Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.
It’s amusing how LGBTQIA city dwellers universally call their neighborhoods “gay villages,” despite none actually being villages. Across North America, however, there are true small-town experiences for queer travelers looking for something less savage than the urban jungles they call home. We all know the usual suspects, like P-Town and Fire Island, but across the continent there are queer enclaves just waiting for you to come and enjoy a drag show or share a drink at the local watering hole. Here are 8 we love!
Lost River, WV
The gay owners of the Lost River Trading Post will tell you it hasn’t always been rainbows and unicorns. Still, this little town on the Cacapon River garnered New York Times-level fame a few years ago, and boasts an LGBTQIA getaway, The Guesthouse. Locals from the D.C. metro region head here for an escape, with some making it their second home.
Utah, the hub of Mormonism, doesn’t seem like an obvious LGBTQIA destination, but the tiny town of Moab in the eastern part of the state suggests otherwise. Outdoorsy types will appreciate its location between two National Parks, with plenty of adventure sports and activities to offset the lack of nightlife. It’s the Moab Pride festival, begun in 2011, however, that proves small-town America is never too out of touch to wave the rainbow flag.
Once nicknamed “Queen of the Copper Camps,” it seems like Bisbee, just 90 miles from Tucson, was primed to be an LGBTQIA haven. With an ever-growing Pride parade begun in 2004, Bisbee has year-round culture from shops in old saloons to Victorian architecture and even tours of the old copper mines. Bits of Old West charm mingle with a diverse population of retirees and LGBTQIA citizens who, by some estimates, constitute a majority. Imagine that.
New Hope, PA
You’d call it charming at first glance, but its eclectic mix of vintage shops alongside drag events at restaurants like Greenhouse and Martine’s RiverHouse prove it has an edge. It’s an easy getaway for New Yorkers tired of Broadway and in need of something more small town, like a performance at the Bucks County Playhouse. Don’t knock it: Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame just premiered a new show here in summer 2021!
This LGBTQIA beach retreat is home to Mexico’s only legal nude beach. Enjoy the nightly sunset with some mezcal while surrounded by dozens of other queer peeps at Playa del Amor. Same-sex marriage came into full effect in the state of Oaxaca in 2019, and this tiny town flies rainbow flags at venues like Hotel Neptuno and at its two queer bars. It’s quieter than gay hotspots like Puerto Vallarta, but remember, that’s the whole point.
Pop into the Rainbow Cattle Company, a popular LGBTQIA saloon in this NorCal enclave and you’ll forget all about nearby San Francisco. Known locally as the “Gay Riviera,” this Russian River town mixes wine traditions with outdoor adventure, so spend some time sipping bubbly before, or probably after, a paddle on the river. Hike the redwood forests before settling in for a farm to table dinner at Boon Eat+Drink.
After touring nearby Tampa and St. Pete, mingle with locals in Dunedin, a town of just 35,000 adjacent to Caledesi Island. Despite its small-town vibe, multiple LGBTQIA-owned businesses line its charming downtown streets, including venues like nightclub Blur, one of a trifecta of queer establishments housed inside a single complex.
With just 5,000 people, Jasper takes the “small town” thing seriously, but it is very much dedicated to LGBTQIA inclusivity. Hiding in the Canadian Rockies, this little oasis is a favorite for couples to marry when they aren’t skiing or hiking Jasper National Park. It’s a year-round destination, with plenty of bars and dining, and its springtime Pride festival is a good way to kick off the Pride season early.