Discover North America's most affordable small cities and towns for gay travelers, including beach getaways, small mountains, and other artsy, progressive vacation locales that won't break your budget. Some of these communities (all under 150,000 population) offer especially good deals during the low-season, while others enjoy a lower cost of travel than other, fancier resorts in the same general region. These spots have low-priced B&Bs, reasonably priced dining and shopping, and a good mix of things to see and do.
Taos is one of the most stunningly situated small towns in North America, set on a high-desert mesa in the shadows of the 13,000-foot-high Sangre de Cristo mountains. A historic arts colony that retains its creative spirit today, this diminutive town of about 6,500 has long been favored by bohemians, free spirits, progressives, and gays and lesbians. Funkier and with far more affordable places to eat and stay than Santa Fe, Taos is a fantastic destination for hiking, biking, photography, and white-water rafting during the warmer months, and it's a terrific ski town in winter. First-rate, gay-friendly lodgings that won't set you back a fortune include the famed Taos Inn near the Plaza and the charming American Artists Gallery House B&B.
You might be surprised to discover one of the Heartland's favorite small-town gay getaways in the heart of the Ozarks, closer to family-values-dominant Branson than to any major cities with a sizable gay population and three LGBT Diversity weekends each year. But this hilly, historic Arkansas town that's also, oddly enough, very popular with conservative Christians draws many gay visitors from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Dallas. It's also a town that's easy on the bank account, with a multitude of affordable B&Bs, casual barbecue and Mexican joints, and inexpensive antique shops. Even the grand 1905 Basin Park Hotel has rooms starting under $100. The popular, lesbian-owned Pond Mountain Lodge & Resort is one of the most tranquil, scenic accommodations in town.
Part of a small archipelago in British Columbia's Strait of Georgia, Salt Spring Island has long been a haven for artsy and outdoorsy sorts and a popular weekend destination for residents of Vancouver and Victoria. It's also considered to be one of Canada's favorite vacation spots among lesbians, although plenty of gay men come to experience the island's tranquility and unassuming beauty. Throughout this wooded, hilly island of nearly 10,000 residents, you'll find artists' studios, several fine beaches, hiking and biking terrain, organic restaurants and cafes, and many fishing and boating opportunities. The gay-owned, reasonably priced Salt Spring Island Inn is one of the most inviting accommodations in the main community on the island, Ganges Harbor. It has a great restaurant and popular bar on-site as well. Secluded Suncrest Cottage is perfect for romance seekers.
The diverting towns of Saugatuck and Douglas comprise the most significant gay resort destination in the Midwest. A little more than two hours from Chicago and three hours from Detroit, this laid-back resort area offers a bounty of urbane restaurants, handsome B&Bs, funky boutiques and antique shops, and more than 25 high-quality art galleries, as well as some of the most picturesque beach frontage on Lake Michigan. The pace here is easy in these scenic, all-American communities. Social butterflies should check into the area's premier gay hotel, the nonetheless affordable Dunes Resort, which has on-site dining and gay nightlife. Also lovely are the gay-owned Pines Motorlodge and its sister property the Saugatuck. These two mid-century modern motor courts have been restored and converted into hip yet easy-on-the-wallet overnight accommodations.
The hub of the fabled Russian River region, a densely verdant, redwood-tree-shaded valley in western Sonoma County, unpretentious and quirky Guerneville lacks the high costs and occasional pretensions of nearby Wine Country towns, but it's still an excellent base for wine-touring. This small town 70 miles from San Francisco has several gay bars, a colorful main drag lined with both funky and stylish shops and galleries, and several GLBT resorts and inns. During the warmer months, this is a perfect base for hiking among the redwoods and canoeing on the river. Nestled amid those very redwoods, the Highlands Resort is a wonderful collection of pet-friendly cabins. The R3 Hotel (formerly the Triple R) is one of California's longest-running gay resorts. Both places are very affordable.
This historic treasure along colonial Mexico's fabled silver route, San Miguel de Allende has been a popular vacation spot and, increasingly, permanent home for American expats for years. Often compared with the U.S. city of Santa Fe because of the elegant Spanish Colonial architecture, trendy yet refined eateries and hotels, and first-rate arts scene, San Miguel is a relatively good deal for visitors from the U.S. and Canada thanks to the favorable exchange rate. This gay-friendly, hilly town of cobblestone streets lies about 180 miles north of Mexico City. Recommended lodging options include Casa Crayola, a colorful collection of casitas near the must-see Fabrica La Aurora art-gallery center, and somewhat fancier Las Terrazas San Miguel.
Smaller, more low-key, and less expensive than Provincetown, the scenic oceanside village of Ogunquit, Maine is one of New England's leading gay resort communities. It's just 90 minutes from Boston and less than a half-hour from the gay-friendly Maine city of Portland. This dapper little village of about 1,200 is home to an acclaimed summer theater and first-rate art museum, abounds with gay-owned accommodations, festive lobster shacks, and tasteful shops and boutiques, and contains 3.5 miles of glorious, sandy beach. Relatively affordable in summer, it's an absolute bargain during the fall and spring months. Try staying at the elegant 2 Village Square Inn or the inexpensive, well-located Ogunquit Beach Inn.
The laid-back Colorado Rockies mountain town of Salida is something of a sleeper on this list; it has no gay scene or GLBT-oriented accommodations to speak of. However, it's a beautifully situated community with a vibrant downtown abundant with art galleries and kayaking and skiing outfitters. (It's close to Monarch Mountain Ski Area and less than 100 miles from Breckenridge and Crested Butte.) And it's far less pricey and more relaxed than Colorado's more famous resort regions. Another gay-friendly small town that's similar in scope and vibe is Ouray, which is famous for its ice-climbing. In Salida, lodging options are cheap if fairly nondescript. Reliable bets include chains like the Super 8 Salida.
This small, attractive mountain city within a few hours' drive of Atlanta is one of the South's most gay-welcoming communities. This temperate region known for its natural scenery has its share of ritzy places to stay and eat, but fear not: you'll find plenty of budget-friendly lodgings and cheap down-home restaurants, organic coffeehouses, arts and crafts galleries, inexpensive indie shops, and quirky gay bars. Asheville is renowned for its fine Arts and Crafts and Art Deco architecture. A great way to experience this is by staying in a vintage inn, such as Carolina B&B or the gay-owned North Lodge on Oakland, a stately 1904 stone house that offers plenty of perks (in-room DVD players, Wi-Fi, robes) at reasonable rates.
Compared with other gay-popular vacation spots in the Northeast, sophisticated but laid-back New Hope and its appealing New Jersey neighbor Lambertville are less places to see and be seen and more restful, romantic, and reasonably priced weekend hideouts for couples. Though this area of verdant Bucks County Pennsylvania has a lively gay nightclub and several trendy restaurants, life here floats along at an unhurried pace, and sticker shock is rare, especially given this quaint riverside hamlet's close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia. Stay at the attractive, well-priced Raven Inn if you're looking to party. It's home to a fab pool and gay bar and restaurant. A quieter, more romantic option is the gay-owned Wishing Well Guesthouse.