From longtime gay destinations (think Mykonos and New York City) to more up-and-coming hot spots like Chicago and Auckland, NZ, these 8 destinations promise progressive attitudes, vibrant cultural offerings, and happening nightlife. Here, the hottest LGBT-friendly travel destinations to put on your radar in 2017.
Sitges emerged on the LGBT traveler’s map back in the 1980s, when Spain’s first-ever gay disco opened on its sun-soaked shores. To this day, the coastal city remains a favorite destination of the LGBT community thanks to its relaxed beach town vibe, pristine stretches of sand (with plenty of clothing-optional varieties), high-octane nightlife, and a year-round program of cultural events from Carnival and gay Mardi Gras to vintage car rallies and gay pride. Check into Dolce, a sleek hilltop resort with 263 design-forward guest rooms and water views, then spend your days exploring the town’s array of art galleries and museums; catching some rays at Playa de la Bassa Rodona, the town’s main gay beach; and tucking into Catalonian fare at upscale restaurants in the historic center.
Germany’s cultural capital has stunning architecture, fabulous food, killer shopping, and a non-stop nightlife scene—all of which helped Berlin earn its reputation as an LGBT-traveler’s mecca. Stay in the center of the action at Axel Berlin, a “heterofriendly” hotel in the center of hip, historic Schöneberg with a rooftop hot tub and a solarium that turns into a private bar come evening. Prefer to party in town? Hit up SchwuZ club, one of the city's biggest and most famous gay clubs, for themed events like Madonnamania and naked dancing during “Sclagernacktparty.”
Mykonos has been a gay hot spot for decades—no surprise, given its impressive natural scenery, party-hard reputation, and dizzying cornucopia of design hotels, gay-centric bars, and nude beaches. Two favorite spots to soak up the scene: Elia Beach, the most popular gay beach in Mykonos, whose main beach and smaller sandy cove are perfect for nude sunbathing, and Jackie O’Beach, a buzzy beach bar with a pool, Jacuzzi, private lounge areas, daily drag show, and even a private church for weddings. If you’re looking for less of a scene, head back to your hotel, the rustic-luxe Kivotos Mykonos, to take advantage of its glam swim-up pool bar, massages on the hotel’s private beach, or hotel-owned yacht, which is reserved exclusively for guest use.
New York, New York
Diversity is celebrated to the nth degree in New York City, one of the most open-minded and inclusive places in the world. Learn about the birth of the modern gay rights movements at The Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 Stonewall riots took place, then venture out to explore other LGBT landmarks like the Harvey Milk School, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and the Leslie Lohman Museum. Most of the city’s gay nightlife is concentrated in Chelsea, the West Village, and Hell’s Kitchen, but for accommodations, we’d recommend checking out PUBLIC Hotel in the trendy Lower East Side. The hotel has sleek, sexed-up interiors, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, and minimalist-chic guest rooms sure to please the aesthetically inclined.
While it’s no New York or San Francisco, Chi-Town is fast-emerging as one of America’s hottest gay travel destinations. For starters, the city scores top points in aesthetics—just look to its soaring glass skyscrapers, whimsical public art, picturesque Riverwalk, and historic hotels like the Chicago Athletic Association. Then there’s the city’s red-hot food scene, characterized by its abundance of fine-dining restaurants (check out The Loyalist) and celebrity chef-helmed options (we’d recommend Michael Mina’s Margeaux Brasserie). As for nightlife, don’t miss Boystown, which is packed with gay bars and clubs, and Andersonville, a hub for Chicago’s lesbian community.
Palm Springs, California
From its kitsch-is-cool architecture to its flourishing culinary scene and sublime climate, Palm Springs is a perennial favorite among LGBT travelers. Get in stride with the city’s flamboyant spirit by hitting the Uptown Design District, where you can shop souvenir-worthy artwork, design books, and period furniture, or learn all about the city’s mid-century modern architectural gems by signing up for the Palm Springs Modern Tour. After dinner at the eclectic Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, which serves up global small plates like fried chicken and poblano chiles rellenos, finish your night at Toucans Tiki Lounge (arguably the most well-known drag revue in the Coachella Valley) before bedding down at the Parker, a stylish, mid-century modern hotel with cheeky design touches like psychedelic shag carpets and a tall bronze banana sculpture on the main lawn.
Tel Aviv, Israel
You won't find a designated gay neighborhood in Tel Aviv because the whole city considers itself gay friendly. But that’s not the only reason the city is considered an LGBT utopia. Consider the city’s beautiful beaches, cosmopolitan cafés, plethora of art museums and Bauhaus-style architecture, and massive annual gay pride festival, which draws gay men and women from all over the world. A few spots worth adding to your hit list: Evita, Tel Aviv’s oldest gay bar; the Hilton Gay Beach, home to swimsuit-optional parties and killer people watching; and Brown Beach House, the only boutique hotel on the city’s seafront, which has a beach club/party pad vibe and eye-catching décor—think canary-yellow sofas, potted palms, and gilt mirrors—plus a raucous indoor beach-themed lounge.
Auckland, New Zealand
Known for its inclusive and progressive politics, New Zealand makes the LGBT community feel right at home. (Fun fact: It was actually the first country to adopt the ‘Gay/Lesbian Friendly’ accommodations label, an initiative now recognized globally.) There are over 70 gay-owned home stays scattered throughout the country, but for a vacation that combines culture, nature, and nightlife, we recommend making Auckland your home base. Start by exploring Britomart, the star of the city’s dining scene, then take in local artwork at The Auckland Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery. Karangahape Road is the go-to spot for the coolest gay bars and clubs such as Family Bar, which offers daily drag shows and karaoke, and Caluzzi Bar & Cabaret, where you can catch dinner and a performance. After all that partying, unwind at the Hilton Auckland, a nautical-inspired property with a buzzy restaurant and heated outdoor pool.