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Gayest Cities in the U.S.: Our Top 10 Topping Metropolises

Pack your bags and get ready to turn those vacation days into gaycation slays. Here’s the Grindr guide to the gayest cities in the U.S.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
July 22, 2024
8
min. read
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Call us biased, but in the words of Dorothy, there’s no place like home: the good ol’ U.S.A. 

With those fabled amber waves of “heyyy” and wide-ranging weather to appease snowbirds, snow bunnies, and everyone in between, it can take a lifetime to explore the place from top to bottom. Finding your way into the pockets with the most tops and bottoms, however — that’s a different story.

To expedite the process, we’ve curated some of the gayest cities in America so you can find comfort among like-minded LGBTQ folks who accept you just as you are. Whether a gaycation was all you ever wanted or you’re U-Hauling with the hunk who stole your heart, this list will guide you to the promised land where body shots and Birkenstocks are baked into the culture.

Top 10 cities with the most LGBTQ population

The gayest cities in the U.S. all have one thing in common: A sizable number of queer people live there. Here’s an official list of the metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of LGBTQ adults compared to the total population, according to the Williams Institute:

  1. San Francisco/Bay Area, CA: 6.7%
  2. Portland, OR: 6.0%
  3. Austin-Round Rock, TX: 5.9%
  4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: 5.2%
  5. Los Angeles, CA: 5.1%
  6. Las Vegas, NV: 5.1%
  7. Orlando, FL: 5.0%
  8. Boston, MA: 4.9%
  9. Denver, CO: 4.8%
  10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: 4.8%

Since these cities made the list, you’d assume they’d also top our list of the most gay-friendly cities in the U.S. Not necessarily. Although these stats show where the fairies flock, they don’t tell you where they frolic. There are far more criteria to check before calling a city gay-friendly.

What constitutes a gay-friendly city?

“Gay-friendly” is a bit of an ambiguous term. Even a tiny town in rural America can be gay-friendly if it’s home to enough queer culture. So what, then, dictates which cities are gay-friendlier than others? 

For starters, the size of the local LGBTQ population says a lot; if gay people are comfortable living somewhere, other gays will probably feel welcome when they visit — simple gay math. Also worth considering is how the city supports gay Pride (during June and well beyond) as an indicator of whether it’s hospitable to LGBTQ visitors.

Probably the most telltale metric to consider is how sizable and vibrant the gay neighborhoods are. And it’s not just about how many people live there but also about how many businesses cater to LGBTQ culture (e.g., a boba shop sharing real estate with a bondage store — we know there’s got to be one out there somewhere).

Top 10 gayest cities in the U.S.

From sea to shining sea, here are our favorite spots where you can not only say “gay” — you can (and should) sing it from the rooftops, too. (Go on, do it for DeSantis.)

1. San Francisco, CA

Surprising absolutely no one for nabbing pole position on this list is San Francisco, aka the Supreme herself, as far as gay cities in America go. Teeming with queer culture and history, it reigns as the queen of options for gay getaways

Queer neighborhoods not to be missed include the Castro and the Mission — two of the most vibrant LGBTQ communities in the entire country. SF is also home to one of the largest Pride festivals in the U.S. and other iconic annual queer events like Folsom Street Fair. 

Needless to say, if you haven’t been to San Fran, it’s high time you strap on those leather chaps and head west.

2. Hartford, CT

Perhaps one of the more surprising entries to land on this list is the demure capital of Connecticut. But given that it boasts one of the country’s highest approval ratings for same-sex marriage (thanks, Nutmeggers!), it’s easy to connect the dots and realize they make quite the queer-friendly picture. 

Expedia.com also named Hartford one of the most “exciting LGBTQ-friendly cities around the world.” Premium praise from such a prominent travel company. 

3. Las Vegas, NV

What happens in Vegas? Gays in Vegas. It’s no wonder the party capital of America would catch the communal queer eye. Sequins and timeless Showgirls one-liners aside, Vegas earns a spot on our list because of its long list of Pride events. 

The city hosts more than twice as many festivals as the average metro area, proving that a stop in Sin City on your gay vacation is no gamble. Those who prefer their gayness from concentrate should look no further than “The Fruit Loop” on Paradise, a collection of bars situated around strip malls, proving once again that shots and shopping don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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4. Portland, OR

Portland has a (perhaps warranted) reputation for being a bizarre landscape of beautiful misfits; what could be gayer than that? Her people are fierce — literally and figuratively — in how much they advocate for queer folks. It’s a perfect destination for the creative and artistic gays to find some camaraderie and serve charisma, uniqueness, nerve … you get it.

The City of Roses doesn’t have a dedicated gay neighborhood, but that’s mostly because you’ll find gayness seeping through every inch of Portland soil. The Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and Pride Northwest are just two examples of what can grow from such fertile fields.

5. New York City, NY

You’d better believe the Big Apple is just waiting for your gay gob to come take a bite. Not only have NYC and its queer-friendly neighborhoods like Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and Hell’s Kitchen long been a safe haven for gays, but it’s also the home of the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the gay liberation movement. Also, there’s Broadway (duh!).

And are you even a fully fledged flamer without a trip to Fire Island? This gaycation getaway destination is a household name for those with expendable income. There’s truly no hornier way to slip into summer than getting lost in a sea of slicked-up men (and if there is, let us know).

6. Los Angeles, CA

Spa days complete with colonics, cryotherapy sessions at the local social wellness club, a substantial population of teeny dogs in designer strollers: What’s not to love about LA? Here, you’ll always find the gays are out, about, and lookin’ for clout. West Hollywood, specifically, is famously, enormously homosexual, with nearly 40% of its residents identifying as part of the LGBTQ community. 

If you’re looking for an incredible gay bar and nightlife scene, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one more diverse and well-attended than LA’s. It also unsurprisingly happens to be one of the prime locations for gay cruising, thanks to the sheer volume of gayness contained within the city limits.

7. Austin, TX

In an effort to keep Austin weird, they’ve also made it nice and gay! The South’s association with conservatism hasn’t stopped this gem in the heart of the Lone Star State from shining bright. There’s plenty of incredible dining, music, and drinks to wet your whistle.

You can end your night by wetting someone else’s at the iconic Oilcan Harry’s, the oldest gay bar in town. If you’re looking for variety, turn your spurs toward the downtown warehouse district for even more homosexual hullabaloo. Not every leather-clad loner in Texas is riding horses, after all; some are riding cowboys.

8. Chicago, IL

The Midwest gets a bad rep for being behind the times with inclusivity. Fortunately, Chicago doesn’t fit any of those stereotypes. The neighborhood Boystown, aka Northalsted, was one of the first recognized gay neighborhoods in the United States. 

Expanding its invasion of the city, the gay agenda found itself traveling north to another area of town: Andersonville. It’s a staunchly different vibe than many of the Northalsted locations, but that’s the beauty of Chicago — it’s a city made for everybody. Between the salt-of-the-earth gay bars and up-tempo drag clubs, there’s plenty of gay stuff to stuff into your schedule in Chicago.

9. New Orleans, LA

A Cajun and Creole queer paradise, New Orleans (or “Nawlens”) is a city famous for its parades, many celebrating gay people and/or raunchy individuality. Its reputation as a party city is well-deserved, so come ready to have fun at the countless iconic gay bars. Many are found on the French Quarter’s Lavender Line, including Cafe Lafitte in Exile, the nation’s oldest continuously running gay bar.

Sure, Louisiana doesn’t have a stellar track record with gay rights, but NOLA is (and always will be) a place of celebration, no matter who you are or who you love.

10. Richmond, VA

Unfortunately, America’s rosy red-white-and-blue story looks a little grayer when you’re of the rainbow persuasion; LGBTQ rights are on the chopping block everywhere. But going against the grain of expectations, Richmond has consistently earned a perfect score from the Municipal Equality Index, which tracks LGBTQ inclusivity. 

We’re honestly just as taken aback as you are to see Virginia on this list, but the numbers don’t lie: Richmond is one of the best gay cities in the U.S. to let your freak flag fly free. It’s refreshing to know you can go somewhere for a slice of Southern hospitality without fear of reprisal.

The great U.S. of gay

The U.S. has no shortage of incredibly queer-friendly locations for you to hole up (in a manner of speaking). Whether you plan to visit for a weekend or move in with your boyfriend and open up a cat ranch, the options are more diverse than you’d imagine.

Looking for a bit of slap-and-tickle during your travels across the States? Get on that airplane WiFi and download the Grindr app today to get that star of yours nice and spangled.

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