The 15 Gay Friendly Cities; Gayest Cities In America
Exploring the Top LGBTQ+ Destinations in the United States.
The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the phrase “gayest cities” is a place where there are a lot of gay people. The definition is similar, but not all gay people live in gay cities – some of them have residents who are straight.
Apart from the presence of gay people, gay neighborhoods differ greatly from conventional ones in terms of culture and customs. Gay cities may only be found in a few locations, but the vibe, atmosphere, and ambiance they emit are just PURR.
Gay communities vary from one another in the same way as cities do, each with unique amenities for its minority populations and intriguing places to see.
How gay-friendly these cities are might be considered more significant than the high percentages of LGBTQ+ people living there. The cities listed below also perform quite well in that regard.
These Are The USA’s Gayest Cities
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
San Francisco has been the center of the gay community in the US for a long time. Since the Gold Rush, this city has been known for its tolerance; nevertheless, following World War II, the metropolis genuinely turned into a homosexual city.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||6.2%|
|Best places to visit||The Castro and The Mission neighborhoods, South of Market Leather History Alley|
|Popular gay hangouts||Oasis, Q Bar|
|Gay events||Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco Pride, National Queer Arts Festival, San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, Frameline|
|Expense||San Francisco is known for being an expensive city|
San Francisco is home to The Castro, one of the most well-known LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in the world.
Overall, San Francisco is widely recognized as one of the top gay meccas in the world, boasting a high percentage of openly LGBTQ+ citizens and a rich history of queer culture and events.
LOS ANGELES, CA
One of the nation’s top entertainment cities, LA, has long been home to gay residents.
Gay life existed in Los Angeles for a very long time before it did in most other US cities, despite the Hays Code’s prohibition on references in movies and “immorality requirements” in artists’ contracts forcing them to keep their identities a secret.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Large queer community, with nearly 40% LGBTQ residents in West Hollywood|
|Best places to visit||West Hollywood, The Abbey, Mickey’s West Hollywood, Black Cat Tavern|
|Popular gay hangouts||The Abbey, Mickey’s West Hollywood, Black Cat Tavern|
|Gay events||Los Angeles Pride, Halloween Costume Carnaval|
|Expense||Los Angeles is known for being an expensive city|
Los Angeles is a top destination for LGBTQ+ travelers, with a large and vibrant queer community centered in West Hollywood.
Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, is not only one of the most famous cities in the world but also one of the gayest in the country.
The city has a sizable proportion of LGBTQ+ residents, and it is the birthplace of some of the most well-known gay parades.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||9.8%|
|Best places to visit||Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street Corridor, Capital Hill|
|Popular gay hangouts||Nellie’s Sports Bar, Pitchers, Town Danceboutique, Number Nine|
|Gay events||Capital Pride Festival and Parade, DC Black Pride, High Heel Race|
|Expense||Washington, DC is a moderately expensive city|
While Washington, DC is a moderately expensive city, it is still possible to enjoy its many attractions and experiences without breaking the bank.
NEW YORK CITY, NY
By now, everyone is aware that gay old New York City is among the friendliest cities in the entire world, let alone the USA. After all, it is the cradle of the American gay rights movement, the home of Broadway, and one of the world’s largest drag scenes.
The outstanding anti-discrimination laws of New York, which were the sixth state in the US to enact marriage equality, provide protection for queer individuals everywhere. Every year, the New York Pride Parade marches down Fifth Avenue before entering Greenwich Village.
|Criteria||New York City|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Largest number of LGBTQ+ residents in the US|
|Best places to visit||Chelsea, Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, East Village in Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen, Morningside Heights, Park Slope, Prospect Heights|
|Popular gay hangouts||Julius, Stonewall Inn, Lucky Cheng’s|
|Gay events||New York City Pride, Queer Liberation March|
|Expense||New York City is known for being an expensive city|
The Queens Pride Parade and the Queer Liberation March are also held in the city.
Despite not having a close relationship with the gay community as closely as the preceding three cities, Chicago is home to Boystown, one of the most famous gay neighborhoods in the country.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||5.2%, first recognized gay neighborhood in the US|
|Best places to visit||Boystown, Andersonville, Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, Gerber/Hart Library, Leather Archives and Museum, Legacy Walk|
|Popular gay hangouts||Jeffery Pub, Sidetrack, Roscoe’s Tavern|
|Gay events||Chicago Pride, Andersonville Midsommarfest|
|Expense||Chicago is a moderately expensive city|
Boystown, the city’s first recognized gay neighborhood, is a must-visit destination for LGBTQ+ visitors, along with Andersonville, the city’s other gay village.
Additionally, this city is host to one of the first LGBTQ+ parades, which debuted there in the 1970s.
MIAMI BEACH, FL
In addition to being one of the world’s most energetic and fun-loving towns, Miami Beach is well-known in the US for its raucous environment and exciting nightlife.
The LGBTQ+ population in this city is among the highest percentages of any American city, in addition to having the most active gay communities.
|Criteria||Miami Beach, FL|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||High LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 7-10%|
|Best places to visit||South Beach, Lincoln Road Mall, Art Deco Historic District, Ocean Drive|
|Popular gay hangouts||Twist, Palace, Score, The Cabaret South Beach|
|Gay events||Miami Beach Gay Pride, Winter Party Festival|
|Expense||Miami Beach is a moderately expensive city|
The city also hosts several major LGBTQ+ events each year, including Miami Beach Gay Pride and the Winter Party Festival.
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Much like the rest of the city’s tourism and entertainment, New Orleans’ gay community focuses the majority of its activities on Bourbon Street. Due to the city’s high concentration of gay bars, it can be difficult to walk a few blocks without encountering one.
|Criteria||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||High LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 5-7%|
|Best places to visit||Lavender Line, Cafe Lafitte in Exile, Bourbon Pub and Parade, Oz|
|Popular gay hangouts||Cafe Lafitte in Exile, Bourbon Pub and Parade, Oz|
|Gay events||Mardi Gras Bourbon Street Awards, Southern Decadence, Pride|
|Expense||New Orleans is a moderately affordable city|
Iconic gay bars in New Orleans include Cafe Lafitte in Exile, the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States, Bourbon Pub and Parade, one of the most popular gay clubs in the city, and Oz, a massive club that stays open 24 hours on Mondays and Tuesdays.
In addition to its yearly pride festivities, the city also organizes a few important LGBTQ+ events.
Atlanta is home to the Southern United States’ largest LGBTQ+ neighborhood. As a result, the community is well-represented throughout the city, however, historically the center of LGBTQ+ life in Atlanta has been in Midtown.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||High LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 12-14%|
|Best places to visit||Piedmont Park, BeltLine, Atlanta Botanical Garden, High Museum of Art|
|Popular gay hangouts||Blake’s on the Park, Bulldogs, Friends on Ponce, Mary’s|
|Gay events||Atlanta Pride, Out on Film, Black Gay Pride|
|Expense||Atlanta is a moderately affordable city|
Atlanta Black Pride, the largest black gay parade in the world with over 100,000 spectators, is one of the pride marches organized by the city.
Portland, which is noted for having a sizable liberal-minded populace, is well-known for its LGBTQ-inclusiveness, as evidenced by the vibrant community.
One of the gayest cities in America, the city is home to some of the most well-known gay and lesbian bars in the nation.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||High LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 5-6%|
|Best places to visit||Powell’s City of Books, Washington Park, Portland Art Museum, Voodoo Doughnut|
|Popular gay hangouts||Darcelle XV Showplace, Stag PDX, Scandals, CC Slaughters|
|Gay events||Peacock in the Park, Portland Queer Film Festival, Queer Horror, Portland Pride|
|Expense||Portland is a moderately affordable city with relatively lower cost of living compared to other major cities|
The city is also known for its outdoor recreational opportunities, with nearby hiking trails, beaches, and forests.
SAN DIEGO, CA
The LGBTQ+ community still relies heavily on San Diego’s Hillcrest, despite the fact that gay communities are disappearing in many other cities.
Hillcrest has managed to hold onto its status as one of the gay centers in California because San Diego has long had various groups, each with its own identities.
|City||San Diego, CA|
|Population||1.4 million (approx.)|
|Gay Events||San Diego Pride, Hillcrest Mardi Gras|
|Popular Gay Hangouts||The Rail, Rich’s San Diego, Flicks, Gossip Grill|
|Cost of Living||Higher than the national average|
|Best Places to Visit||Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego Zoo, Coronado Beach|
Other popular gay-friendly neighborhoods in San Diego include North Park and South Park.
Omaha passed a statute that’s been in effect for eight years to stop discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in both public and private settings.
In spite of the fact that much more work needs to be done, this law allows gays to prosper in this city. Compared to other major cities, Omaha has a relatively lower cost of living and is considered a relatively affordable place to live.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Estimated to be around 3-4%|
|Best places to visit||Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Joslyn Art Museum, Old Market|
|Popular gay hangouts||The Max, Flixx Video Bar, The Omaha Mining Company, The Backline|
|Gay events||Heartland Pride Festival and Parade, River City Pride Festival|
|Expense||Omaha is an affordable city with a relatively low cost of living|
While Omaha may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking of gay travel destinations, it’s definitely worth considering for its welcoming atmosphere, diverse community, and unique attractions.
Another Californian city made this list because, despite the yearly population growth that is constant, the LGBTQ+ community there is extremely tolerant.
It is one of the few cities on this list where there are still a significant number of LGBTQ+ residents despite a decline in the percentage of the gay population.
The city is also home to numerous museums, including the Crocker Art Museum, the California State Railroad Museum, and the California State Capitol Museum.
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||4.8%|
|Best places to visit||California State Capitol Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Old Sacramento, American River Bike Trail|
|Popular gay hangouts||The Depot, Badlands, Faces Nightclub, The Bolt|
|Gay events||Sacramento Pride Festival and Parade, Rainbow Festival, Lavender Heights Halloween Block Party, Sacramento International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival|
|Expense||Sacramento has a moderate cost of living, with relatively affordable housing and dining options.|
In addition to the ones listed in the table, some other popular gay hangouts in Sacramento include Badlands Sacramento, Faces Nightclub, and The Depot.
Related Article: Gayest Cities In America
SALT LAKE CITY, UT
You might not have anticipated seeing Salt Lake City on our list as it is situated in a conservative state like Utah.
Due to its left-wing stance and acceptance of other cultures and sexual preferences, the city does defy the trend to some extent, making it a popular place for LGBTQ+ people to relocate.
|Criteria||Salt Lake City, UT|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Estimated to be around 4-5% of the total population|
|Best places to visit||Temple Square, Utah State Capitol, Natural History Museum of Utah, Red Butte Garden and Arboretum|
|Popular gay hangouts||The Sun Trapp, The Westerner, Club Try-Angles, Metro Music Hall|
|Gay events||Utah Pride Festival, Utah Gay Ski Week, Damn These Heels LGBTQ Film Festival|
|Expense||Salt Lake City is a moderately affordable city with a lower cost of living compared to other major cities|
The Salt Lake City gay nightlife scene is centered around the neighborhood of Marmalade, with popular spots like The Sun Trapp and Club Try-Angles.
SAN JOSE, CA
San Jose, one of the most expensive places to live, has a fairly significant LGBTQ+ community that has grown steadily over the years.
This Californian city provides a welcoming, prosperous neighborhood for LGBTQ+ people to live in, similar to the cities previously described.
|Criteria||San Jose, CA|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Large LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 5-6%|
|Best places to visit||Winchester Mystery House, Santana Row, Japanese Friendship Garden, Tech Museum of Innovation|
|Popular gay hangouts||Renegades, Splash, The Bears Lair, The Watergarden Bathhouse|
|Gay events||Silicon Valley Pride, Day of Remembrance, Transgender Day of Visibility, Rainbow Chamber Silicon Valley Gala|
|Expense||San Jose is a relatively expensive city with a higher cost of living compared to other major cities in California.|
While San Jose can be relatively expensive, with high costs for housing and dining, there are also many affordable and free activities to enjoy, such as hiking and exploring the city’s parks and public spaces.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
The city of Oklahoma, one of the most well-known cities in the Southern Central region of the US, is probably the most unexpected inclusion on the list.
Oklahoma City, which is known for its legendary southern cowboy culture, has the largest LGBTQ+ community in the country’s central region.
|Criteria||Oklahoma City, OK|
|Percentage of LGBTQ+ population||Moderate LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be around 4-5%|
|Best places to visit||Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Myriad Botanical Gardens, Paseo Arts District, Bricktown|
|Popular gay hangouts||Apothecary 39, Finishline, Partners, Phoenix Rising OKC|
|Gay events||OKC Pride, Red Tie Night, Mister Gay Oklahoma USofA|
|Expense||Oklahoma City has a lower cost of living compared to other major cities|
Oklahoma City is home to the annual OKC Pride Festival, which takes place in June and includes a parade, live entertainment, and a street festival.
The Bottom Line
Except for one or two cities, most of the cities on it are liberally inclined cities. California, which has five of the cities on this list and was a forerunner in the gay rights movement, is by far the most gay-friendly state in the United States.
If traveling and camping is your thing, check out this handy list of the best the USA has to offer. The IGLTA also offers some handy tips for when you travel anywhere as an LGBTQ+ person.