Small is beautiful: Top 5 Surprisingly Gay Small Towns

By Aefa Mulholland

Originally published on Advocate.com October 24 2008 12:00 AM ET

There's one kind of scaling back that won't have you
cursing the current economic climate. Opt for
something a little smaller next time you pack up
the Samsonite, and consider these delightfully
diminutive gems, our top five surprisingly gay
small towns.

1. Bloomington, Ind.
Why it's on our gaydar… This accepting,
forward-thinking, progressive college town (population
70,000) is home to Indiana University and the famed
Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and
Reproduction (itself home to one of the world's
largest porn collections). Filled with hip cafés
and funky stores, Bloomington markets its many merits to
lesbian and gay travelers. For more information on
Bloomington, visit www.visitgaybloomington.com.

2. Asheville, N.C.
Why it's on our gaydar… Set in the midst of the
Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, Asheville (population 73,000) is home
to an excellent choice of gay and lesbian-owned inns and
guesthouses, such as gay-owned 1899
Whitegate Inn and Cottage
. For more choices,
contact Explore Asheville. There's also
a smorgasbord of thrilling, locally owned restaurants, gay
bar Smokey Tavern (18 Broadway Street), hot LGBT
dance spot Club Hairspray, lesbian-owned
bookstore Malaprops, and a constellation of
galleries.

3. Eureka Springs, Ark.
Why it's on our gaydar… A pint-sized piece of
perfection, Arkansas' Eureka Springs (population
2,350) is a charming tiny town with Victorian
architecture, twisting streets, and easy going, laissez fair
attitude that has lured a diverse community. "Diversity Weekends" run four times a
year and gay-owned businesses, including bars, hotels,
and guesthouses have proliferated in the town. Check
in to gay-owned, fabulously kitschy Tradewinds Motel or lesbian-owned Pond Mountain Lodge and Resort to
stay gay. The resort spa town nestled in the Ozarks
has gained quite a reputation over the years and
answers to nicknames such as "Haven for the State's
eccentrics," "The place where the misfits fit," "The hole
in the Bible Belt where the buckle goes through," and
"America's largest open-air asylum."

4. Portland, Maine
Why it's on our gaydar… Home to one of
the biggest per capita LGBT populations on the east
coast and now host of the entirely enticing Frostbite ME weekend (early
March, dates TBA), a LGBT winter celebration with an
alluring array of homo hijinks, activities, and events that
launched in 2008, Portland is Maine's captivating
largest city (population 65,000). Portland has a
venerable gay bar, Blackstones, and Styxx Video Club (3
Spring Street), where the dance floor and pool tables
are popular with women on Thursdays and Saturdays. For
more information on the city's gay goings on, contact
Visit Portland.

5. Ann Arbor, Mich.
Why it's on our gaydar… An upbeat college
town, the home of Edmund White's alma mater, the
University of Michigan, is a haven of tolerance, just
35 miles west of Detroit (population 115,000). Women drink,
play pool, and have dinner at the miniscule,
two-level, lesbian-adored Aut Bar. Thrilling restaurants
abound and once you're ready to up the ante, head to
gay-friendly club Necto. Ann Arbor is also home to a slew
of LGBT groups, from Ann Arbor Queer Aquatics to the
Lesbian Moms Network.