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Mexico’s second-largest city is renowned for a variety of traditions—including mariachi music, Mexican charreria rodeos and tequila (which is produced in the nearby town of Tequila). But savvy travelers know that this thriving metropolis is also one of Mexico’s most sophisticated destinations for LGBT travelers. Indeed, Tapatíos—as local residents are called—know how to roll out the rainbow carpet. Even the Guadalajara Convention and Visitors Bureau is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Here are seven reasons why Guadalajara is the perfect gay getaway.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Chesnut

Nonstop nightlife

Every weekend in Guadalajara, there’s enough happening to keep you busy from sunset to sunrise. The most upscale LGBT nightspots are in the chic Chapultepec neighborhood, where clubs like Open attract a young and well-dressed crowd to high-tech dance floors.

For the biggest dose of gay Guadalajara nightlife, head downtown where you can easily hop among a seemingly countless number of bars and discos. Depending on your mood, you might want to try the cowboy vibe at El Condado, take a seat for a lively drag show at tiny La Minerva or head to California’s, the neighborhood’s biggest gay club, for a night of dancing to a decidedly international mix of music. You can even finish your night at Tacos Gay, a gay taco stand, which generally opens only at night. In early June, LGBT life gets even livelier when the annual Guadalajara Pride festival and parade takes place.

Photo courtesy of Mark Chesnut

Rich culture

Since the state of Jalisco is the birthplace of mariachi music, the capital city of Guadalajara is an ideal place to enjoy the best live performances. Several restaurants and city tours include shows by bands, and the musical excitement comes to a head during the International Mariachi and Charrería Festival, which attracts dozens of top performers for a series of shows and events in September.

Trover photo by David Bjorgen

Excellent architecture

The twin spires of the Guadalajara Cathedral, which soar above the historic downtown, are among the most photographed pieces of architecture in the city. The cathedral, which dates to 1588 (although it wasn’t completed for many decades), is a must-see on any city tour. Its Gothic vaults, gold-leaf pillars and 11 ornate altars—a gift from King Fernando VII of Spain—are simply gorgeous.

Just a few blocks away, the neoclassical Degollado Theater is a prime example of the city’s elegant 19th-century architecture. This historic treasure still hosts live performances of dance, music and drama, so check the schedule before your trip. Also worth a visit is Hospicio Cabañas, an early 19thcentury hospice that today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gigantic murals by famed Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco grace the interior.

Trover photo by aBee

Superb shopping

For fabulously authentic Guadalajara gifts and souvenirs, head to the Mercato Libertad, which also goes by the name San Juan de Dios. Billed as one of the largest (if not the largest) open-air market in Latin America, Libertad has more than 2,000 vendors, making it a rewarding place to shop for everything from handmade ceramics to leather coats, from blown glass to eye-catching cowboy boots that will make you the envy of everyone on the dance floor.

If arts, crafts and original contemporary artwork are on your wish list, head to the Tlaquepaque neighborhood. For an upscale experience with international flair, head to Andares, a shopping mall in the Zapopan District where you can get your fix of international brands ranging from Adidas to Zara.

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Campy sports

If you’ve ever seen a Mexican wrestling match, you might debate whether it’s really a sport. But Lucha Libre, as it’s called, is a national passion, and Guadalajara’s Coliseum is the perfect place to attend a colorful display of well-acted physical drama. Combine it with a Mexican cantina tour, it’s a quintessentially tapatío experience.

Photo courtesy of Casa Alebrijes

Hospitable hotels

Guadalajara has accommodations to fit every taste and budget. Trendy boutique hotels like the Demetria and Casa Fayette are certainly at the top of the list for many travelers, as are large-scale luxury properties like the Westin Guadalajara and the Fiesta Americana Guadalajara. But for a uniquely gay experience, consider Casa Alebrijes, a gay-owned bed and breakfast downtown where the owner provides you with a map of nearby LGBT nightlife.

Trover photo by Tony Lozano

Exceptional side trips

Guadalajara is a perfect hub for a variety of interesting day trips. The most popular is the town of Tequila, birthplace of the eponymous spirit. You can tour beautiful agave fields and haciendas like Casa Sauza to learn the secrets of this legendary drink.

Another scenic day trip destination is Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. You can take a pleasant boat ride on its tranquil waters, and then tour the lovely towns that dot its coast—Ajijic, for example, is an expat hotspot with lots of cute shops.

Tagged: Mexico

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Mark Chesnut
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and photographer. He's written for Fodor's, the Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, Travel Weekly, various inflight magazines and the New York Times best-seller "1,000 Places To See Before You Die." He also operates a travel blog, LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. Find more from Mark on Twitter @munderamedia and Instagram @mundera

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