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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Walking tours offer a fantastic welcome to a new destination and a chance to see it from a local’s perspective, but standard tours often overlook the lives of queer travelers.

Having a local LGBTQIA guide changes that, while making it easier to talk about the topics that are important and of interest to us while meeting fellow queer travelers and finding out where the gay hot spots are. I know firsthand; I founded The Gay Locals in Paris, hosting walking tours for and by LGBTQIA individuals.

Here in North America, there are options in most major cities to meet up with a friendly local who will help queer visitors feel reflected in the places they are visiting. Here are 8 we recommend.

RELATED: Visit our LGBTQIA travel hub for welcoming hotels, the ultimate queer events calendar, inspiration, and more!

New York City

nyc lgbtqia walking tour

Photo courtesy of Maegan Gindi

Christopher Street Tours brings visitors face to face with the powder keg sparked in 1969: The Stonewall Uprising. With itineraries including historic Greenwich Village, a Drag History Tour, and a historic bar crawl, participants will walk away with a deeper understanding of why exactly New York City is such a queer haven.

Founder Michael Venturiello hopes to uplift voices of those who paved the way, honoring their legacies, and even engage older LGBTQIA folks to share their stories directly with younger travelers.

San Francisco

castro-walking-tours

Photo courtesy of Kathy Amendola, Cruisin’ the Castro Walking Tour

Most visitors don’t make it past the bars in the Castro, but Kathy Amendola’s Cruisin’ the Castro Walking Tour makes sure there’s more to experience. For more than 30 years, her company has been promoting LGBTQ culture and history in a place that needs no introduction as a haven for queer travelers. In addition to the classic walking tour, the company offers a virtual tour, “The Castro—A Community Advocating for Equality,” that introduces 70 years of activism in San Francisco.

Chicago

chicago gay neighborhood

Flickr CC: Ken Lund

The Legacy Walk is unique among tours, able to be navigated with or without a guide, but it’s a step above a self-guided tour. Columns with bronze plaques form a free walking tour that introduces visitors to some of the individuals who have contributed to LGBTQ history, making it a great primer for anyone not familiar with subjects like pink triangles or Stonewall. Located right along North Halsted Street (Boystown’s main drag), is the world’s only outdoor LGBTQ museum, and it takes participants past a dozen queer bars, including Sidetrack, Roscoe’s, and Replay.

New Orleans

Frenchmen Street sign in New Orleans

With. Mardi Gras, glittering beads, and fancy costumes, New Orleans isn’t pretending to be anything but inviting to LGBTQIA travelers. French Quarter Frank hosts the “Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour,” a dive into the Big Easy and its multicultural history that fosters countless LGBTQ moments from Southern Decadence to Gay Carnival. Frank Perez has literally written books about New Orleans’s LGBTQ history, so he’ll spill all of the tea there is to spill from the city’s iconic French Quarter.

Boston

Stock Photo of Boston Public Garden in Summer

Boston by Foot offers “Boston’s LGBTQ Past” as a private tour, but provides group tours during Pride Month. Digging into the late 19th and 20th centuries, it peels back the layers of this historic city to reveal its queer inhabitants. Famous names like Thoreau pop up while projects like the AIDS Action Committee reveal how Boston surmounted challenges for its LGBTQIA community. This company partners with The History Project, a nonprofit organization that celebrates New England’s LGBTQ history.

Philadelphia

mural in philadelphia

Flickr CC: Elvert Barnes

In a city known for all sorts of brotherly love, Beyond the Bell Tours presents the “Philly Gayborhood and LGBTQ Tour.” Learn about famous folk like Barbara Gittings while strolling the streets teeming with colonial history. Before Stonewall, queer individuals protested here in the 1960s, but many of these stories have been forgotten. With one of the only formalized gayborhoods in the entire country, Philadelphia wants other cities to know it has more than cheese steaks to offer.

Vancouver

The-Really-Gay-History-Tour-572A2617-signature

Photo courtesy of Forbidden Vancouver

Forbidden Vancouver’s “The Really Gay History Walking Tour” may not get crafty with its name, but every Sunday it introduces visitors to the city’s untold LGBTQ stories. Things get serious when discussing the bombing of a queer bookstore or the politically-charged kiss-in on Granville Street, but it also lightens up with its inclusion of a visit to the “gayest beer parlour” in town. Pink-hat-clad guide Glenn Tkach brings the stories to life, making it clear why Vancouver is such a friendly place today.

Lexington, KY

Downtown Lexington Skyline. Lexington is the second largest city in Kentucky, and most famous for the Kentucky Derby Race, and is known as "The Horse Capitol of the World." (Downtown Lexington Skyline. Lexington is the second largest city in Kentuck

Yes, there is one in Kentucky! A one-mile route, called Pride of Place, is a self-guided tour that takes visitors through the city’s sites, incorporating the LGBTQ history behind them. Learn about local gay artist Henry Faulkner while exploring  lesser-known stories about the brothels, bars, and bus stations that played a role in the city’s LGBTQ past. The tour is the brainchild of the Faulkner Morgan Archives, so pop in for a visit after to learn more about Kentucky’s queer heritage.

Tagged: Boston, California, Canada, Chicago, Chicago, Midwest, New England, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Bryan Pirolli

Bryan Pirolli

Bryan Pirolli

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