Summer is time for exploration and vacation, so why not vacate to the areas that are accepting of the community? While we know that there are many places around the world that are still struggling to simply decriminalize same-sex relationships, there are some great cities and countries that have a thriving LGBTQ scene. Whether it’s a beach or the mountains, domestic or international, relaxing or exuberant, we all are looking for the perfect get-a-way.
Major cities like San Francisco and New York have a lot of history and LGBTQ-friendly events, but are overcrowded and lez be honest, cliché. What’s more, doing research for the perfect location to unwind from the day-to-day minutiae can be exhausting. Fortunately, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) has some great resources to find any LGBTQ-owned businesses and directed events in some of the most accepting environments, which behold, are listed right here for your convenience:
1. Key West, FL
Everyone loves to go down south, especially when it’s accompanied by tropical weather, eclectic culture and the only LGBTQ historic trolley tour. When you can’t decide between the ambiance of the Caribbean or the history of the Europeans, Key West offers a little bit of everything. Whether you’re going for great gay nightlife on Duval street, or visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway, or just want to enjoy snorkeling adventures, the first American city to recruit LGBTQ tourists will be certain to give you the time of your life. It’s also home to the annual Key West Womenfest.
2. Asheville, NC
Unless you go all the way to the southernmost point in the United States, the south can be tricky to navigate for the LGBTQ community. But, if you love the Appalachians, then Asheville is the perfect destination. Sometimes referred to as Ashvegas, women freely walk hand-in-hand amidst the clubs, galleries, restaurants and other exciting gay-friendly attractions. Over the summer, the city has daily events for the gay community from golf with the girls to LGBTQ family fun days. If this is your vacation of choice, be sure to stop at Malaprop’s. Often considered the hub of the lesbian community, this community bookstore has a great cafe during the day and features spoken word at night.
3. Phuket, Thailand
The largest island in Thailand also has the most prominent LGBTQ scenes. Comparatively, Thailand is one of the most tolerant countries in Asia although same-sex couples are not eligible for the same rights and protections as opposite-sex couples. Phuket is considered a gay hub, much like New York and Amsterdam, but mostly for the visitors. While gay events are localized to particular areas, there are a variety of activities including: scuba diving, canoeing in hidden caves, elephant rides and thai cooking courses.
4. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio De Janeiro proudly claims the second largest pride in Brazil— the only pride to march along the beach, making for a beautiful location to celebrate LGBTQ culture. Rio is home to Copacabana, one of the most famous beaches in the world as well as the many beaches that are designated specifically to the LGBTQ community. With temperatures averaging 77-85°F, the theaters, art galleries and gay-friendly venues are sure to keep you moving all year round.
5. Portland, OR
Portland might not be specifically known for its gay culture, but if you’ve ever seen Portlandia, you know this city is not stuck in the 90s. Plainly progressive, Portland has a great queer scene and everywhere you turn you’ll encounter great people, food, and art. Also, if you’re a nature lover, Portland is the place to be. There are plenty of outdoor activities including hiking trails, river activities (like rafting and kayaking), and horseback riding. The environmental essence coupled with LGBTQ performing arts and Pride Northwest makes this city a great alternative for a getaway.
6. Provincetown, MA
Given that Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, it would make sense that it also has one of the best LGBTQ vacation destinations. Provincetown, or P-Town as many have come to call it, is adorned with rainbow flags, a relaxing atmosphere and world-class caliber drag shows. If you make it to this charming city during the summer, you’ll have the chance to enjoy events like the International Film Festival, the GLAD party, and P-Town’s all women event, Girl Splash.
7. St. Croix
St. Croix is touted as one of the most welcoming of all the Caribbean islands. Like many ocean side vacations, there are tons of water activities to experience. If you want waterless recreation, you can take ATVs through the rainforest or take guided tours in Salt River Bay National Historic Park. Because other US Virgin Islands are more popular and there isn’t any designated gay nightlife, this location is perfect for a quiet escape where you can be free to be who you are.
8. Greek Islands
Despite Lesbos being our namesake, Greek culture can be conservative when it comes to sexuality. With that being said, the past few years have seen an increase in LGBTQ tourism. Aside from clubs and resorts, there are specific travel agencies that cater to LGBTQ tours around Greece. The delightful aspect to island hopping is that each island offers its own unique feel and is easily accessible by ferry. Mykonos boasts one of the top gay resorts in the world and you can feel free to express yourself openly. Santorini (pictured above) provides a gorgeous mix of sea, cliffs and sky formed from a volcanic eruption in the Bronze Age. Rhodes features one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes. While most islands are located on the Aegean Sea, that doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself. The rich history and beautiful landscape is sure to make for a memorable holiday.
9. Pahoa, HI
In 2013, Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. A gorgeous pacific island landscape with active volcanoes, black sand beaches, and tropical rainforest, the big island is the quintessential location for an LGBTQ destination. One of the most impressive aspects is the welcoming nature, in particular, of the Kalani retreat center. Located in Pahoa, this resort offers accommodations, workshops, and retreats for the transgender community. The ideal tropical scenery blended with an accepting community makes the big island an area not to be passed up.
10. Olivia Cruises
When you can’t settle on one location, go for multiple! Olivia goes around the world with plenty of choices. Take a delectable culinary cruise to Italy, France, Spain, or a scenic riverboat from Prague to Budapest. Olivia isn’t just restricted to cruises, either and operates all year. So, if your schedule doesn’t allow for the summer, go on an African safari in November or a Caribbean cruise in February. Your options are limitless.