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Our 5 favorite LGBTQ travel destinations, significant in a place you wouldn’t expect

These cities bravely wave the pride flag in the face of adversity and discrimination.

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Despite widespread attacks on LGBTQ rights from a Republican Party stuck in the ’50s, more and more American cities are welcoming queer culture with open arms. Seventy-one percent of Americans in a Gallup 2022 survey said they were in favor of same-sex marriage being legal. You might be surprised, then, at how many domestic travel options (and where) cater to good, old-fashioned gay fun.

The folks at GayCities have selected five previously unnoticed American cities that have recently emerged as LGBTQ-friendly destinations. They are all in states that are notoriously homophobic and anti-gay, making their outspokenness and willingness to wave the rainbow flag that much more important.

Metropolis of Minneapolis

In his memoir The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s (published in 2001), life for the LGBTQ community in Minneapolis was described as “a ruse that kept all of us safe,” taking place in “a fort amid a savage and hostile population,” according to Minnesota native and lifelong journalist Ricardo J. Brown. However, this groundbreaking look at the gay experience in the middle of the twentieth century was published after the author’s death, so he missed out on seeing the state’s cultural shift. Today’s gay tourists might not think of Minnesota as a vacation destination, but the city of Minneapolis has held a Pride parade every year since 1973 and has voted Democratic without fail since 1976. The city combines the amenities of a large metropolis with the friendliness of a small town (Haven’t you heard of Minnesota nice?). According to a survey of 720 travelers conducted by VacationRenter on the best LGBTQ-friendly vacation spots for 2022, Minneapolis ranked seventh. Don’t leave without checking out the Saloon and the renowned (and naughty) eagleBOLTbar (particularly on Sunday for their amateur go-go shower contest).

The Queen City of North Carolina

Regardless of their gender identity or where they are in the transition process, transgender people in North Carolina are required to use the public bathrooms in state-run buildings that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates. This law made headlines (and drew criticism) across the country in 2016. Despite North Carolina’s refusal to pass laws to better protect its LGBTQ community, the city of Charlotte has become a haven in the Republican state for marginalized communities thanks to its openness to diversity and its acceptance of the queer community. Legal protections exist in the major financial center to prevent harassment or assault on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Uptown Charlotte has been the site of Charlotte Pride’s largest annual event since 2011, and the first annual parade was held that year. According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the event has grown from drawing around 10,000 people a decade ago to over 200,000 people today, making it the largest LGBTQ celebration of its kind in the Carolinas and the largest annual parade in the city. The city’s queer population takes pride in the fact that there is always a gay-friendly event or party to attend, from comedy shows to dance parties, and everything in between. The Scorpio is the city’s oldest gay bar; the Woodshed Lounge is the place to go to get your hips moving; and the highly regarded Bar at 316 (which has recently expanded its patio due to its popularity) is at the top of the list.

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Georgia, a new battleground state in the American South, has become a flashpoint in the nation’s political turmoil. You may be surprised to learn that it has moved away from its staunchly Republican roots, but that’s because liberal cities like Savannah have served as “bastions of open-mindedness and acceptance” and spread their values to the surrounding communities. Visit Savannah tells GayCities there aren’t many gay bars because the city’s LGBTQ+ residents don’t feel the need to seek out such establishments because of the city’s open and accepting culture. Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in America, but that doesn’t stop visitors from taking ghost tours, seeing the locations that inspired films like “Forest Gump,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and many others. River Street has some of the best nightlife in the city and is home to many gay-friendly and LGBT-owned shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Juneau, Alaska.

Alaska’s queer community is fighting to modernize despite the state’s frozen landscape. Despite the state’s conservative Republican voting record (with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 landslide), Juneau is home to a vibrant gay community and progressive ideals. Additionally, SEAGLA (Southeast Alaska Gay & Lesbian Alliance) calls this place home as well. Local Alaskans who identify as queer have played a role in making Juneau a safe space for people from all walks of life. Juneau is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to the unique sights it has to offer (glaciers, icefields, mountains, igloos, penguins!). Promoting its queer culture is crucial to attracting gay tourists to the region so that they can experience the enchanting beauty of the icy landscape. The LGBTQ alliance group in Juneau intends to do just that, and they claim the renaissance is just getting started.

This is Salt Lake City, Utah.

Despite the stereotypes, Mormon country has a thriving queer scene, with over 75,000 people attending the festival in the week of June 5th, according to Visit Salt Lake City’s report to GayCities. The city also has one of the highest percentages of LGBTQ people in the country (4.7%). It’s worth noting that the capital city of Utah is home to more than twenty LGBTQ-owned businesses. SLC’s first openly gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski, renamed the street that runs through the city’s historic gayborhood from 9th to 9th as Harvey Milk Boulevard. Four out of seven members of the Salt Lake City Council identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, and four out of seven are members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The fact that SLC has become a religiously progressive metropolis is likely to be demonstrated by Bravo bringing the Housewives franchise there. The Exchange Nightclub, Area 51 (18+), and the Sun Trapp are all excellent gay nightlife options.