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More and more people feel safe and accepted enough to come out, supported by communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex folks, along with straight allies.
According to Pew Research Center, 42% of Americans know someone who is transgender, and 26% say they know someone who identifies as nonbinary. A 2019 study also conducted by Pew showed that most Americans support gay marriage, with 61% of the population showing support.
But while the United States has come a long way in some respects, LGBTQ+ individuals still suffer discrimination, harassment, and varying levels of legal protection from state to state. That’s why it’s important to identify communities and places where LBGTQ+ people can feel comfortable expressing their true identities in public. This is a list of some of America’s friendliest cities for LGBTQ+ folks.
Each of these cities is home to a large population of people who identify as LGBTQ+. The queer communities in these areas are diverse and influential, and contribute significantly to the city’s culture. From American gay culture metropolises like San Francisco to the lesser known Gayest City in America, Provincetown, Massachusetts, all of these cities have vibrant LGBTQ+ communities that will make LGBTQ+ daters feel safe, celebrated, and affirmed while dating.
Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and nonbinary daters will find each of these cities have accepting locals, plenty of LGBTQ+ nightlife, and tons of food, drinks, and attractions. These cities are ideal for going on first dates as an LGBTQ+ person and for gay couples with wanderlust. Each city shows up with Pride in its own special way, bolstered by open-mindedness and hospitality.
San Francisco has long been regarded as one of the United State’s gay culture hubs. With a storied history in LGBTQ+ activism, from the pre-Stonewall Compton Cafeteria riot in 1966 to the White Night Riots in 1979, San Francisco has been a place where LGBTQ+ Americans flock for decades. The advances made for queer folks in the Golden City have contributed to the nationwide growth of LGBTQ+ acceptance.
San Francisco has several distinct neighborhoods that couples can enjoy. The Marina attracts a young and trendy crowd with plenty of dining and shopping options and bay views. The Presidio is a nearly three-square-mile former military base transformed into a park. The park offers one-of-a-kind views of the iconic bridge, the water, and the steep hills across the bay.
San Francisco has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor activities, despite its sprawling metropolitan feel. LGBTQ+ couples can enjoy a Sunset Tour cruise and experience the magic of a West Coast sunset together. Couples can enjoy picnics, outdoor marketplaces, and plenty of areas to take a stroll.
Lovers can take wine tours through the city, which has been touted as a wine lover’s town. There are many wine bars to choose from across San Francisco’s neighborhoods, all offering unique city views and global wine selections. Couples who prefer cocktails will find a romantic dining experience paired with an exquisite beverage program at Top of the Mark. The restaurant is known for its martinis and bringing beautiful aerial views of the SF skyline.
Nightlife in San Francisco is vibrant and there’re so many LGBTQ+ bars to choose from. Oasis is a gay club located in a former bathhouse. The club is known for its drag performances and comedy shows. The club hosts Cabaret, local and visiting drag stars, and DJs. Twin Peaks Tavern is an iconic SF gay bar located in the Castro neighborhood, an LGBTQ+ community center and cultural hub.
LGBTQ+ couples will be able to find something they love in San Francisco. From stunning outdoor views to bumping nightlife, there’s something for everyone. The LGBTQ+ community is thriving and welcoming, so a like-minded group will embrace couples.
The United State’s capital is known for being particularly LGBTQ+ friendly, with a diverse and energetic queer community that greatly contributes to the city’s art, nightlife, and culture. Queer couples will find Washington, D.C. to be multicultural, very gay-friendly, and full of perfect date night activities, no matter their interests.
Couples can explore Dupont Circle and 17th Street, which is home to a stretch of gay-owned businesses. The area has bistros, bars, boutiques, and museums, making it an all-in-one stop just right for a dynamic date night. Dupont Circle is home to many iconic D.C. museums, making it a perfect location for art lovers.
Penn Quarter and Chinatown are two popular neighborhoods known for attracting foodies, sports fans, and a young crowd. Museum enthusiasts can explore the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the same building. There are also several performing arts venues in Penn Quarter, so couples can catch a show, whether performed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington or the cast at the Studio Theatre.
Couples can investigate the National Museum of American History, which has compelling popular cultural artifacts like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” Prince’s Yellow Cloud electric guitar, and the desk the Declaration of Independence was written on.
Couples who love to club can head downtown to Green Lantern, one of D.C.’s most popular gay clubs. One Yelp review says, “Best gay bar in D.C.! Very friendly staff. Shirtless nights are always fun.” D.C. is a diverse city packed with amazing date opportunities for LGBTQ+ couples. The queer community in the city is large and proud and ready to show off everything D.C. has to offer.
In Portland, “weird” is never an insult. The city’s unique and diverse culture makes it a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ couples. Portland has a storied history of LGBTQ+ rights activism as the first major city to elect an openly gay mayor – Sam Adams — in 2008. Rose City is home to drag queens, gay nightlife, sports leagues, and community organizations, so no matter what a couple is into, they can find it in Portland.
LGBTQ+ couples going on a first date in Portland can eat, drink, or play. GayPDX is Portland’s gay directory where couples can find their ideal gay-owned establishment. For food, couples can try Zenbu Lounge, an LGBTQ-owned sushi and small plates spot. The restaurant is also known for its selection of Japanese whisky.
After dinner, couples can stop by one of the many LGBTQ+ bars in the area. Scandals is one of Portland’s oldest gay bars, founded in 1979. The bar is self-described as being Portland’s gay “Cheers,” and aims to nurture a comfortable yet energetic vibe. Santé Bar serves up craft cocktails, good bar conversations, and hosts drag shows monthly.
In the mood for a show? Couples who love drag can see Darcelle XV, named by Guinness World Records in 2018 as the Oldest Working Drag Queen. Darcelle is a legend of Portland’s LGBTQ+ entertainment scene and the Darcelle XV Showplace is the oldest continuously running cabaret in the United States. When considering Portland’s historic roots and current pride events, it’s no surprise this Oregon gem remains one of the country’s friendliest cities for queer couples.
While Provincetown may feel random on this list of mostly highly populated metropolitan areas, the town is a haven for LGBTQ+ daters. The town has a population of under 3,000 people and a vibrant, historical, and diverse LGBTQ+ scene. Charles Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899, which attracted many artists and makers to the city. Some of these people were early LGBTQ+ activists.
With the school as its foundation, LGBTQ+ communities developed in Provincetown and the town became a cradle for drag, trans activism, and feminist thought. Today, Provincetown has the highest rate of same-sex couples of any municipality in the country. This means visiting couples will be in America’s gayest town.
While June is certainly the most jam-packed month, with Pride celebrations happening at every moment, Provincetown celebrates its LGBTQ+ community year-round. Bear Week is the largest gathering of bears in the world, while Girl Splash is the biggest summer event for women in Provincetown. During the holidays, queer couples can enjoy Holly Folly, Provincetown’s annual LGBTQ+ holiday-themed festival.
Surrounded by beautiful beaches and quintessential Cape Cod architecture, Provincetown is a beautiful oceanside haven for the LGBTQ+ community. Couples can explore, party, or stroll throughout the town and enjoy the scenic views, made all the more beautiful by the rainbow flags that wave on boats and doorways throughout Provincetown.
Home of Disney World and a dynamic queer community, Orlando is a one-stop date night destination. The city is highly inclusive and dedicated to supporting and serving the LGBTQ+ community, despite the current political environment in Florida. Orlando is multicultural and boasts distinct neighborhoods, delicious food, and nearby outdoor activities beyond theme parks and other tourist attractions.
Orlando hosts special events throughout the year to celebrate the queer community. Of course, June is the busiest month, with Pride activities, parades, and shows nearly every day. GayDays Orlando is one of the world’s largest LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations and takes place the first week of Pride Month. Orlando remembers the Pulse nightclub terror attack every year and honors the 49 people who lost their lives on June 12, 2016.
LGBTQ+ couples can visit the Pulse Memorial, which is in the same location as the nightclub. It is a place for quiet reflection and remembrance, and the memorial event hosted during Pride Month is designed to spread a message of love, unity, acceptance, and courage.
Couples can eat at one of many LGBTQ-owned establishments, like Hamburger Mary’s, which hosts the best drag brunch spot in town. Hamburger Mary’s hosts drag nearly every day and keeps a menu of tasty appetizers, burgers, and desserts. LGBTQ+ couples will find Orlando has so much to offer, from iconic amusement parks to world-class drag to a one-of-a-kind queer community.
Indianapolis has enjoyed a significant revitalization in the past years and now sports a downtown area with museums, restaurants, sports stadiums, and nightlife. This revitalization process is one of the most significant that’s ever been done in the Midwest, so visiting LGBTQ+ couples are sure to experience the best of what the Heartland has to offer.
Couples who enjoy theater and live performances will find plenty in Indy. The Mass Ave Arts District is popular among the LGBTQ+ community and is home to the iconic Indiana Repertory Theatre and the Phoenix Theatre.
The Mass Ave Arts District is along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which is a 7.5-mile mixed-use path for walkers and bikers. The trail connects the five downtown Indianapolis districts, and couples can rent bikes at different spots.
Downtown Indianapolis is also home to White River State Park, the nation’s only cultural urban state park. The park blends green space, city attractions including the zoo, several museums, and a premier outdoor concert venue.
Indy’s north side is the best spot for LGBTQ+ nightlife. Gregs Our Place is one of the city’s longest-running gay bars, serving cold beer and hosting nightly entertainment. Tini is a martini bar on Mass Ave that’s known for its huge music video wall, which plays music videos from a themed genre every night.
Austin is one of the safest cities for LGBTQ+ folks in the country, at least according to the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, which scored the city with a perfect 100. The LGBTQ+ community is integrated throughout the city, influencing so much of ATX’s arts scene and culture.
LGBTQ+ couples planning a coffee date can stop at Radio Coffee & Beer, which is on the southside of the city and paired with Veracruz All Natural food truck. Veracruz specializes in authentic, fresh tacos always made with fresh ingredients that are locally sourced if possible.
Austin couples who want to dip their toe in adventure can rent a kayak or paddleboard and spend some time on Lady Bird Lake. The lake is encircled by Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, where couples can have a date walking through stunning greenery.
Couples can have dinner at gay-owned Arlo Grey, the debut restaurant helmed by Kristen Kish, winner of “Top Chef” season 10. Kristen combines her culinary training in French and Italian traditions with the ingredients of the Lone Star State. When it’s time to hit the clubs, couples can check out Highland Lounge, Oilcan Harry’s, or The Iron Bear.
One of Alberqueque’s biggest draws is its diverse and dynamic population, and LGBTQ+ folks are a big part of that. The city’s LGBTQ+ community lives, works, and plays throughout the entire city, creating an LGBTQ+ scene that’s integrated into the city’s broader culture.
ABQ is a city that celebrates art in all its forms, from visual arts to theater to live music performances. Couples can plan a museum date night and check out the A. Hurd Gallery, an independently owned gallery featuring the work of gay artist Anthony Hurd.
The art doesn’t stop there, with murals and street art throughout Downtown and the Nob Hill neighborhood. Couples can have a coffee at Humble Coffee, which has a spot Downtown. Rio Bravo Brewing is also Downtown, located in a historic warehouse. Couples can enjoy world-class beers and delicious food, including brunch, lunch, and dinner menus.
Effex Nightclub and Sidewinders are two of Albuquerque’s gay-friendly nightlife hot spots. Sidewinders has dancing, karaoke, pool, and drag – what more could one ask for? ABQ also celebrates Pride month every June with weekend celebrations that include DJs, art, performances, and markets.
Minneapolis is known for its rich arts scene and progressive attitude – of course LGBTQ+ culture abounds! The City of the Lakes offers big-city attractions like one-of-a-kind nightlife and top-notch live musical and theater performances.
In Uptown, couples can grab some breakfast bites and coffee at French Meadow Cafe, which is farm-to-table and friendly to various dietary restrictions. Wise Acre Eatery is another tasty option. Its menu is fresh, and most ingredients are sourced from their own farm, just outside the city in Plato, Minnesota.
It’s easy to explore the arts in Minneapolis. Couples can see a show at Penumbra Theatre, a professional theater company that stages productions that explore the Black American experience. The Walker Art Center is home to many visual and video art pieces and offers a reflective and engaging experience.
For a fun date night, couples can check out Up-Down, an arcade bar in Uptown. The bar has dozens of arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s, including pinball machines, skeeball alleys, and Nintendo 64 gaming. All games cost only 25 cents, and the drink menu is extensive.
Denver is a great place for LGBTQ+ daters, as the city is multicultural, accepting, and one of the most gay-friendly spots in the nation. From diverse local art scenes to Rocky Mountain outdoor adventure, Denver has a lot to offer for queer couples and daters.
Love beer? Denver’s the right place. Denver is home to the Coors brand and top-tier local breweries, wineries, and cideries. Denver is home to more than 148 craft breweries, meaning there truly is a drink for everyone. Couples can use the interactive Denver Beer Trail to help them plan their brewery crawl.
Couples can have brunch at Root Down, a spot in the hip Highlands neighborhood that uses fresh and local ingredients. Closer to downtown there’s Snooze, a joint known for its sweet potato pancakes. The Cherry Creek neighborhood has lots of fine shopping and locally-owned boutiques for couples needing some retail therapy at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. And if you get hungry, stop by Cherry Cricket for classic American fare, including mouthwatering burgers.
Denver is home to thousands of excellent restaurants offering every imaginable fare, from Italian-American steakhouses to premier Japanese cuisine. If dancing is the move after dinner, LGBTQ+ couples have tons of gay bars and clubs to choose from. Tracks is perhaps the city’s most popular, with huge dance floors and live dancers.
Atlanta is widely regarded as the cultural capital of the American Southeast, and with that comes a vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ community and culture. Atlanta boasts inclusive establishments, beautiful parks, plenty of big-city attractions, and tons of queer nightlife. From Midtown to East Atlanta, great date night attractions await any kind of couple.
Midtown is an LGBTQ+ hub and the “Heart of the Arts” in Atlanta. Midtown is Atlanta’s original ‘gayborhood,’ and this trend continues. Couples will find the Botanical Gardens, Piedmont Park, the High Museum, and the iconic Fox Theatre, all in Midtown.
Grant Park and Cabbagetown are industrial, historic areas imbued with Atlanta culture. LGBTQ+ couples can try Agave and Tin Lizzy’s, two restaurants in these neighborhoods with many queer clientele. Couples can walk through Oakland Cemetery or through the tree-lined streets of Grant Park with its many beautiful Victorian homes.
Couples who love to go out on the town for date night are in the right city. Blake’s on the Park is in Midtown and is one of the most popular bars for gay men in Atlanta. Mary’s is in East Atlanta Village and hosts amazing dancing with an upstairs balcony and bar area. Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, AKA Church, is a multistory gay bar with ping-pong tables and unbeatable, bustling vibes.
Cities that are safe for and welcoming to LGBTQ+ couples signal that the city and people there celebrate diversity. While some states are friendlier, safer, and more accepting than others, metropolitan areas across the country offer community and safe spaces for queer people.
Despite the reality of some places being safer than others for LGBTQ+ individuals is difficult to accept, the communities that grow in these safe cities are colorful, warm, and accepting. LGBTQ+ acceptance among a population speaks to its progressiveness and inclusivity, which are important for building safer communities.