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A wise man once proclaimed, “It’s a great big world!” Okay, that man was Randy Rainbow and he was saying it in this hilarious Orbitz commercial, but he was right, dang it! We do live in a great big world and thanks to growing global acceptance, it just keeps getting bigger and gayer. Wondering where to spend your rainbow dollars in 2018? Try these queer AF hot spots.

RELATED: 10 hottest gay destinations for 2017

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Bondi Beach in Sydney Australia

They said, “YES!” On October 27, Australian citizens voted to legalize same-sex marriage after a long debate and you can bet Aussies are going to be in a festive mood come 2018. You should be there to partake. Sydney is the undisputed mecca; it brims with rowdy bars, drag shows that elevate the art form to unreal levels and beaches packed with guys in Speedos (and those are the straight dudes). Cultured Melbourne gives Sydney a fair run for its money. Beyond the cities are romantic places to tie the knot such as the Hunter Valley and Boho Byron Bay. Not getting married? Say “I do” to the Atlantis gay cruise from Auckland to Sydney happening in February.


Flickr CC: Rudy Riet

Lost River, WV
P-Town. Key West. Palm Springs. These queer meccas formed long ago, but why aren’t there new ones? Has assimilation killed the gay getaway? Hardly. Drive two hours west of Washington, DC and you’ll discover Lost River, a woodsy community of only 2,500 people that has nevertheless been profiled in the New York Times and Washington Post and oft touted as a restful weekend playground for urban gays. Stay at the Guesthouse Lost River and shop at the Lost River Trading Post (both gay owned) and enjoy the fresh air. There are no gay bars as of yet, but with rainbow flags now visible on Main Street, nightlife can’t be too far behind.

Gay Paree will get way, way gayer come summer when thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes from across the globe invade the city for the 10th Gay Games August 4-12, the first time the quadrennial event has been hosted in the City of Light. It will be a queer takeover in the truest sense of the word as Parisians typically ditch the city in August for the coast. That means for nearly 10 days we’ll have pleasures like morning coffee in the Latin Quarter, sunbathing at Paris Plage and steamy nights in the Marais all to ourselves. Not a strong athlete? The Games are all about inclusion and personal best. Seriously, it doesn’t matter.

Central America
Change is afoot in the sun-drenched countries dangling from North America’s isthmian tail. In Costa Rica, a case arguing for a binational gay couple’s right to have their marriage recognized is winding its way to the higher courts, and although a judge in Panama recently ruled against marriage equality, he framed it in a way to possibly allow for it down the road. Our fingers are crossed. Costa Rica remains a beloved queer vacation paradise and bustling Panama City boasts gay nightlife and thrilling coolness in its colonial “Casco Viejo.” Elsewhere, there’s beautiful Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, pristine diving in Belize, unspoiled beach towns in Nicaragua and so much more.

Salt Lake City, UT
We never thought we’d use the words Salt Lake City and gay mecca in the same sentence, but then we also never thought Will & Grace would kill off Rosario, so anything can happen. SLC has actually been trending queer for some years now. It has the 7th highest LGBTQ population per capita in the US according to Gallup and frankly we’re not surprised. Priced out of high-rent cities, queers are settling in mid-tier metros like Salt Lake where they can snag a home with a view of the mountains for under $300K. Meanwhile, the scene boasts a half dozen gay bars, a bumping Pride and Elevation Utah—one of the largest gay ski weeks in the country.

Lisbon, Portugal, Europe


Accolade after accolade has lately been heaped upon the Portuguese capital and every bit of it is well-deserved. Sunny and coastal Lisbon is perched upon numerous hills that have earned it fair comparisons to San Francisco. Famous for its rickety trams, decorative tiling and romantic Old Quarter, the city is every bit as captivating as Paris, Barcelona and Rome but at a much lesser cost—for now anyway. As for gay life, it’s modest but thriving. Stay at the excellent Late Birds Lisbon, tramp around the bars dotting the Bairro Alto and sample local eats at Time Out Market. When nature calls, take a ride share to famed gay and nude Beach No. 19.

South Korea, Seoul, LGBTQ, Pride

North Korea has been on everybody’s minds lately (thanks a lot, Donald), but lost in the discussion is South Korea, which will host the Winter Olympics in February. It’s also got a gay scene. In 2000, Seoul hosted its first Korea Queer Culture Festival—and 50 people showed up. In summer 2017 the event attracted more than 50,000. Those numbers show growing strength in the city’s LGBTQ population and its booming scene, including thriving nightlife for the boys, but also separate bars geared toward girls and also for trans folk. Check out ‘hoods like Jongro-3, Itaewon (Homo Hill) and lesbian-centric Hongdae.

Lombardy, Italy

Lombardy, Italy

Lombardy, Italy
Not since a young Matt Damon strutted around the Riviera in retro swim trunks in The Talented Mr. Ripley have we been so in love with Italy, but the butterflies in our stomachs are fluttering once again. The new coming-of-age Sundance smash Call Me by Your Name tells the story of a teenage boy falling in love with his father’s American assistant during a sun-drenched Italian summer—set during the short shorts-wearing ‘80s no less! Sure, we’re swooning for Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and his naked bum, but really the film has us falling for Lombardy and the village of Crema where the film was primarily shot. We’re booking our flights already.


Seattle Pride | Flickr photo by Brett Curtiss

Seattle, WA
In a rollercoaster off-election year that saw Virginia elect a trans woman to the state legislature and New Jersey elect its first Sikh mayor, a lesser trumpeted story was that the Emerald City elected Jenny Durkan—its first openly lesbian mayor. Speaking of good government, the Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial is working on a new monument to honor the late Cal Anderson, the state’s first openly gay legislator. Meanwhile, the city checks many requisite queer boxes including vibrant culture, food and nightlife, a happening gayborhood (Capitol Hill), gay sunbathing at Madison Beach and the world’s most famous gay advice columnist (that’s um, Dan Savage).

Masopalomas, Canary Islands, Spain, LGBTQ

The beaches in Maspalomas | Flickr photo by El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video

The Canary Islands
Ten years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find North Americans in Maspalomas, a tourist magnet and gay mecca for sun-starved Europeans on the south tip of Gran Canaria—the second most populated of the Canary Islands. But cruise ships have brought new crowds to the island and that’s just fine. Tacky though it may be in places, Maspalomas boasts numerous gay-owned hotels, a giant shopping mall containing no less than two dozen gay bars, and a lively and festive gay nude beach. Even better, the Spanish-owned archipelago is accessible via cheap flights from Europe, but its geography and terrain is sub-Saharan Africa. In short, it’s awesome.

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Tagged: Asia, Australia, Europe, Italy, Korea, Paris, Portugal, Seattle, Top 10 Lists

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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