It’s about time for some sun in the queer-friendly sand.
Even in 2021, it’s tough to suss out a spring break destination that’s legitimately openhearted to members of the LGBTQIA+ community. To make matters worse, last year was one of the most damaging in recent memory, and being cooped up with that energy for so long can really start to take a toll. Now that we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine deployment underway, we’ve rounded up a few welcoming destinations if you’re looking to safely (and responsibly) get away from it all for a few days because, well, has 2021 been that much better than 2020?
INSIDER TIPOnce again, travel responsibly in these uncertain times.
Top Picks for You
Providence, Rhode Island
A city with no shortage of rainbow flags proudly displayed outside all manner of establishments, Providence sports a rich arts and culture scene—courtesy, in part, to its status as a University town (RISD is arguably the best arts school in the country)—, a slew of LGBTQIA+-friendly watering holes, and stunning architecture—more than 1,000 buildings in Providence’s neighborhoods that have made their way onto the National Register of Historic Places! The city’s Little Italy is absolutely divine for a day of chatting, walking, and eating, and be sure to check out Waterplace Park via a gondola (that’s right, a gondola!).
Lost River, West Virginia
I bet you didn’t see this coming, huh? West Virginia, a hard red state that’s confirmed its status as Trump Country, does not, on paper, immediately jump out as a destination that welcomes queer travelers with open arms. But, if you look a little closer, there are pockets in the Mountain State that proudly wave their rainbow flags. One such place is the quaint town of Lost River, which is about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. The award-winning Guesthouse Lost River, in particular, is the place you’re going to want to post up at with your partner and/or friends. With its lengthy pool and cozy, cottage-like rooms, the charm here is abundant, and the property’s fine dining restaurant is definitely something to write home about. The nearby Lost River State Park is also an attraction for nature-lovers, with opportunities to hike or horseback ride across storybook knolls. Oh, and be sure to stop into The Lost River Trading Post, located 20 minutes down the road—a gallery complete with handmade crafts, baked goods, and delicious brews, it’s practically irresistible.
Decidedly another “huh?” option, Ogunquit is actually Maine’s (self-proclaimed) official gay neighborhood that’s recognized internationally! With an environment and vibe resembling that of the wildly popular, not-so-far-and-also-gay getaway Provincetown, Massachusetts, Ogunquit’s cliffs and sandy beaches are meant for strolling and laying out. After all, its name translates to “Beautiful Place by the Sea,” in the language of the Algonquin peoples. You’ll find plenty of delightful inns and watering holes around town that cater to LGBTQIA+ travelers, as well.
INSIDER TIPIt’s pronounced “Uh-guhn-kwuht.”
South Padre Island, Texas
It might not be home to any major LGBTQIA+-centric properties, but South Padre Island has become increasingly gay over the last decade. This might have something to do with Splash South Padre, an annual, four-day pride-like celebration that showcases the works of artists, hosts concerts, and generally welcomes all members of the LGBTQIA+ community and its supporters. Whether you decide to attend (and venture into one of its notable pool parties) or simply partake in horseback riding on the beach, dolphin-watching, shopping at local boutiques, visiting seafood restaurants, and more is up to you, friend. Also, you can always do both!
One of Mexico’s best-kept-secret, getaway destinations, Zipolite is especially notable for its nude beach, Playa del Amor (if that’s your jam, but if not, no worries!). There are plenty of other sandy spots worth seeking out and even a few notable romantic beach hotels, like Posada Mexico. And if you’re a foodie, the quality cuisine here (which is shockingly affordable) will have you eating like a queen for the duration of your stay.
Palm Springs, California
An iconic gay destination. It would’ve been easy to simply leave this desert town off the list—so as to avoid a sense of predictability—but, to be frank, it’s an ideal destination for right now (considering social-distancing measures are still in full force). Sporting literally hundreds of beyond-chic Airbnb’s, Palm Springs is perfect for lounging with friends (after you’ve all received a COVID test and/or been completely vaccinated, of course) by the pool with a beverage of your choice. And there’s something about watching the sun set over this location’s barren mountains while roasting marshmallows over an open fire and trading stories, outlandish or intimate, that will always be healing to this writer. Also, there’s a handful of excellent hiking trails in the area as well as a well-known tramway where you’ll catch unreal views.
INSIDER TIPYou’ll find similar outdoor activities in Joshua Tree National Park, which is about 30-40 minutes away and is the perfect background for any wanderlust-y Instagram post with a caption that involves “nature” and/or “peace,” probably. No judgments!
Wow, where to start with San Diego, an ideal alternative to the overcrowded, traffic-laden Los Angeles? How about with its Hillcrest area, the heart of the city’s LGBTQIA+ community, with tons of friendly bars, quaint stores for upscale souvenirs, and even a gay brewery (Hillcrest Brewing Company)! From there, grab a bite at one of the city’s most queer-friendly restaurants—we’re big fans of the Spanish cuisine at Costa Brava—after spending the day gawking at the Spanish architecture around what seems like every corner in Balboa Park. Also, we’d be remiss to not mention the best beaches to venture to—this is California we’re talking about! You’ll have plenty of room to spread out at Coronado Central Beach, and to say the sandy areas at La Jolla are “amazing” simply doesn’t do them justice.
Simply a half-hour train ride from the LGTBQIA+-friendly, but positively overcrowded Barcelona, Stiges is a much more personal, equally-welcoming option for queer travelers who are exploring Spain. The town sports more than 15 gay bars, picturesque Mediterranean beaches (a couple of which are gay/nude), Art Nouveau architecture, and a delightful promenade with bougie seafood restaurants. In terms of accommodations, we recommend the modernist Hotel Medium Romantic and the beachfront, ethereal Kalma Stiges Hotel.