For the queer traveler, despite the appeal of the open road, traversing the United States eventually means that they’ll be stuck in some states that are less than accepting of their lifestyles. Contrary to popular belief, however, there are safe havens for queer travelers that exist all over the country, including in places that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of — like Arkansas and Kansas. So, to ensure that the open road remains just as friendly to the LGBTQ traveler, we’ve discovered the best places to go on your queer-friendly US road trip.
1. Taos, New Mexico
Although New Mexico’s larger cities, like Albuquerque and Santa Fe, are welcoming destinations for the LGBTQ traveler, it’s Taos, with its decades-old art community, that proves to be the most compelling stop on your queer-friendly US road trip. At its core, Taos is a historic arts colony propelled by the progressive-thinking bohemians who have dwelled within its city limits for years. Whether you’re snapping pictures of the centuries-old Taos Pueblo or venturing through the historic architecture and shops downtown, a detour to Taos is a great addition to a New Mexico driving itinerary.
Where to stay: Taos Inn
2. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Compared to other states, Arkansas is not one that has a history of LGBTQ equality. Despite this inequality present at the state level, Eureka Springs, a getaway in the heart of the Ozarks, is a beautiful and queer-friendly destination. If what you’re seeking is an idyllic and quiet stop on your trip, then Eureka Springs has this in spades, with dozens of shops, restaurants, and establishments that also double as queer-friendly establishments, like the 1905 Basin Park Hotel and Ermilio’s. While you’re there, be sure to dig into some barbecue and revel in the small-town charm.
Where to stay: Lesbian-owned Pond Mountain Lodge & Resort
3. Saugatuck and Douglas, Michigan
If you’re traveling across the Midwest, be sure to make a pitstop in the queer-friendly twin cities of Saugatuck and Douglas. Just two hours away from Chicago, these neighboring towns are laid-back resort destinations that offer a plethora of lakeside restaurants and funky boutiques. If you want to unwind after a long day spent in the car, head to the gay-owned Dunes Resort, which has an on-site restaurant and gay nightclub.
Where to stay: Gay-owned Pines Motor Lodge or Dunes Resort
4. Guerneville, California
Unlike the typical vacation experience expected to be had in California, the one in Guerneville is far from pretentious. Located just 70 miles from San Francisco, this small town surrounded by idyllic hiking and camping locales is home to several gay bars, stylish shops, restaurants, and queer-owned hotels and resorts. While you’re there, be sure to head to Johnson’s Beach for a swim among the redwoods. After you’re done swimming and lounging in the sun, head on a wine-tasting tour to end the night on the right note.
Where to stay: Gay-owned R3 Hotel
5. Ogunquit, Maine
If you’re seeking a more budget-friendly alternative to Cape Cod and Provincetown, queer travelers should head to the equally scenic Ogunquit, Maine. Less than 30 minutes away from queer-friendly Portland, Ogunquit is also friendly to the LGBTQ traveler, known to many as the “New England gay resort town.” Aside from being incredibly gay-friendly, the town of Ogunquit offers many queer-owned nightclubs and bars, as well as a number of seaside restaurants and shops that can make any weary traveler feel right at home — in a tranquil and idyllic paradise. Pro tip: Be sure to check out the festive lobster shacks in town that can provide you with a unique taste of the local culture.
Where to stay: 2 Village Square Inn
6. Asheville, North Carolina
Though the southern portion of the US is not exactly known for being queer-friendly, Asheville, North Carolina, has established itself as one of the best and brightest LGBTQ-friendly destinations in America. Aside from its stunning natural beauty and artistic community, Asheville is also known for its extensive array of independent shops, quirky queer bars, and inexpensive entertainment. During your stay in Asheville, be sure to go dancing at Scandals, the most popular gay bar in Asheville, and then, the next morning, head to the Biltmore Estate for a great Instagrammable experience.
Where to stay: Gay-owned North Lodge on Oakland Bed & Breakfast
7. Astoria, Oregon
Instead of heading to the popular queer haven of Portland, drive instead to Astoria, Oregon, a city located on Oregon’s northern coast. Aside from its beautiful coastal scenery, the town of Astoria has a lively LGBTQ community and a generally welcoming and friendly atmosphere. While you’re passing through Astoria, make sure to pay a visit to one of its many local breweries and coffee shops, including gay-owned Astoria Coffee House & Bistro. Then, after a heavy dose of caffeine, you’ll be ready to hit the road again or just take in the stunning views of the rugged coastline.
Where to stay: Commodore Hotel
8. Blue Ridge, Georgia
While in the middle of the South, find some safety and relaxation within the arms of the welcoming and queer-friendly town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Located in the Appalachian foothills, this mountain town is nearly chock full of quaint charm. Whether you’re hiking the nearby Appalachian Trail, dining at one of the many upscale and inventive restaurants in the downtown area, or you’re hitching a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, the charm of Blue Ridge is sure to captivate well beyond the time you leave its city limits.
Where to stay: 3 Bears Cabin
9. Sedona, Arizona
Any road trip out West would be incomplete without a stop in Sedona, Arizona — a destination replete with natural beauty. Not only that, but many are quick to point out how welcoming Sedona is to all visitors. To see this natural beauty for yourself, schedule a guided tour of the red rocks either on foot or on a bicycle. Then, after your adventures outside among the rocks, pay a visit to the town’s main drag, where a number of art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants paint a unique picture of this Arizona town.
Where to stay: Junipine Resort
10. Wichita, Kansas
To get to the places on your road trip bucket list, it’s likely that you’ll at least have to trek through a portion of the conservative Midwest. Thankfully, there is a queer haven that exists in the most conservative portion of the region — Wichita, Kansas. And, aside from simply being a safe space to rest after a long day spent in the car, Wichita has a number of queer-owned bars and nightclubs. However, if you’re not looking to dance the night away, indulge in one of the many unique restaurants, boutiques, or art galleries to be found in the historic Delano District.
Where to stay: Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview
11. Morehead, Kentucky
Despite the fact that liberal Louisville has long established itself as one of the prime queer-friendly destinations in the US, the town of Morehead, Kentucky, has recently become a vacation favorite of the LGBTQ community. If you make it the city early enough in the day, you can go tubing on Cave Run Lake or hike through the area-famous Daniel Boone National Forest. Then, settle in for the night with a walk through the downtown area, complete with unique shops and restaurants.
Where to stay: Poppy Mountain Campground
12. Short Mountain Sanctuary, Tennessee
For those on the more artistic side, a visit to Short Mountain Sanctuary in Woodbury, Tennessee is a must on your queer road trip. This queer sanctuary and accommodation is a 200-acre faerie sanctuary and safe queer space just 50 miles away from Nashville. If you have more time to dedicate to this destination, you’ll have plenty of time to participate in group activities and events that are meant to strengthen your ties to the LGBTQ community, like craft-making and faerie celebrations. On-site camping is available.
13. Huntington, West Virginia
Along with finding a new appreciation for the Appalachian Mountains, visitors to Huntington, West Virginia, will also find a welcoming and queer-friendly environment with which to relax in during a long road trip. During your stay, get a true taste of Huntington’s hospitality by taking a walk around the Heritage Station, a covered train depot that has a plethora of local boutiques, bakeries, and artisan shops. From there, you can spend more time walking around the city’s award-winning rose garden, the Ritter Park Rose Garden. Then, after you traverse the dramatic scenery of the land, head to one of the many gay bars and nightclubs.
Where to stay: Trainmaster’s House