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Our gay and lesbian travel guide gives you the inside scoop on the top LGBT-welcoming destinations on planet earth. At Orbitz, we believe that no vacation day should go un-traveled, so grab your partner or BFF and go get more stamps in your passports!
America’s largest city is a country unto itself. Sure, it may have become more sanitized and gentrified in the past few years as sky high rents continue to push even well-heeled professionals into the outskirts of the city. But New York City will always be one of the premier destinations for LGBT travelers looking for a monumental experience that demands all the energy, attention, and creativity that you can muster. It’s nothing less than exhilarating.
Among New York City's five boroughs, Manhattan is still where most of the LGBT scene is located, despite the rising rents that continue to push young queers into outer boroughs. Popular areas include the West Village (centered on Christopher Street and home to famous Stonewall bar which is now a National Monument), the scruffy East Village, Chelsea (the gay neighborhood du jour in the '80s and ‘90s but whose bar scene has all but disappeared), Harlem (which is becoming more gay-welcoming and more gentrified) and Hell’s Kitchen, the new epicenter of queer activity and nightlife. Brooklyn is the second-gayest borough and seems to be getting queerer every year—particularly in young, artsy Williamsburg. In Queens, the Greek-flavored ‘hood of Astoria is an up-and-coming gay area, as is the multi-ethnic enclave of Jackson Heights, home to a slew of gay bars. But basically, you’ll find LGBT life alive and well everywhere in New York—even in the uber-straight Bronx.
A gay trip to New York can be anything you want to make it: Check out the LGBT theater scene, take a tour of gay art galleries in Chelsea, explore the queer ethnic scene in Queens, delve into the leather bars, listen to queer poetry slams, watch gay rugby matches and dine in fine lesbian restaurants! No need to bite off more than you can chew—there is plenty of the Big Apple to feed you for multiple trips throughout your lifetime.
1. Choose your lodging based on your interests.
If you want to experience the best in queer nightlife, choose Hell’s Kitchen. If you're into theater, stay in Times Square. If you’re into the city’s vibrant African-American community, stay in Harlem. If you prefer the grungy, artsy scene, choose the Lower East Side.
2. Prepare to wait in line.
It’s a good thing there are Ubers, taxis and NYC’s magnificent subway system to zip you around the boroughs in no time because once you arrive at your destination
you will probably have to stand in a line. Whether it’s for a Broadway show, a museum exhibition or an ice cream cone, New Yorkers wait and wait and wait for everything and so will you.
3. Add on Fire Island.
During the season on Fire Island (roughly May to September), you can feel like a real New Yorker by joining in on the lively beach scene here. Of the two main LGBT enclaves on the island, The Pines is more male and exclusive; Cherry Grove is more lesbian and democratic. There are a handful of lodging options on the island, including The Grove Hotel and the Belvedere Guest House in Cherry Grove. Just book early!
Just about every American city has a Pride weekend worth checking out, but none is quite so exhilarating as NYC Pride () . Pride Week boasts a ton of community and nightlife events happening all over town, but it’s the thrilling Pride Parade, which winds down Fifth Avenue and through the Village, that reminds us all of why New York is the world’s great gay mecca.
Village Halloween Parade (). New Yorkers love their uninhibited side and they’re going to show it off in front of thousands cold weather be damned. This long-running parade marches through the village every Halloween and brings in the costumed by the tens of thousands. The parade itself is a sight to behold, but so is just about everybody else.
If you’re lamenting the mainstreaming of queer cinema, look no further than Mix NYC (), an experimental LGBT film festival which has been going strong since the 80s and has served as a launching pad for emerging talent such as Todd Haynes, Miranda July and Christine Vachon.
Huge and sprawling and incomprehensible in its vastness (even natives have never seen all of it), Los Angeles can be daunting to the first-time visitor—especially if you don’t drive. The best way to approach this gay popular megalopolis is to think of it as a series of cities adjoining one another, each with its own vibe. There’s beachy, mellow Santa Monica and its funky seaside neighbor Venice. There’s dense and walkable downtown (DTLA) with its new yuppie residents elbow-to-elbow with the old-timers. The Valley incorporates a string of cities, including gay-popular Studio City, and it's far more than its unfair reputation as a suburban wasteland. And then, of course, there’s West Hollywood, which includes most of the famous Sunset Strip, littered with celebrities, nightclubs and swank hotels. WeHo’s wide and tasteful Santa Monica Boulevard is the focal point of most of the area’s LGBT action—with probably the best lesbian-specific nightlife on the West Coast. The other main gay area of L.A. is Silverlake, once seen as a leather-y village but now quite fashionable, and also home to a wide swath of LGBT nightlife. Long Beach, south of L.A. and bordering Orange County, has a large gay population that is slightly more sedate than in L.A. but still enjoys its local queer nightlife and beach life. But almost every one of L.A.’s cities has its own LGBT bars and businesses so you’re never far from the action.
Activities in this enormous metropolis are as plentiful and varied as your imagination. The traditional tourist sites are Hollywood Boulevard (with its stars embedded in the sidewalk and the fancy Hollywood and Highland shopping complex, home to the Academy Awards); Beverly Hills (with its exclusive shopping on Rodeo Drive); Universal City (with its backlot studios tour and theme park); Santa Monica and Venice (with a fun pier full of rides and a lively boardwalk scene that could rival Fellini); DTLA (which includes great museums, hipster hangouts and fun ethnic enclaves like Little Tokyo, Chinatown and nearby K-Town); and a ferry trip to Catalina Island (with its upscale Mediterranean vibe). And don’t forget the gay-popular attraction Disneyland and laid-back Laguna Beach—both of which are actually in Orange County.
1. Watch out for "June Gloom" and "the Santa Anas."
Two L.A.-specific weather phenomena are the fog banks and overcast skies that can hang around for days in June (actually, it can happen anytime from March to August), and the Santa Ana winds that can make you feel like Dorothy in Kansas. Summer in general can also be very hot—especially in the Valley—and it’s peak tourist season.
2. Join a live studio audience.
A guaranteed way to actually see a celebrity in L.A. is by seeing a TV show being taped. Tickets are free, and are sometimes handed out on Hollywood Boulevard or Universal City. You can also get them at www.tvtickets.com.
3. If you don’t drive, stay in West Hollywood.
If you don’t drive or are scared of the city’s monumental traffic, and simply want to focus on gay life, stay in one of WeHo’s upscale hotels. You’ll be within walking distance of gay nightlife, shops and restaurants.
With the Hollywood Hills as the backdrop, Andaz West Hollywood - A Hyatt Hotel is on the Sunset Strip near popular nightclubs and restaurants, a short distance ...
Andaz West Hollywood - a concept by Hyatt$259Andaz West Hollywood - a concept by Hyatt$259
Situated just below Sunset Strip, The London West Hollywood is within a block of couture shops and popular nightclubs. Beverly Hills is 1 mile away and Hollywood ...
London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills$459London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills$459
Within six blocks of 100 restaurants, shops, and nightclubs, this Los Angeles hotel is 3 miles from Hollywood, 5 miles from Universal Studios, and 10 miles from ...
Ramada Plaza by Wyndham West Hollywood Hotel & Suites$195Ramada Plaza by Wyndham West Hollywood Hotel & Suites$195
Situated on the Strip, this luxury hotel is 0.6 mi (1 km) from Whiskey a Go Go and within 3 mi (5 km) of TCL Chinese Theatre and Dolby Theater. Hollywood Walk ...
The Jeremy Hotel West Hollywood$279The Jeremy Hotel West Hollywood$279
This Los Angeles hotel is across from the upscale, 8-level Beverly Center mall; Sunset Strip is about 1 mile away—the hotel is ideally located for sightseeing ...
Sofitel LA at Beverly Hills$258Sofitel LA at Beverly Hills$258
Located on a tree-lined boulevard in Beverly Hills, this secluded Los Angeles hotel is less than a mile from Rodeo Drive boutiques and Beverly Center. The Sunset ...
Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills$447Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills$447
Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, this luxury hotel is 0.3 mi (0.5 km) from Rodeo Drive and within 3 mi (5 km) of University of California Los Angeles and ...
SIXTY Beverly Hills$278SIXTY Beverly Hills$278
Located in Westwood, this spa hotel is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Century City and 1.4 mi (2.2 km) from University of California Los Angeles. Rodeo Drive and Museum ...
Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel & Spa$228Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel & Spa$228
Beverly Hills Marriott is within walking distance of the luxury shops of Rodeo Drive, and 5 miles from Hollywood. Santa Monica is 8 miles west.
Beverly Hills Marriott$229Beverly Hills Marriott$229
The City of Angels eschews the traditional last weekend in June (perhaps so as to not compete with San Francisco) and instead celebrates its LA Pride () with an outrageous mid-month parade right through the heart of WeHo coupled with a full weekend of parties and events like a music festival featuring legit headliners.
While paling in comparison to its Orlando counterpart, Gay Days at Disneyland (gaydaysanaheim.com) finds the queer community barnstorming Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim in a show of LGBT solidarity (wear red to make your presence known!). While not officially connected with the parks, Disney is more than welcoming and be sure and check out the full weekend itinerary including pool parties, brunches and cocktail hours happening near the parks.
The nation’s third-largest city is a major hub for every gay or lesbian in the Midwest and a popular gay travel destination. It’s a friendly, easy-going city despite its worldly refinement. The Windy City has a huge and very visible LGBT scene, centered in two main areas: nightlife-centric Boystown (a.k.a. East Lakeview), and cozy Andersonville. Boystown is about five miles north of the downtown Loop in a triangle bounded by Belmont Avenue, Halsted Street, and Broadway. (Halsted Street has most of the gay establishments and bars.) The Swedish immigrant neighborhood of Andersonville, with many trendy cafes, eateries and furniture stores on Clark Street, was a haven for lesbians in the late 80s and early 90s but these days is equally mixed. Meanwhile, the near West Side hipster mecca of Logan Square is home to such a high number of LGBT folk that some have dubbed it Logan’s Queer. And since Chicago is home to 27 miles of lakefront, don’t miss the massive gay beach scene each summer at Hollywood Beach in Edgewater.
Chicago is justifiably famous for its architecture, and the skyline is one of the most impressive in the world, home to the massive icons of the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Building, not to mention more recent additions by Jeanne Gang and Frank Gehry. (Be sure to take one of the city’s architectural boat tours that glide up and down the Chicago River.) The Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city is not only lined with historic buildings, but with some of the city’s best shopping as well. For great outdoor views of the city, take a ride on the new Ferris wheel at historic Navy Pier. Downtown’s Millennium Park boasts a Frank Gehry-designed amphitheater, two 50-foot video block towers with fountains, and silvery “Cloud Gate” (aka “the Bean”), the Anish Kapoor-designed sculpture that reflects the city skyline and is among the most Instagrammed pieces of public art on earth.
1. Head to the Hancock.
The lines are longer at the Willis Tower, and even though the John Hancock Building is not as tall, its Signature Room on the 95th floor is a great place to hang out in a lounge and sip a drink while gazing over the city and lake.
2. Visit in summer and fall.
The city is notoriously frigid in winter and springtime is usually disappointingly cold. Meanwhile, Chicagoans tend to enjoy each summer day like it’s their last on earth and September and early October are gorgeous times to visit.
3. Fly into Midway.
O’Hare is one of the busiest and most hectic airports in the world, while the smaller and less busy Midway Airport is closer to the Loop and serves more discount airlines.
Located on Michigan Avenue in the middle of Chicago's Magnificent Mile, this 1920s Italian Renaissance hotel is surrounded by fashionable shops, 1 mile from ...
Warwick Allerton - Chicago$115Warwick Allerton - Chicago$115
Located in Near North Side, this family-friendly Chicago hotel is steps from Downtown Chicago and Wrigley Building. Tribune Tower and Chicago Theatre are also ...
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago$296Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago$296
Right on Magnificent Mile, The James Chicago-Magnificent Mile puts guests in the middle of Chicago's famed shopping district filled with boutiques and restaurants. ...
The James Chicago-Magnificent Mile$125The James Chicago-Magnificent Mile$125
The Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile offers a newly renovated fresh look and is located two blocks from Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile shopping, ...
Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile$209Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile$209
International Mr. Leather (). This full weekend of leather fetish parties and pageantry is one of the largest on earth and it’s the one time you’ll see folks on the street walking around in jock straps and harnesses. The contest itself is only for the diehard, but everyone loves the sprawling leather market and boozing and schmoozing in the lobby of the host hotel.
The city’s Pride Parade runs right through the heart of Boystown and is big—almost too big—for the ‘hood to handle. Nevertheless, the city has aimed to Chicago Pride () by spreading the festivities out over two weekends and redrawing the parade route to ease congestion. Expect nearly one million revelers each June.
A well-heeled and self-satisfied South Florida city of just 180,000 residents, Fort Lauderdale has emerged in the last decade as the Sunshine State’s undisputed gay mecca—even putting Miami to shame. Flashy high-rises are towering both downtown and along A1A, fancy Las Olas
Boulevard remains a great place to gallery hop or grab a bite and the city’s 23 miles of pristine beaches are clean, accessible and sun-drenched almost every day of the year.
Additionally, LGBT-owned resorts and guesthouses flourish, the bar scene is lively and outrageous and gay suburb Wilton Manors now ranks second in the country for highest number of same-sex residents. Case in point: Its main drag overflows with enough gay shops, restaurants and clubs to rival many a major American city. Victoria Park and Oakland Park also have a firm queer presence.
Fort Lauderdale is often called the “yachting capital of the world” or “the Venice of America” due to its 300 miles of navigable waterways and
innumerable canals, which permit thousands of residents to anchor boats in their back yards. To see what we mean, come in December for the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, where more than 100 illuminated boats float along the Intracoastal Waterway through Fort Lauderdale. There also are Broadway-style performances at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and don’t forget the International Swimming Hall of Fame, with its hundreds of photographs of guys in wet Speedos and Olympic swimming pool which is open daily to visitors. Visit in late winter for the city’s annual Pride Festival or in late April and early May for Fort Lauderdale Bear Weeks and Weekends.
1. Take a boat.
You don’t need a friend with a luxury yacht to enjoy Fort Lauderdale’s waterways—water taxis are plentiful. Just avoid the more crowded 70-passenger “water buses.”
2. Choose your favorite gay beach.
Fort Lauderdale has not one but three popular gay spots: Sebastian Street is where you’ll see the highest concentration of gay men walking around in tiny bikinis; Terramar is close to many of the gay guesthouses and more mellow; and visitors with cars often make the 30ish-minute trek to North Miami to visit clothing optional Haulover Beach.
3. Find the right accommodation for you.
Fort Lauderdale has a dizzying array of lodging options. The city home to more than a dozen gay guesthouses clustered along the beach and scattered elsewhere around town. Most cater specifically to gay men and most are clothing optional (meaning nude sunbathing is allowed). But also near the beach are gorgeous high-rise hotels and resorts like the Atlantic Hotel and Spa and the W Fort Lauderdale. There really is something for every taste and budget.
Once a getaway for late-career crooners, honeymooners and over-the-hillers, neon-lit, Vegas in the 21st century is one of the most popular gay travel getaways in the world. Despite its lack of a huge queer-specific infrastructure, the town by nature is as gay as it comes. Tight-clad gymnasts are beautifully featured in every Cirque du Soleil show, feathered showgirls still high-kick their heels and chances are your Vegas visit will include a residency by Britney, Cher or some other diva du jour.
Vegas has no bona fide gay ghetto, although the “Fruit Loop” between Paradise and Swenson has a number of LGBT establishments. The city’s pride parade happens in October (at night no less!) while Matinee makes a splash every Memorial Day weekend. There are so many shows and attractions in Vegas—centered both on the Strip and downtown—it would take a lifetime to see them all. Almost all the hotel resorts are open to the public, and just inhaling the vibe of each which alternates between
over-the-top themes (Caesars Palace, Excalibur, Luxor) and elegance (the Cosmopolitan, Aria, the Wynn) is itself an excellent way to discover the city. Meanwhile, once-downtrodden downtown Vegas now boasts its own vibe including must-do cultural attractions, hipster hangouts and the touristy Fremont Street Experience.
1. Avoid traffic by not driving.
If you’re staying on the Strip, which a majority of travelers do, you don’t need a car (and in fact some resorts have begun charging for parking). The Strip has an easy-to-use monorail system on its east side and just walking the larger-than-life boulevard is an experience in itself.
2. Get hitched.
Vegas still makes for the classic wedding destination both quickie and planned and same-sex couples are lining up to take advantage. From the smaller, campy chapels on the
northern part of the Strip to opulent venues overlooking the Bellagio fountains, Sin City is still the place to proclaim ‘I do.’
3. Vegas can be cold.
Although summers are brutally hot (although a summer pool party is not to be missed), winters can be downright chilly. Hotels close their outdoor pools, and it’s been known to snow on the Strip! Pack at least a light jacket between November and February and you’ll be just fine.
Treasure Island - TI Hotel & Casino is connected to the Fashion Show shopping mall by bridge as well as The Mirage by tram, and within easy walking distance ...
TI - Treasure Island Hotel and Casino$42TI - Treasure Island Hotel and Casino$42
This center-Strip hotel is located right in the middle of all the Vegas action. In front of the hotel is the Grand Bazaar Shops, a two-acre shopping plaza with ...
Bally's Las Vegas - Hotel & Casino$31Bally's Las Vegas - Hotel & Casino$31
This all-suite resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip is a short drive from Fashion Show Mall, the convention center, Downtown, and McCarran Airport.
The Venetian Las Vegas$105The Venetian Las Vegas$105
The historic Flamingo Las Vegas has been welcoming guests for 70 years. The centrally-located hotel is filled with retro charm while offering modern ...
Flamingo Las Vegas - Hotel & Casino$28Flamingo Las Vegas - Hotel & Casino$28
The Stratosphere Tower observation deck features 360-degree views of Las Vegas to the Strip. The gateway between vintage Vegas and Strip glitz, the hotel is ...
Stratosphere Hotel, Casino & Tower, BW Premier Collection$23Stratosphere Hotel, Casino & Tower, BW Premier Collection$23
Iconic hotel located on the Las Vegas Strip, Circus Circus is close to shopping, the Las Vegas Convention Center and downtown Las Vegas.
Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park$16Circus Circus Hotel, Casino & Theme Park$16
A tribute to the opulence of Rome, the iconic Caesars Palace - Resort & Casino offers an empire of restaurants, nightlife, gaming, relaxation, and entertainment ...
Caesars Palace - Resort & Casino$89Caesars Palace - Resort & Casino$89
With 2 22-story towers and an eye-catching 30-story pyramid topped by a powerful light beam, this resort is 2 miles from McCarran International Airport in Las ...
Luxor Hotel and Casino$25Luxor Hotel and Casino$25
Situated in the center of the Las Vegas Strip, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is close to all of the action and features a mall conveniently attached to the ...
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino$47Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino$47
Fronted by replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, this New York-themed hotel recreates Manhattan's skyline along the Las Vegas Strip; the ...
New York-New York Hotel & Casino$35New York-New York Hotel & Casino$35
The gay summer season officially kicks off with outrageous Matinee, a weekend of day and nighttime parties that center around the pool and promise to get you soaking wet.
It may not be as legendary as Sydney’s nocturnal Pride Parade, but make no mistake that Sin City’s downtown Pride (lasvegaspride.org) is an after dark, rainbow swirl of sequins, glitter and over-the-top pageantry. Orbiting the parade is a full weekend of events including circuit parties, family-friendly events and a pet-friendly festival.
The world’s gay and lesbian capital, San Francisco is nearly synonymous with all things queer. It’s been a liberal, tolerant haven for all kinds of people for generations, and the city’s LGBT scene is mature, developed, multi-faceted, and so integrated into the fabric of city life that it’s like living in a parallel gay universe. San Francisco (and increasingly Oakland) has a large and visible lesbian scene, with women-focused parties and events happening all over town. Beyond the classic gayborhood of the Castro, gays and lesbians can be found in every district of the city, but especially in lesbian-popular Bernal Heights and the Mission and around the gay establishments in SoMa (South of Market).
San Francisco is like a movie set—cinematic at every turn—and every part of the city is steeped in history. There's the still hippie-feeling Haight, lively Chinatown, cafe-laden North Beach and the Union Square shopping district. Also worth seeing are elegant Nob Hill and
Russian Hill, the picturesque Marina and the sweeping views of Twin Peaks. Tourist-choked but still worth-it attractions include Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and above all, the 1,000-plus-acre Golden Gate Park, one of the world’s great urban parks. Here you’ll find the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden and the stunning De Young Museum, as well as miles of groves and trails. And everywhere in this world-class city, you’ll find top-tier restaurants, shops and hotels that pride themselves in their uniqueness.
1. You don’t need a car.
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains link the San Francisco and Oakland airports to the city. Most San Franciscans don’t even own cars, and instead get around via biking, riding the bus (MUNI) and walking, aka their BMW (bike, MUNI, walk).
2. Autumn is summer in the city.
First-timers can be shocked at how chilly San Francisco gets in the winter and even in early summer. The nicest weather is in September and early October, a time to hit the area’s beaches and explore the outdoors. But it’s a good idea to pack a jacket any time of year.
3. Weather can be very specific to what part of town you stay in.
The Avenues (the westernmost parts of San Francisco) are known to be foggy even if the rest of the city is sunny, while neighborhoods south and east of Twin Peaks can be warmer. Pack in layers and prepare to add and remove accordingly.
The Asian-inspired Hotel Nikko San Francisco is located downtown, a 4-minute walk from Union Square and the designer shops of Westfield San Francisco Centre. ...
Hotel Nikko San Francisco$222Hotel Nikko San Francisco$222
Located in the San Francisco theater district with a BART and MUNI station at its entrance, this downtown hotel is 6 blocks from Union Square and within a mile ...
Hotel Whitcomb$155Hotel Whitcomb$155
The San Francisco Marriott Marquis is steps from Union Square shopping, Chinatown, cable cars, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
San Francisco Marriott Marquis$209San Francisco Marriott Marquis$209
Infused with the spirit of Italy, this romantic downtown San Francisco retreat is on the Powell Street cable car line, less than a block from Union Square; theaters ...
Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square$146Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square$146
Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround, Fishermans Wharf Cable Car Turnaround, and Hyde Street ...
Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf$195Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf$195
Located in the heart of the South of Market district (SoMa), The Park Central San Francisco is across from Yerba Buena Gardens and close to the San Francisco ...
The Park Central San Francisco$153The Park Central San Francisco$153
This 200-room hotel is 2 miles north of San Francisco International Airport and 10 miles from downtown San Francisco.
Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North$89Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North$89
Located in Downtown San Francisco, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Westfield San Francisco Centre and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Lombard Street ...
Sweden House Hotel$84Sweden House Hotel$84
As one could predict, San Francisco LGBT Pride () is, in a word, fabulous. Happening at the end of June to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC, the parade meanders down Market Street and ends in the Civic Center with a massive festival, but the entire month includes a smorgasbord of citywide events including Frameline—the city’s amazing LGBT film festival.
The largest leather fetish event of its kind in the world, Folsom Street Fair (folsomstreetevents.org) brings tens of thousands of fetish enthusiasts (and plenty of gawkers) to SOMA for a weekend of booze, music and more than 200 exhibitors. You’ll see tons of flesh on display, but the community is very welcoming and men, women and trans people are all supported in large numbers.
If you are ever going to feel a sense of patriotism, it will be in magnificently planned Washington, D.C., where there seems to be a breathtaking monument around every corner. You can also be proud of your gay history here too: In 1965, America’s first gay civil rights demonstration took
place in front of the White House, with picketers dressed in business suits; the city’s Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance is the nation’s oldest continuously active LGBT organization; in 1991, the nation’s first Black Gay and Lesbian Pride Day happened here; and within hours of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality in June 2015, the White House lit up in the colors of the Pride Flag.
You could spend days and days and still not see everything on the Mall, the gorgeous space between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial. Most of the buildings of the Smithsonian are on the Mall, as are the National Archives (home to the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights) and the Washington, Jefferson and Roosevelt Monuments. In D.C. you’ll find a museum for any mood including the National Museum Natural History, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Air and Space Museum, the
National Gallery of Art, the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Despite its reputation as a businesslike, buttoned-down and even sleepy town, D.C. is one of gayest destinations on the East Coast. Sure, it may not have the hip nightlife of New York or Miami, but scores of LGBT people call the place home. The city even has a Mayor’s Office on LGBT Affairs. Although gays are scattered across town in places like Capitol Hill, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, NoMa and elsewhere, the main hub remains the traditionally queer area of Dupont-Logan, although queer bars now flourish along the U Street Corridor. Visit Memorial Day Weekend for the huge, four-day Black Pride Festival; the multi-faceted Capital Pride Festival is held in June; and Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in January has become the East Coast’s must-do fetish weekend.
1. Consider the trains—all of them.
Amtrak's high-speed train, the Acela, travels from D.C. to New York in under three hours (when it’s not delayed). It can be a lot less of a hassle than flying. Meanwhile, the city’s subway system—the Metro, is fast, efficient and reliable. Take it everywhere.
2. Visit during the quieter congressional recesses.
Lawmakers break for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, July 4 and the entire month of August. Mid-March through June is the busiest time in D.C., as it’s springtime when the cherry blossoms are in bloom along the Potomac. Hot and sticky August can have cheaper hotel rates as well.
3. The tourism board gives good info.
D.C. has a very gay-positive tourism board; go to washington.org/lgbt.
From Edward II to Oscar Wilde to Virginia Woolf, queers and London have always gone hand in hand. London continues to be in top form as a spellbinding, modern, international capital of culture and fashion and thanks in part to Brexit, an increasingly affordable one as the pound hit a 30-year low in 2016. Its LGBT scene is massive and can't be tackled in just one trip. Most of the homo-happenings are focused on Soho in the middle of the West End, with satellite cores in Vauxhall, south of the river, and in Dalston in the East. The Soho scene is typified by bar-filled Old Compton Street, but is mingled with Chinatown and the West End theatre hotspot. Other neighborhoods where lesbian and gay Londoners live include North East London's Islington and Stoke Newington areas, Shoreditch in the East, Camden and Hampstead in North London, and Brixton, Kennington, and Clapham in South London. The lesbian scene in London is particularly well developed, with a number of venues and lots of women’s nights at various establishments. The LGBT nightlife scene in London in general is the reverse of the Brits' stereotypical upper-lip-stiffness: It careens, thumps and explodes with life. Get ready for long nights of socializing!
Many gay tourists make their home basenear Soho, which is a good choice since it's not only close to the nightlife, but also to landmarks such as Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. London is full of art and monuments that no serious traveler should miss. On the cultural center of the South Bank, there’s the National Theatre, Saatchi Gallery and British Film Institute, home since 1986 to the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival each spring. Other cultural highlights are found in London's riverside neighborhoods, where you’ll find the Shakespeare's Globe, the vast Tate Modern museum and the London Eye Ferris wheel. And don’t forget the old standards: Buckingham Palace, the world-famous artifacts in the British Museum, the gruesome history in the Tower of London and the royal tombs of Westminster Abbey. London may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but its kinetic energy and fascinating scene make it worth every penny.
1. Choose Heathrow.
Most U.S. flights land in either Gatwick or Heathrow airports. Heathrow is on the London Underground (“Tube”) system, making your entry into London a little easier.
Gatwick is farther from town and not linked to the Tube. Taxis to London from Gatwick are pricey, although there is a surface train.
2. Don’t count on the Tube when you're out late.
London’s subway system stops running just after midnight Monday through Saturday with reduced hours on Sunday, but thousands of buses work the streets at all hours.
3. Your bible is TimeOut.
The authority for LGBT London is the weekly free magazine Time Out, which lists hundreds of LGBT parties, events, shows and venues.
Long-running BFI Flare (bfiflare.org.uk) is London’s LGBT film festival. It turned 30 in 2016 and continues to be a must-do cultural event for queer cinephiles. Spread out over 10 days each spring, the festival attracts more than 25,000 gay and lesbian culture vultures.
Still the biggest rainbow-drenched affair in the entire U.K., London Pride (prideinlondon.org) attracts hundreds of thousands of revelers to the capital city for a full two weeks of parties, social events, family-friendly gatherings, activist meet ups and more. Oh, and there might be a giant parade at the end of all of it!
Not content on just one annual Pride celebration, the queer community heats up January with Winter Pride U.K. (), a night of culture and clubbing that extends into the wee hours. Think summer Pride but with less Speedos and more winter coats.
The City of Light is held close to many travelers’ hearts. They speak about it in hushed tones, with reverence, like the Holy Grail of tourist destinations. And for good reason: This perfectly planned, meticulous and sparkling city is postcard perfect just about any day of the year. It harbors so many iconic wonders—the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre-Coeur, the Champs Elysees—that it seems like you have already visited before you even set foot in the place. Sure, Paris can seem imperious and arrogant, but it’s arguably earned the right to be.
Paris has had an openly gay mayor, in 2013 became the 13th country worldwide to allow same-sex marriage, and a happening gay scene that, in true French style, makes up in quality what it may lack in quantity of establishments. The heart of gay Paris is one of its oldest areas, the former Jewish district of Le Marais (it means “The Marshland” from the days before the neighborhood was drained). Here you’ll find gay hotels, restaurants and bars, but the gay scene is really sprinkled throughout the city as a whole, from saunas near the Louvre to lesbian cabaret near Pigalle.Andthe lesbian scene, while still dwarfed by the males, has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
1. Learn your arrondissements.
Paris is organized into 20 districts called arrondissements, starting with the first (1er) in the city center, and spiraling out in a clockwise fashion. Le Marais is made up of parts of the 3e and 4e arrondissements.
2. Find the artsy areas.
What would Paris be without its artists and their ‘hoods? But the areas you’ve heard about being artsy -- Montmartre, Montparnasse and Le Marais -- have long since evolved into expensive neighborhoods. Now you need to go to the 11th arrondissement, a blue-collar neighborhood between Le Marais, Menilmontant and Republique.
3. Hotel rooms can be had in summer.
Most travelers who have never even been to Paris have heard that July and August is the worst time to visit since Parisians vacate the place and businesses can be closed. Still, it’s when most Americans visit. You will be able to find hotel rooms during this time since French visitors and major conventions are both absent. Just keep in mind that budget hotels can be booked up with students on holiday, and most Parisian hotels don’t have air conditioning if a heat wave hits.
Located in the heart of Paris, this hotel is within walking distance of Place de la Bastille, Opera Bastille, and Place des Vosges. Also nearby are Picasso Museum ...
Hotel Original Paris$148Hotel Original Paris$148
This grand hotel in the Marais district faces Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest square, and is a 2-minute walk to Victor Hugo’s house. The Chemin Vert Metro station ...
Pavillon de la Reine$316Pavillon de la Reine$316
This family-friendly Paris hotel is located near the boardwalk, within a 5-minute walk of Canal Saint-Martin and Picasso Museum. Place des Vosges and Museum ...
My Hôtel In France Marais$88My Hôtel In France Marais$88
This romantic Paris hotel is located in the Marais, one of the city's oldest and trendiest districts; a central location 2 blocks from the Picasso Museum, and ...
Villa Beaumarchais$130Villa Beaumarchais$130
Located in 4th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Canal Saint-Martin and Place des Vosges. Picasso Museum and Opera Bastille are also within ...
Hotel Turenne Le Marais$117Hotel Turenne Le Marais$117
Located in 4th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Canal Saint-Martin, Place des Vosges, and Picasso Museum. Opera Bastille and Museum Georges ...
Grand Hotel Malher$125Grand Hotel Malher$125
Located in 4th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Rue de Rivoli, Museum Georges Pompidou, and Picasso Museum. Forum des Halles and Place ...
Hotel du Vieux Marais$103Hotel du Vieux Marais$103
Located in the Pacific state of Jalisco, sandwiched between mountains and gorgeous Banderas Bay, P.V. attracts not only a swath of gay and lesbian American and European travelers, but also its fair share of queer Mexicans as well. Puerto Vallarta has over a dozen LGBT hotels, rentals and guesthouses, a large selection of gay bars and clubs, a world famous gay beach (“Blue Chairs” and its neighbor, “Green Chairs”), gay boat trips, and lots of fine dining to boot. Most of the gay and lesbian infrastructure is in the Zona Romantica (also called the “South Side”). The city is small but sophisticated, with a huge art gallery scene and one of the most gay-positive vibes in Latin America. Welcome to coastal Mexico’s sun-drenched queer mecca.
More modern hotel and shopping areas (like Nuevo Vallarta) have arisen north and south of the cobblestone old town, allowing the area to retain much of its colonial charm. Malecon (the town’s main waterfront street) presents sculptures in an outdoor palm-lined art walk, and galleries outnumber churches. Despite the onslaught of timeshares and ex-pats who now call the city home, Vallarta still feels authentically Mexico. You can also take side trips to the natural hot springs in the mountains surrounding the bay, and there are tours for swimming with dolphins as well.
1. Choose the right beach for you.
If the scene at Blue Chairs is simply too much, don’t worry: more than 26 miles of beaches line the Bay of Banderas. If you’re looking for a gay nude beach, board the raunchy Wet and Wild Gay Cruise which includes a detour at a private beach where you can strip down.
2. Avoid September.
Although P.V. is always warm, the humidity, rain and temperatures are worst during September.
3. Join gay excursions.
No need to bump Speedos with straight tourists when going on excursions: Both Diana’s Tours & Wet Wild Gay Cruise offer LGBT boat trips.
Located in Romantic Zone, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Playa de los Muertos and Los Muertos Pier. La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe and Plaza ...
Hotel Posada de Roger$33Hotel Posada de Roger$33
Located in Romantic Zone, this beachfront hotel is in the city center and within 1 mi (2 km) of Playa de los Muertos and Malecon. Olas Atlas Beach and Los Muertos ...
Emperador Vallarta Beachfront Hotel and Suites$47Emperador Vallarta Beachfront Hotel and Suites$47
Nestled on the beach, this Romantic Zone hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Playa de los Muertos and Malecon. Los Muertos Pier and Olas Altas Street are also within ...
Hotel Tropicana$54Hotel Tropicana$54
Located in Romantic Zone, this romantic hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Olas Altas Street and Malecon. Olas Atlas Beach and Playa de los Muertos are also within ...
Casa Dona Susana$55Casa Dona Susana$55
Overlooking the Banderas Bay with direct beach access, this Puerto Vallarta resort is in the Romantic Zone, a 5-minute walk to downtown and about a 20-minute ...
Playa Los Arcos Hotel Beach Resort & Spa$78Playa Los Arcos Hotel Beach Resort & Spa$78
This family-friendly Puerto Vallarta inn is located on the boardwalk, within 1 mi (2 km) of Cuale Island and Malecon. Olas Atlas Beach and Camarones Beach are ...
Rivera del Rio Boutique Hotel$50Rivera del Rio Boutique Hotel$50
Located in Romantic Zone, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Playa de los Muertos, Los Muertos Pier, and La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. Malecon ...
Hotel Hacienda de Vallarta Centro$27Hotel Hacienda de Vallarta Centro$27
Located in Romantic Zone, this beachfront hotel is in the city center, 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Playa de los Muertos, and 1.4 mi (2.2 km) from Malecon. Los Muertos ...
Almar Resort Luxury LGBT Beach Front Experience$83Almar Resort Luxury LGBT Beach Front Experience$83
* Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. All rates are displayed in USD unless otherwise noted. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency.