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2015 turned out to be a big year for the LGBT community. The passage of marriage equality in the U.S and Ireland allows same-sex couples to toast their nuptials while further signaling to the world that equality is here to stay. There were setbacks as well. Emerging destinations like Nicaragua soundly rejected same-sex marriages and adoptions this year, overall disapproval of LGBT persons remains high inup-and-coming Balkan countries like Albania and Serbia and a gay rights ordinance failed in Houston. Still, the good trumped the bad. Here are the 10 hottest gay destinations for 2016.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

1. Downtown Los Angeles, California
Angelenos have been rediscovering their downtown, aka “DTLA,” and what was once a tiptoe back into the city’s inner core is now a full stampede thanks to a rapid expansion of everything cool. Spend a day meandering around the funky Downtown Arts District, check out the free Broad Museum, take a dip at the rooftop pool of the new Standard or Ace Hotels—where you can strut around in your Speedo without an eyelash being batted—and dig DTLA’s gay nightlife including craft cocktails at Bar Mattachine, a bite and beer at Redline and rock and roll good times at corner bar and club Precinct.

Man riding a Velib bike in Paris

Ride a Velib instead of the subway. Credit to Jean Francois Gornet | Flickr Creative Commons

2. Paris, France
France’s gorgeous, thrilling capital city has long been a mecca for gay and lesbian locals and visitors alike and a heinous attack against this paragon of culture and sophistication makes us love it that much more. We can’t wait to return to gay Paree and wander the streets of the Marais, snap an irresistible selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower, catch a few rays at the constructed beach along the Seine, while away entire afternoons at outdoor cafes and meet someone special at a bar later that night. Paris is in our hearts, now and forever.

Related: Take this blogger’s advice so you can experience Paris like a Parisian

Thailand

Thailand

3. Thailand
Three cheers for Thailand! As if this Buddhist nation weren’t already welcoming enough to gay tourists what with its ladyboy cabaret shows, gay bars, night clubs, pool parties and saunas that exist in meccas like Bangkok and Phuket (where there is even a gay beach), the Southeast Asian country broke new ground by passing the Gender Equality Act which seeks to protect members of the LGBT community and punish discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby in Louisville | Photo: Dan Dry

4. Louisville, Kentucky
Don’t let one homophobic county clerk fool you into thinking the Bluegrass State is intolerant. Southern hospitality rules in Louisville, an urban charmer that rolls out the welcome mat for queer tourists along culturally rich Main Street which bustles with cool lodgings like the 21c Museum Hotel, cultural attractions including the Actors Theatre of Louisville and places to swill bourbon. Meanwhile, gay nightlife has shifted away from downtown and toward lively and rambling Bardstown Road where hetero hangouts rub shoulders with happening queer joints like Chill Bar, Big Bar and Nowhere Bar.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

5. Puerto Rico
Want to say “I do” amongst swaying palm trees and with the Caribbean sun melting behind you? The Supreme Court ruling in June automatically brought marriage equality to this U.S. territory and it’s governor immediately signed an executive order requiring government agencies to comply with the ruling. Regardless of the possibility of a seaside ceremony, Puerto Rico boasts a bustling gay beach at Condado, daily happy hour at the Atlantic Beach Hotel, wild nights at clubs like Circo and the timeless charms of Old San Juan. Save a few days to explore the rainforest, surfing beach Rincon and nearby Vieques.

Rio De Janeiro Brazil

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Yep, 2016 is indeed going to be the year in which the world is watching the South American city that dances to an eternal samba beat as it hosts the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Rio is working hard to ready itself on time and this means visitors to this gorgeous seaside mecca can expect a spiffed up city when they arrive. Granted it’s hard to look at anything but the gorgeous men and women—aka the Cariocas—who strut along the beaches of Copacobana, Ipanema and Leblon like its nobody’s business. It’s true you have to watch yourself at times, but take it from us—no one is going to rob you if all you’re wearing is a sunga.

Ireland- Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

7. Ireland
In 2015, the reliably Catholic voters of Ireland stunned the world when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Although the dust settled shortly thereafter, legal marriages didn’t actually begin until November which means 2016 is the first full year of marriage equality in the Emerald Isle. Big cities like Dublin and Cork boast a lively and out scene for gay men and women including nightclubs, saunas, gay-friendly hotels, etc., but we have a feeling you’ll also want to spend some time driving around the countryside and inhaling the lush green landscapes along the way.

Best Route 66 hotels

Hotel along historic Route 66

8. Route 66, USA
You’ve surely heard some version of the classic song which boasts about how the Mother Road swoops through St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo and Flagstaff on its westward journey to California, but what you probably don’t know is that this quintessentially American journey is among the campiest road trips around including chances to see the world’s largest ketchup bottle, rocking chair and cross, plus plenty of roadside kitsch such as Cadillac Ranch, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, tacky of souvenir shops and a lots of gay bars. And need we remind you that the 2,400 miles are book ended by two fabulous gay meccas?

Related: Get your kitsch on Route 66: The Mother Road’s best oddball attractions

Tahiti

Tahiti

9. Tahiti
Atlantis, purveyor of beloved gay cruise experiences, turns 25 this year and celebrates with a three Caribbean itineraries (including one departing from NYC) and two Mediterranean excursions. We think all will pale in comparison to its April tour of French Polynesia which turns the island nation of Tahiti rainbow-colored for a full week of sailing aboard the Oceania Marina and taking in lands rarely seen by the queer community, including Bora Bora, Papeete, Moorea, Rangiroa, Raiatea and Huahine. The cruise sold out ages ago, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book a trip of your own in 2016.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

10. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
A Victorian spa town in the Ozark mountains with a population of 2,000 people may not scream gay mecca, but Eureka Springs is just that. Too small to sustain the kind of noticeable gay infrastructure that exists in big cities, Eureka Springs is defiantly gay friendly in a state that otherwise bleeds red. In 2015 it stood up against a state law it perceived as anti-gay and if you’re wondering why our community flocks to this mountain town it’s because of its twisty roads, architectural marvels like Thorncrown Chapel, the all gay Magnetic Valley Resort and a community that is welcoming to all.

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Tagged: Brazil, California, Europe, Ireland, Latin America, Los Angeles, Paris, Puerto Rico, Top 10 Lists

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.

8 thoughts on “10 hottest gay destinations for 2016”

  1. We are always looking for new travel ideas about where to send people with special needs or who are looking for a very special item not normally found on travel websites. What we found refreshing about your posts is they are unique. This list here, while gay friendly Los Angeles may be a no-brainer, you also include new destinations no one hears about — making this a valuable blog for us. Thanks again and we look forward to all future writings. — Kind Regards, Desiree. Editor of Get A Trip

  2. This list is pretty absurd. Kentucky? Arkansas? Seriously? The attempt to refashion zones of the American South is laudable but the reality says otherwise. If people are serious about “gay destinations,” they would be better off going to Berlin, Madrid, London, New York, Sydney, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Toronto, Montreal or Montevideo. But, sure, go to Kentucky or Arksansas, especially if you’re white. Good luck!

    1. This is what I was thinking? The gays want to know where to party with the gays. Not where they live. We want to know how to party, bring it, and where it’s at!!!!!!

  3. I found this really useful… I love discovering new destinations that are LGBTQ-friendly. On my search I can across ellgeeBE.com, which has a gay-friendly rating meter for all their listings. It’s been really useful in finding not only new cities, but beaches, hotels, restaurants, bars and sights that welcome gay travellers.

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