1. Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and West Village, New York
History: It all began with Stonewall. New York’s gay life has basically taken over the city.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: New York City Pride
Why Visit: New York is the center of the gay universe. There are so many gays, they take up three neighborhoods — nearly half of lower Manhattan. You can pop into the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, party in one of Hell’s Kitchen’s 23 bars, or even venture into Brooklyn to Sugarland Nightclub. There’s a lot to do, so plan to stay a while. You’ll find that the East Village and just about every neighborhood has a unique gay culture, so do some exploring.
2. Nollendorfplatz, Berlin
History: This neighborhood has a long history of being the gay center of Berlin. It was the center of the city’s sexual liberation movement in the early 1900s.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest or Mr. Leather Berlin
Why Visit: LEATHER DADDY UNIVERSE. HELLO. Nollendorfplatz is known for its gay leather scene. There are many leather bars and clubs like CDL, Böse Buben, Darkroom, and the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Bull. If leather isn’t your thing, Berghain and mega club Goya are great gay spots.
3. Soho, London
History: Soho was mostly known for its sex shops, but over the years has really become the upscale center of west London nightlife.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Saturday night at G-A-Y Bar
Why Visit: Soho is super fun and super fancy. You can HARDCORE party at Heaven or G-A-Y or catch a show because Soho is right in the thick of London’s theater district. If you get lucky at G-A-Y, you might see Kylie Minogue or some other British pop royalty hanging out. Even the Spice Girls have performed at G-A-Y. Soho’s not far from Hyde Park, which is one of London’s most beautiful parks. It is huge and you can get lost for hours wandering around.
4. Le Marais, Paris
History: The Marais sits in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris and is filled with numerous Parisian cathedrals and parks. The neighborhood has a large Jewish population, and has been home to a many art spaces and a growing gay population since the ’80s.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Locking your love on the Seine or Flash Cocotte
Why Visit: COUPLES, THIS ONE IS FOR YOU. Lock your love on the bridge overlooking the Seine. Be cute and rent Velib bikes and tour Paris. Or sit in café La Pearl for hours and people watch. Paris is the place to spend lots of quality time together. There are also cool monthly gay parties around Paris, like Flash Cocotte, that get really wild. The Centre Pompidou museum is also near the Marais; if you ride the elevator up, you can see an unbelievable view of the city.
5. Palermo, Buenos Aires
History: Palermo is the largest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The gay area is in the southwestern part of the neighborhood, and locals call it Soho, after London’s gayborhood. Palermo’s traditional low houses have been made into boutiques and bars, creating a bohemian vibe. Argentina was also the first South American country to allow same-sex marriages.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Fiesta Plop
Why Visit: Palermo’s nightlife is super intense and goes late into the morning. There are tons of shops and cafés, and a lot of young people hanging out in the streets. Aspen Square has a great market where you can shop and hang out. Palermo is super fashionable and the gays take how they look very seriously — so make sure you do too. Palermo also has a a lot of different types of parties: There’s the Axel Pool Party on Sundays, or if you are looking for a more relaxed and mixed crowd, Sitges is super chill.
6. Boystown and Andersonville, Chicago
History: Boystown was the first officially recognized gay village in the United States. It’s one of the most important cultural centers for LGBT people in the country.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Market Days
Why Visit: You can party at one of the many bars on Halsted street like Minibar, Scarlet, Spin, or Roscoe’s. During the day, there are great bookshops and restaurants worth visiting along Broadway Avenue. The Center on Halsted is the largest gay center in the Midwest, and offers classes and a place to hang out and meet new people. Boystown is also really close to Lake Michigan and a walk along the lake offers really amazing views of the city. If you venture north of Boystown, Andersonville is considered the lesbian neighborhood in Chicago. Andersonville has even cuter shops and cafés. Be sure to check out Hamburger Mary’s for drag night!
7. DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C.
History: Dupont is a part of the “Old City” of Washington, D.C., that was planned by architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. You can find the gay bookstores and bars right next to Embassy Row, where all the foreign embassies are. Since the ’70s, Dupont has been D.C.’s gay center. The bookstore Lambda Rising opened in 1974.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: High Heel Drag Race
Why Visit: Dupont Circle is BEAUTIFUL. If you need to meet a power gay, D.C. is the place for you! You can find the power gays hanging out at Cobalt or Nelly’s. If you want to dance Town Dance Boutique is a mega club off U Street. D.C. can also be a great place to take a gay family vacation. You and the kids can catch up on U.S. History and explore the beautiful Rock Creek Park. The museums on the National Mall offer a lot of family programing. But if you happen to be in D.C. during Halloween, there is nothing better than watching drag queens sprint in high heels down 17th Street. D.C. is also very welcoming of the trans community.
8. Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans
History: Faubourg Marigny is one of the most colorful neighborhoods in New Orleans; the architecture borrows heavily from the colonial French and Spanish and has elements of the Caribbean. The neighborhood is one of the starting points for Mardi Gras festival, and sits just below the French Quarter.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Mardi Gras
Why Visit: The live music on Frenchman Street is amazing. Blue Nile, DBA, and Buffa’s Lounge all have great live music. It shares some of the vibes of the French Quarter but it is less touristy. Marigny have great Creole cottages converted into bed-and-breakfasts. Washington Square Park is the heart of the neighborhood, great for reading in the park. Cafe Istanbul is a theater space with a bar, and they have great live performances and dance parties.
9. Montrose, Houston
History: Montrose was named one of the 10 great neighborhoods in America. It has developed into the culture center of Houston. During the 1960s and 1970s, Montrose became a center for the burgeoning counterculture movement, with street musicians, alternative community centers and hippie communes, head shops, and artist studios. In the 1970s, there were 30–40 gay bars in Montrose.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: TC’s Show Bar Drag Show
Why Visit: This is a great place for the art crowd. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum Houston are both in Montrose, along with the Rothko Chapel and a host of free galleries. Montrose also has great thrift shops like Westheimer Curve, and its folk music scene is worth checking out. Dive bars like Lola’s Depot, West Alabama Ice House, and Poison Girl co-sign the area’s artsy feel.
10. Fruit Loop, Las Vegas
History: Gay Days Las Vegas is thrown by the same organizers who started Gay Days Orlando. This is a week-long celebration.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Gay Days
Why Visit: What happens in gay Vegas stays in gay Vegas. During Gay Days you can do just about anything. The casinos and hotels host special events like pool parties, dinners, and DJ sets. Gay Days Las Vegas welcomes 35,000-plus gays to the city. It’s a party for sure and great for a weekend away with friends.
11. Downtown Asheville
History: Downtown Asheville has evolved into a lesbian-friendly community. Asheville is one of the most diverse and tolerant cities in the southern United States. It is home to Lesbians in the Mountains, Sheville After Dark, and where the website of ALPS (Association of Lesbian Professionals) is based. Asheville has some of the most active lesbian groups in the country.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Herstory Asheville Walking Tour
Why Visit: Great for lesbians. The live music scene is bustling, and there are often book readings and slam poetry events at Malaprop’s Bookstore, as well as the walking tour Herstory Asheville that focuses on exploring how women played a vital role in shaping the city. Blue Ridge National Park is also nearby, if you want to spend some quality time in nature with your partner.
12. Jamaica Plain, Boston
History: The South End is the more established gay area in Boston. But Jamaica Plain is an up-and-coming area for young queer people of color. Historically Jamaica Plain has been home to Boston’s Latino and Hispanic populations.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: Queereoke
Why Visit: Great spaces for queer people of color! It’s a little outside of the city and sits on Jamaica Pond. Centre Street offers a lot of restaurants and cafés like Centre Street Café where gays and lesbians hang out. The Milkyway and Midway are both queer spaces and the karaoke at Midway is super queer.
13. The Castro, San Francisco
History: The Castro was made famous by Harvey Milk, who was elected to the city council to represent the neighborhood in the 1970s as the first openly gay politician in California. Since then, the area has played an important role in being a symbol of gender liberation in the United States.
LGBT Event You Can’t Miss: The Castro Street Fair
Why Visit: The Castro is the gay holy land. San Francisco doesn’t have any laws baring nudity and the gays at Pride and The Castro Street Fair usually get very naked. El Rio’s parties are great: Swagger Like Us (queer hip-hop party), Daytime Realness, and Hard French are good dance parties. For the leather crowd, The Eagle and Powerhouse are in Folsom.