grid.

2.  Endless coffee chops

When you live in Midtown the neighborhood coffee shops are often an extension of your office. I mean, what is a city without some great coffee shops?! If you’re looking for a coffee place in Midtown, we got you covered, read our blog on Iconic Coffee Shops so you can become a Midtown coffee connoisseur.

3. The Midtown Farmers Market is in your backyard

Not to brag, but Midtown has one of the most impressive Farmers Markets in California, spanning more than five blocks and featuring more than 160 plus vendors. Who needs Walmart or Safeway when you can stroll down to the Farmers Market every Saturday to get fresh vegetables, home-made bread and the most gorgeous flowers to place on your kitchen table.

To make the most of your visit at the Farmers Market, you’ll want to check out our blog that has everything you need to know about the Midtown Farmers Market!

4. Beautiful parks & free workout classes

How great and safe a community is, can often be measured by their public parks. Midtown Parks features six beautiful parks (Fremont Park, Winn Park, Sutter Park, Truitt Park, Marshall Park and Muir Park) complete with beautiful art and engaging programming.

How many cities can you say offer free park programming almost every day throughout the Summer? Read about our Fresh Air: Fremont Park series to learn more about our everyday exercise programming at Fremont Park. Or plan to visit Winn Park on Wednesday to find great local artisan and food vendors, live music, yoga and yummy food trucks (pssst I heard that sometimes they even have a wine garden!) Learn more about all our parks at MidtownParks.org.

5. Walk & bike everywhere

Sacramento is one of California’s most accessible major cities, and Midtown in particular provides many different options from scootering to biking that make traveling to and around our central city effortless.

Read our transportation blog for more tips and information on how to travel the grid like a pro!

6. Fun nightlife

How many cities can you say have a bar inside a pink Victorian house? Whether you are partying in the Golden Hub or the Lavender Heights District or perhaps catching some live entertainment in the Sutter District we have unique bars and fun nightlife that make Sacramento an exciting place to go out on the town. Time to dial up your besties for a night of dancing!

7. Art around every corner

It is impossible to drive down a street in Midtown and not spot a beautiful mural on the outside of a building or even in unexpected places like an electrical box.

Initiatives like Art in Unexpected Places and Wide Open Walls have made Midtown a destination for art lovers and artists. The art not only beautifies our city, it helps represent our diversity and culture in Sacramento.

8. Dog friendly

How does the saying go? Happy dog, happy life? Living in Midtown is a dog’s dream, complete with dog friendly patios, events like the Pooch Parade that highlight our cute puppies and of course our favorite dog park: The Truitt Bark Park.

9. Midtown Love

     

 In Midtown we like to use the phrase Midtown Love, which means being in action to actively celebrate, include, and proudly protect our fellow community members. In Midtown we have no place for prejudice, sexism, racism or bigotry. We only have space for learning, love and inclusivity. You’ll often see our banners hung up on our light poles in Midtown that showcase our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Learn about other ways we are spreading love in the grid in our DEI blog!

10. A city lifestyle that you can afford

For many living in a city is a pipe dream because of how expensive big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose have become in recent years. Living in Midtown is the perfect balance of city and suburban … and you’re bound to see many Victorian homes living in Midtown too!

Now that you know the perks of living in Midtown are endless; click any of the available properties in Midtown below to find your next home.

Follow us on @exploremidtown to find new happenings, businesses and events happening in Midtown! If you #exploremidtown remember to tag us, we may share your photo on our social media!

Solid Gold Entertainment, Art and Dining at Midtown Sacramento’s “Golden Hub”

Pop quiz—how many of these trendy Midtown destinations do you know? Historic homes turned bars, shipping container beer gardens, forgotten alleyways reclaimed by art and cuisine, and towering trees filled with disco lights, all of this and more are found in the heart of Midtown Sacramento’s “Golden Hub” at the intersections of 24th and K streets. 

Area Murals, History, and Art

The 24th and K Golden Hub features more than ten art installations within one block. Discovering art as you Explore Midtown is one of our favorite pastimes so while we won’t reveal every single mural or unexpected art installation, here are three that are not to be missed for a perfectly Instagrammable and Midtown-y moment. Tag @ExploreMidtown on your photos as you discover these incredible lighting, art and statue art installations. Extra credit if you find Amy Winehouse in the alley! 

The Disco Tree at 24th and K Streets 

Located right on the golden corner, this tree came about through a partnership between Midtown Association, SMUD and local artist and creator Michael Sestak. Featuring color changing “disco ball” lighting features, the tree has become one of Midtown’s hidden gems. The best time to view the tree is at sundown or after from urban beer garden DerBiergarten with a pretzel, stein of beer or cider, or a Schnitz n’ Waffle. Historically, this corner was a blighted and empty piece of land following a fire in the converted home/restaurant prior. The now owner Thomas Roth and operator Sean Derfield created the first shipping container garden in Sacramento.

Midtown Sacramento lettering on K Street 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located below the speakeasy at Cantina Alley (yes there is a speakeasy and yes there is also an authentic cantina in an alley..), these iconic and colorful Midtown letters are best photographed during happy hour or early evening to catch the vibrancy and detail of each letter. Upstairs above the letters is a special Mexican speakeasy, directly to the east of the letters find a mercado in a converted church complete with imported furniture and handicrafts, and right behind the letters find the locally famous Cantina Alley restaurant and bar. Featuring traditional Mexican street foods in an art-filled and garden-esq converted alley, Cantina Alley’s elote and fruit filled cocktails are not to be missed. Interesting historical note, the converted church was originally a Mormon church erected around 1929, became the Spiritual Life Center in the mid-1990’s, evolved to be the Ancient Future Urban Sanctuary, to now become the PlacitaMX mercado.

Take Flight on K Street 

Best photographed during day-time hours and especially with a little one or pup in tow, the Take Flight wings mural was painted by JM Knudsen in the late 2010’s, and is steps away from the Golden Hub. This mural features a city streetscape with wings above and Knudsen’s signature lettering and messaging, “You are Great.” 

Cultural Street Parties

Not a day goes by without something fun going on at the Golden Hub, but a few days are especially notable. Cinco de Mayo hosted by Cantina Alleyway is a celebration with music in the alleyway between J and K streets and some years it spills out to a street closure on K street between 23th and 24th streets. Oktoberfest hosted by DerBergarten is in late September and features a large array of local and imported beers, authentic entertainment, and incredible German foods. Banana Sundaes hosted by Flamingo House is a later evening street party with music and drinks a plenty hosted in June and October each year.

Eating, Drinking and Live Entertainment

Each restaurant at the Golden Hub has a perfectly curated menu and experience ranging from fully plant based at the Burger Patch to the best pizza in town at Pizzasauras Rex. All locations offer food to go or on site, most offer live entertainment in the evenings, and all are equipped with beautiful outdoor dining. 

Burger Patch | @theburgerpatch
2301 K Street | Open everyday 11 am – 10 pm, until midnight Friday and Saturday, for breakfast at 8:30 am on Saturday and Sunday. 

The perfect mixture of flavor and sustainability, Burger Patch provides a fully plant based burger, fries and shakes experience with the best vegan milkshake on the planet. The fresh baked cookies, vegan breakfast and tots are also not to be missed. Open from early to late on the weekends, and everything in between during the week, Burger Patch is a great stop for any meal.

Cantina Alley | @cantinaalley

2320 Jazz Alley | Open Tuesday – Thursday 4 pm -10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am – 1am and Sunday 11:30 am – 10 pm

Originally an 1800s era two story home with a large run down backyard, Cantina Alley is now a shaded garden-esque patio featuring traditional Mexican street foods with a soon to launch speakeasy in the still standing Victorian structure. 

DerBiergarten | @midtownbeergarden

2332 K Street | Open Monday – Thursday 3 pm – 8:30 pm, Friday 3:00 pm – 10:45 pm, Saturday 11 am  – 10:45 pm and Sunday 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM

Der Biergarten is Sacramento’s spot to socialize over some great German beer and light German fare. This Midtown Sacramento beer lover’s spot is a twist on the traditional German beer garden. It’s authentically German in its extensive beer selection and light German food menu, with 32 beers on draft and sausages brought in fresh from Sacramento’s #1 German Butcher.

The Flamingo House | @flamingosac

2315 K Street | Open Monday – Friday 6 pm – 1:30, Saturday and Sunday 2 pm – 1:30 am

The Flamingo House is an intermingling of midtown culture and coastal leisure offering a unique California approach with plates and exceptional cocktails. Two patios along with a bar and lounge offer ample opportunities to listen to the evening’s DJ, hang out on the swinging hammock, or enjoy a handroll or two.  

The Golden Bear@thegoldenbear
2326 K Street | Open Monday – Friday 12 pm – 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am – 2 am

Since 2004, Golden Bear has been a casual bar and kitchen in Midtown with a welcoming staff and a laid back vibe. TGB has delicious food made from scratch, cold craft beer and stiff cocktails along with hosting weekly Wednesday open mic nights and popular annual events like the annual Hot Toddy Competition. 

Pizzasaurus Rex | @eatpizzasaurusrex

2322 K Street| Open Mondays 2 pm – 9 pm and Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 9 pm

Pizzasaurus Rex specializes in one-size-only, 18-by-13-inch rectangular pies, fired for six to eight minutes at 475 degrees in the restaurant’s brick deck oven. The menu includes staples like a melty three-cheese version topped with mozzarella, provolone and ricotta, as well as a hearty vegan combo with faux pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and bell peppers. They offer 12 beers on tap to wash down your meal or to take home in a growler for later. The “dino” sauce is a cilantro jalapeno dipping sauce that is a must on the side no matter what you order.

Experience this uniquely Northern California destination on any evening for bustling nightlife, one of the above culturally diverse events, or enjoy a happy hour stroll to see artwork and enjoy a watermelon filled with margarita, a vegan burger, or even a German beer stein filled with pilsner. 

Remember to snap a photo and hashtag #ExploreMidtown for a chance to be featured on our social media @ExploreMidtown or our next blog!

10 AAPI-Owned and/or Operated Businesses to Celebrate in Midtown Sacramento

You may find your stomach rumbling with hunger after reading our blog: From fun nightlife, to an eco-friendly winery and, of course, delicious ube pancakes, Midtown Sacramento has so many different AAPI-owned and operated businesses to support and celebrate in our community. We researched some of our favorites and created a list of 10 businesses in Midtown you need to check out. While there are so many more and an ever growing list of new spots, this list should get you started.

Keep reading to discover some of what is sure to become your go-to spot to eat, dance or shop right here in Midtown!  

Golden Bear | @goldenbear916

2326 K St

Established in 2004, owner Kimio Bazett’s iconic kitchen & bar at 24th/K Streets paved the way for the block’s tone and affinity for good food and an active nightlife scene. Join them for trivia nights or listen to some local Sacramento talent on their open mic nights on Tuesdays. 

Acheson Wine Company | @achesonwinecompany
1629 19th St.

Did you know you can drink wine and support a good mission at the same time? Acheson Wine Company no longer puts wine into traditional bottles that get thrown out – but instead puts wine into a 5 Gallon stainless keg to get reused again and again. Winery on tap?! Count us in. 

Midtown Sushi | @midtown_sushi

2801 P St

Located in the heart of Midtown, and right next to the iconic Wednesdays at Winn Night Market, Chef Teng uses high‑quality fish and plant‑based ingredients to transform sushi into culinary masterpieces! Come here for your next date night to taste the premium ingredients and incredible flavor combinations.

Magpie Cafe | @magpiecafesacramento

1601 16th St.

Seasonal menus, locally sourced ingredients and a sustainable environment have been goals consistently met by co‑owner Janel Inouye! At Magpie you will get the farm-to-table experience, celebrating what makes our city and region special. The Magpie patio offers great viewing of the summer Fresh Air Fremont Park programming.

Midtown Spirits | @midtown.spirits

1717 19th St. B

Head Chef FJ Villalobos curated a menu that complements any drink from the local distillery. We recommend trying their yummy chicken lumpia or their famous purple Ube pancakes that are just as tasty as they are Instagrammable! This spot is also known for it’s bloody mary mix and its dog watching at the dog park across the street.

Orchid Thai | @orchidthaimidtown

1609 16th St. 

With a patio view of Fremont Park, Orchid Thai is a great spot for lunch, Happy Hour, and every occasion in between. We love that their kitchen is open late on the weekends for some late‑night bar bites.

Bombay Bar & Grill | @bombaybarandgrillsac

1315 21st St.

Owner Navinder Bhandal of Bombay serves classic Indian dishes in a warm, colorful space with traditional decor! Explore signature cocktails and classic Indian drinks. If you get lucky, you can sit in the little two person hidden booth in the bar.

Tea Cup House | @teacuphouse_

1614 21st. St.

Experience Hong Kong style Dim Sum and try a bit of everything! Tea Cup Cafe is a cornerstone in the Sacramento community and has been recognized for its outstanding Chinese cuisine, excellent service and friendly staff.

Sakata Garo Gallery | @b.sakatagaro

923 20th St.

Barry’s gallery has rotating local artist exhibitions on display along the exposed brick walls inside. See curated works from emerging and state‑renowned artists.

VEG Café | @vegsacramento

2431 J St.

Don’t worry, plant lovers: we have a vegetarian option to try, too!  VEG Café offers plant‑based food with a world cuisine inspired menu. Their seasonal menu is served in a relaxing and naturally lit space.

In recent years, AAPI-owned businesses have disproportionately felt the impacts of the pandemic due to closures, lack of access to government aid, language barriers, and the devastating massive spike in the number of anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide. Our AAPI businesses in Midtown are part of our vibrant and diverse community, not to mention the delicious food and amazing service you will find each time you #ShopAAPI. 

For an even longer list of businesses to support, check out our Instagram Guide of 25 AAPI businesses located in our Midtown community

Share with us your favorite places on social media @ExploreMidtown and hashtag #ExploreMidtown for a chance to be featured on our feed.