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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.