The USA has become more LGBT+ friendly since 2003 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalise same-sex marriage. Over 35 states, together with the District of Columbia, have since followed suit in this progressive movement.
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Various US cities have welcomed the LGBT community with open arms, celebrating the community with colourful parades, events, and establishments catering specifically to this group. Some metropolitan areas are hubs that are suitable for gay-friendly living, travel, and retirement. From Washington DC to New York, here’s my guide to the most LGBT+ friendly places in the USA.
San Francisco, California
The gay capital of the world. San Francisco has long been considered one of America’s most LGBT-friendly cities. Nicknamed ‘the gay capital of the world’, San Fran is home to one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the country. There are rainbow-clad streets, gay-friendly districts, and some of the most prominent LGBT festivals and celebrations.
San Francisco’s Pride Festival takes places every June and welcomes over 50,000 people from around the world. Supporters, performers and vendors alike come together during this 2-day event to celebrate the LGBT community. Some of the most popular gay-friendly venues in San Francisco include the Castro District, Mission Dolores Park, and Juhu Beach Club.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Enjoy 6 days of parades at Southern Decadence. New Orleans is home to Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, and some of the best LGBT-friendly tourism in the USA. Southern Decadence, the largest LGBT celebration in the South, began in 1972 as a simple going-away party. It has since expanded into a 6-day event that takes place over the Labour Day weekend, complete with drag queens, colourful parades, and celebrity performances.
Diversity is a big aspect of New Orleans, and it’s most prevalent in the French Quarter’s ‘Lavender Line’, a stretch of St Ann Street full of LGBT-friendly bars. Here, you’ll find Café Lafitte’s in Exile (one of the oldest gay bars in the USA), Lucille’s Golden Lantern, The Oz, and Mag’s 940.
Enjoy a wide range of films at the Portland Queer Film Festival. Portland is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the USA – this northwest queer oasis is home to a population where over 5% of people identify as LGBT+, which is much higher than the national average. Thanks to the city’s progressive political views and accepting attitude, Portland’s LGBT+ community enjoys a variety of gay bars, parades, and even film festivals.
Portland’s Pride Festival includes 3 days of festivities at Waterfront Park, followed by Peacock in the Park, a beloved drag show that takes place at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheatre. The Portland Queer Film Festival takes place in October at Cinema 21 and highlights the cinematic contributions of LGBTQ filmmakers.
New York City, New York
Enjoy parades and parties at NYC Pride March. New York City is known as one of the earliest LGBT+ hubs in the US, with gay-rights protests beginning as early as 1969 when the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village kicked off the modern gay rights movement we recognise today. New York City is home to more than 270,000 self-identifying gay and bisexual individuals, as well as over 50,000 transgender people (the largest in the country).
New York City celebrates its LGBT community every June during the NYC Pride March when colourful floats parade down Fifth Avenue, flanked by performers, supporters, gay-friendly sponsors. The city also hosts the New York City Drag March, Queens Pride Parade, and Youth Pride.
Celebrate Disney’s Gay Days and Come Out with Pride. Orlando’s thriving LGBT community is the 3rd largest in the USA, and the biggest in the state of Florida. With widely popular events such as Disney’s Gay Days and Come Out with Pride, it’s no surprise why Orlando is so popular with LGBT+ locals and travellers.
Disney’s Gay Days is a week-long celebration that takes place every August at Magic Kingdom, where over 50,000 attendees dressed up in red in support of the LGBT+ community. Come Out with Pride is a mile-long parade through Downtown Orlando, celebrating the LGBT+ community and honouring the 49 lives lost during the 2016 tragedy at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub.
Palm Springs, California
Home to the first all-LGBT+ city council in the USA. Palm Springs, with its vibrant gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, is a well-known LGBT+ travel destination in the USA. You’ll have plenty to enjoy around town, including gay-friendly hotels, events, and nightlife options. Palm Springs is also home to America’s first-ever all-LGBT+ city council.
The lesbian community is particularly well-represented in Palm Springs, with events such as the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend and White Party. Some of the best gay bars in Palm Springs include Toucans Tiki Lounge and Starlite Lounge, as well as The Terra Cotta Resort which doubles as a clothing-optional, adults-only lodging option.
Miami Beach, Florida
Home to dozens of LGBT+ friendly bars and clubs. The Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade takes over the city every year, with over 145,000 people coming out to celebrate the LGBT+ community. This 2-day event takes place in April, transforming the city into a rainbow-coloured LGBT+ haven. Miami Beach also has plenty of annual events such as The Winter Party, The OutShine Film Festival, and The Miami Recognition Dinner.
Miami’s drag scene has grown significantly over the past few years, with ‘queer parties’ and ‘queer nights’ popping up in clubs and bars across town. Some of the most popular gay bars in Miami include Twist, Palace, WaterLOO, and The Manor.
The first state in the USA to legalise same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first state to legalise same-sex marriage, and they sure know how to celebrate that milestone. The popular Boston Gay Pride Festival is preceded every year by a whole week of events paying tribute to the community’s diversity and social progress.
Rainbow flags decorate many streetlights and buildings, while straight bars and lounges host ‘gay nights’ throughout the month of June. Boston has several neighbourhoods with sizable LGBT+ populations, with South End being one of the most notable, as well as Savin Hill and Melville Park.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Home of the Capital Pride Festival. The nation’s capital is home to a vibrant LGBT+ community, complete with historic LGBT sites, clubs, bars, and festivals. Dupont Circle is where Lambda Rising, the city’s first gay bookstore, opened back in 1974, while Logan Circle and Adams Morgan are home to plenty of queer-friendly establishments that suit just about any alternative lifestyle.
Capital Pride is Washington DC’s largest pride festival, taking place every June and showcasing more than 200 rainbow-coloured parade floats. Allies, politicians, and local businesses from all over the state come together to celebrate the capital’s LGBT+ community. In 2015, the White House was lit in rainbow colours following the Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage.
West Palm Beach, Florida
Voted one of the best places to retire for LGBT+. With over 65 km of fine-sand beaches and a small but thriving gay nightlife, the city is also a popular vacation spot for many people, regardless of sexual orientation. Palm Beach Pride, formally known as PrideFest of Lake Worth, has grown from a small gathering to the second-largest event of its kind in South Florida.
Colourful parades and a diverse line-up of live entertainment take this celebration well into the night. The award-winning International Gay Polo Tournament also takes place in West Palm Beach, kicking off the annual polo season every April.
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