The Top 10 LGBTQ+ Museums in the U.S.

These institutions proudly specialize in telling tales of queer history

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.

It’s June, and you know what that means: It’s time to get out the rainbow-striped boas and spangly party hats and celebrate Pride! Of course, whether you're a member of the LGBTQ+ community or simply one of our cherished allies, this month is about more than parades and parties. Pride is also when we pay homage to the folx who came before us and fought to advance the cause of queer rights, which makes a visit to one of the following museums a perfect activity this month—or any other, actually.

Because while mainstream books and schools seldom tell tales of queer history, institutions like ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives and The Legacy Walk proudly specialize in doing just that. Whether you check them out virtually or in the flesh, you’re pretty much guaranteed to walk away knowing more than you did before your visit.

01 of 10

GLBT Historical Society Museum

The Main Gallery at the GLBT Historical Society Museum

Gerard Koskovich / GLBT Historical Society Museum

4127 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA
Phone +1 415-777-5455

The first museum in the U.S. dedicated to queer history, this vibrant San Francisco establishment offers visitors a veritable treasure trove of everything from irreplaceable ephemera (count Harvey Milk’s personal possessions among them) to art, printed materials, and photos. Don’t miss the permanent exhibit, “Queer Past Becomes Present,” which looks at 100 years of LGBTQ+ life in San Francisco and across the nation.

The GLBT Historical Society Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10; it's recommended that visitors purchase their tickets in advance.

02 of 10

Stonewall National Museum & Archives

LGBT+ memorabilia at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives

Anthony J. Rayburn / Visit Fort Lauderdale

1300 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, USA
Phone +1 954-763-8565

This Fort Lauderdale institution may have no direct connection to the Stonewall Riots, but it does boast one of the country’s largest LGBTQ+ archives and libraries. It features goodies like clothing worn by Ellen DeGeneres and RuPaul and more than 4,000 titles of queer pulp fiction. SNMA also regularly dishes out special events, including author presentations, films, and panel discussions at its gallery in Wilton Manors.

Stonewall National Museum & Archives is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m. Access to the archives is by appointment only.

03 of 10

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art

Interior of the Leslie Lohman Museum Paul Thek Exhibition

Hunterohanian / Wikimedia

26 Wooster St, New York, NY 10013-2227, USA
Phone +1 212-431-2609

Since time immemorial, visual art has explored queer life and helped preserve LGBTQ+ history when the straight world would prefer to erase it. But it wasn’t until 1969 that a gallery exhibit in New York City pulled together from Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman's collection was dedicated wholly to the theme. Today, the museum that evolved out of that exhibit features a gangbusters assortment of more than 30,000 objects produced over three centuries, including works from names like Haring and Mapplethorpe.

The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art is open Friday through Sunday. A $10 donation is suggested.

04 of 10

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives

Shelves of books at ONE Archives

Christine Hahn / ONE Archives at University of Southern California

909 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007-2406, USA
Phone +1 213-821-2771

The granddaddy of all queer organizations, the ONE Archives in Los Angeles is not only the oldest such institution in the United States, but it also houses the largest collection of LGBTQ+ materials on the planet. There are now two locations: The archives themselves—which feature everything from manuscripts and photos to personal papers, periodicals, books, and films—and a satellite gallery in West Hollywood. Here, you'll find free exhibitions of art and historical goodies from the ONE collection.

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05 of 10

The Legacy Walk

Plaque of Billy Strayhorn on a Legacy Walk

Courtesy of The Legacy Project

3245-3704 North Halsted Street Outdoor Streetscape Museum Historic Landmark, Chicago, IL 60657, USA
Phone +1 312-608-1198

The only museum of its kind anywhere, The Legacy Walk in Chicago is an outdoor installation dedicated to highlighting world-changing members of the LGBTQ+ community. Located in the gayborhood Boystown, along a half-mile of the North Halsted Street Corridor, the series of snazzy bronze plaques affixed to steel rainbow-colored pylons commemorate the life and work of queer notables such as Walt Whitman, Leonard Bernstein, and Alan Turing.

Guided tours of The Legacy Walk are $10 for seniors, $20 for college students, and $35 for adults; high school students and children can join the tour for free. Meals, shopping, and more can be added on for an extra cost.

06 of 10

Lesbian Herstory Archives

two women holding a banner for the Lesbian Herstory Archives

Courtesy of the Lesbian Herstory Archives

484 14th St, Brooklyn, NY 11215-5702, USA
Phone +1 718-768-3953

Don’t let the location fool you. The Lesbian Herstory Archives might be tucked away in an unassuming townhouse on a quiet street in Brooklyn. Still, the building is bursting at the seams with the globe’s largest collection of lesbian-related material. Founded in the 1970s as an answer to the patriarchalism rampant in the gay rights movement, the archives feature a truly jaw-dropping selection of memorabilia. Among the items here are buttons, banners, T-shirts, and printed goodies such as books, posters, and periodicals.

07 of 10

Leather Archives and Museum

Excavating Experience exhibit

Courtesy of the Leather Archives & Museum

6418 N Greenview Ave, Chicago, IL 60626, USA
Phone +1 773-761-9200

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying that the leather, kink, fetish, and BDSM subcultures are alive and well in the queer community. This Chicago institution has provided a safe space for three decades to learn about the lifestyles, displaying thousands of books and magazines, erotic art galore, sexual paraphernalia, and clothing like leather jackets and vests.

The Leather Archives and Museum is open Thursday through Sunday. Admission is free on Thursday; otherwise, the entrance fee is $10. Access to the archives is by appointment only.

08 of 10

World AIDS Museum

People viewing the UNMASKED Exhibit

Courtesy of the World AIDS Museum

1350 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, USA
Phone +1 954-390-0550

Dedicated in 2013 by basketball great and HIV survivor Magic Johnson, this Fort Lauderdale museum has, from its inception, sought to de-stigmatize the disease and preserve the history of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Exhibitions at the museum explore the HIV/AIDS crisis and how it has affected marginalized persons. Meanwhile, the ongoing oral history project, “Until the Last Story is Told,” documents the first-person tales of those who have faced it.

The museum is currently operating from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Docent-led tours are available for groups of three to 10 people.

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09 of 10

The Andy Warhol Museum

Exterior of the Andy Warhol Museum

Popscreenshot, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

117 Sandusky St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, USA
Phone +1 412-237-8300

It might be shocking to learn that one of the country’s greatest LGBTQ+ museums can be found in Pittsburgh, but then it is the hometown of queer icon and pop art great Andy Warhol. There are plenty of pieces here, including the doodly sketch, “Male Genitals,” illustrating his fabulous campy gay gaze. The museum hosts other queer-rific treats, too, like one of the state’s only LGBTQ+ proms.

The Warhol is open Wednesday through Monday. Admission is $20 for adults; it’s recommended that visitors purchase timed tickets in advance.

10 of 10

Alice Austen House Museum

Exterior of the Alice Austen House Museum

Blindowlphotography, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

2 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10305-2002, USA
Phone +1 718-816-4506

Designated a national LGBT historic site by The National Register of Historic Places, this 17th-century house on Staten Island was home to trailblazer Alice Austen, one of the first female photographers and her long-time partner, Gertrude Tate. Look for the permanent exhibit, “New Eyes on Alice Austen,” which pays tribute to their relationship and includes a selection of the nearly 8,000 images Austen shot from the Victorian era onward.

The Alice Austen House Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. General admission is $5, and tours must be pre-booked online.

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The Top 10 LGBTQ+ Museums in the U.S.