The Best LGBTQ-Friendly Destinations of 2019

It's that time of year again where rainbow flags, stickers, and T-shirts are found in every direction you turn in honor of World Pride month. And while June is a month dedicated to celebrating, LGBTQ pride should be recognized all year long—and all over the world. In spirit of the season, we chose the top gay-friendly destinations to visit in 2019, using a mix of editorial insight and data from our Editors' Choice Awards.

On this list, you'll see a mix of some well-known LGBTQ hot spots, as well as some unexpected picks, but all deserve a spot on this list. Some have made landmark strides in LGBTQ equality legislation, others are home to extravagant pride parades and celebrations, and many are known for their LGBTQ-owned businesses, strong gay nightlife and neighborhoods, and overall warm welcome to people of all shapes, sizes, beliefs, and gender identities.

Here are the best destinations to fly the rainbow flag all year long. 

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Sydney, Australia

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Sydney NSW, Australia

Currently campaigning to host World Pride in 2023, Australia’s largest city is already home to one of the world’s largest LGBTQ celebrations. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (just “Mardi Gras” to most) is an annual bash with a parade attended by an estimated half million people from Oz and beyond, all lined up on Oxford Street to catch the outrageous costumes and raucous energy. There is a more traditional June pride celebration in Sydney, but Mardi Gras is the city’s main calendar event. In fact, it’s the largest event in all of Australia. Take advantage of the bountiful beach supply around Sydney, including the world-famous Bondi Beach, the women-only McIver’s Ladies Baths, and a handful of nude beaches popular with LGBTQ bathers. You may find fewer LGBTQ nightlife venues here than in some other major cities, but that’s only because of Sydney’s high level of integration; you’ll be accepted just about everywhere, but there are still plenty of dedicated hangouts and haunts if you want them. —BS

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Merida, Mexico

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Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico

Charming and traditional yet modern and progressive, with an open-minded attitude regarding all shades of the gender and sexuality spectrum, Mérida stands apart from the rest of Mexico’s LGBTQ-friendly destinations due to its distinct Mayan culture and influence from European settlers. Situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, the city draws visiting U.S. expats who are seduced into staying in once-crumbling, now gorgeously restored 18th- and 19th-century haciendas. Expat real estate agent and home restorer Keith Heitke has been featured on multiple episodes of HGTV’s "House Hunters International," and his late partner David Sterling founded thriving Yucatecan cooking school Los Dos. Another gay couple from Ohio, Michael and Robert, transformed a 250-year-old colonial mansion into a lovely five-room boutique property, Villa Verde. Merida Gay Tours offers a handful of curated tours and experiences, while one can easily spend a day solo exploring Merida’s Old Town—Plaza Grande, contemporary art museum MACAY, and Lucas de Galvez Market are musts. Come evening, get your dance and drinks (and go-go boys) on at PK2 Disco and Closet Bar. And while winter is peak visitor season, don’t miss Merida Gay Pride in June! —LF

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Santa Fe, NM, USA

The world’s first UNESCO Creative City of Arts and Culture, Santa Fe has long been a magnet for a more seasoned subset of LGBTQ travelers. With its mind-bogglingly massive fine art scene — there are more than 100 galleries on Canyon Road alone, and the city is home to the country’s third largest art market — it also tends to appeal to a wealthier clientele. But, times are changing. The success of Meow Wolf, originally a collective of anarchic artists looking for creative freedom and acceptance in an otherwise rigid art world, and now an sprawling permanent installation and music venue, is drawing an even more diverse crowd of the culturally curious to the already welcoming city. Santa Fe Pride is a month-long celebration offering events ranging from traditional drag performances and a parade on the Santa Fe Plaza to soccer games, train rides, and a family festival that exemplifies the city’s devotion to total inclusivity. —BS

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New Delhi, India

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New Delhi, Delhi, India

Last year, India’s Supreme Court struck down its pesky British colonial-era “Section 377” law, at long last decriminalizing homosexuality throughout this country of approximately 1.3 billion. (Meanwhile, Singapore has yet to do the same with its Section 377A, despite an otherwise vibrant, open LGBTQ population and scene.) New Delhi, with a population of more than 26 million, rang in the new era with an energized Delhi Queer Pride Parade, which actually had its first edition in 2008. Art-themed boutique bed and breakfast Mister & Art House is reserved exclusively for gay male guests. Those seeking five-star luxury digs should hole up at The Leela Palace, while the gay-owned LaLiT Hotel, hosts some mighty fun gay parties and drag queens at its Kitty Su nightclub. Just to the east of the iconic red standstone Qutub Minar tower, Q Café is a must for mixing with LGBTQ locals, joining “Queeraoke,” and applauding “Dancing Queen” drag shows, while other LGBTQ nightlife events include “Pink Tuesdays” at restaurant-bar-performance venue Depot 48. And just for fun, don’t forget a visit to Sulabh International Museum of Toilets for selfies with toilets from around the world, both ancient and new! —LF

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Denver, Colorado

 

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Denver, CO, USA

Denver is one of the most progressive cities in the nation, and that certainly applies to its embrace of the LGBTQ community. Celebrating its 45th pride celebration this year, Denver also hosts CinemaQ, a queer film festival, each summer and has been the proud home of the Rocky Mountain Regional Gay Rodeo since the mid-1980s. LGBTQ culture converges in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where you’ll love favorite nightlife spots X Bar, Trade, and Charlie’s (the most famous gay country bar around), but welcoming bars, clubs, and restaurants can be found throughout the city. Adventurous LGBTQ travelers will dig the city’s immediate proximity to mountain recreation, and, this year, Denverites have even more to celebrate after helping to elect the country’s first openly gay governor in Colorado. —BS

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Manchester, England

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Manchester, UK

It’s been twenty years since the groundbreaking, provocative U.K. TV series "Queer As Folk" made Manchester and its lively Canal Street gay village a top spot for international LGBTQ travelers — and it still very much is, particularly during August’s Manchester Pride. Visit Manchester’s queer-centric website is well worth the click, and includes details about the city’s LGBTQ heritage walk and key stops — the Alan Turing Memorial, depicting the computing pioneer who broke the Nazi’s enigma code but was persecuted for being homosexual, is compulsory — while you can also book a guided version with Manchester Guided Tours. If planning some late nights out, check into Canal Street’s Velvet, The Lowry, positioned along River Irwell and Trinity Bridge, or The Principal, whose outstanding restaurant and bar, The Refuge, hosts incredible DJ-driven LGBTQ-friendly parties. As for bars and discos, consider Si Manchester’s informal Friday and Saturday night Canal Street bar tour to enjoy a broad sampling. —LF

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Taipei, Taiwan

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Taipei, Taiwan

When Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in May 2019, its status was officially cemented as Asia’s most LGBTQ-friendly destination. For frequent LGBTQ visitors and locals, this was a given, however: Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, is home to the continent’s largest annual Pride celebration during the fall — the parade is so long it splits and branches into several color-coded routes — and Red House, a buzzing, two-level gay nightlife complex entailing shops, cafes, and open-air bars. The Xinyi district’s outstanding W Hotel is de facto the city’s gayest property, with a prime transportation and shopping hub location, Taipei 101 views, and a swimming pool made for exhibitionists, surrounded by the lobby’s Woo Bar and lounge. Gin Gin is Taipei’s LGBTQ everything store, including clothes, movies, publications, and naughty accessories. The nearby Love Boat specializes in customized clothing, breast binders, and home goods for masculine-appearing “Tomboy” lesbians and the FTM transgender community. And the inconspicuous Wildflower Bookstore represents a treasure trove of Taiwanese queer small press art books and gifts (alas, no photos allowed inside). At night, take your pick of the many bars at Red House, try Taiwan’s first leather bar, Commander D, or dance the night away with a side of drag at the monthly party, Werk. —LF

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

Fort Lauderdale is South Florida’s paradise for LGBTQ beach lovers of all varieties. From the quiet appreciators of sun and sand looking to relax on picture-perfect public beaches before lounging poolside with a cocktail to the more socially interactive crowd looking for gay beaches, nude beaches, and even decidedly adult swimming pools at gay resorts, Fort Lauderdale has options aplenty. Away from the water, hit up the clubs and restaurants of “The Drive” in Wilton Manors. Though technically a city of its own, Wilton Manors is essentially Fort Lauderdale’s honorary gayborhood and it’s great for both daytime activity and LGBTQ nightlife. While in Wilton Manors, visit the World AIDS Museum and Education Center, and don’t miss Fort Lauderdale’s Stonewall National Museum, honoring and exploring the uprising that sparked the gay rights movement 50 years ago in New York City. —BS

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Palm Springs, California

 Courtesy of Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

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Palm Springs, CA, USA

In 2018, Palm Springs, population 47,000, became the first city in the country to boast an entirely LGBTQ-identified local government including its mayor, city manager, and city council. You can take that as an indicator of why this Coachella valley is known to be welcoming, chill gay hot spot (and home to more than a few LGBTQ retirees). Visitors flood back week after week for a wave of fresh, dynamic resorts, restaurants, and sunny desert delights. Standing seven stories high with a rooftop pool, Kimpton’s The Rowan Palm Springs has played host to guests including Stephen Spielberg during winter’s annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. Prefer a men’s clothing optional resort? All Worlds, Santiago, and Bearfoot Inn number among the choices. A $500 million renovation of downtown saw the arrival of Truss & Twine, for cocktails and elevated cuisine (the younger sibling to the innovative farm to table restaurant, Workshop Kitchen & Bar), groovy vintage store Mitchells, and a swish Starbucks Reserve. Don’t miss dance and drag by night at Toucans Tiki Lounge and Hunters, and please remember to stay hydrated! —LF

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Bangkok, Thailand

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Bangkok, Thailand

As Southeast Asia’s tourism gate from the West, Thailand has long been at the forefront of actively welcoming LGBTQ travelers to this enchanting part of the world. While attitudes throughout the country tend to be more progressive in the South, further away from its border with the more conservative nations of Laos and Myanmar, where LGBTQ people face serious legal obstacles, the centrally located city of Bangkok offers both a vibrant nightlife and an active day life headlined by plenty of restaurants, rooftop bars, and shopping strewn about the invigoratingly chaotic capital. LGBTQ nightlife is centered around the Silom neighborhood, where two streets, Soi 4 and Soi 2, are crammed with gay venues ranging from dance clubs to lady-boy bars, with a variety of niches between. The only bit of Thai magic missing from Bangkok is the Southeast Asian nation’s legendary beach collection, and the best of those can be found with just an hour-and-a-half flight south to Phuket, home to one of Thailand’s three annual pride celebrations, magnificent beaches, and similarly jaw-dropping nightlife. —BS

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Tel Aviv, Israel

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Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

While same-sex marriage isn’t yet legal in Israel, laws and culture here are far more tolerant than anywhere else in the Middle East, and one particularly notable advance is the right for LGBTQ couples to adopt children and start families, helping to create a society that normalizes diverse families. While the political capital of Israel may be in question internationally, there’s no denying that the LGBTQ capital of the country, the Middle East, and even a bit beyond, is Tel Aviv. Each June, Tel Aviv hosts the Middle East’s only pride with a weeklong celebration of infamous parties and a parade that draws more than 250,000 spectators. Nightlife is intense in Tel Aviv and, while there are some LGBTQ-specific clubs, queer partying is better represented by weekly parties hosted at venues throughout the city. LGBTQ or otherwise, don’t come to Tel Aviv without visiting its famed Mediterranean beaches. Hilton Beach is particularly popular with the LGBTQ set, but you’ll find all types at all beaches, as you will throughout Tel Aviv where inclusivity is the way of life. —BS

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Winnipeg, Canada

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Winnipeg, MB, Canada

In 2017, Pride Winnipeg kicked off with its first two-spirit First Nations powwow, and inclusion of Canada’s beautiful indigenous population represents but one refreshing element of the annual celebration. In fact, Winnipeg’s first architectural icon and a destination-worthy attraction, Antione Predock’s stunning Canadian Museum For Human Rights, is dedicated to violations and triumphs related to minorities and populations both locally and around the world (an LGBTQ-centric tour is available during Pride). Tourism Winnipeg’s LGBTQ microsite is a fabulous resource, spotlighting local LGBTQ movers and shakers and businesses waving the rainbow flag, of which there are plenty. Be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth at Amanda Kinden’s five-year-old Oh Doughnuts — 100 rotating flavors include Lavender Glaze and the Filipino favorite, Ube — graze at sprawling 25-stall urban market and gathering spot The Forks, and dance it all off at Fame Nightclub. —LF

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The Best LGBTQ-Friendly Destinations of 2019