The Ultimate LGBTQ Vacation Spots That Aren’t Provincetown, Massachusetts

I’ve always said that getting to the Pines, on New York’s Fire Island, requires a bit of a secret handshake: you take the train to the bus to catch the ferry from Sayville — and you better have $11, cash, for the boat.

That quirkiness is, to me, one thing that makes the island so special. You’ve got to be in the know. For generations, the gay community has been sharing insider tips to direct rookies to our sanctuaries. 

The Dune Resort in Douglas, Michigan.

Courtesy of The Dunes Resort


In the 1940s, word spread of another such place, a gay haven on the sandy tip of Cape Cod. Within a few short years, the sleepy village now known as Ptown transformed into a vibrant, glittery refuge for drag queens, queer film auteurs, and vacationers seeking an oasis where they wouldn’t have to hide.

Since then, many more destinations have welcomed the LGBTQ community with open arms — and plenty of verve.

Russian River Valley, California.

Courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism


Russian River Valley, California

Home to a string of seven bohemian waterfront towns, this corner of western Sonoma County is often called the “Gay Riviera.” Of the bunch, Guerneville is probably the most celebrated. 

Where to Stay

The Highlands dates back to the 1920s but became an LGBTQ destination after an overhaul in 1979. Dawn Ranch is another refreshed retreat, and just made it on to T+L’s It List of the year’s best new hotels.

What’s On

Sonoma County Pride festivities run the whole month of June, while Lazy Bear Week, an annual fundraiser, starts July 29. Every May, Guerneville hosts Women’s Weekend Russian River, which organizers call “a femme-centered event.”

Local Flavor

Rainbow Cattle Co. is one of Guerneville’s most iconic bars; Stumptown Brewery is a characterful riverfront spot with plenty of outdoor seating. 

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This seaside city has been setting the standard for inclusion for decades, says Richard Gray, the tourism board’s SVP of inclusion and accessibility. In the 1990s, the destination took out ads in LGBTQ publications such as the Advocate; a decade ago, Fort Lauderdale launched a campaign to encourage transgender people to visit.

Where to Stay

The Grand Resort & Spa bills itself as the biggest men-only resort in the region, and it’s right near the popular Sebastian Street Beach. Also close by is the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, which has nautical-chic rooms and suites, all with balconies.

What’s On

FlockFest, on July 6, is a colorful beach party that draws hundreds of revelers, who bring along elaborate floats, many of them shaped like swans and flamingos. Broward Center for the Performing Arts has a packed lineup of events, including live music, theater, and comedy.

Local Flavor

Wilton Manors is the city’s most storied LGBTQ neighborhood, full of restaurants and nightlife venues; Stonewall National Museum & Archives has exhibits and hosts talks on gay history and culture.

New Hope, Pennsylvania

This Delaware River town in Bucks County has a dynamic nightlife and theater scene, and a long history of hosting LGBTQ events: New Hope’s first “drag race” was held in 1975, with people running up and down Mechanic Street in high heels. 

Where to Stay

Gay-owned Pineapple Hill Inn Bed & Breakfast is set in a colonial manor built in 1790. The Logan Inn is another historic option: its original building dates back to 1727, making it one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in the United States. River House at Odette’s is a T+L reader favorite with a piano lounge. 

What’s On

Sand Castle Winery hosts drag brunches in the summer. Fall is harvest festival time in the area — and drag race season.

Local Flavor

Karla’s is a favorite gay haunt; John & Peter’s Place has been hosting live musical acts since 1972. 

Douglas & Saugatuck, Michigan

These twin cities on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan are making waves as a freshwater version of Ptown. Saugatuck, in particular, delivers a Cape Cod vibe, with its grassy dunes and artsy flair.

Where to Stay

Douglas is home to the Dunes Resort, an intentionally inclusive retreat that has several categories of cottages and suites, plus a calendar of drag shows, live music, and theme weekends.

What’s On

Pride Month is full of activity. And the area’s Oktoberfest celebration is organized by Community Pride, MI, an LGBTQ justice group.

Local Flavor

The trek up Mount Baldhead is 302 steps — but worth it for the views of Oval Beach and Lake Michigan; Phil’s Bar & Grille is known for its potato-crusted walleye.

Provincetown, Massachusetts 

Because it’s iconic for a reason…

Where to Stay

Established in 1810, Pilgrim House is a boutique hotel in the heart of town with a roster of events that includes live piano nights. Gay-owned Gaslamp Bed & Breakfast, with its patinated maritime décor, is one street over from the galleries and clubs on Commercial Street. At the Red Inn, the second-floor Cape Light Room has great views over the harbor and Long Point Lighthouse.

What’s On

Ptown is rightly famed as an arts community, and the Summer Workshop Program at Fine Arts Work Center offers 65 courses in writing, painting, drawing, photography, and other mediums, led by writers such as Carmen Maria Machado (In the Dream House) and Melissa Febos (Body Work), as well as visual artists including Ilana Savdie, whose work is on view in the Whitney Museum of American Art. A notable fall event is Trans Week, which starts October 20.

Local Flavor

Herring Cove Beach is a short bike ride from the center of town; there’s a women’s section to the left of the parking lot.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 2024 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline “Beyond Provincetown.”

Previous Story

Why Last-minute Flights Are so Expensive — and How to Save Anyway

Next Story

Kate Middleton Makes First Public Appearance in Months

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00