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A common phrase is that the world is getting smaller, but for the queer community it’s only getting bigger. That’s because LGBT rights are only expanding around the world and destinations that were off limits only 10 years ago are now opening their arms to our community. Sure there are parts of the world where history sometimes takes a step backwards, but 2017 will no doubt shape up to be a big travel year for gays and lesbians. Pack your bags (and plenty of sunscreen), here’s where you should travel right now.

RELATED: 26 LGBT vacations you must take before you die

Todos Santos

Todos Santos | Flickr photos by J Kehoe

Todos Santos, Mexico

Out hotelier Liz Lambert has a magic touch. Her Hotel San Jose in Austin is hipster ground zero and since opening that crash pad more than a decade ago her company Bunkhouse Group has taken over management of the classic Austin Motel and also owns properties in Marfa, Texas and San Antonio. Her next project will be new digs in Todos Santos, a coastal town in Baja California. Although one lesbian-owned hotel does not a queer mecca make, Lambert is no doubt betting that Todos Santos—an artist’s haven that’s laid-back, beautiful and chock full of galleries—is just waiting to be “discovered” by dreamers, drifters and creative types of all sexual orientations. Look out Tulum, the next great Mexican resort town is on its way. Please don’t tell anyone.

Palm Springs, desert, midcentury, Coachella, California, SoCal

Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs, CA

A perennial gay favorite, sleepy Palm Springs had long been resting on its laurels as a sun-drenched haven for retirees, golfers and the gay community. But a funny thing has recently happened to this desert city—its become cool again. It got a boost when Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival planted roots not far away and since that time all of young Hollywood is rushing to hipster resorts like the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows, the Ace Hotel and Swim Club and the nearby Saguaro. Food options have likewise improved (check out the Rooster and the Pig, Birba and Workshop + Kitchen and Bar among others). For queer visitors this means a ton of new options on top of what’s already great about the city including its two dozen gay, clothing optional resorts and annual bashes like the Dinah and the White Party. Even the nightlife has gotten a little better over the past ten years.

Montevideo, gay, LGBT, Uruguay

Montevideo | Photo courtesy of Jimmy Baikovic

Montevideo, Uruguay

If this South American city isn’t yet on your gaydar, you haven’t been doing your homework. Think stunning Art Deco and neoclassical architecture + a fierce love of the arts plus + beach side bliss + a thriving queer scene and it all adds up to same-sex heaven. As for its LGBT outreach, Uruguay is a South American leader in human rights. Homosexuality has been legal here since 1934 and it conferred full marriage equality as of 2013. Last year it hosted the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference and both Montevideo and nearby Punta del Este host annual Pride events. Also, the beach and bar scenes are loud and swinging. Oh, and the city is a 2-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires which means you can combine gaycations and get two superb destinations for the price of one plane ticket. Done!

punta-cana

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There’s a fixed hostility toward LGBT rights in many Caribbean nations that’s been tough to shake loose and even as recently as 2010 the D.R. amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marriage. Yet Punta Cana remains an island (so to speak) unto itself. This honeymooner’s paradise, famed for its beaches, outdoor activities and all-inclusive resorts, maintains a welcoming and laid-back attitude toward same-sex couples that’s as breezy as its gentle, tropical winds. So why go now? Recently opened Mares, an all-welcoming gay bar and cocktail lounge signals a planting of the rainbow flag. Plus, numerous resorts like the Hard Rock Hotel and adults only Secrets Royal Beach and Breathless Punta Cana (which will host hundreds of queer women in October 2017 via an Olivia Travel resort experience) welcome queer travelers with open arms.

colorado

Colorado in autumn

Colorado

Wait a minute, you mean not every gaycation has to revolve around a swimming pool and a circuit party? Colorado is a fantastic destination for queers of every stripe and boasts a nationwide historic first: In 1975, Clela Rorex of Boulder County became the first county clerk in the nation to hand out marriage licenses. These days high times abound everywhere in live-and-let-live Colorado including gay ski weeks in premier winter towns like Aspen and Telluride, a lively bar and nightlife scene in once-sleepy Denver and low-key good times inside Boulder’s liberal bubble. But we love that Colorado also provides great escapes from big city living including four national parks, eight national monuments, nine national forests and 42 state parks. In fact, half the state belongs to public lands and the opportunities for the perfect gaycation are limitless. Did we mention there’s a lot of sunshine?

Taiwan, gay, travel, LGBT

Taiwan | Flicker photo courtesy of Sese_87

Taiwan

A rumble is happening off the coast of mainland China as the independent island nation of Taiwan begins a fierce debate over same-sex marriage. While feelings over the issue are almost evenly split, the country is nevertheless considered a bastion of LGBT tolerance in East Asia and it laws and attitudes toward the queer community are among the regions most progressive. If the marriage bill passes, it would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex unions, but regardless the capital city of Taipei is a gay-friendly mecca boasting the biggest annual Pride celebration in Asia and a nightlife scene that includes a dozen queer bars and numerous saunas. Beyond queer life there are enchanting night markets, ancient temples, luxury hotels and the super tall skyscraper Taipei 101. And who knows, in 2017, any one of these attractions may just become a place where couples exchange wedding vows.

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil

Brazil is big. So much so in fact that most of its citizens would forgive their North American counterparts for not being able to name its cities beyond Rio de Janeiro and maybe São Paulo. Perhaps that’s why Floripa (for short), the sunny and artsy island capital of Santa Catarina has been off-radar for so long. Yet it’s somewhat of a gay mecca boasting not only a thriving nightlife, amazing beaches and several restaurants helmed by gay women, but also South America’s first lesbian (but gay male and trans welcoming) surf camp which opened in 2015 under the name Gay Surf Brazil and is offered by lesbian-owned Brazil Ecojourneys. Additionally, there’s a bumping Carnival and Pride Week. No wonder Floripa is considered the Provincetown of South America.

Brighton Pride

Brighton Pride | Flickr photo by Andy Walker

Brighton, England

How many cities with a population of 150,000 can say they’ll be hosting their fifth annual Trans Pride weekend in 2017? We’re not talking an offshoot of Brighton Pride, but rather a full-fledged weekend boasting a talent competition, film night, picnic, after parties, art installations, a march and more. Coastal Brighton can make just such a claim. A seaside city that has long held the distinction of having the highest concentration of same-sex couples in Britain, queer-friendly Brighton and nearby Hove are bursting with gay-owned businesses and bars especially around Kemptown, although the boho vibe is everywhere. With the pound dropping to historic lows against the U.S. dollar, the time to visit is now. Bonus: London is only a half hour away via train.

Orlando, gay, LGBT, Pulse, Pride

Orlando Pride | Flickr photo by Grow by Love

Orlando, Fl

In the early hours of June 12, 2016 a status update appeared on the Facebook page of Orlando-based Pulse Nightclub that read, “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” The message was in response to a lone gunman who shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was the worst mass shooting in American history and happened in a city that is famously known for being a vacation paradise. It also brought out the best in people as both gay and straight communities rushed to donate blood to the victims, offer monetary support to the families and man crisis hotlines. But for queer visitors the city is still a mecca for good times including its promise of endless sunshine, a happening downtown and its ubiquitous theme parks which of course includes Gay Days at Disney World which attracts more than 150,000 LGBT visitors annually.  The city deserves our love and the time to offer it is now.

Gay Pride Madrid

Gay Pride Madrid | Flickr photo by Antonio Tajuelo

Madrid, Spain

Spain is the Europe of our dreams. Between elegant Barcelona, heady Ibiza, gay happening Gran Canaria, a gay cruise ship in every port city and a nonstop calendar of annual queer events like Bear Week in Sitges and Ella International Lesbian Festival in Mallorca, it may in fact be the overall queerest country on the continent. Yet in 2017 all eyes will be fixed on Madrid. The madcap capital and home to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is also a city of endless siestas, a tapas restaurant on every corner and a backroom in every bar. In May it will host Mr. Gay World 2017 and in late June it will host World Pride Madrid 2017 which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the city’s first Pride March. Come summer 2017, the city may just be the gayest place on planet earth.

Orbitz, app, iPhone, travel, deals

Tagged: Beach Vacation, California Vacation, Caribbean Vacation, Europe Vacation, International vacation, LGBT travel, Orlando vacation

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.
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If you’ve attended music festivals like Lollapalooza in Chicago or Bonnaroo in Tennessee during a rain storm, then you’ve seen a perfectly celebratory setting get messy very quickly. (So. Much. Mud.) It can be a major buzzkill to your weekend. But a sloppy festival environment isn’t that big of a deal when it’s exactly what you signed up for. At these events—some of the messiest festivals in the world—a little grime and untidiness is encouraged.

Related: Check out the world’s most unusual ice cream flavors

La Tomatina Festival: Bunol, Spain
Held on the last Wednesday of August, barley clothed participants storm the streets of the Valencian town of Bunol to throw more than 150,000 tomatoes at each other—talk about painting the town red. If you find yourself taking part, remember to squash your tomatoes before throwing them to help avoid any injuries.

Tomatino Festival, Spain

Photo: “Tomatina 2006” by Graham McLellan from London, UK | Wiki Commons

Holi Festival: India
This colorful festival celebrates the beginning of spring in India and Nepal. Festival-goers say goodbye to winter by tossing brightly colored powder and water on each other while dancingand singing. Can’t make it to India? Similar Holi festivals take place each spring in major cities like New York and Berlin.

Holi

Boryeong Mud Festival: Boryeong, South Korea
Mud is a major ingredient in a variety of skincare products (mud masks, anyone?), so in 1998 a South Korean cosmetics company celebrated this fact by organizing a mud fest. The event now attracts more than 2.6 million visitors who descend upon the city every July to partake in messy activities like mud flights, mud slides, mud wrestling, mud baths and more.

boryeong

LaBatalla de Vino de Haro (Wine Fight of Haro): Haro, Spain
Wine lovers might flinch at this set-up: Every year at the end of June, locals and a few tourists march up a mountain in La Rioja, Spain with a bunch of wine—but instead of drinking it, they spray and splash it on each other. The festivities last until around 5am the next day, when everyone is completely soaked in the red stuff.

World Bodypainting Festival: Poertschach, Austria
For almost 20 years now, artists from around the world gather each July in tiny Poertschach to compete for world championship titles in body painting. The week-long festival features hundreds of models being painted live on-site, and many visitors partake, too. Just be careful about where you sitafter a bodypainting session.

Photo_Guenter-Floeck084

Photo Credit: Guenter-Floeck

International Pillow Fight Day: Worldwide
As part of the Urban Playground Movement (where artists do interesting things in public spaces), this “holiday” celebrates the art of pillow fighting. Groups in a variety of cities (ranging from Salt Lake City to Madrid and Shanghai to Cincinnati) gather in public parks for a massive—and friendly—pillow fight. If you see a lot of feathers floating in the air on April 2, this is why.

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Tagged: Destinations, Foodie vacations, Fun Stuff, International vacation

Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh

Kevin Aeh is an editor/writer based in New York City. He covers lifestyle, travel, and pop culture; and his current obsessions include finding the best eye cream, booking a trip to Cuba, and binge-watching Lady Dynamite on Netflix. His writing has appeared in Time Out New York, Furthermore from Equinox, Refinery29, Vulture, and more.
Kevin Aeh

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Mercado San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel is one of Madrid’s amazing public markets. Photo: Jennifer Olvera

Visiting public markets is a great way to witness daily life and get a sense of place when traveling to a new city. Sometimes the experience is awe-inspiring. Other times an over-sensory experience awaits, one filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents.

In Mexico City, Mercado de la Merced, Cerrada del Rosario at Calle General Anaya, is not to be missed. Expect mounds of fresh produce, dried chiles, cactus and wild mushrooms from all over Mexico, tucked into stalls that have been strung with piñatas.

Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is, simply, a cool spot to be. Situated within former city hall offices at Jarvis and Front Streets, its vendors proffer meat, spices and fresh, local produce of endless kinds. When it’s warm, a farmers’ market spills into the parking lot, expanding the bounty. An on-site chef series adds further allure.

When in Stockholm, make your way to Östermalms Saluhall, 114 39 Stockholm, a fantastic food hall chock-full of noteworthy cafes and restaurants, among them standout Lisa Elmqvist Fisk, a seafood spot where you can both shop for and be served incomparable catches.

Overwhelming is one word that comes to mind when visiting Chandni Chowk, the sprawling Old Delhi marketplace where vibrant colors, a crush of traffic and narrow alleyways reveal Jalebiwala, a sweet shop that’s over a century old; a jewelry-centric bazaar along Dariba Kalan Road; and Paratha Wali Gali, where options for parathas (Indian-style flat bread) abound.

Veering in another direction entirely is Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel, Plaza de San Miguel, s/n 28005, an elegant spot for prepared fare—fresh-shucked oysters, tapas with sherry—as well as fresh-caught seafood, vibrant produce and pastries.

Tagged: International vacation

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @olverajennifer.
Jennifer Olvera

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