Long Beach has long been an underrated California city, with most folks paying more attention to San Francisco and nearby Los Angeles. Many are finally catching on to Long Beach though, especially since it's so welcoming to LGBT residents. Not only does Long Beach have a gay Latino mayor — Robert Garcia — it's renowned for its ebullient Pride celebration, numerous female couples, diverse queer residents, the Queen Mary ocean liner, charming downtown and waterfront, and easy light rail connection to downtown L.A. But you don't need to hop on the train to catch a screening of Moonlight; there are plenty of LGBT-friendly movie theaters within the city limits. More on Long Beach here.
Like Long Beach, Seattle has an out mayor (Ed Murray) and a huge queer nightlife scene. Centered in Capitol Hill — which recently got its first subway station — the gayborhood has a lively energy that reflects the larger changes occuring in Seattle, which is flush with tech money and young residents. Residential towers are sprouting in Seattle like pine trees, which will hopefully keep housing prices from reaching San Francisco-level proportions. The Emerald City is also a big destination for gay and bi guys using misterb&b (the gay Airbnb, of course) and is one of the nation's few cities to host its own distinct Trans Pride celebration. More on Seattle here.
23. Anaheim, Calif.
Only an hour's drive from Los Angeles, Anaheim is not such a small world when it comes to LGBT inclusion. The community boasts an LGBT center and a score of 80 on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index. It’s also home to the Happiest Place on Earth, which hosts the ever-popular Gay Days celebrations. Anaheim recently opened its architecturally significant ARTIC rail staion (seen above), which makes travel to L.A. and other parts of California quite a breeze. Wary of Orange County? For the first time since the Great Depression, the longtime Republican county went blue, voting for Hillary Clinton over you-know-who. More on Anaheim here.
The home of original single lady Mary Richards is more than Arctic blasts. Queer nightlife spots like 19 Bar and the Saloon are reliable good times, and Prince's Graceland-style home, Paisley Park, is now open for tours. There's also no shortage of lesbian-centric bike events for when the weather warms up, according to Autostraddle. Minneapolis also scored a 100 on HRC's Municipal Equality Index and hosted the queer rock band Pwr Bttm. More on Minneapolis here.
21. Plano, Texas
This job-rich (and church-rich) north Texas city is no San Francisco, but it’s not nearly as conservative as one might presume — it’s one of only about half a dozen Texas cities with an ordinance protecting LGBT residents from discrimination. Residents can likely thank the influence of nearby Dallas — located only a light-rail ride away — and the many image-conscious corporations headquartered in Plano. When in town, take a cruise around the massive Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. More on Plano here.
20. Anchorage, Alaska
With over 300,000 hardy souls, Anchorage is the closest thing to a metropolis you'll find in Alaska. It's also is home to the state's major LGBT group (Identity Alaska) and the state's Pride organization. Anchorage also holds a respectable 79 on HRC's Municipal Equality Index — it passed an ordinance in 2015 protecting LGBT residents from housing and workplace discrimination — and has listings on misterb&b. And you haven't lived until you've warmed up with a few drinks at Mad Myrna's drag night. More on Anchorage here.
19. Tampa, Fla.
Florida's burgeoning west coast is anchored by Tampa, one of the state's more cosmopolitan cities. The home of the University of South Florida and Tampa University, the city is chock-full of young folks. It also scores high on HRC's Municipal Equality Index (with an 86) and has its very own queer enclave in the GaYBOR district (part of the nightlife-packed Ybor City neighborhood). GaYBOR hosts the city's annual Pride event, which was kicked off last year by Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
18. Greensboro, N.C.
Don't hold the fact that Greensboro is in North Carolina against it. Home to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro as well as an opera and symphony, this city is no podunk backwater. Greensboro hosts its own Pride event in September and has a surprising amount of queer nightlife, including Chemistry Nightclub and The Q. Guilford County, home of Greensboro, also voted blue this November. More on Greensboro here.
17. San Francisco
Exorbitant housing prices and a sinking high-rise couldn't knock San Francisco from its perch as one of America's great queer cities. While it wasn't number 1 in per capita rankings, it's still a powerhouse when it comes to LGBT amenities, including one of the few cities that still has a lesbian bar and its own distinctive Trans Pride event. It also has a gay rugby team and seven(!) theaters that showed the Golden Globe-winning gay-themed film Moonlight. The city is now gearing up for the 50th anniversary celebration of the iconic Summer of Love. More on San Francisco here.
Over the years, Miami has had its ebbs and flows (remember the wild Versace-Madonna days of the 1990s?), but it's been on a winning streak for quite a while now. Downtown Miami and Brickell are exploding with development, quickly turning into a mini-Manhattan. Meanwhile, the Perez Art Museum and the Art Basel event have brought cultural cachet to the Magic City. While much of the city's gay nightlife and services are in Miami Beach (a separate municipality), LGBT offerings are expanding throughout Miami-Dade County — just last month, Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders launched SAGE Miami to help the area's queer seniors. More on Miami here.
15. Durham, N.C.
Another North Carolina oasis of relative liberalism, Durham sits in the middle of the state's university-rich research triangle — that means lots of educated folks, which always bodes well for making a place LGBT-friendly. Durham also has its own LGBT center, hosted the band Pwr Bttm, and is home to the aptly-named The Bar, a friendly gay watering hole. More on Durham here.
14. Henderson, Nev.
You might be surprised to discover Henderson is Nevada's second-largest city, after Las Vegas. Henderson actually sits just southeast of Sin City, which means it's a short drive away from the Fruit Loop, Vegas's tiny gay village (more of a strip of nightclubs, but anyway). Henderson is a comfortable and safe residential escape that's home to many of the Las Vegas Valley's same-sex couples; Henderson's Lake Las Vegas area is a luxe paradise that feels miles away from the congested, seedy Strip. Oh, did we mention how close Henderson is to the Las Vegas Eagle? More on Henderson here.
13. Chula Vista, Calif.
Sandwiched between San Diego and Mexico, Chula Vista (Spanish for "beautiful view") is an inexpensive place to stay if you want to discover this friendly, sunny part of Southern California; the city's high rate of misterb&b listings can attest to that. San Diego's lively neighborhoods are easily reached via the San Diego Trolley, while Chula Vista has plenty of offerings itself. South Bay Pride — separate from San Diego Pride — is planned for the city's Bayside Park in September, and there are plenty of beach and hiking opportunities for rugged gays. Admittedly, Chula Vista's HRC Municipal Equality Index score stinks (55, jeez), but at least you can see Moonlight in one of its movie theaters. More on Chula Vista here.
Many people discount St. Louis, well, since it's kinda in the middle of nowhere. But it's got a lot going for it — a gay rugby team, progressive movie theaters that show LGBT fare, a diverse population welcoming to queer musicians, and a perfect score (!) on HRC's Municipal Equality Index. There's a plethora of queer nightlife (check out the Grove district), a brand-new LGBT center (Pride St. Louis), and the St. Louis Blues hockey team just had its first Pride night. Nice job, St. Louis. More on the city here.
10. Irvine, Calif.
An Orange County, Calif., city in the top 10? As mentioned previously, the notoriously moneyed and conservative county went blue this election for the first time in decades. And economically-vibrant Irvine is Orange County's most LGBT-friendly city, according to the Municipal Equality Index, thanks to anti-discrimination protections, benefits to LGBT employees, and local services. Irvine is sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego, and has its own LGBT-affirming church. More on Irvine here.
9. St. Paul, Minn.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are some hip twins, huh? The former is on this year's list (and was number 1 back in 2011), and its next-door neighbor clocks in at nine this year, partly due to its perfect ranking on HRC's municipal equality index. St. Paul also is full of Moonlight-showing theaters, and has a beloved gay piano bar in Camp Bar Twin Cities. For devout queers, St. Paul also has nearly two dozen LGBT-friendly churches. More on St. Paul here.
It wouldn't be a big surprise if college town Columbus scored well on HRC's municipal equality index, but for Kentucky-bordering Cincinnati to nab a 100 is kind of a shock. Well, it wouldn't be such a surprise if you were on one of the city's gay bowling teams, checked out the Lavender Scare-themed performance at the Cincinnati Opera, or simply was protected by the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. Ohio might have been Trump country this year, but Hamilton County was not. More on Cincinnati here.
We've long had a soft spot for New Orleans, just as NOLA has long had a soft spot for its queer icons like Tennessee Williams and Anne and Christopher Rice. Home to the legendary Southern Decadence celebration, as well as a close-knit, charitable local community, the city is equal parts revelry and tradition. While Louisiana has much catching up to do when it comes to LGBT equality, New Orleans has an 89 on HRC's municipal equality index (to its credit, the state did toss out that obnoxious Bobby Jindal from the governor's office in Baton Rouge). And hey, if gorgeous neighborhoods like the Marigny and Bywater are ok for Ed Droste and Solange, they're ok for us. More on New Orleans here.
Buffalo winters are loooong, but that's why there are places like the Underground and Cathode Ray to help you warm up with some cocktails and body heat. Buffalo scored an impressive 95 on HRC's municipal equality index, and is home to misterb&b rental listings should you find yourself in town. Oh, but we bet you didn't know about the gay bingo or the queer poetry slams. The city also showed its sensitive side after this summer's tragedy in Orlando. We see you, Queen City. More on Buffalo here.
3. St. Petersburg
Slightly under-the-radar and cool with it, St. Petersburg is another jewel of Florida's west coast, just across Old Tampa Bay from Ybor City. St. Petersburg was lauded by the HRC for its municipal protections (one of the best cities in Florida, in that regard) and it has no shortage of queer restaurants and watering holes in the Grand Central District. When beloved bar Georgie's shuttered last year, tears were shed, but thankfully a new venue named Punky's Bar & Grill is packing in a new crowd and snagging rave reviews. More on St. Petersburg here.
Our beloved Orlando. It's hard not to talk about this city without mentioning Pulse, but the tragedy showed the world how both sizeable and tight-knit (as well as young and diverse) Orlando's queer community is. Like L.A. and New York, Orlando is full of dreamers. Young LGBT dancers, singers, and performers make people laugh and smile at places like the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and SeaWorld. Orlando also has no shortage of services for all those folks, including those who aren't so young; numerous places to meet for a drink in an gay bar or club, as well as an LGBT center where one can gather with other gays in recovery. We're already counting the days to Gay Days in May. More on Orlando here.
1. Jersey City, N.J.
Jersey City and not New York? Well, Gotham isn't getting any cheaper and Jersey City — right across the Hudson River — remains a wonderful alternative to a $2,900 studio. The Garden State's second-biggest city scored well on numerous aspects of our criteria, including multiple showings of Moonlight and queer B&B hosts opening up their homes to visitors. It also scored 100 on the HRC's municipal equality index (better than Newark, the state's biggest city) and youthful mayor Steve Fulop announced the city will offer transgender city employees expanded health care benefits. Instead of tagging along with New York's Pride festival, nearby Jersey City has hosted its own for the past 17 years. And while New Jersey still owes us an explanation for producing Chris Christie, we can nearly forgive and forget thanks to Cory Booker (yes, the senator was mayor of Newark not JC, but close enough). More on Jersey City here.