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America's Most Underrated Queer-Friendly Cities

So, you've already crossed New York City, San Francisco, and Miami off your bucket list. Where to next? For gay travelers, those smaller, less glamorous cities are easy to pass by, but a vibrant LGBT history, culture, and social scene often thrive in underrated destinations, and you might be surprised by how much fun you can find in a flyover state.

Instead of looking over those smaller, less desirable destinations, dig deeper into what they offer the queer community. Contrary to popular belief, that little-known village might just have a bustling cultural and nightlife scene under the surface.

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01Albuquerque, New Mexico

married cyclist man and woman take a break and share a laugh while sitting on benches in front of a spanish colonial architecture building train depot. their bicycles lean against a wall. horizontal composition taken in albuquerque, new mexico. amygdala_imagery / Getty Images

Visitors frequently overlook the New Mexican capital, but Albuquerque, also known as "Duke City," offers a lively visit for gay adventurers. The city's substantial queer population means that you'll be among friends, and you can explore Route 66's hip restaurants and gay clubs in good company.

The downtown area is still up-and-coming, but its historic attractions, excellent shopping, galleries, and museums offer plenty to explore. Explora, in particular, features over 250 exciting hands-on exhibits. The Sandia Mountains surround the city, and you can view them up close via the world's longest aerial tramway. Gay-friendly B&Bs are plentiful, and they're half the price of those in neighboring cities.

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02Providence, Rhode Island

Providence is renowned for its tolerant and progressive views; the city has proudly elected an openly gay mayor and is home to liberal learning institutions like Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, bringing a new generation of gay students and professionals into town.

The city's social scene is tough to beat; it features the only gay bathhouses in the New England region, and its thriving cosmopolitan nightlife features an array of queer-friendly bars, clubs, and dance shows bustling enough to rival Brooklyn's, many within walking distance from each other.

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03Norfolk, Virginia

LGBT life has thrived in Norfolk for decades, but it has transformed into a welcoming center for gay culture and social life since the same-sex marriage ban was struck down. The city's annual Hampton Roads Pride Fest has attracted hundreds of visitors for over 20 years, and it's still going strong with parades, events, and concerts every summer, including the only pride boat parade in the U.S.

Explore the city by foot, catch historic attractions like the NorVa Theater, visit charming art galleries and museums, such as Nauticus or the Chrysler Museum of Art, or stop by the scenic Norfolk Botanical Garden for a peaceful escape.

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04Columbus, Ohio

Middle America isn't the first choice for most LGBT travelers, but maybe it should be: Columbus is a lively city that's home to Ohio State University, so it has a more progressive vibe than neighboring destinations.

A thriving gay population calls downtown's diverse neighborhoods home, especially German Village and Short North, where you can find charming historic buildings, hip cultural activities, galleries, eateries, craft beer bars, and an assortment of shops selling everything from records to vintage clothing and art goods. The nightlife scene is energetic and gay-friendly, with the annual Breakaway music festival drawing in thousands of fans. Meanwhile, queer sports clubs offer space for athletics lovers to feel right at home.

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05Kansas City, Missouri

Situated smack dab in the nation's center, Kansas City is frequently overlooked, but for a friend of Dorothy, it might be time to rethink that. The LGBT scene is discreet compared to major hubs like NYC or San Francisco, but it's still sizable, with a plethora of gay-friendly bars, restaurants, and shops scattered throughout the town.

Visitors can also take in a lively theater scene, savor top-notch barbeque, or stop by the colossal Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with its one-of-a-kind sculpture garden featuring 18-foot-tall badminton shuttlecocks set between classical statues, plus an impressive collection from across the globe.

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06Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Steel City has revamped its reputation from a factory town to a thriving tech lover's paradise. The popular T.V. show Queer as Folk was set in Pittsburgh, boosting its popularity among the community and attracting new gay and lesbian residents.

Pittsburgh's arts and culture scene has grown rapidly in recent years, with innovative attractions like the Andy Warhol Museum moving in. The largest museum on the continent devoted to a single artist, fans can find an extensive selection of art and archives to explore. At Mattress Factory, visitors can immerse themselves in a museum laboratory with creative works from across the globe.

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07Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan Steven_Kriemadis / Getty Images

Motor City is on the mend after its urban exodus, and for vacationers, the city is coming back strong. Home to a large population of gay and lesbian residents, especially in the Ferndale and Royal Oak Areas, LGBT travelers will find themselves among friends, and with cultural treasures at every corner, staying busy isn't a problem.

Downtown Detroit features iconic attractions like the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Motown Museum, historic Fort Wayne, and the Henry Ford Museum, so there's something for everyone to enjoy. Eateries range from classic pizzerias to cafes and New American hot spots, making the dining scene well worth doing.

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08Indianapolis, Indiana

Crowd at the Indianapolis state fair Photo by Matthew Miner on Unsplash

This Midwestern metropolis has been on the rise in recent years, surging in popularity among the queer community. Gay and lesbian residents are making themselves known through a vibrant nightlife scene and LGBT-friendly Mass Ave Arts District, where diverse shops and eateries abound. The scenic White River canal walk features gorgeous views, complete with Venice-style gondola rides.

Downtown neighborhoods are being redeveloped into cultural hot spots, and visitors can wander through the Indiana State Museum or the Fountain Square Cultural District. Bars, arcades, and breweries keep downtown lively, while extreme attractions like Defy Indianapolis draw in the daring with over 30,000 square feet of obstacle courses, foam pits, dodgeball, trapeze, and trampolines.

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09Salt Lake City, Utah

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Salt Lake City, United States Photo by Tory Hallenburg on Unsplash

It might come as a surprise to new visitors, but Salt Lake City has a solid population of liberal residents, along with a sizeable assortment of gay-friendly hot spots to explore.

Mormon roots aside, nearby Park City hosts the gay-friendly Sundance Film Festival every year, drawing in audiences from around the globe. While queer bars and nightclubs aren't numerous, rowdy favorites draw crowds every weekend with a friendly ambiance, pulsing tunes, and unbeatable energy. Many nightlife destinations are within walking distance from each other, with the scene being remarkably friendly and close-knit.

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10Fort Worth, Texas

Night Street in Fort Worth ,Dallas ,Texas

A more affordable option than neighboring Dallas, fast-growing Fort Worth features a lively social scene filled with gay-friendly bars and clubs, and its cultural attractions are second-to-none.

Arts lovers will be in their element with attractions like the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the Kimbell Art Museum, which highlights Asian and European exhibits.

From high-end restaurants to the honky-tonk district, there's ample space to get rowdy, with gay-friendly stops focused around the vibrant Magnolia Strip. Popular among lesbian visitors, the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame is a don't-miss destination honoring women of the west.

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