The USA has become a friendlier place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community since 2003 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Over 35 states, together with the District of Columbia, have since followed suit in this progressive movement.

    Various US cities have welcomed the LGBT community with open arms, celebrating the community with colorful parades, events, and establishments catering specifically to this group. Some metropolitan areas are hubs that are suitable for gay-friendly living, travel, and retirement. From Washington DC to New York, here’s our guide to the most LGBT-friendly places in the USA.


    San Francisco, California

    The gay capital of the world

    San Francisco has long been considered one of America’s most LGBT-friendly cities. Nicknamed ‘the gay capital of the world’, San Fran is home to one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the country. There are rainbow-clad streets, gay-friendly districts, and some of the most prominent LGBT festivals and celebrations.

    San Francisco’s Pride Festival takes places every June and welcomes over 50,000 people from around the world. Supporters, performers and vendors alike come together during this 2-day event to celebrate the LGBT community. Some of the most popular gay-friendly venues in San Francisco include the Castro District, Mission Dolores Park, and Juhu Beach Club.

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    New Orleans, Louisiana

    Enjoy 6 days of parades at Southern Decadence

    New Orleans is home to Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, and some of the best LGBT-friendly tourism in the USA. Southern Decadence, the largest LGBT celebration in the South, began in 1972 as a simple going-away party. It has since expanded into a 6-day event that takes place over the Labor Day weekend, complete with drag queens, colorful parades, and celebrity performances.

    Diversity is a big aspect of New Orleans, and it’s most prevalent in the French Quarter’s ‘Lavender Line’, a stretch of St Ann Street full of LGBT-friendly bars. Here, you’ll find Café Lafitte’s in Exile (one of the oldest gay bars in the USA), Lucille’s Golden Lantern, The Oz, and Mag’s 940.

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    photo by MusikAnimal (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Portland, Oregon

    Enjoy a wide range of films at the Portland Queer Film Festival

    Portland is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the USA – this northwest queer oasis is home to a population where over 5% of people identify as LGBT, which is much higher than the national average. Thanks to the city’s progressive political views and accepting attitude, Portland’s LGBT community enjoys a variety of gay bars, parades, and even film festivals.

    Portland’s Pride Festival includes 3 days of festivities at Waterfront Park, followed by Peacock in the Park, a beloved drag show that takes place at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater. The Portland Queer Film Festival takes place in October at Movie theater 21 and highlights the cinematic contributions of LGBTQ filmmakers.

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    New York City, New York

    Enjoy parades and parties at NYC Pride March

    New York City is known as one of the earliest LGBT hubs in the US, with gay-rights protests beginning as early as 1969 when the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village kicked off the modern gay rights movement we recognize today. New York City is home to more than 270,000 self-identifying gay and bisexual individuals, as well as over 50,000 transgender people (the largest in the country).

    New York City celebrates its LGBT community every June during the NYC Pride March when colorful floats parade down Fifth Avenue, flanked by performers, supporters, gay-friendly sponsors. The city also hosts the New York City Drag March, Queens Pride Parade, and Youth Pride.

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    Orlando, Florida

    Celebrate Disney’s Gay Days and Come Out with Pride

    Orlando’s thriving LGBT community is the 3rd largest in the USA, and the biggest in the state of Florida. With widely popular events such as Disney’s Gay Days and Come Out with Pride, it’s no surprise why Orlando is so popular with LGBT locals and travelers.

    Disney’s Gay Days is a week-long celebration that takes place every August at Magic Kingdom, where over 50,000 attendees dressed up in red in support of the LGBT community. Come Out with Pride is a mile-long parade through Downtown Orlando, celebrating the LGBT community and honoring the 49 lives lost during the 2016 tragedy at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub.

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    Palm Springs, California

    Home to the first all-LGBT city council in the USA

    Palm Springs, with its vibrant gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, is a well-known LGBT travel destination in the USA. You’ll have plenty to enjoy around town, including gay-friendly hotels, events, and nightlife options. Palm Springs is also home to America’s first-ever all-LGBT city council.

    The lesbian community is particularly well-represented in Palm Springs, with events such as the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend and White Party. Some of the best gay bars in Palm Springs include Toucans Tiki Lounge and Starlite Lounge, as well as The Terra Cotta Resort which doubles as a clothing-optional, adults-only lodging option.

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    Miami Beach, Florida

    Home to dozens of gay-friendly bars and clubs

    The Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade takes over the city every year, with over 145,000 people coming out to celebrate the LGBT community. This 2-day event takes place in April, transforming the city into a rainbow-colored LGBT haven. Miami Beach also has plenty of annual events such as The Winter Party, The OutShine Film Festival, and The Miami Recognition Dinner.

    Miami’s drag scene has grown significantly over the past few years, with ‘queer parties’ and ‘queer nights’ popping up in clubs and bars across town. Some of the most popular gay bars in Miami include Twist, Palace, WaterLOO, and The Manor.

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    Boston, Massachusetts

    The first state in the USA to legalize same-sex marriage

    Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, and they sure know how to celebrate that milestone. The popular Boston Gay Pride Festival is preceded every year by a whole week of events paying tribute to the community's diversity and social progress.

    Rainbow flags decorate many streetlights and buildings, while straight bars and lounges host ‘gay nights’ throughout the month of June. Boston has several neighborhoods with sizable LGBT populations, with South End being one of the most notable, as well as Savin Hill and Melville Park.

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    Washington DC, District of Columbia

    Home of the Capital Pride Festival

    The nation’s capital is home to a vibrant LGBT community, complete with historic LGBT sites, clubs, bars, and festivals. Dupont Circle is where Lambda Rising, the city’s first gay bookstore, opened back in 1974, while Logan Circle and Adams Morgan are home to plenty of queer-friendly establishments that suit just about any alternate lifestyle.

    Capital Pride is Washington DC’s largest pride festival, taking place every June and showcasing more than 200 rainbow-colored parade floats. Allies, politicians, and local businesses from all over the state come together to celebrate the capital’s LGBT community. In 2015, the White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

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    West Palm Beach, Florida

    Voted one of the best places to retire for LGBTs

    West Palm Beach is one of the best cities for LGBT people to retire. With over 65 km of fine-sand beaches and a small but thriving gay nightlife, the city is also a popular vacation spot for many people, regardless of sexual orientation. Palm Beach Pride, formally known as PrideFest of Lake Worth, has grown from a small gathering to the second-largest event of its kind in South Florida.

    Colorful parades and a diverse line-up of live entertainment take this celebration well into the night. The award-winning International Gay Polo Tournament also takes place in West Palm Beach, kicking off the annual polo season every April.

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    Fiorella Bertola | Contributing Writer

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