Looking for gay friendly vacations that step outside the usual round of far-flung resorts and international options that can bust your budget? Maybe you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon after planning and celebrating your own fabulous gay wedding or maybe you just want an LGBT friendly escape from daily life. Staying close to home doesn’t mean compromising on fun. We’ve rounded up some hidden gems and a new take on a few popular places which you may have overlooked when it comes to gay friendly vacations.
There’s no secret about what Las Vegas has to offer. But not many people realize that the city ranks pretty high for gay friendly vacations. The strip has the shows, food and gambling which appeal to just about everyone and the city is doing everything it can to roll out the rainbow colored carpet to attract LGBT visitors. On the Gay Bars page of the official Las Vegas tourism website, they declare “This town likes to tout its tough, mobster past; but we all know who really makes it fabulous.”
Las Vegas does feature a number of dedicated gay friendly nightclubs and bars like the Share Nightclub, Charlie’s Las Vegas, The Garage, FreeZone and the Phoenix Bar and Lounge. More importantly, it’s proven itself to be welcoming in general. Locals and tourists agree that Las Vegas’ reputation as Sin City means it’s a place where people simply don’t judge others based on sexual orientation the same way they don’t judge people flaunting the gold lame leisure suit.
In general, Canada is more progressive and laid back, making it a popular spot for gay tourists year round. Vancouver is worth nothing specifically thanks to its status as having the largest gay population in all of Western Canada. Right now, the city is in the middle of a special LGBT celebration – their “Celebrate 10 Years of I Do” sweepstakes in order to commemorate a full decade of marriage equality in the Great White North. Needless to say, there are plenty of couples who will be exchanging gay weddings rings along Niagara Falls.
Small Town Options for Gay Friendly Vacations
When most people think about gay friendly vacations, they don’t often consider small towns being able to offer much. But today’s small town isn’t as small as it once was. Today, even cities can have a small town feel when they’re warm, welcoming and inclusive which means people looking for a unique and offbeat vacation spot have much more to choose from than ever before.
Bloomington might not sound like a hot spot for adventure seeking LGBT tourists, but the fact is that this small university town was ranked as the 4th gayest city in the US by none other than The Advocate. Since it’s home to Indiana University, which has been hosting a drag competition called Miss Gay IU for 20 years, the city itself is also progressive and open minded. It’s also home to the infamous Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, making it a mecca for gay, straight and non-binary people of every description.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs stands as a glowing beacon of warmth, acceptance and outright pride in the middle of the Bible Belt. The existence of this against-the-grain town has been explained by calling it “the hole in the Bible Belt where the belt buckle goes through.” The town boasts a large number of gay-owned businesses and they host three LGBT events throughout the year, dubbed Diversity Weekends”. If you have lingering doubts about how friendly this place is, consider their official tagline: “Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Where Even the Streets Aren’t Straight.”
Portland, Oregon may be more well-known, but Eugene is where the action’s at. Eugene is an area that never quite let go of the 1960s and evidence of that is scattered throughout the town. Outdoor Markets are held every Saturday from April through December and the city maintains a vibrant program called Art in Public Places. It’s also become a top choice for people who simply don’t fit the mold elsewhere ensuring that Eugene is doing its part to keep Oregon weird.
Asheville, North Carolina
People are surprised to hear about a hippy town in the South until you mention that you’re talking about Asheville. I can vouch for this town perfectly as it’s a routine and welcomed side-trip when my wife and I take out daughter camping in North Carolina every year.
For us, the town is the best of all worlds – it’s incredibly gay friendly with plenty of gay-owned businesses along with LGBT tourists and locals. It has some mad eateries that are well worth the trek and its winding streets are populated with unique shops, public green areas and breath-taking views of the Appalachian Mountains.
This final entry into the small town hidden gems for gay friendly vacations isn’t exactly unbiased since it’s now the town I call home. I moved here about 5 years ago and absolutely fell in love with the city. Columbus is a booming town – Ohio’s state capital – but it has a true small town feel thanks to the city’s design of the downtown and Short North Areas.
The Short North is an enclave near downtown where every eclectic part of Columbus comes together. It’s well-known to be the gay area of the city, though LGBT people can be found in pretty much every surrounding neighborhood. The gay pride parade it holds each year aims to outdo the one before and, in 2014, none other than George “Mr. Sulu” Takei was the parade general.
I could go on and on about how great this city is and how it has something for absolutely everyone –COSI, the North Market, parks with tiny doors so pixies and elves have a place to live and Gallery Hop, a monthly event where downtown galleries and businesses open their doors while people walk around sampling wine, cheese and other tasty delights while browsing through the artwork of local artists. Ohm and did I mention it’s legal to go topless in Columbus? It’s a regular feature at the annual Gay Pride parade and the ComFest weekend that follows it. You’re welcome.