As an LGBTQ+ person, when I’m looking for a city break, I’m looking for somewhere I can be myself, and in that case, I like to opt for progressive LGBTQ+ friendly cities with a rich history and plenty to see and do.
Luckily, the United States has an abundance to choose from, with the list getting longer each and every day.
So, whether you’re looking for a same-sex getaway or a solo vacation in the United States, these are our top picks when it comes to LGBTQ+ friendly cities.
Table of Contents
- 1. San Francisco, California
- 2. New York City, New York
- 3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 4. Portland, Oregon
- 5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
- 6. Washington DC
- 7. Seattle, Washington
- 8. San Diego, California
- 9. Austin, Texas
- 10. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- 11. Columbus, Ohio
- 12. Madison, Wisconsin
- 13. Rochester, New York
- 14. Minneapolis, Minnesota
- 15. New Orleans, Louisiana
- 16. Orlando, Florida
- 17. Denver, Colorado
- 18. Nashville, Tennessee
- 19. Las Vegas, Nevada
- 20. Boston, Massachusetts
- 21. Palm Springs, California
1. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is one of the most quintessential gay cities in the United States, packed full of great things to see and do.
Iconic sights here include the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz Island, and Chinatown. However, if you have time to head further afield, be sure to check out the nearby Wine Country.
San Francisco also boasts a vibrant street art scene, fantastic cuisine, and many unique LGBTQ bars, clubs and annual events, including the famous Pride parade that takes place during June and dates back more than 50 years.
If you’re looking to visit the beaches, then you’ll find many along the coastline here. Ocean Beach is, in our opinion, the most popular with the LGBTQ+ community and is located along the Great Highway.
2. New York City, New York
New York City is one of the most iconic cities for a reason. Not only is it the biggest metropolis in the United States, but it has a substantial history of LGBTQ+ advocacy and community.
You’ll find some of the most famous LGBTQ+ historical sites in this city, including the Stonewall Inn and Christopher Park.
The Stonewall Inn is where the 1969 Stonewall Riots occurred, catalysts for the gay liberation movement.
While Christopher Park contains two historical statues commemorating these riots that changed the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the world.
Given this deep LGBTQ+ history, it’s no surprise that New York City is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the world in which you’ll find an endless number of queer-friendly bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels.
Some of our favourite neighbourhoods to either visit or stay in during our trips to NYC include Chelsea, where you’ll find one of the best LGBTQ+ bars in the world, The Cubbyhole and Brooklyn, home to the lush Metropolitan Bar.
3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is an increasingly queer-friendly city and an unlikely candidate on this list.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the United States by any means. However, it has some surprisingly queer-friendly spots and an increasing number of LGBTQ+ annual events, including OutFest and Philly Pride.
The queerest friendly spot or Gayborhood in Philadelphia is Washington Square West, an area packed to the brim with gay bars, clubs, restaurants and shops.
This area is connected to the business district via Market street, and once you’re there, you’ll never be more than a few steps away from your next cocktail, a slice of pizza or cute outfit.
And unlike New York and Los Angeles, the city of Philadelphia is also relatively affordable, making it perfect for a budget long weekend away.
4. Portland, Oregon
Portland is another fantastic LGBTQ+ friendly city worth visiting either as a solo traveller, couple or family.
The city has everything from street performers to colourful buildings, mountains to beaches and happy hour bars through to lovely independent bookshops.
And if all that wasn’t enough, you’ll also find several queer-owned businesses and annual LGBTQ+ events here. Most notable of which is the Pride Parade and Festival, which occurs annually in June.
One of our favourite things to do during our recent trip to Portland was the free walking tour.
This tour is hosted by a Portland local and lasts roughly two hours. During this time, you’ll go through Portland’s artsy and quirky neighbourhoods, as well as the trendy Alberta Street, where you’ll explore queer businesses and murals, all while learning more about local culture.
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you’ve either done or ruled out the other cities on this list, then Albuquerque may well be the wildcard you’ve been looking for.
The largest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque, has become increasingly popular with LGBTQ+ tourists over the past couple of years.
Most tourists come to Albuquerque as part of a day trip from the nearby, more popular city of Santa Fe.
However, if you’re looking for an extended break in the city, then we recommend visiting during the International Balloon Fiesta, which takes place annually during the first two weeks of October.
This is the best but also the busiest time to visit the city. Therefore, accommodation availability and costs increase dramatically.
However, don’t let this put you off as the entertainment and activities during this time are world-renowned and well worth the hassle (and cost) to experience – at least in our opinion.
6. Washington DC
Washington DC is another LGBTQ+ friendly city well worth visiting for a long weekend.
Countless museums, theatres, public art exhibits, and parks are scattered through the city, providing an endless amount of things to do during your trip.
The city is also home to the only LGBTQ+ museum in America and is steeped in significant LGBTQ+ history, from the Stonewall Riots to the historic Chesapeake Bank at 14th and U Street.
Several LGBTQ+ friendly bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels, and events can also be found in Washington DC, making it easy to meet other LGBTQ+ people and support local LGBTQ+ businesses during your trip.
7. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is a fantastic city to visit as an LGBTQ+ person. A haven of counterculture and the birthplace of Starbucks coffee.
The city has a long-standing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, with the residents here being one of the first in America to elect an openly gay mayor and a pride parade that dates back to the 1970s.
Countless bands started here, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. So with such a widely diverse population, what isn’t there to love?
Well… the rain.
Seattle is well-known for its rain. You can expect to get around five inches of it during June, July, and August. Prepare accordingly by bringing an umbrella – or two.
8. San Diego, California
San Diego is a great place to be gay. With amazing beaches, incredible restaurants and close connections with the nearby Los Angeles, it’s hard to find someone without this city on their bucket list.
The city is incredibly welcoming to LGBTQ+ tourists with one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples across the U.S. according to the 2010 census, with more than 15% of the cities residents being LGBTQ+.
Unsurprisingly then you’ll find a range of LGBTQ+ friendly bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels in San Diego, with the majority concentrated in the Hillcrest neighbourhood.
9. Austin, Texas
If you’re looking for the LGBTQ+ hotspot in Texas, then Austin is the city for you.
Austin is easily one of the most gay-friendly places in America, with an incredible LGBTQ+ community.
This progressive and liberal haven in the heart of Texas sees cowboys, politicians, gays, hipsters, artists, and musicians all live, work and play here in harmony.
Unsurprisingly then, there is an abundance of LGBTQ+ events in the city here, both annual and one-off. Alongside an extensive range of LGBTQ+ owned businesses to support during your travels.
And while Austin isn’t the cheapest city to visit in the USA, it’s not expensive either, provided that you’re not travelling during the peak season, which for Austin specifically is going to be during the South by Southwest festival.
During the festival, the cost of visiting Austin can be 2x to 5x, with many accommodation options selling out months in advance.
However, ask most people who’ve been to Austin during the South by Southwest festival, and they’ll very much tell you the experience is well worth the price tag.
10. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale has long been known as ‘Florida’s Gay Capital’ and supports the LGBTQ+ community with consistently progressive politics and an incredibly supportive community.
This city is known for the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, affectionately referred to as the LGBTQ+ community’s Smithsonian.
Here you’ll find countless incredible items from LGBTQ+ histories, such as an original printing of Dr Aldred Kinsey’s research and donations from prominent LGBTQ+ celebrities.
Outside of museums, you’ll find that Fort Lauderdale has some of the best beaches in the United States, making it the perfect place to spend a week (or two) relaxing either as a solo traveller, couple or family.
11. Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio, probably wasn’t on your radar when looking for an LGBTQ+ getaway, right?
However, a recent poll found that 4.3% of the city’s population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
That’s a larger percentage than those cities that probably did come to mind when you began your research, such as New York City and Washington D.C.
However, aside from an ever-increasing LGBTQ+ population, what else does Columbus, Ohio have to offer tourists?
Well, everything. From an ever-increasing sports scene to a historic hot roasted nuts shoppe – no, seriously.
With an annual events calendar that most significant cities envy, you’ll find no end of things to see and do in the city regardless of when you visit.
12. Madison, Wisconsin
Its residents regard Madison as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the United States.
And as a result, many LGBTQ+ people from nearby regions are moving here due to its increasing LGBTQ+ population and the wider support from the cities community.
This, combined with the cities incredibly vibrant culture and quintessential architecture, makes it a must-visit city.
Madison is so gay friendly that finding out where a gay neighbourhood starts and ends is somewhat impossible, while the number of gay bars to choose from is so extensive that you may just have to extend your trip to visit them all!
13. Rochester, New York
Rochester is the third-largest city in New York and home to a fabulous and flourishing LGBTQ+ community.
Located on the cusp of New York’s Finger Lake region, the city is the perfect stop on an East Coast road trip or as a stand-alone long weekend destination.
While the city of Rochester is LGBTQ+ friendly, we recommend staying in the Park Avenue region of downtown during your trip.
This is the city’s gay neighbourhood and, as such, is home to several incredible gay bars and clubs. However, you’re also perfectly positioned to be within walking distance to the city’s major sights and attractions, including museums, galleries and theatres.
14. Minneapolis, Minnesota
The final Midwestern city on this list, Minneapolis, is an excellent choice for LGBTQ+ travellers looking for a long weekend getaway filled with history and culture.
The city has a strong LGBTQ+ community well represented in politics and an incredible pride festival in June which was recently ranked among the top ten pride festivals in the country by USA Today, attracting more than 350,000 people annually.
The city is also home to the only National Park Service site dedicated to LGBTQ+ history, the Quatrefoil Library and Archives.
This library holds more than 12,000 books, 140 magazine titles and over 100 archival collections that celebrate the lives of countless people.
Located in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighbourhood (known locally as The West Bank), this nonprofit resource offers a wealth of knowledge for travellers curious about LGBTQ+ culture and history.
15. New Orleans, Louisiana
The Big Easy of New Orleans, Louisiana, is an incredible queer-friendly city filled with history, fantastic culture and an increasingly popular LGBTQ+ scene.
Home to jazz, voodoo and Mardi Gras, New Orleans is one of the best cities in the South for gay travellers, with a vast number of gay bars, clubs, restaurants and accommodation options to choose from.
Mardi Gras is, of course, the biggest annual event in New Orleans.
The celebrations begin on “12th night”, and end on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and while travel prices during this time rise significantly if you have the chance to attend we highly recommend doing so.
16. Orlando, Florida
Orlando is consistently rated among the most visited cities in the United States for LGBTQ+ travellers.
And having visited the city several times and choosing to get married here, we can very much see why.
While many travellers choose to visit this pocket of the Sunshine State for Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, there’s plenty more this incredible city has to offer, including a vibrant nightlife scene, fine dining and upscale shopping malls.
LGBTQ+ events occur regularly in the city, the most notable being the Orlando Come Out With Pride festival in October, attracting more than 185,000 people annually.
17. Denver, Colorado
Denver has an incredibly vibrant LGBTQ+ community with a range of diverse nightlife scattered throughout the city.
Voted America’s #1 Gayest City back in 2012 by Out Magazine, the city is a hotspot for LGBTQ+ travellers looking for a relaxing or adventure-filled long weekend break.
The city’s annual Pridefest is held in June and has one of the largest attendance rates of any pride event in any city in the United States, with more than 200,000 people flocking to the Mile-High City for the incredible 4-day event.
However, if you miss Pridefest, don’t worry as there is another fantastic 4-day LGBTQ+ festival, Denver OutFest, held in October.
And should you miss both of those, then you’ll still be able to find a wide range of LGBTQ+ friendly bars and clubs (the majority of which are located in either East Colfax Avenue or South Broadway) throughout the city open seven nights a week.
18. Nashville, Tennessee
Home of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville is another fantastic place for LGBTQ+ travellers to visit.
Not only is this city incredibly progressive and welcoming to the LBGTQ+ community, but it’s also home to some of the most incredible food (seriously, the BBQ restaurants here are to die for!) and a fantastic art scene.
Nashville’s annual pride event takes place in June and features some of the best live entertainment from the entire United States pride scene with previous headliners including; Lizzo, Betty Who and Salt N Pepa.
However, if you can’t visit during the pride festival, don’t worry, as the queer love lives on in the city throughout the year in the host of incredible gay bars and clubs.
19. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is one of the top destinations in the country for LGBTQ+ travellers, with the second largest population of LGBTQ+ residents in the United States.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Sin City is home to dozens of gay bars and nightclubs, including Peppermint Club, inside FireSky Resort & Spa and Vista Lounge at AQUA by Westgate Las Vegas.
Annual pride celebrations in Las Vegas are held in October and include an LGBTQ+ Film Festival, The Rodeo Parade and a street festival on Fremont Street.
However, if you can’t visit during the celebrations, don’t worry, as the LGBTQ+ community in Las Vegas host a range of events for the local community and worldwide travellers year-round.
20. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts’s diverse and inclusive culture, makes it one the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the United States.
Noted for its extensive gay, lesbian and transgender annual events, nightlife, clubs and bars, Boston is a fantastic place to travel to as an LGBTQ+ person.
Unsurprisingly given how progressive Boston is, there are plenty of annual LGBTQ+ events in the city and many gay-friendly and gay-owned businesses.
However, the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and the fight for equality far surpasses the borders of Boston as the state of Massachusetts as a whole was the first in the United States to legalise same-sex marriages and the first to elect an openly gay representative back in 1974.
21. Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is a great place to relax, rejuvenate, and reflect.
Situated in the desert outside of Los Angeles, this city is perfect for LGBTQ+ travellers with more than 30 gay bars and an extensive range of gay-friendly or gay-owned accommodation options.
Not only that, but Palm Springs is pretty close to both Coachella and Joshua Tree National Park, giving something for both the outdoorsy types and festivalists who might make Palm Springs their vacation destination.
While relaxing is often at the top of most travellers lists on a visit to Palm Springs, there’s still plenty to see, do and explore.
Most notable include the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating tramcar and the Indian Canyons, which are home to stunning desert views and wildlife.