We all know by now that places like
Fire Island and San Fran’s Castro are meccas for gay travelers
looking to be met with open arms. And because of that fact, some of
these famed locales have become positively packed with other
travelers looking for the same experience.
But what about the places that fly a
bit off the beaten track? In these charming towns, you’ll find an
open and welcoming vibe without battling as many fellow tourists for
a spot on the beach or a stool at the bar.
Here we share with you a few of our
favorite hidden gems that proudly open their doors to LGBT travelers.
1. Asheville, North Carolina
This picturesque mountain town makes
frequent appearances on lists like, “Happiest Cities” and, “Most
Beautiful Places in America.” Its rich history, stunning
architecture and thriving music scene make it feel it feel worlds
hipper than what you might expect from a small city in the South.
The city even has its own annual pride celebration, as well as a
handful of gay bars.
No visit to Asheville would be complete
without seeing The Biltmore, the sprawling estate that includes a
250-room mansion and immaculate grounds built by George Vanderbilt in
the late 19th century. If you love the sense of history, you can
even stay in the Biltmore Inn on the home’s estate. If strolling
the lively, hilly streets of the city isn’t enough physical
activity for you, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just an
hour’s drive from the city and offers a wealth of outdoor fun.
2. Saugatuck, Michigan
The Saugatuck-Douglas area of
Southwestern Michigan is affectionately referred to as Michigan’s
Art Coast. The idyllic beach towns are just a couple hours away from
Chicago but feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the big
city. This quaint coastline somehow manages to be a throwback to
simpler times while still being proudly diverse and modern in its
There’s even a gay travel guide site
that highlights the many gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses in the
area. And unlike most small Midwest towns, Douglas even has its own
gay resort and nightclub. And there’s no shortage of cultural and
natural treasures to explore during your stay – pristine beaches,
art galleries, festivals and vineyards. If you’re hankering for a
charming, small town feel with an artsy vibe, Saugatuck is the
perfect addition to your travel bucket list.
3. New Hope, Pennsylvania
It’s entirely possible that you’ve
never even heard of New Hope, Pennsylvania, despite the fact that
it’s known to be a happening scene for the LGBT crowd in the
northeast. Just a hop, skip and a jump from both NYC and
Philadelphia, the town morphed into an artsy haven that welcomed gay
culture during the 1950s.
Though it has fewer than 3,000
residents, it boasts a booming gay businesses – the Raven Resort is
a regional draw, especially in the summer when its pool is a place to
see and be seen. You should also spend a relaxing afternoon aboard a
vintage 1920s steam locomotive through the rolling hill country of
Bucks County. And if you’re the type that adores a laid back day
wandering in and out of antique stores and art galleries, you’ll be
in heaven in downtown New Hope.
4. Eugene, Oregon
College towns are generally known for
being progressive and Eugene is no exception. Home to The University
of Oregon, this charming small city really embodies the laidback
bohemian vibe of the Pacific Northwest in the same vein as Portland
and Seattle, just on a smaller scale. Your craving for all things
boho will be met with farmer’s markets, hiking, live music and
vegan dining options. Though there isn’t a gay neighborhood as such
(few smaller cities have them), there are several businesses that are
loudly and proudly LGBT friendly.
The city has long been welcoming of
alternative lifestyles – back in the 60s, it was a veritable
capital of counter culture. Though it still embraces those hippie
roots, today Eugene is all about the arts and the outdoors, so
visitors should seek a little of both. Try to plan your trip to
coincide with the last Friday of the month to check out the Last
Fridays Art Walk, a monthly celebration of the city’s art, food and
music. And no visit to the area would be complete without enjoying
the natural beauty of the area. We recommend a hike followed by an
indulgent dip in the Cougar Hot Springs or one of the several
waterfalls within an hour’s drive of the city.
Let’s face it, some of the most
popular travel destinations popular in the LGBT community have become
overcrowded and a little played out. The real spirit of travel is
all about embracing the new and charting new lands. So the next time
you have the opportunity to travel, explore one of these lesser known
[Editor's Note: Jay Deratany is an
attorney, movie producer, human rights activist and boutique hotel
owner. He’s a frequent contributor to online publications and
writes about topics ranging from adoption laws to travel tips. The
Kirby, his new Saugatuck
hotel and wine bar, is all about modern luxury meets old world
here to take a look and connect with Jay on Google+
Copyright 2014 Jay Deratany