San Francisco and West Hollywood aren’t the only gay travel destinations in the West.
San Francisco, West Hollywood, Palm Springs: These tried and true LGBTQ playgrounds are guaranteed to deliver a warm welcome to gay tourists. But they’re not the only places in the West with big support for the LGBTQ community. From beach and college towns to underrated cities, the list of great gay travel destinations is growing. It’s time to start exploring.
Many cities have gay bars, but Honolulu has gay beaches. (Queen’s Surf Beach, part of Waikiki, is considered the best.) The thing most visitors to Hawaii’s urban center notice, though, is not how many gay establishments there are, but how welcoming every place seems to be. Acceptance is just part of multicultural, hang-loose Hawaii's DNA—it was, after all, the first state to offer domestic partnerships to same-sex couples. For information on events of interest to the LGBTQ community during your visit, check in with the Honolulu Gay and Lesbian Cultural Foundation.
Gay Bars: Favorites include multi-level club Scarlet; cozy mixed gay and lesbian In Between; and Hula's Bar & Lei Stand, long beloved by both visitors and locals.
Pride: Third Saturday in October
Although Oakland is sometimes overlooked due to its proximity to San Francisco, the East Bay city is a worthy destination of its own and an essential stop for gay travelers to the Bay Area. The downtown Qulture Collective is an important queer cultural hub, but there’s also a gay gym, an LGBTQ Community Center, LGBTQ comedy nights, and lesbian poetry slams. The one thing Oakland doesn’t have is a single concentrated Castro-style “gayborhood.” But sit down for brunch in just about any part of town and note the number of same-sex couples. Oakland is fast becoming the Bay Area’s next big LGBTQ neighborhood.
Gay Bars: Beloved hangout White Horse Inn, trendy Port Bar, and pulsating Club BNB.
Pride: Second Sunday in September
Long Beach, California
In Long Beach, you can have a champagne brunch on a ship called the Queen Mary, which is docked next to—no joke—Rainbow Harbor. Still, Long Beach is not yet known as the gayest place on earth. This says more about the shadow cast by Los Angeles and West Hollywood than it does about Long Beach, 22 miles to the south. Long Beach is where the greater gay community has always gone to have the sunny, carefree vacations that most people associate with Southern California. There’s antique shopping on 4th Street’s Retro Row, drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s, and plenty of gay bars. The stretch of Broadway between Alamitos and Cherry Avenue in the Alamitos Beach neighborhood is the epicenter of LGBTQ nightlife.
Gay Bars: Favorites include two-level disco Club Ripple, the classy Suite, and leather-clad Mineshaft. Saturdays are lesbian nights at the Executive Suite club.
Pride: Third weekend in May
Eugene, more than any place on this list, emphasizes the “T” in LGBTQ, with resources such as a monthly Let’s Talk Transgender Meetup group (you’ll need to be a member to get the exact address) and a lively slate of events organized by the Trans*Ponder advocacy group. Eugene isn’t heavy on nightlife; it’s more of a free-spirited city made for exploring Oregon's great outdoors and taking in cultural offerings—the University of Oregon attracts plenty of urbanity 100 miles outside of Portland. Attend a church service led by an out lesbian, enjoy a Sapphic choral performance, or join a gender-diverse yoga class.
Gay Bars: Spectrum is a bar/performance space that strives to be relevant for what it describes as the whole LGBTQIA+ community.
Pride: Second Saturday in August
Alaska’s biggest city does Pride in a big way, too, stretching it out over a week’s worth of nearly endless summer days. But it’s a welcoming choice the other 51 weeks out of the year as well. The Advocate recently dubbed Anchorage one of the "queerest cities in America." With about 300,000 residents, it’s the population center of Alaska, and the epicenter of the state’s LGBTQ life, home to statewide advocacy group Identity Alaska. It’s also where you’ll find cultural treasure Out North Contemporary Art House. This multimedia performance space started as an LGBTQ theater but has since expanded programming to include all “marginalized, unheard, unrepresented, and under-resourced” people—helping to make Anchorage a haven for visitors who consider themselves queer in any sense of the word.
Gay Bars: Clubby, drag-friendly Mad Myrna’s and low-key the Raven.
Pride: The entire last week of June
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