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To be LGBTQ is to wander the streets of a new town or city, excited for sure, but also maybe a little hesitant. That is until you turn a corner and see a rainbow flag and just like that—it’s like you’re home! Whether visiting queer meccas like New York or California, or roadtripping through rural states like West Virginia and Wyoming, queer life really is everywhere. If you’re a ‘mo on the go, here are the best LGBTQ hangouts in all 50 states. Got a place you think should’ve been included on this list? Share in the comments section!

RELATED: Check out ultimate guide to Pride 2019!

Alabama

Gay old times (and by gay we mean good) abound in Birmingham. Between a revitalized downtown, the Birmingham Civil Rights District (now a national monument) an influx of funky cafes and eateries, and Railroad Park, the city is earning legit visitor cred. For the queerest of times, head out to nabes like Five Points South and especially Southside, where you’ll find a plethora of welcoming hangouts as well as LGBT bars like Quest, Our Place and Spike’s Bar—all within (relative) walking distance of one another.

Alaska

The Frontier State: So much land, so few people! So where’s a gay to go to find large numbers of other LGBT-identified folk? How about boarding one of the giant cruise ships traveling up and down the coast? Lesbian cruise company Olivia, for example, offers two Alaska itineraries this summer while RSVP Vacations (now owned by Atlantis) offers a “Summer in Alaska” ship that hits up places like Juneau and Ketchikan. Also, most mainstream cruise ships offer onboard meetups for queer folk. Drag queen shuffleboard, anyone?

Arizona

You might say that queer rodeo enthusiasts are, um, bucking a few trends. In truth, gay rodeo is a nationwide phenomenon, but Arizona is as good a place as any to squeeze into your tightest pair of Levi jeans and give the Cowboy lifestyle a try. The 34th Annual Arizona Gay Rodeo happens in Phoenix in February 2020; the World Gay Rodeo Finals happen this October in Scottsdale; and then there’s queer country western bars in Phoenix including Charlie’s, the Cash Nightclub and Lounge, and Latin-flavored nightclub Karamba (which hosts occasional cowboy nights).

Arkansas

A small mountain town in the middle of the Ozarks that is guarded over by a statue of Christ makes for an unlikely LGBT mecca, but Eureka Springs is no ordinary hamlet. A hangout for hippies, homos and honeymooners (check out the abundance of hotel spa suites), this pretty Victorian town boasts LGBT-owned bars, restaurants, shops and even a gay resort. But there’s also much more. Check out glassy Thorncrown Chapel, take a ghost tour at the Crescent Hotel and go canoeing on Lake Leatherwood (even their lake is gay!).
Dolores Park in San Francisco

Dolores Park in San Francisco

California

Between WeHo barhopping, poolside cocktails in Palm Springs, cruising the Castro and skinny dipping at Black’s Beach in San Diego, there’s enough to do in California to keep any homo occupied for a lifetime. But surely the fullest expression of gay Golden State bliss happens every time the sun beats down hard on Dolores Park in San Francisco and folks representing every letter of the queer alphabet congregate on the so-called “Fruit Shelf” for an afternoon of idyll. Think Summer of Love, but rainbow colored.

Colorado

There aren’t many queer bars in Colorado, let alone the country, where you can find drag queen garage sales, open mics, networking events, poker tournaments, dance parties, same-sex proms and more, but Blush and Blu, a longtime lesbian fixture on Colfax Ave in Denver hosts them hall. Even rarer, it’s the kind of taproom where the entire spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ community feels welcome.

Drag show

Drag show

Connecticut

Don’t be so quick to dismiss Connecticut! True, half the state basically functions as a suburb of NYC and its big cities (Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven) are neither big nor are they tourist magnets. But the Constitution State was also the second in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. So raise a glass to this New England gem at 168 York Street Cafe, a gay bar and restaurant located in the basement of a charming brick townhouse and right around the corner from Yale University. Think drag shows, beer busts, open mic nights, cheap eats, and a diverse and friendly crowd.

Delaware

The entire state (all 12 people) would riot if we didn’t single out Rehoboth Beach. And why wouldn’t we? In summer, the seaside town of 1,500 swells with tourists to the point of bursting, and a great many of them are LGBT. A Lilliputian gay area boasts queer-friendly restaurants and a couple of lively gay bars, then there’s Poodle Beach (lol), a patch of sand marked by a rainbow flag and packed Speedo to Speedo in summer. Meanwhile, gay-friendly lodgings abound, mostly in the form of winsome bed and breakfasts.

Florida

The Sunshine State spoils us. Between Miami’s beaches, Fort Lauderdale’s gay guesthouses and Key West’s tolerance, South Florida in particular is an LGBT paradise. But who among us doesn’t dream of a selfie with Mickey (or Elsa for that matter)? Gay Days at Disney, which happens every June in Orlando, has grown to be a global gay event attracting tens of thousands of people, but a visit to Disney World rules anytime of year. In 2018, Disney earned its 12th annual perfect score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index and many Disney cast members and characters are excited to roll out the pink carpet for queer visitors. While in Orlando, definitely have drinks at Parliament House, an iconic (albeit dated) hotel and hangout.

Georgia

While the epicenter of gay life in Georgia is Atlanta, whose Midtown is home to the state’s most concentrated LGBT population, the college town of Athens is where you should spend your next Peach Tree State gaycation. Specifically, come in April, when the annual Boybutante Ball takes place. An opulent camp-osium of events including drag shows, musical performances and dances, the Ball benefits local AIDS charities, and shows that the quirky city, which birthed high-profile queer artists like the B-52s and Michael Stipe of REM (Indigo Girls also recorded their first album here), has as much substance as it does style for gay travelers.
Makena State Park, Hawaii

Makena State Park, Hawaii

Hawaii

The undisputed hub of gay nightlife in the Aloha State is Honolulu, but visitors will find the scene tame compared to mainland meccas. Elsewhere on the islands, there are scattered gay and gay-welcoming bars and clubs, but the best place to hang out—and let it all hang out—is at clothing optional Little Beach at Makena State Park in Maui. A slice of island paradise just south of ritzy Wailea, the beach is perfect for both chilling and socializing and both gay men and lesbians frequent it in large numbers. Don’t miss the Sunday beach party featuring drum circles and fire dancers!

Idaho

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a huge gay scene anywhere in Idaho, which leaves the heavy lifting to Boise—the capital and also the state’s largest city. There are a couple of gay bars in town including Balcony and Lucky Dog Tavern, but we say head over to Flying M Coffeehouse, a combination cafe (beans are roasted onsite at a second location in nearby Nampa), bakery and gift shop since 1992. Now under LGBT ownership, Flying M is exactly the kind of hangout a low-key queer community deserves—friendly, inclusive and serving up a mean cup of coffee.

Illinois

It’s not easy creating a space where queers across the rainbow spectrum all feel welcome, but Chicago bar owner Michelle Fire pulls it off at Big Chicks, a legendary Uptown taproom that’s been hydrating the queer community for more 30-plus years. Giddy gay boys take to the tiny dance floor on weekends, an older crowd plops down during the week, a cornucopia of young queers smash themselves together in a swell of sweaty ecstasy every second Friday (at a party called FKA) and Fire feeds the community for free every Sunday.

Indiana

Gay bars have the best names (think C.C. Bloom’s in Edinburgh or Nellie’s in Washington DC), but surely the best of the bunch belongs to the Back Door in Bloomington. Hilarious moniker aside, the Back Door is a gay bar par excellence located in one of the coolest college towns in America. The crowd is diverse, energetic and friendly as heck, the lineup includes all kinds of crazy cabaret and queer entertainment and the gay naming even carries over into the drink menu. Boozy Bottom anyone? How about a Citron My Face?

Iowa

If the Summer of Love had taken place in Iowa, it probably would’ve taken place in the Iowa City Ped Mall. A multi-block outdoor gathering area for students and townies alike, the Ped Mall is the ultimate hangout in the Hawkeye State’s most liberal city. LGBT-friendliness is everywhere. There’s Studio 13, a bumping queer bar; there’s the Mill which hosts the Mister Iowa City and Iowa City Diva Pageant; there’s the Englert Theatre, which frequently shows queer works; there Prairie Lights, an outstanding bookstore full of queer lit; and so much more. Above all, the Ped Mall is a brilliant melting pot of people—homo, hetero and everything on the spectrum!

Kansas

Where in the Sunflower State can you witness the crowning of Mr. and Miss Gay Teen, hang with roller derby girls and enjoy drag dinner theater? Why, in Wichita, of course. Specifically, at Club Boomerang, a lively LGBT hangout that’s one of just a half dozen gay bars in Kansas’s queer capital. (No, it’s not Kansas City; that town’s urban center is on the Missouri side.) You can also atone for your weekend shenanigans at the Metropolitan Community Church of Wichita, connect with the community at the LGBT Center and don your rainbow best at the annual Pride parade in September.

Kentucky

Welcome to The Village. No, not the boho-chic one of NYC fame, but rather a city block that sits in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood and formerly home to the legendary queer nightclub and entertainment complex The Connection. Now gone, its out owners have kept the block queer by opening Vapor, a men’s spa and bathhouse, Vu Guesthouse, an adult-oriented luxury boutique hotel and The Eatery, its onsite diner (opening in 2019). Although LGBTQ nightlife in Derby City has since moved to Bardstown Road, while catching 40 winks at Vu or making new friends at Vapor, consider the three decades of gay nightlife that happened on this very block.

Happy Lesbian Couple

Louisiana

Do straight people have any idea how gay Bourbon Street in New Orleans actually is? Probably not, but the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann might just be the queerest on earth. It’s not just that it’s home to booming bars like Bourbon Pub Parade, Oz and Napolean’s Itch, it’s that the streets themselves are just as lively. We’ve watched drag queens direct traffic, boys whiz off balconies, lesbians canoodle one another and shirts and pants being lifted and dropped in exchange for cheap, plastic beads—and that’s not including the outrageous queer parades that come marching through during the high holy holidays of Pride and Southern Decadence.

Maine

Oft overshadowed by P-Town and Fire Island, coastal Ogunquit is Maine’s gaydar worthy weekend getaway. It’s a cinch to reach—take I-95 or bucolic Highway 1—and boasts a charming little downtown lined with B&Bs, pretty storefronts, a couple of queer bars and seafood restaurants where lobsta’ is the front and center menu item. But the focal point during its short summer season is Ogunquit Beach where the gays gather. Its status as a queer mecca is hardly new. Its annual Mr. Gay Ogunquit Speedo Pageant has been going strong for more than 40 years now.

Maryland

The queerest thing to come out of the Ocean State? Filmmaker, author, speaker and “pope of trash” John Waters of course (drag queen Divine might be a close second). In Baltimore, hit up funky Hampden, a neighborhood that’s part hipster hangout/part retro throwback, to follow in Waters’ footsteps. The shelves at vintage store Hampden Junque are filled with Waters memorabilia; indie bookstore Atomic Books is where he collects his fan mail (we’ve seen it); Rocket to Venus is a local dive bar and Waters hangout; and main drag 36th Street (aka “The Avenue”) has been featured in several of the filmmaker’s cult movies.
Rainbow colored deck chairs on a brick patio in Provincetown, backed by flowers.

Rainbow colored deck chairs on a brick patio in Provincetown.

Massachusetts

Castro Street. Santa Monica Boulevard. North Halsted. These names conjure images of rainbow flags, leather shops and 2am “sidewalk sales.” But they pale in queerness to Commercial Street in Provincetown. Where else can you see hand-holding bears, trans buskers, gaggles of lesbians, drag queens hawking theater tickets and a bike-riding John Waters all within a half-mile? Homo hangouts are numerous, but we say legendary Spiritus Pizza is the best gay hangout in the Bay State. After the bars let out each night, this family-run pizza joint turns into the queerest place in New England.

Michigan

The West Coast of Michigan is one of the most underrated coastal regions in the country and a slice of Midwest heaven. Sibling towns Douglas and Saugatuck are both longtime queer meccas boasting LGBT-owned B&Bs, pubs, shops and more. At least once, pitch a tent at nearby Campit Outdoor Resort, a 33-acre queer campground boasting cabins, a clubhouse, in-ground swimming pool, nature trails and general store that’s friendly to both men and women (check out their calendar of events geared toward lesbians). Mosquitoes aside, summer days and nights here are blissfully perfect.

Minnesota

Minnesotans, don’t hate us for declaring the Gay ’90s the best LGBT hangout in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We know its been there forever, we know it’s a cliched choice and we know there are cooler bars in Minneapolis. But can anyone deny its legendary status? Where else in the country can you find a three-story downtown queer nightclub boasting multiple rooms and a diverse monthly calendar featuring everything from 18-and-over dance nights, drag shows, jockstrap parties, burlesque shows, kink nights, dollar drink events, high-stakes bingo and more? The crowd is young and old, straight and queer, and racially mixed; its vintage neon sign is a treasure!

Mississippi

A state with the symbol of the Confederacy stitched into its flag isn’t exactly an LGBT mecca. But more relaxed attitudes prevail in Gulfport, a coastal city famous for its 25 miles of beaches. Sure, it’s family friendly, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find queer life. There’s Sipps, a gay-friendly bar that made major headlines when out bartender Kara Coley posted an interaction on social media between herself and the mother of a gay son; Big Mike’s Speakeasy which hosted Sunday drag shows last time we checked; and even a clothing optional beach on nearby West Ship Island. Hundreds came out last fall to celebrate the second annual Gulf Coast Equality Fest.

Missouri

When the original Hamburger Mary’s in San Francisco closed permanently in 2001, its farewell to the world was “Rest in grease!” But out of the ashes of the world’s most queer-friendly burger franchise has risen numerous nationwide locations, including this one in St. Louis. So why single it out as the best queer hangout in the Show Me State? One word: location. Unlike the Grove, St. Louie’s gay nightlife strip, Mary’s stands proud right downtown (between the convention center and touristy Laclede’s Landing). This means every unsuspecting visitor looking for a burger is in for a night of gay bingo, a rousing drag show or Maryoke (and one heck of a burger).

Montana

The scenery—and cowboys—of Montana might evoke something out of Brokeback Mountain, but the reality of gay life here (you can still be fired for being gay in most counties) is far less romantic. This being said, there’s a lot for LGBT travelers in Montana to discover, namely liberal Bozeman, home to Montana State University. Wine bar Plonk, while not officially a gay establishment, definitely has a rainbow tinge. On the other hand, while Bozeman is a relatively big and cosmopolitan city by Montana standards, you’re never far from the state’s namesake “Big Sky,” whether you take a road trip to Glacier National Park or stick closer to town.

Nebraska

Omaha is quickly becoming one of the hippest cities in the US, and a big part of that is the city’s colorful LGBT scene. The city doesn’t have a “gayborhood,” per se, but rather its robust gay community is well-woven into its tapestry, the most worthy part of which for travelers is festive Flixx Cabaret. With weekend performances featuring both drag queens and drag kings in an eclectic range of comedic, dramatic and even burlesque-themed shows, Flixx will shatter the stereotype you probably have of gay life in Nebraska.
Eataly in Vegas

Eataly | Photo courtesy of MGM

Nevada

Las Vegas is probably immune to the criticism that it’s not queer enough and the city does boast a few notable highlights, including the “Fruit Loop,” a cluster of LGBT bars east of the Strip; Temptation Sundays, a gay pool party at the Luxor; and a nighttime Pride that happens annually in October. But we think its gayest hangout—this year at least—is the Park Theater, a state-of-the-art entertainment venue attached to the new Park MGM (formerly the Monte Carlo). Cher, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears (whose show has been postponed) dominate its 2019 lineup. The Park Theater is basically an Elton John away from being the gayest place on earth.

New Hampshire

Nestled in the base of the White Mountains in tiny New Hampshire is the even tinier town of Bethlehem. It’s home to the Highlands Inn, a small lodging that has been serving the lesbian community since 1983. Set on 100 acres, the Highlands offers a safe gathering space for women including 13 guestrooms (some with features like private deck, fireplace and two-person spa). The inn hosts a regular concert series and offers wedding packages for couples.

New Jersey

Color us Empressed. As prices skyrocket in Eastern seaboard gay meccas like Fire Island, P-Town and Rehoboth, it’s no surprise that penny-pinching queers have sought out better vacation bargains. They’ve found it in Asbury Park, a charming seaside town that’s gone from sleepy to sceney in recent years. Gay ground zero is the Empress Hotel, a bustling complex close to the beach and boardwalk and boasting  101 guestrooms, a restaurant, tiki bar, large pool and all the bikini and Speedo-clad queers you can imagine.

New Mexico

Albuquerque Social Club sounds like the kind of old-timey place that doesn’t have windows opening onto the street and where you have to have a membership, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what it is. The oldest LGBTQ bar in New Mexico’s largest city, the Soch as it’s locally known, opened as a non-profit social club for the gay community in 1971 and nearly 50 years later is still the city’s Cheers for queers. Yes, you have to pay a modest membership fee to get in, but you can have it waived by meeting some queer cutie on a dating app ahead of time and having them sign you in as their plus one.

Gay Men Friends Hanging Out On A Rooftop Enjoying The View In New York

New York

New York City is queer nirvana—at light speed that is. Instead, do as LGBT New Yorkers do in summer and hit up Fire Island, the 30-mile long sand bar that parallels Long Island and is reachable via rail (and a short ferry ride). The Pines and Cherry Grove are its heavenly LGBT epicenters, but Cherry Grove is by far the more inclusive of the two. We love it for its diversity, energy and larger offering of bars, shops, restaurants and accommodations. Don’t miss poolside days and boozy nights at the Ice Palace, dinner with a view at Top of the Bay and drag shows at Cherry’s.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of a beach vacation, let alone a gay destination. If you come to the state’s picturesque Outer Banks in September, however, you can have the best of both these worlds. Specifically, OBX Pride takes place in the town of Nags Head, and offers plenty of lazy activities to relax before and after marching. Come early and drink Friday night away on a Booze Cruise, or stay on Sunday after the parade and eat away your hangover at Manteo’s Drag Brunch.

North Dakota

Is there a full-time queer bar in North Dakota? Not that we can find. Considering its nickname is the Roughrider State, North Dakota boasts the lowest number of openly LGBT people in the entire country according to Gallup. But all is not lost. Fargo-Moorehead Pride in August features a parade, block party, a Pet Pride contest, a 5K, Pride in the Park, interfaith worship service, bowling, karaoke and trivia nights, a Pride dance party and youth events. If you’re gonna be gay in North Dakota, aim for an August visit.

Photo: Experience Columbus

Ohio

Columbus’ gay pride festival is named for the Stonewall Riots that started the modern gay rights’ movement 50 years ago—and with good reason. LGBT organizers within the Midwestern capital have been working to change hearts and minds since June 1982, when the first parade took place. Regardless of when you come to Columbus, base yourself in German Village, the city’s de-facto gayborhood. Whether you take a “Gay Pioneers Tour” that explains the role of the LGBT community in rehabilitating the district, or visit the Stonewall Columbus community center, whose advocacy and health services the proceeds of the celebration helps fund, your expectations will be shattered.

Oklahoma

Ready to get your queer kicks… on Route 66? The Mother Road runs from Chicago to LA and offers a surprisingly gay old time for LGBTQ roadtrippers—including the more than 400 miles that run through the Sooner State. Don’t miss kitschy roadside attractions like the neon-lit Pops 66 Soda Ranch, Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger and the Blue Whale of Catoosa; but also the opportunity to hang with Oklahomos after hours. Queer life in Oklahoma City is clustered on and around famous Route 66,including bars like Tramps, The Boom and Phoenix Rising. Plus there’s the adults only, 170-room Habana Inn, the largest LGBTQ hotel in the country (gay gasp!) which is under renovations and will soon be named the Hotel Habana.

Oregon

And the winner is… the Colombia River. Why? Because this slender body of water cutting through Portland boasts not one, but two queer beaches: Rooster Rock and Collins Beach. The former is favored among gay men while Collins (a part of bucolic Sauvie Island) offers a fuller rainbow portrait of the community (and is beloved by straights as well). Both are clothing optional, both can be swampy and unmanageable (depending on how rainy the previous winter was) and both are adored by Portland’s sun-starved queers.

Pennsylvania

The lesbian bar may be going the way of the dodo bird, but that doesn’t mean women-owned businesses are following. In fact, go to 13th Street in Philadelphia‘s Midtown Village where couple Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran own no less than nine (yup, nine!) thriving businesses. We can vouch for the awesomeness of DIY Taco Night at Mexican eatery Lolita, but there’s also gifts shops Verde and Open House, retro-American eatery Bud & Marilyn’s, Spanish wine bar Jamonera and many others—mostly on the same city block! You’ll be mixing with straights at every place, but isn’t that kind of awesome?

Rhode Island

More cities need to take their cue from Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and make their Pride Parades nighttime affairs. Providence figured this out and this June will boast its 44th Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade which marches merrily through the streets of the capital at 8pm. But in case you happen not to be visiting the Ocean State on Pride Weekend there’s always the beloved Stable, a downtown bar featuring outdoor seating and cute bartenders.

South Carolina

Charleston is one of America’s hottest destinations right now—especially for LGBT travelers, who will find a welcome home under the state’s namesake palmetto trees. Upper King Design District is the city’s most queer-friendly hood and includes gay bar Dudley’s, which pairs glamorous drag shows with a rough-around-the-edges billiards room. This famously historic city also boasts numerous queer landmarks, including Villa Margherita, where Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas once spent Valentine’s Day; the Candlestick Murder House, site of a sensational gay murder; and the Avery Research Center, which details the relationship between interracial couple Joseph Towles and Colin Turnbull.

Sioux Falls in South Dakota for Pride

For Pride 2018 the falls at Falls Park were bathed in rainbow colors. | Flickr CC: Jerry

South Dakota

South Dakota is one of the most sparsely populated states in the Union, but Sioux Falls puts a splotch of rainbow ink on the map. Every June, during Sioux Falls Pride, the city’s namesake waterfall is lit up in the rainbow flag, so whether you want to march through the streets or practice your night photography, this is where you’ll want to point your GPS. The city’s Club David is notably the only gay club in the state, so even if you come outside of Pride Month, it’s the best place to go to meet gay South Dakotans, who can give you even greater insight.

Tennessee

Gaydar, the hanky code, slang like “NSA” and “cakes”… These are things LGBT people intuitively know about that straight people don’t. But even most gay folks have never heard of Ida (Idyll Dandy Arts), a queer commune and rural community located about 60 miles east of Nashville. A safe space for queer and gender non-conforming artists, musicians and farmers, Ida welcomes visitors—especially during Idapalooza, a week-long music festival that happens on the land every June. How will you know when you’ve arrived? Look for a barn and the words “Welcome Homo” scrawled on the side of it.

Texas

The progressive queen of Texas politics, open-minded Austin is nevertheless smaller compared to Dallas and Houston when it comes to its LGBT scene (at least when measured in gay bars). But neither of those cities boast Cheer Up Charlie’s, a sprawling indoor-outdoor tavern, nightclub, live music venue and center for political action. Picture happy hour specials, live music (duh, it’s Austin), vegan food fests, karaoke, disco nights, GOTV events (featuring the likes of Connie Britton and Cecile Richards), storytelling nights, genderqueer cabarets and the most gorgeous LGBT cuties in the entire Lone Star State.

Utah

Lesbian mayor Jackie Biskupski has decided not to run for a second term, but that doesn’t mean the queer good times are ending in Salt Lake City. In addition to annual events like Utah Pride Festival, Damn These Heels LGBTQ film festival and Elevation Utah Gay Ski Week in nearby Park City, there’s plenty of bar life to keep queers entertained. As for the best homo hangout? We’re giving props to queer-friendly music venue Metro Music Hall whose monthly lineup always includes a bevy of LGBTQ entertainment like drag superstars Silky Nutmeg Ganache and Jinkx Monsoon, the Viva La DIVA female impersonation show and the annual Mr./Ms. Leather SL,UT contest.

Vermont

The Green Mountain State is famously liberal (it was fourth to legalize same-sex marriage and we’re guessing you’ve heard of Bernie Sanders), but also famously small. Big city Burlington has a population of just 42,000 and boasts only a couple queer bars. Instead, head to Rock River near Brattleboro.  A longtime (mostly male) clothing-optional swimming hole and hangout, 21 acres of the river were recently purchased by Rock River Preservation, a nonprofit created by a group of gay men, ensuring that it will remain a place of queer idyll for decades to come.

Virginia

Virginia is for lovers—gay ones, too! The state’s capital Richmond is actually one of America’s best-kept LGBT secrets, whether you grab a cocktail or bite to eat at Barcode, or catch a show at Richmond Triangle Players, the only theater in the country that features solely queer works. The most famous gay activity—it’s more of an institution, really, is the “drag brunch” at Godfrey’s. In addition to the delightfully campy entertainment and flavorful comfort food on offer, drag brunch is a place where all members of the community can feel welcome—even visitors like you!

Washington

We love Seattle‘s vibrant queer scene. There’s a bevy of eateries helmed by out chefs including Julian Hagood’s Harry’s Fine Foods (and coming soon restaurant Harry’s Beach House) and Tilth from James Beard Award-winner Maria Hines; LGBTQ sunbathing destinations Madison Park Beach and Denny Blaine and Howell Park; legendary lesbian hangout the Wildrose Bar; mega-inclusive entertainment space Queer/Bar and many others. But we’re giving props to Pony, a former 1930s gas station-turned dive bar that tips its hat to the great Castro and West Village bars of the 1970s. Trust us, you’ll have a gay old time.

Capital Pride washington dc

Capital Pride | Flickr CC: Elvert Barnes

Washington D.C.

Size isn’t everything—our nation’s compact capital proves that. Packed within its 68 square miles is Dupont Circle, one of America’s most beloved gayborhoods. Bar flies can hang out at legendary JR’s Bar & Grill or the DC Eagle, while boutiques like Bite the Fruit and Secret Pleasures offer much more than the salacious products their names suggest. Coming for pride? Multiple parades take place under the Capital Pride Banner every year, from the main one in early June, to Trans Pride in May, and they all pass through Dupont Circle.

West Virginia

The woodsy community of Lost River, a town of only 2,500 people about two hours west of DC, has been touted in both the New York Times and Washington Post as a low-key weekend getaway for both gay men and lesbian women eager to flee the District for a few days. Stay at Guesthouse Lost River and shop the Lost River Trading Post (both gay owned) and, of course, inhale the clean mountain air. How will you know when you’ve arrived? Look for a rainbow flag or two along Main Street.

Wisconsin

The death of the gay bar is premature, but it is true that a lot of classics have shuttered their doors (like San Francisco legend the Gangway, which closed in early 2018), which is why we like to visit the oldies while we still can. In Milwaukee, This is It! is a gem of a gay bar. Think wood paneling on the walls, Tiffany lamps and stiff drinks. Welcoming to all (but mostly attracting men), the bar fits Milwaukee’s blue collar ethos like a glove.

Wyoming

Not a hangout in the fun sense of the word, the Matthew Shepard Memorial Bench at the University of Wyoming (where Shepard was a student) in Laramie is nevertheless a place to sit and consider the violence perpetrated against LGBTQ people. Shepherd was just 21-years-old when he was pistol-whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die. (In October 2018, his ashes were finally laid to rest at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C.) The bench is inscribed with the words: “He continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit here.”

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Jason Heidemann and Robert Schrader

Jason Heidemann and Robert Schrader

Jason Heidemann and Robert Schrader

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