A road trip is an exciting way to explore a new place. But if you are LGBTQ+, planning your travels requires some extra thought.
Consider choosing a destination that scores highly on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, which evaluates countries for LGBT safety. It also takes into account worker protection, whether same-sex marriage is legal, and the right to change gender.
1. Sao Paulo
Often overlooked by tourists in favor of Rio de Janeiro, this never-ending megalopolis has its own distinct character and enchanting authenticity. The city’s renowned restaurants and world-famous nightlife should not be missed.
Be sure to check out the alleys of Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley), a cool neighborhood where graffiti and street art adorn the streets. Also, consider staying at a pousada — small, inexpensive inns that include breakfast. It’s a great way to meet locals and get an insider’s perspective on life in Sao Paulo.
2. New York City
A cosmopolitan capital with one of the world’s biggest queer scenes, New York City has no shortage of LGBTQ-friendly bars, clubs, and hotels. From the West Village to Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and the edgy Meatpacking District, LGBT haunts spill into each of NYC’s distinct neighborhoods.
Whether you want a fun and social hostel, an affordable designer option or a luxury hotel with a trendy cocktail bar, NYC has options for every budget. Check out our New York City guide for more ideas.
3. San Francisco
Gay travelers are welcomed with open arms in San Francisco. No matter what your interests, you can find something to do in this city of counterculture and history.
Puerto Vallarta is another popular gay travel destination in Mexico. The aptly-named Zona Romantica is the heart of the city’s gay scene. Here you’ll find everything from energetic bars to a lively beach. Several hotels in the area offer gay-friendly rooms and amenities. In addition to LGBTQ businesses, the city has a strong arts and cultural scene.
4. Los Angeles
Los Angeles has a thriving gay scene in West Hollywood and Silver Lake. You can also enjoy a range of LGBT-friendly hotels in downtown LA (often abbreviated to DTLA) and incredible independent businesses.
Some countries have strong anti-LGBT laws and public displays of affection may be subject to scrutiny. It’s worth researching gay travel destinations in each country to ensure you are aware of the potential risks before you arrive. It’s a good idea to book with an agency that specializes in LGBT tourism. They will be familiar with the best gay-friendly hotels and tour packages.
5. San Diego
The state of California has a longstanding reputation for being one of the most progressive, tolerant and gay-friendly travel destinations in the US. San Diego is home to a large gay scene in Hillcrest, with great bars, restaurants, and shops.
Be aware that laws and attitudes towards homosexuality vary widely across countries, so research your destination in advance. Online LGBT travel websites such as Out Traveler and IGLTA are great resources, with extensive city guides and gay group tour packages. Using these can help you avoid places that may be unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers.
6. San Francisco Bay Area
For many travelers, San Francisco is the USA’s gay mecca. Stroll the Castro district to find bars, restaurants, and bookstores adorned with rainbow flags. Visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum to see a memorabilia collection that includes city supervisor Harvey Milk’s bullhorn.
In the Z Space Theater, FreshMeat Productions showcases queer dance, music, and theatre shows. There are also pre- and post-show parties with DJs spinning the hottest beats and plenty of dancing. The two-level gym in the Castro offers peacocking and cruisy showers. In the surrounding neighborhood, tuck into street art and taquerias.
The USA is a very gay-friendly travel destination with many cities, college towns, the Northeast and the West Coast being highly tolerant to LGBT travelers. Washington DC is also a great gay and lesbian travel destination where you can subvert national political culture in Dupont Circle and Logan Circle!
AIDS Memorial Grove in Seattle is one of the city’s highlights for queer history buffs. There’s also a clothing-optional queer beach at Loon Lake, which is popular for skinny dipping and barbecues. You’ll find plenty of clubs and bars in the Capitol Hill area.
8. Washington D.C.
Washington DC is a major LGBT destination and offers plenty of bars, clubs, and other gay-friendly activities. It’s a political and energetic place with lots of power and history.
It hosts the Capital Pride parade and festival. You can visit world-class museums, eat in diverse restaurants and check out gay nightlife spots like Cobalt and Adams Morgan. The city is also home to many prestigious universities and colleges. Overall, the USA is tolerant-to-accepting of LGBT travelers but levels of tolerance and acceptance vary greatly from region to region.
9. Las Vegas
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBT) people can have unique travel challenges. For example, some countries prohibit consensual same-sex marriage, and other destinations have laws allowing hotel owners to discriminate against LGBT patrons.
There are plenty of upscale and luxe LGBTQ-friendly destinations where checking in raises fewer eyebrows. Damron and Spartacus are both popular travel guides that list gay-owned or gay-friendly hotels, bars, restaurants, and other places. They also have helpful information about the legal protections that exist in different countries.
10. San Francisco Bay Area
Known for being a gay mecca, the city by the bay hosts one of the biggest pride parades in the world. It also has a sizable LGBT community and numerous gay bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Most cities on this list are accepting of homosexuals, but some countries in the Middle East have laws against sexuality, including Iran (death penalty) and Saudi Arabia (prison, fines, or whipping). Visiting these areas should be done with discretion. In some cases, it is best to travel with a partner. This helps with safety and protection.