Interesting Cities to Visit in the United States
The United States is such a large country that it’s nearly impossible to narrow down all the highlights into a single article. With that being said, here are a few of the largest and most well-known cities.
New York City is one of the most iconic cities in the world. It is a true melting pot of neighborhoods and cultures with more than one-third of the population made up of immigrants to the United States. Some of America’s most well-known symbols are located in New York City as well as some of the most iconic gay landmarks in the world. Pay your respects at the Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 uprising launched the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building observation deck for a skyline photo shoot. Visit the Christopher Street Pier. Try your hand at dominoes with groups of locals in Brooklyn. Explore the Central Park zoo. Cruise Hell's Kitchen’s famous gay bars. Visit Lady Liberty just south of Manhattan. Or for a more local experience, take the subway into Queens for some jerk chicken in Jamaica, hit up a Yankees game in the Bronx or pay homage to local street artists in Bushwick. No matter what you do, New York City is guaranteed to be a good time.
Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and home to the U.S. federal government. Washington D.C. is also known for its vast and rich arts and cultural scene. With more than 200 different museums, many of which are free or very low cost, Washington D.C. makes for an excellent vacation for the art and history lover. The Smithsonian Institution consists of 17 of the most well-known museums and galleries in the world. Have chili at the local favorite Ben’s Chili Bowl, and while you’re in town make sure to grab a drink at the gay sports bar Nelly’s or dance all night at the queer women’s party, The Coven.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the United States and is known as the home to the entertainment industry. Within Los Angeles there are dozens of neighborhoods. Check out West Hollywood for LGBTQ+ shops, restaurants, and nightlife. No trip is complete without stopping by The Abbey in West Hollywood for a drink and to tip the gogo dancers. Los Angeles is also home to one of the best culinary scenes in the country with more restaurants than one could sample in a year. Try Gracias Madre for vegan Mexican food or check out The Church Key for modern twists on classic comfort foods.
Chicago is America’s “Windy City” and home to some of the best LGBTQ+ culture in the Midwest. Visit the iconic LGBTQ+ neighborhoods of Boystown or Andersonville for queer nightlife. You’ll find numerous RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni at Queen! Or if you’re looking for a queer women-focused party check out Slo ’Mo. During the daylight hours, no trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to Millenium Park to take a photo in the Cloud Gate, which locals affectionately call The Bean. While you’re in town take a stroll down the Navy Pier and don’t forget to visit Wrigley Field for a good old-fashioned baseball game.
Dallas is located in the northern part of America’s Lone Star State, Texas. Dallas is home to excellent BBQ, Tex Mex, and interestingly enough—the originator of the frozen margarita machine. Check out their newly minted Margarita Mile for all the delicious varieties. On a more serious note, Dallas also holds a very important piece of American history as the home of The Sixth Floor Museum, which is reserved as a commemorative landmark to the downtown location where John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. While Dallas is located in a more conservative state, it is still very LGBTQ+-friendly. Dallas’ Oak Lawn is the gay neighborhood with J.R.'s and Sue Ellen's being the two most popular gay and lesbian bars respectively.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in the United States
EXPLORE THE CANYONS OF THE SOUTHWEST
The American Southwest is home to some of the most beautiful red rock deserts in the world. Visit Antelope Canyon, Zion National Park, or the Grand Canyon to experience the beauty of the painted desert. In this area of the country you’ll also experience some of the lost cultures of the Native Americans. Stop by a reservation to learn about local indigenous people and their cultures.
HIKE THROUGH YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Yosemite National Park, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California, is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. While you’re visiting try to wrap your arms around one of the famous giant sequoia trees. Enjoy the scenery from the Tunnel View, the iconic vantage point of the towering Bridalveil Fall and the mammoth granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Yosemite offers longer backwoods experiences, or you can stop in for a more modern visit in the Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Village, where you’ll find restaurants, shopping, hotels, and galleries.
POSE WITH MICKEY AT DISNEY
The U.S. has two major Disney theme parks, Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Visiting Disney is almost an American rite of passage. Affectionately known as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” the parks themselves are practically cities within cities. You’ll have every option imaginable from restaurants and rides to theater performances and events.
ADMIRE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is an architectural marvel. The one-mile long suspension bridge goes across the strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with San Francisco Bay. The bridge is a fixture of the San Francisco skyline and is one of the most iconic landmarks on the U.S. West Coast.
SKI THE MOUNTAINS OF COLORADO
Colorado is located deep in the Rocky Mountains where some of the United States’ best skiing, snowboarding, and winter sports take place. Consider visiting in January during Aspen Gay Ski Week and experience a different kind of pride.
EXPERIENCE MARDI GRAS IN SOUTHERN LOUISIANA
Every year tens of thousands of party goers descend on New Orleans for parades, live music, and rowdiness during the Mardi Gras holiday. Mardi Gras hails from the days when Louisiana was a French colony. While the modern version of the festival incorporates components of the region’s French heritage, it also celebrates American black culture and southern hospitality—and yes, there are LGBTQ+ events in the mix.
Experiencing American Food
Each region of the United States is home to different culinary delights. While you’re in the Northeast, try a bowl of delicious Boston Clam Chowder or a Maryland crab cake. Down South you’ll find biscuits and gravy or chicken and waffles. On the west coast you’ll find a variety of Mexican cuisines, BBQs, and Asian-influenced restaurants. Though it has Italian origins, the pizza most people know today was inspired by an Italian-American immigrant; each region has their own spin on the classic dish but Chicago’s deep-dish pizza is always a crowd pleaser. In southern Florida make sure to grab a slice of key lime pie.
When it comes to cocktails, the United States has some of the most unique spirits and beverages in the world. For a truly American taste, visit Louisville, Kentucky home of the original Kentucky bourbon. In Louisville, you can even visit the distilleries for a behind the scenes look at the way bourbon is produced and the finer points on differentiating Kentucky bourbons from others.
Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ visitors to the United States
Any country as large as the United States cannot be painted with a single brush. Each state has unique policies, opinions, and perspectives on LGBTQ+ people which make it difficult to truly identify an area as affirming. A good example is the state of Texas. While the statewide policies leave much to be desired, there are LGBTQ+-friendly cities like Dallas and Austin located within this conservative region. There are numerous areas similar to this in America. While the United States has federal marriage equality and LGBTQ+ adoption and overall a general acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, travelers visiting the U.S. should act with caution in more conservative areas.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips for the United States
One of the things that makes the United States so unique as a destinations for LGBTQ+ travelers is the number of gayborhoods and LGBTQ+ vacation towns across the country. Most big cities in the U.S. have a gayborhood or multiple LGBTQ+-friendly neighborhoods. Usually, there is a historical neighborhood and a more up-and-coming neighborhood for the LGBTQ+ people who’ve been priced out due to gentrification. For example, Chicago has both Boystown and Andersonville. New York has the historical neighborhood of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen but also has several areas of Brooklyn. In San Francisco, it’s all about The Castro and in Los Angeles you’ll find the largest concentration of LGBTQ+ people in West Hollywood and Silver Lake.
In the United States, you’ll also find popular LGBTQ+ vacation cities like Fire Island just outside of New York City, Palm Springs in California, Key West in Florida and Provincetown Massachusetts. These destinations have their own place in the LGBTQ+ history books as some of the few welcoming and affirming areas for LGBTQ+ people through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and all of them are still home to thriving gay culture, nightlife and activities today.
Nearly every city in the United States has a pride celebration at this point. Most of them are held in the summer months with a few cities holding out for other parts of the year. You’ll also find that the US is home to some of the biggest and best circuit parties in the world<. Most of the top lesbian events are held in the United States as well.
Meg Cale is an LGBTQ+ travel advocate and community educator. Meg and her wife Lindsay run the number one lesbian travel blog, DopesontheRoad.com. Meg’s LGBTQ+ subject matter expertise has been featured in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan>, Go magazine, >Out Traveler, Gay Star News, Buzzfeed, Matador Network, Elite Daily, Korea Observer, and India's The Quint. Her passion lives at the intersection of travel, queer culture, and new media. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @MegCale