By Dana Perkiss
The United States has become a much safer and more accepting place for the LGBTQ+ community, meaning that many cities have become safe havens and offer tourist attractions to queer travelers.
Here’s your guide to five of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the U.S.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco has a rich history of being LGBTQ+ friendly, granting it its’ nicknames of “the gay capital of the world” and “the gay Mecca”. The city has long been one of the most notable LGBTQ+ activist sites in the country, with many prominent protests and legislations that have led to rights for the whole community. Along with its activist roots that bring about our sense of Pride, the city is also home to many LGBTQ+ beaches, venues, and historical sites to visit.
The San Francisco Pride Parade happens every June and is one of the biggest Pride festivals in the country, often boasting famous LGBTQ+ performers and speakers. The Castro District has historically been an LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood; famous gay politian Harvey Milk lived there and founded the Castro Street Fair which is still held every year and brings LGBTQ+ artists and vendors with live entertainment. Also in the Castro District is the GLBT Historical Society Museum which is the first museum in the U.S. to be dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, as well as the Rainbow Honor Walk by Castro St. and Market St. Think of these rainbow streets with LGBTQ+ icons as the Pride version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Film buffs should check out the annual Frameline Film Festival which is the world’s largest LGBTQ+ film festival. If you’re looking to get some sun on a queer beach, head to Dolores Park or Baker Beach (head’s up, this one is a nude beach).
New York City, New York
It’s no secret that NYC is one of the friendliest places for LGBTQ+ people; with it’s vastly diverse community, progressive stances, and long history of LGBTQ+ activism, NYC is a dream destination for any LGBTQ+ person. It’s also home to the beginning of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the U.S., with the 1969 Stonewall Riots playing a key role in progressing queer rights. The Stonewall Inn is still a popular LGBTQ+ bar in Manhattan and is definitely worth visiting to step through history. NYC is also home to two of the last remaining 20 lesbian bars* *in the country, the Cubby Hole and Henrietta Hudson, and as such are definitely worth supporting.
Celebrate your Pride at the annual NYC Pride March and the Queer Liberation March or support queer creators at the New York LGBTQ Film Festival. If you want a relaxing queer space, head to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center where you can enjoy coffee from the café and then check out the art exhibits and bookstore. Pay your respects at the New York City AIDS Memorial located in the heart of the Greenwich Village, or head to Brooklyn to visit the Lesbian Herstory Archives to view the world’s biggest collection of historical and cultural materials about lesbians. When the weather is warm, make sure to visit The People's Beach at Jacob Riis Park which is the LGBTQ+ (and nude-friendly) area of the beach.
- The Lesbian Bar Project is an incredible initative working towards supporting the last remaining lesbian bars, and with this project, the hopes for these queer spaces are very promising!
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is home to some of the most diverse food, culture, and entertainment in the U.S., so it’s no wonder that such diversity has also fostered a rich LGBTQ+ community. There are multiple queer-themed festivals throughout the year, including LGBT Halloween, NOLA Black Pride, Gay Easter Parade, and Southern Decadence, which is the biggest LGBTQ+ festival in the South.
For the community scene, you’ll want to head to the French Quarter’s “Lavender Line” which is a street filled with LGBTQ+ bars including Café Lafitte’s, one of the oldest gay bars in the U.S. When you want to take in some queer art, check out the Arthur Roger Gallery which features local artists and plays a key role in NOLA’s queer culture and activism. If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about the deeper history of LGBTQ+ culture, take the LGBT Queer History Walking Tour for an educated guide through the French Quarter.
Wilton Manors/Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale are so close to each other and both such LGBTQ+ friendly cities, that we had to include them both. Wilton Manors has been granted the name of “Second gayest City” in the U.S., and Fort Lauderdale is home to over 100 LGBTQ+ owned businesses, restaurants, bars, and hotels. Visit the famous Alibi Gazette for a night of queer nightlife in Wilton and while you’re there, try to attend the annual Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival.
Speaking of Stonewall, head to Fort Lauderdale for the Stonewall National Museum & Archives which has been dubbed the “LGBTQ community’s Smithsonian.” You don’t want to miss the sunshine and rainbows sparkling at Pride Fort Lauderdale, and to appreciate some LGBTQ+ film, check out the annual OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival that’s held in both Fort Lauderdale and Miami. For some of the best Drag shows in Florida, visit Lips for weekly performances.
A history of progressive political party leadership has made Portland such an LGBTQ+ friendly city that there aren’t any “gayborhoods'' since the community is widely accepted throughout. With such a high rate of acceptance, not to mention being one of the most LGBTQ+ populated cities in the U.S., it’s no wonder that Portland offers a wide variety of queer parades, bars, and annual festivals.
The Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade is of course one of the most popular, but the city also hosts a Black Pride, as well as a Latinx Gay Pride every year. The Fertile Ground Festival is another yearly event which spans 11 days and features performances by local artists, comedians, and performers. Fans of film will enjoy the Portland Queer Film Festival which spotlights LGBTQ+ filmmakers, and for a more risque night, head to Darcelle XV Showplace which is home to the longest-running cabaret show in the U.S. and is also a hot venue for queer nightlife.
Show off your Pride by visiting these LGBTQ+ friendly cities and touring through the amazing queer spaces they have to offer.