Originally published on Advocate.com January 06 2014
While some jaws dropped when this city was named No. 1 a couple of years ago, SLC’s queer citizens knew we were on to something. There are plenty of sporty gay and lesbian ski bunnies, more than half a dozen bars and clubs — including Club Try-Angles (ClubTry-Angles.com) and the enduring ladies’ spot Paper Moon (ThePaperMoonClub.com) — and a popular annual Gay Pride celebration that last year drew some family members of Mormon LGBTs marching in support of their kids, siblings, and parents. Utah’s capital does not have a Mormon majority, unlike the rest of the state, and increased scrutiny of the church following its support of the antigay Prop 8 is forcing some overtures toward queer acceptance.
7. Madison, WI (pop. 240,323)
Madison is outdoorsy, educated, friendly, and progressive. Larger cities Milwaukee and Chicago are within driving distance, but even so, the city’s got its own day — and nightlife. Locals imbibe at slick video bar Plan B (PlanBMadison.com; Thursdays are 18 and over); the bear-leather-sports bar Woof’s (WoofsMadison.com): the big disco FIVE (FiveNightclubMadison.com); the relaxing Captain Dix (CaptainDix.com); and reborn dance club Cardinal Bar (CardinalBar.com). Daytime haunts include coffeehouses (it is a college town) and lesbian fave A Room of One’s Own, a feminist bookstore and coffeehouse (RoomofOnesOwn.com)
6. St. Louis, MO (pop. 318,069)
The city’s three gay elected officials, gay rodeo association, and gay-friendly concert lineup confirm to us what many already knew about St. Louis: It’s the open-minded heart of the Midwest. Before the leather bars and LGBT center opened along Manchester Avenue, before there was the RiverFront Times-voted Best Lesbian Bar Attitudes Bar & Grill (4100 Manchester Ave., 314-534-0044), the Boxers ‘n Briefs all-male strip club (BoxersNBriefs.com), or the down-and-dirty Grey Fox (GreyFoxSTL.com), Tennessee Williams was frequenting the Central West End, with its architectural sights, hotels, and galleries.
5. Atlanta, GA (pop. 443,775)
Atlanta has long been the epicenter of the gay South, which is why it consistently makes this list, regardless of how the criteria change. And it’s no wonder, as Hotlanta’s LGBT folks strut to the beat of their own drummers — in stark contrast to much of the conservative surrounding state. The city has tons of great gay bars, including five on Out’s best-of list; the all-women Spelman College; Black Gay Pride in September and Atlanta Pride (one of the country’s largest) in October; and MondoHomo, a May event celebrating art, drag, burlesque, film, and BBQ. (You decide if the Real Housewives are a net plus.)
4. Cambridge, MA (pop. 106,471)
Though the city is the little sibling to much bigger Boston, Cambridge’s own queer cred is substantial: The city council enacted antidiscrimination protections for transgender people in 1997, and one of the council’s current members, E. Denise Simmons, was the nation’s first African-American lesbian mayor. Disco dance hall ZuZu (Zuzubar.com) has tons of club nights, including Zuesday’s queer dance party, and the Paradise bar (ParadiseCambridge.com) has hot male dancers six nights a week. And on the seventh day they rested.
3. Seattle, WA (pop. 634,535)
Seattle is the home of our nation’s lust for lattes, our lust for lust (thanks in part to Dan Savage’s sex advice and his homemade porn film festival), and our lust for cool, lo-fi boutique hotels (the city is where the Ace Hotel chain sprouted). Capitol Hill is its gay headquarters, with lots of venues for guys and gals, wine bars, live music, and locavore cuisine. And if the sun isn’t shining, there are plenty of alt-cuties who will happily cuddle to keep you cozy when it rains.
2. Pasadena, CA (pop. 138,547)
This beautiful but sleepy adjunct to Los Angeles, a kind of bedroom community for gays who like to garden, gets its high ranking primarily from having two gay elected city officials for its relatively small population, and a fractional boost from California’s many statewide elected LGBTs. Nevertheless, Pasadena’s got lots to offer: two gay bars, the Boulevard (3199 E. Foothill Blvd., 626-356-9304), with karaoke and pool, and Club Caution, right around the corner in Highland Park; a number of LGBT-welcoming churches; the thriving Pasadena Lesbian Book Club (Meetup.com/QueerBooks-67); and arguably the best flea market in the world — antiques! vintage! — monthly at the Rose Bowl.
1. Washington, DC (pop. 623,323)
In many respects, D.C. is still part of the South. But this city has a whopping 17 gay elected officials, perhaps a result of its unique status as a federal district, free from the grip of a state government. Gay-friendly neighborhoods include P Street and 17th Street in the Dupont Circle area, and Logan Circle to the east. The capital’s nightlife includes the Duplex Diner and its hot bartenders (DuplexDiner.com), and show tunes, top 40, and retro pop at perennial fave JR’s Bar (1519 17th St. NW, 202-328-0090). Though they’re ostensibly right-leaning, we think hunky young pols Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Aaron Schock are subtly demonstrating their LGBT friendliness by indulging in well-known gay customs: Ryan lifts weights and exaggerates his stats (how fast was that run, Paul?), and Schock likes his shirtless photo shoots and pink fashion accessories. And we cannot overlook House Speaker John Boehner; bring extra Kleenex if you invite him over for a Nora Ephron flick on movie night.
10 small-town destinations for LGBT travelers
Looking for a getaway outside the U.S.'s big cities? The Huffington Post lists 10 small towns or cities deemed particularly friendly to LGBT tourists. Among the vacation spots are New Hope, Pa.; Asheville, N.C.; and Eugene, Ore. The Huffington Post/Gay Voices