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 attitudes.

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 hidden gems.

[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 charm. Click here to take a look and connect with Jay on Google+ today!]

Copyright 2014 Jay Deratany