There are many ways a destination appeals as being LGBT-friendly. Gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual folks, like most travelers, want to enjoy welcoming, safe places. And also like most, their predilections for what makes a great vacation are incredibly varied. Some prefer a busy metropolis with lots of culture or culinary choices, others may favor outdoor adventures or quiet beaches, and some may just want to visit a city they’ve not yet explored.
Although there are plenty of fabulous places pleased to welcome LGBT travelers, here’s a look at 10 U.S. cities that offer something special to queer travelers—from history, to cool gay- or lesbian-owned businesses, to LGBT enclaves where easygoing attitudes and joie de vivre are what really matter most. —Kelsy Chauvin
It’s famous and fabulous—it’s Hollywood! Or rather, the distinct city of West Hollywood, a compact urban destination that’s long been a gay zone. Head to Santa Monica Boulevard for a slew of happening cafés, galleries, and nightclubs; browse the wares (and spot celebrities) along Melrose to see what some of the country’s best designers are up to; or indulge in posh pool scenes at the Sunset Strip’s luxury hotels.
Insider tip: Discover lots more fascinating LGBT history across Los Angeles with Out & About Tours.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s West Hollywood Guide
Several Florida cities could get the spotlight for their strong LGBT communities (like Key West and St. Petersburg), but Fort Lauderdale stands out for important cultural institutions like the Stonewall National Museum & Archives and World AIDS Museum. They’re both in Wilton Manors, the “gayborhood” whose streets are lined with busy restaurants, shops, and bars. Plus the city hosts the annual Southern Comfort Transgender Conference, the largest of its kind in the United States, marking its 27th year in fall 2017.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Gay Traveler’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale
When the local motto is “let the good times roll,” you know LGBT travelers are on the scene. The Big Easy is exactly that, welcoming travelers of all stripes from around the world to join its singular brand of freewheeling fun. The city is all-around gay-friendly, but head to the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods to find the greatest cluster of gay-owned accommodations, shops, and the famous Country Club—where you can drink and dine, lounge in the hot tub, and catch fun events like Saturday drag brunches.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s New Orleans Guide
San Francisco has been famous as America’s main homosexual haven since the frontier days well over a century ago. That liberal attitude became a trademark, especially in the Castro, one of the neighborhoods where the LGBT civil-rights movement took root thanks to a very vocal, galvanized community. Today, queer travelers can explore some of that rich history in a community that’s now ingrained in San Francisco’s civic pride.
Insider tip: Take a side trip about two hours north to Guerneville for an LGBT-centric outing amid the redwoods and fine wines of Sonoma County.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s San Francisco Guide
The Midwest has a few liberal destinations worth exploring (we’re looking at you Milwaukee and Madison), but Chicago balances both a casual and cosmopolitan vibe. The aptly named Boystown area in Lakeview has bumping dance clubs and good shopping along Halsted Street. Farther north, Andersonville is the “Girlstown” lesbian-leaning counterpart, where you can peruse LGBT titles at Women & Children First Bookstore or catch a show at one of Hamburger Mary’s bubbly event spaces.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Chicago Guide
Massachusetts has been a favorite LGBT destination since well before it became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005. While Boston can claim impressive gay heritage, and Northampton is home to a huge lesbian population, Provincetown is the most famous queer outpost. Thanks partly to its picturesque spot at the tip of Cape Cod, gay folks head here for big events happening all through the warmer months, such as Women’s Week, the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, big gay “bears” events, and the LGBT-centric film festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Massachusetts Guide
This Rocky Mountain capital city is home to both cowboy culture and a laid-back attitude that’s made it a friendly outpost for LGBT culture. Capitol Hill is where many of the city’s gay bars are located, but queer travelers will enjoy exploring all of Denver including its busy arts district, great restaurants, the new Union Station downtown, and hip Highlands ‘hood. For a dose of authentic Mile High action, visit in July for the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association’s annual rodeo in neighboring Golden.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Denver Guide
The Big Apple may seem like an obvious choice for this list, but there always are more good reasons for gay travelers to visit (and revisit) America’s greatest city. One of the biggest is that the unofficial status of Greenwich Village as America’s gay-rights epicenter was made official this year when the National Parks Service designated Stonewall National Monument the first national landmark to LGBT rights. But in the diverse city that is New York, travelers will find themselves welcome around all five boroughs (which, by the way, each have their own Pride festival).
Insider tip: Check out Fodor’s Gay Guide to Upstate New York for side-trip ideas.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s New York Guide
The freedom and fresh air of the Southern California desert have lured gay travelers for decades, and Palm Springs has long been their happy hub. Each spring, young lesbians flock to The Dinah girl party/music festival, while gay guys love the long-running White Party. But all year round there are pool parties, group nature outings, and plenty of gay-helmed restaurants and shops happy to induct visitors into the easy-breezy Palm Springs atmosphere.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Palm Springs Guide
You know it’s OK to be out and proud when you’re in an area called the Gayborhood and the street signs are adorned with rainbows. Situated in the heart of town, Philly’s LGBT quarter is lined with gay-owned businesses that span stellar restaurants, an independent hotel (the Alexander Inn), and the famous Giovanni’s Room books-and-thrift shop. Plus the city’s storied history includes being the site of America’s very first annual LGBT civil-rights protests, which began in the early 1960s outside Independence Hall; today you’ll find local streets named in honor of some of those brave community leaders.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Philadelphia Guide