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The Best LGBTQ+ Hidden Gem in Every State

We're celebrating these businesses and monuments all year long

It’s Pride Month! We’re kicking off this joyous, meaningful month with a collection of features completely dedicated to LGBTQ+ travelers. Follow along on a gay writer’s adventures at Pride around the world; read about a bisexual woman’s journey to The Gambia to visit her staunchly religious family; and hear from a non-gender-conforming traveler about unexpected challenges and triumphs on the road. Then, find inspiration for your future trips with our guides to the best LGBTQ+ hidden gem attractions in every state, amazing national park sites with LGBTQ+ history, and actor Jonathan Bennett’s new travel venture. However you make your way through the features, we’re glad you’re here with us to celebrate the beauty and importance of inclusivity and representation within the travel space and beyond.

Queer people are often advised to ditch small towns and conservative states for big coastal cities, but the truth is, we're here, we're queer, and we really are everywhere. This Pride Month, we’ve rounded up the best LGBTQ+ hidden gems in each state. So hit the road for a 50-state tour of campy cultural artifacts, LGBTQ+ history sites, and the few proudly gay and lesbian bars still standing after the pandemic. Some honor painful moments in LGBTQ+ history while others celebrate how far the fight for equality has come since Stonewall, and many of these landmarks and tourist attractions are located in places that may surprise you.

Whether you consider yourself cis or trans, LGBTQ+ or an ally, queer neighborhoods, bars, and businesses need your support and not just during Pride Month. LGBTQ+-owned businesses serve double duty by acting as community support networks for queer locals and LGBTQ+ tourists planning an inclusive vacation. If we’re not there for these organizations now, they won’t be around to serve and uplift LGBTQ+ communities when we need them. Consider these 50 under-the-radar LGBTQ+ travel ideas for your gay (travel) agenda.

Alabama: Visit B-Bob's Downtown

With drag shows, karaoke, pub games, and dance parties, B-Bob’s Downtown in Mobile, Alabama, has been the hub of the local LGBTQ+ community since 1992. The Mobile gay bar also regularly donates to LGBTQ+ organizations, including AIDS Alabama South and Mobile AL Pride.

Alaska: Catch a Drag Show at Mad Myrna's

Mad Myrna’s Bar is an Anchorage institution, offering drag and cabaret performance for the past 22 years. Its drag show is among the best in the US, selling out weekly, and it showcases a cast that's more diverse than you might expect from the 49th state. The audience at Mad Myrna's is a mix of gay, straight, and curious, a mix that proves gay bars build community. 

Arizona: Dance, Drink, & Eat at Rainbows Festival 

Once a year, Phoenix's Heritage Square Park transforms into the Rainbows Festival, a free, two-day entertainment festival. Second only to the state's Pride parade, Rainbows Festival draws around 25,000 spectators each year. You'll find DJ sets, art exhibits, dance troupes, craft cocktails, and food trucks in this family- and pet-friendly environment.  

Arkansas: Go to a Gay Campground 

Arkansas is not known for being LGBTQ+ friendly, thanks to new anti-trans laws passed in April 2021. However, Eureka Springs, a charming small town where one-third of the population is gay, might be an exception. Male-identified LGBTQ+ folks can visit Magnetic Valley Resort for camping and cruising amid pool parties, hot tubs, and fire pits. It's like summer camp for queer men! 

California: Do Dinah 

They did it on "The L Word "and "The Real L Word," which means you've got to do it at least once. Dinah Shore Weekend, aka Dinah, is the woman's and nonbinary person's answer to the gay party scene. So go, dance, drink and hook up—or be a fly on the wall for the annual Palm Springs debauchery.

Colorado: Visit a 40-Year-Old Gay Club 

First opened in 1981, the popular Denver gay nightclub Charlie's turns 40 this June. Open daily, the club offers drag queens, gogo boys, happy hour specials, and more. Country dance lessons are on hold for the moment, but they are a longtime fan favorite. 

Tourists at Gillette Castle in Connecticut
aimintang / Getty Images

Connecticut: Explore This Over-the-Top "Confirmed Bachelor" Castle 

Near Lyme, Connecticut, you'll find Gillette Castle, an outre medieval castle built by "confirmed bachelor" and movie star William Gillette, who was most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Gillette, who died in 1937, wasn't openly gay, but considering his bachelorhood and the fact that he made several cat corridors in his unusual home, is it any wonder the queer community claims this iconoclast as our own? 

Delaware: Do Dinner & a Drag in Rehoboth Beach 

Rehoboth Beach is one of the most popular gay-friendly beach communities in the country. After spending the day soaking up the sun, make reservations for dinner and a show at Blue Moon, a local institution that's been in business for over 30 years. Choose from drag shows, boy band cover bands with plenty of eye candy, or a Family Feud-style game show. 

Florida: Pay Tribute at the Pulse Memorial 

The 2016 Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando was the first (and hopefully only) mass shooting targeting LGBTQ+ folks. A permanent museum and memorial designed by a team of architects worldwide is in the works, but until it opens, a visit to the interim memorial is a must. Leave a memento for the 49 victims, explore the site from multiple viewing angles, or take a contemplative walk in the Survivor Grove.  

Georgia: Visit Charis Books & More 

Feminist bookstore Charis Books & More has been educating allies and uplifting the local queer community for 45 years. The bookstore runs a group for trans and gender questioning young adults to discuss gender, educate themselves, and perform activism. In addition, this must-visit Decatur, Georgia institution sells a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction focusing on diverse and marginalized people. 

small buddha statue with a footpath and tropical trees in the background

Courtesy of Lumeria Maui

Hawaii: Stay at a Gay-Owned Wellness Resort

Book a wellness stay at Lumeria Maui, a chill retreat house-slash-inn from gay design mogul Xorin Balbes. The property offers wellness retreats and spa packages in a beautiful setting. The inn attracts a quieter contemplative crowd, which means it's a nice change from the Hawaii party scene and family-friendly resort culture. 

Idaho: Explore the History of Gay Rodeo in Boise

Home to Idaho's Gay Rodeo Association and the oral history project Voices of Gay Rodeo, Boise is pretty gay. Explore the oral history collection online before your visit, then get your boots on the ground to check out the city's surprisingly large theater scene.

Illinois: Go to the Leather Archives & Museum 

Chicago's Leather Archives & Museum is the place to educate yourself about the history of kink, leather, BDSM, and fetish, including kink's role within LGBTQ+ communities. Time your visit, so it coincides with the International Mr. Leather competition, usually held in May though subject to change.

Indiana: Take an LGBTQ+ History Tour of Indianapolis

While former VP and Hoosier Mike Pence isn't exactly known as a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, Indiana's queer history could surprise you. An LGBTQ+ history tour of Indianapolis takes you through the local sights, from the old gayborhood, Herron-Morton Place, to the State Fairgrounds, where Anita Bryant campaigned against LGBTQ+ rights in 1977, kicking off public protest from Indy's queer community.

Iowa: Visit the Gay Cheers

Billing itself the gay Cheers, The Blazing Saddle has been holding it down for LGBTQ+ folks in Des Moines since 1983. There's never a cover and there are events every night, including movies, open mics, trivia, and drag shows.

Kansas: Stroll by William S. Burroughs' House

Beat writer William S. Burroughs, author of "Queer: A Novel," moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1981 and quickly became a fixture in the city's underground scene. The house where Burroughs lived, at the corner of 19th and Learnard Streets, is a private residence meaning there are no tours, but you can still pause to pay tribute to the gay author. 

Kentucky: Catch a Queer Ball Game 

Designed by Frederic Law Olmsted, Louisville’s Cherokee Park is home to three LGBTQ+ sports leagues: bowling, dodgeball, and kickball. While games are currently unpredictable, you can follow the Varsity Gay League: Louisville Facebook page for updates or explore the park to take in the local queer scene. 

treet scene along St. Ann Street in the iconic French Quarter; with rainbow-colored flags flying from the balcony of a cafe in support of the LGBT movement.
sfe-co2 / Getty Images

Louisiana: Take an LGBTQ+ History Walking Tour 

New Orleans is spoiled for queer history, and the best way to take it in is on an LGBTQ+ history tour. Choose from a queer history tour that spotlights the city’s deadliest arson attack on a local gay bar and its role as a haven for gay and lesbian authors; a French Quarter tour with Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence tell-alls; or a drag tour that centers the city’s present-day QTBIPOC and sex worker communities. 

Maine: Sing Along to a Piano Show in Ogunquit

Ogunquit is a tiny, charming, gay beach town on Maine's southern coast. After you've soaked up your share of the sun's rays, head to The Front Porch Piano Bar and Restaurant, which offers three live shows daily. Entertainment options include sing-along piano shows, drag shows, and appropriately campy disco nights. 

Maryland: Pose for Selfies With a Giant Divine Statue 

Stop by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for selfies with a larger-than-life-sized statue of Divine, drag queen and muse of John Waters, the filmmaker behind cult classics like Pink Flamingo. Can’t get enough of the campy icon? There’s an entire John Waters tour, courtesy of Visit Baltimore.

Massachusetts: See Where the First LGBTQ+ Marriages Happened

#Loveislove may be the law of the land now, but that wasn't always the case. Massachusetts was the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, forging a path ahead for federal legalization in 2015. Visit Cambridge City Hall, which hosted a midnight party for queer couples to apply for marriage licenses after same-sex marriage was legalized. Around 262 couples applied for marriage licenses, and on May 17, 2004, the first legal gay wedding took place. 

People walking down a street with colorful shops and galleries
PapaBear / Getty Images

Michigan: Sip and Stroll Through Saugatuck

Saugatuck is one of Michigan's most LGBTQ+-friendly small towns, with more than 100 businesses either owned by or catering to the LGBTQ+ crowd. One such business is the gay-owned Uncommon Coffee Roasters, which roasts and serves small-batch coffee from a handful of family-owned coffee farms in Brazil, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Grab a cup of joe and then spend some time exploring the streets of Saugatuck.

Minnesota: Visit The Gay 90s 

The Gay 90s in Minneapolis bills itself as a straight-friendly gar bar for beautiful people. The 18+ club offers drag and burlesque performances, plus a drag brunch on Sundays. It’s the biggest LGBTQ+ club in the area and a worthy reminder of why we should all fight to preserve queer gathering spaces. 

Mississippi: Check Out the Real Bay St. Lucille

In the television series "One Mississippi," lesbian comedian Tig Notaro turned her struggles, including breast cancer and the death of her mother, into comedy gold while showing viewers a slice of small-town Mississippi life. Bay St. Lucille, the setting of "One Mississippi," isn't real but Tig's hometown of Pass Christian bears some similarities to the fictional setting and it’s where she married her wife. With Tig as your guide to the Mississippi coast, you won’t be disappointed. 

Missouri: Visit the Transgender Memorial Garden 

“They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds” reads the message at St. Louis's Transgender Memorial Garden, the first in the country and the second worldwide (the first is in Manchester, England). Local trans activists conceived of the idea in 2015 as a way to honor the lives of transgender people lost to violence

Montana: Do Big Sky Pride 

Time your Montana trip with Big Sky Pride, held in July. The week of events includes drag performances, game shows, comedy hours, and street parties before the big parade puts out the welcome mat with an inclusive community event. 

Nebraska: Visit Brandon Teena's Grave

Brandon Teena, the trans man whose brutal murder was depicted in the film "Boys Don't Cry," is buried in Lincoln Memorial Park. While nearly 30 years later, transgender people (most notably, trans women of color) continue to face an elevated risk of violent death, Teena's murder became a rallying cry for LGBTQ+ rights in Nebraska.  

Nevada: Steep Yourself in Burlesque History 

Learn about the history of burlesque and take classes in the art form at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in where else but Las Vegas. Exhibits unpack the connection between burlesque and feminism and chart the origin of stars like Gypsy Rose Lee. Burlesque's point of view—that sexy is how you act, not how you look—is queerly inclusive. 

New Hampshire: Ski Queerly 

In 2020, New Hampshire's White Mountains Pride hosted its first LGBTQ+ ski weekend in North Conway, the gateway to the White Mountains. The organization hosts events all year and plans to make the ski weekend an annual program for LGBTQ+ ski enthusiasts. Considering the state's motto (Live Free or Die), New Hampshire as a whole is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ travelers. 

New Jersey: Go to a Gay Beach 

The Jersey Shore offers multiple opportunities for an LGBTQ+ beach day. Asbury Park is a family-friendly option, with a big boardwalk and bustling entertainment scene. For a clothing-optional, adult experience, head to Gunnison Beach, aka Area G, in Sandy Hook.

New Mexico: Go to an LGBTQ+ Square Dance 

LGBTQ+ people began square dancing around the 1980s, and it was a positive outlet for many in the community at a time during the AIDS crisis when homophobia was commonplace. The Wilde Bunch is an LGBTQ+ square dancing group that's been kicking up its boots for 35 years. The group meets Mondays and Tuesdays at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, which welcomes an all-ages, all-genders crowd. 

Stonewall Inn, Gay Bar and Tavern, in the West Village, Lower Manhattan, New York City.
OlegAlbinsky / Getty Images

New York: See Stonewall

You've got to go to Stonewall, the catalyst for the first-ever pride celebration, at least once. Both the bar and Stonewall National Monument commemorate where QTBIPOC activists, including Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, stood up for LGBTQ+ rights by fighting back against police harassment in a now-historic riot. The monument is a small park across from the historic gay bar in New York's West Village neighborhood. 

North Carolina: Visit Charlotte’s Oldest Gay Bar

The Scorpio first opened in 1968 and has been operating continuously ever since, making it Charlotte's oldest LGBTQ+ club. Catch a drag show and soak up history in a gay space that provided a welcoming community in the pre-Stonewall era. Events include dance parties, drag shows, and twerk contests. 

North Dakota: Catch an LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Every September, Fargo puts on the Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival. The 2020 festival, held online, featured documentaries about Georgian LGBTQ+ activists and a San Francisco comedy club active during the height of the AIDS crisis, plus a Bollywood-style animated film about gay peacocks. The film festival is also nurturing the next generation of LGBTQ+ filmmakers with its inaugural student filmmakers workshop. Go; you won't regret it. 

Ohio: Take in a Local LGBTQ+ Institution   

Columbus hosts one of the largest pride parades in the Midwest. The inclusive city also has multiple gayborhoods, including German Village, where you'll find Tremont Lounge, a relaxed neighborhood dive that's welcomed LGBTQ+ and allies since 1987. 

Oklahoma: Attend the Great Plains Rodeo

Indulge those Brokeback Mountain fantasies with a trip to a gay rodeo in Oklahoma City, held on Memorial Day weekend. Then, extend your tour of LGBTQ+ Oklahoma culture with a walking tour of 39th St. District, Oklahoma City's gayborhood. You’ll find LGBTQ-owned businesses, nightlife, and a thriving street art scene. 

Oregon: Shop a Inclusive Clothing Brand 

Queer and nonbinary-affirming clothing brand Wildfang has a physical store in Portland, so you can finally find clothing that affirms your gender and make sure it fits before you buy! As if that wasn’t reason enough to go, the brand makes sustainable clothing for queer bodies and gives to LGBTQ+ charities. 

woman in a pink dress eating cake while look at portraits by Andy Warhol in an art gallery
Archie Carpenter / Getty Images

Pennsylvania: Go to the Warhol Museum 

Pop artist Andy Warhol made queer art in an era of intense homophobia and suppression of LGBTQ+ rights. Visit the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on the last Saturday of the month for a Warhol Queer History tour. The museum also supports queer youth through maker parties, a free drag school, and an LGBTQ+ youth prom.

Rhode Island: Tour Doris Duke's Newport Mansion 

Billionaire heiress Doris Duke murdered her gay friend, then covered it up—but you won't hear that on a visit to Rough Point Museum in Tony Newport, Rhode Island. Duke's former estate boasts Olmsted-designed gardens and ocean views. Come for the decorative art collection, then learn about the sordid gay backstory by reading "Homicide at Rough Point" by Peter Lance.

South Carolina: Take Charleston's Lavender Landmarks Tour

On Charleston's Lavender Landmarks tour, you'll view important LGBTQ+ historical sites like 7 Gibbes Street, where a women's salon attracted lesbian and bisexual writers like Gertrude Stein and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and 56 Society Street, the home of Dawn Langley Simmons, a writer and transgender woman who was involved in the first interracial marriage in the city. 

South Dakota: Go to a Gay-Friendly Bar 

South Dakota isn't exactly welcoming toward LGBTQ+ people, especially not after the governor signed a religious refusal bill into law, opening the door to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. As a result, the state doesn't have many LGBTQ+ landmarks and attractions save for one notable exception: Club David. This LGBTQ+-friendly bar and nightclub in Sioux Falls offers DJ sets, an intimate lounge space, and a rooftop patio with an ice bar.

Tennessee: Go All Out at Dollywood 

Dolly Parton is beloved by the LGBTQ+ community and a major champion of LGBTQ+ rights, so a trip to Dollywood, the amusement park co-owned by the glam country music star, is a must. The theme park's campy attractions include the Chasing Rainbows museum, which displays her glitziest gowns, though it won’t mention the time the star entered (and lost) a drag contest.

Texas: Visit Two Gayborhoods 

Dallas is Texas's LGBTQ+ epicenter with two gayborhoods to explore. Oak Lawn is where to go for nightlife with a popular lesbian bar, Sue Ellen's, and two-story JR’s Bar and Grill named after the sitcom "Dallas." In the Bishop Arts District, you'll find charming queer-owned small businesses, art galleries, and restaurants.

Utah: Support a Gay Immigrant-Owned Business 

Lebanese immigrant Moudi Sbeity makes a mean hummus which you can find at his Salt Lake City restaurant, Laziz Kitchen, where you'll find modern takes on Lebanese classics. Sbeity started as a farmers market entrepreneur and opened his restaurant with co-owner Derek Kitchen, a gay state senator. Between the LGBTQ+ connection and the Lebanese flavor, this gay-owned business will change your conceptions of SLC.

Vermont: Camp on Women's Land 

As part of the lesbian separatist movement, gay women went back to the land, seeking feminist actualization by completely opting out of patriarchal society. While there aren't many of these spaces left, you can still visit Huntington Open Women's Land (HOWL), which dates to 1998. HOWL welcomes self-identified women visitors via Hipcamp and children of any gender are welcome up to age 10.

view of a building on a corner with a rainbow mural. The crosswalk also has a rainbow painted on it

Courtesy of Richmond Triangle Players

Virginia: View Queer Theater

Since 1993, the Richmond Triangle Players theater company has produced hundreds of LGBTQ+ shows and given many queer-themed plays their world premiere. By seeing a show here, you’ll support authentic queer storytelling while helping the mid-Atlantic region’s oldest continually operating gay theater keep its doors open.

Washington: Trawl a Vanishing Gayborhood 

Capitol Hill has a 60-plus year history as Seattle's gayborhood. While some complain the scene is straightening out, it's still worth a visit. Don't miss Wildrose, a lesbian bar that (of course) sponsors a women's softball team. Volunteer Park is another must on a queer Capitol Hill stroll; urban lore cements the park's status as a gay hookup spot. 

West Virginia: See Inclusive Street Art 

Black Sheep Burritos and Brews is a popular burrito shop in Charleston, West Virginia, with an inclusive message: a rainbow-hued mural on the side of the building reads "All for Love and Love for All." Local artist Melissa Doty chose the words for their affirming message, and the Charleston LGBTQ+ working group helped fund the street art. Inclusivity extends beyond the mural’s message, too; this West Virginia city scores 91/100 on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index.

Wisconsin: Browse an LGBTQ+ Bookstore in Milwaukee 

Milwaukee's OutWords Books is one of the last remaining LGTBQ+ bookstores in the United States. It offers LGBTQ+ books, cheeky greeting cards, pride memorabilia, and a cafe that serves treats from local bakeries.

Wyoming: Pay Tribute to Matthew Shepard

Until 1998, when Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming, queer people weren't protected by hate crime laws. Shepard's brutal death shocked queer and straight Americans, but it also paved the way for pro-LGBTQ+ legislation. Pause on the Matthew Shepard memorial bench, located on the University of Wyoming campus, to consider how far LGBTQ+ rights have come since his tragic death.