Despite the fact that a sea gull once pooped on me while I was relaxing on a Fire Island beach, I do understand the allure of the place, and that of other idyllic destinations like Provincetown, Mass., and Key West, Fla., which have long been known as gathering spots for gay and lesbian vacationers. Many who identify anywhere along the L.G.B.T. spectrum simply want to go somewhere that is packed with kindred spirits, to relax without having to worry about fitting in with a straight crowd — or, in some places, about the potential perils involved when you don’t fit in. But of course a lot of people who enjoy travel, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, want to continuously add new cities to their “places I’ve been” list, so I asked a few gay travel experts to suggest a lesser-known or up-and-coming L.G.B.T. hot spot that we may overlook when making travel plans. Here are some of their suggestions.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Don’t let the 67-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ intimidate you: This Bible Belt city with a population of just over 2,000 has a hard-core religious right element, but it exists alongside a flourishing gay scene. A hippie culture in the 1960s allowed gay culture to blossom, said Andrew Collins, who has written extensively about L.G.B.T. travel. There are a number of gay-owned bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and other businesses (the website gayeurekasprings.com is a good resource), but you won’t find gay bars here, Mr. Collins said. “Part of what I think informs this idea of up-and-coming gay destination is that night life isn’t part of it,” he said. “I think it’s much more about romance.”
The Florida Panhandle: South Beach is of course a major gay destination, and L.G.B.T. travelers have for many years flocked there and, more recently, to Fort Lauderdale as well, but the northwestern part of the state? “One might not instantly think of Florida’s Panhandle as gay-welcoming due to its conservative nature, but it has long been a refuge for gay Southerners looking for a beach getaway,” Desiree Sousa, the owner and editor in chief of Gay Travel Information, wrote in an email. Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola are among the places Ms. Sousa sees as up-and-coming gay-friendly destinations, “especially for L.G.B.T. families with children,” she wrote.
This post originally appeared on the Purple Roofs Gay Travel Blog.