Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.
While an upbeat party scene certainly has its appeal, sometimes you may want something a bit more low key than Fire Island or San Francisco. If you’re looking to embrace a slower pace in a destination that is welcoming to members of the LGBTQIA community, we have a ton of ideas on where to go. Whether it’s a gay-friendly island paradise or laid-back Long Beach, here are a few alternatives to traditional meccas.
Long Beach not Los Angeles
If you’re looking for a SoCal escape but don’t feel like dealing with West Hollywood scenesters, head to nearby Long Beach, which is more walkable and boasts a large lesbian community. Stroll down Broadway between Cherry and Alamitos Aves and you’ll be in the hub of Long Beach’s well-established gay scene, which is punctuated by rainbow crosswalks and an assortment of queer bars. The city’s dedication to diversity is also evident at Harvey Milk Promenade Park and Equality Plaza which was dedicated by Robert Garcia, the city’s first openly gay mayor, and also the first Latino to hold the office. Other funky nabes around town include Belmont Shore and Retro Row, home to the city’s LGBTQ community center.
EAT – For a satisfying breakfast paired with mimosas, visit queer-owned Let’s Yolk About It, a new restaurant located on Second Street in Belmont Shore.
STAY – Hotel Maya is a Latin American-inspired property that is located on the waterfront near downtown and not far from the Queen Mary. Relax at “Playa at the Maya,” a large man-made beach, or board a ferry for a day trip to Catalina Island.
Park Slope not Hell’s Kitchen
If you’re seeking the thrills of NYC but turned off by Hell’s Kitchen pretty boys, try the emerging queer neighborhood of Park Slope in Brooklyn. The area has one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples in the city, according to Curbed, and is home to many LGBTQ businesses and organizations. Good Judy, a new bar for queers and allies, is just one example. The neighborhood also hosts the annual Brooklyn Pride March, which includes a festival in nearby Prospect Park. Browse for books at Cafe con Libros, an intersectional feminist bookstore and coffee shop that is located nearby.
EAT – Described as a Brooklyn restaurant with Italian soul, Fausto is the perfect spot to take a date. Enjoy their rigatoni or chicken pappardelle along with a signature negroni.
STAY – As one of the first gay-friendly boutique hotels in Brooklyn, Hotel Le Bleu is located minutes from the borough’s gay nightlife. Don’t forget to check out the views from the rooftop.
Oakland not San Francisco
Located across the Bay from LGBTQ mecca San Francisco, hip Oakland offers a thriving arts community and encourages both visitors and residents alike to express themselves without fear of judgment. The Oakland LGTBQ Community Center is at the heart of this inclusive city, where you can find out about events and services. Be sure to visit White Horse Bar on Telegraph Avenue, which is thought to be the oldest gay bar in the country, and be sure to stroll hip neighborhoods like Rockridge, Grand Lake and Piedmont Ave. Oakland Pride happens annually in September.
EAT – Helmed by former Top Chef contestant Jen Biesty, Shakewell is queer-owned and a favorite spot for Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine.
STAY – Located in Oakland’s Jack London Square, the pet-friendly Waterfront Hotel welcomes guests with its nautical decor and views of the water.
Malta not Mykonos
While the blue and white buildings of gay-popular Mykonos are an Instagrammer’s delight, the tiny island nation of Malta is frequently named as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, according to LGBTQ advocacy group ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Europe Country Ranking, as well as other sources. Malta Pride takes place in mid-September every year, and there are a variety of queer bars, such as The Birdcage Lounge, that are spread across the island. While there are no official gay beaches in Malta, there are a couple known to be secluded and popular with the LGBTQIA community, including Riviera Beach.
EAT – The ambience at Medina Restaurant exudes old-world charm, as you’ll admire both the courtyard and its imaginative interpretations of Mediterranean cuisine.
STAY – Known as the island’s most iconic hotel, The Phoenicia Malta is a lovely 5-star hotel that is surrounded by landscaped gardens. Enjoy the picture-perfect views and savor the infinity pool.
Copenhagen not Amsterdam
The capital of the Netherlands has been a bastion of LGBTQ culture for centuries, but only a short flight away is Copenhagen, a city as colorful as a rainbow. With a variety of festivals to suit your fancy, you won’t be short of activities. In August the city will host the first ever joint celebration of WorldPride and EuroGames, while the MIX Copenhagen LGBTQ Film Festival happens in late October. Try to fit in a visit to Gay House, a meeting place that is used for cultural projects, theater and music performances, and exhibitions.
EAT – Chef Camilla Seidler has made a name for herself with her creative cooking and passion for social equality. Her goal with Restaurant Lola is to create a strong and inclusive community in the kitchen.
STAY – Located in Copenhagen’s buzzing Latin Quarter, Hotel SP34 is a luxury boutique hotel filled with unique design features. With its three on-site restaurants and private cinema, you don’t ever really need to leave.