City Guide

Top 10 Gay-Friendly Cities in the U.S. in 2024

By Landing | May 29, 2024
Supporting hands make heart sign and wave in front of a rainbow flag flying on the sidelines of a summer gay pride parade

When finding a place to live, it’s important to go where you can comfortably be yourself. Here are the 10 most gay-friendly cities in the U.S.

You’re here, you’re Queer, and you’re looking for a new city to call home.

Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. For the LGBTQ+ community, belonging means more than being tolerated by your new neighbors. A gay-friendly city celebrates individuality with bustling Queer culture and welcoming networks that encourage you to be you. And finding people who can point you in the direction of the best drag brunch in town is a plus.

If you’re looking for a city that supports your authentic self, here are the top 10 gay-friendly cities in the U.S.

What Makes a City Gay-Friendly?

A well-known gayborhood, an annual Pride parade, and rainbow flags flapping in the wind are all signs of a gay-friendly city. But some spots, like San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale, have deep Queer roots and established reputations of activism. Their long histories of LGBTQ+ advocacy, famous gay residents, and supportive allies make them popular forever homes for the gay community. 

When exploring lesser-known LGBTQ+-friendly cities, getting nerdy with data is a helpful approach. The U.S. Census doesn’t directly ask questions about sexual orientation, so it’s better to go straight to the source. LGBTQ+ organizations, like the Equality Index or Movement Advancement Project (MAP), measure policies that impact gay people in different states. 

Measuring the efficacy of political policies — rather than the size of the gay community — is also a helpful way to determine the safest places for LGBTQ+ to live in the U.S. For example, although Minnesota has a smaller gay population than Texas, it ranks higher for equitable laws that support LGBTQ+ rights. And that makes it a better choice for some.

If you’re narrowing your search down to different cities, you can also look through apps that point you toward gay businesses. Everywhere Is Queer shows a map of Queer-owned establishments in cities and gayborhoods, and a high density likely means a gay-friendly environment. Queering the Map also offers a peek into the LGBTQ+ experience in different places.

The below list of the best LGBTQ+ places to live considers a mixture of long-standing gay history and an abundance of Queer-owned businesses and community centers, recreation, and pride events.

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10 Best Places To Live for LGBTQ+ Community Members

A history of gay activism. Queer community centers. The country’s best gay bars and clubs. These cities have them all.

1. San Francisco, CA

It’s not hyperbole. San Francisco is the LGBTQ+ capital of the world. Beginning in WWII, this city began to define modern gay history when veterans settled there to avoid persecution in their hometowns. To this day, it continues to be a point of reference for inclusivity and progressive activism — a huge pro for anyone wanting to move to San Francisco.

The Castro District is the historic center of the LGBTQ+ community. But you’ll spot rainbow flags, Queer street art, and local gay icons in every corner of the city. Plus, San Francisco hosts some of the most iconic LGBTQ+ events in the world. In addition to the Pride each June, the Castro Street Fair (created by the legendary Harvey Milk) happens each October, and the Folsom Street Fair (a BIPOC and LGBTQ+ BDSM event) occurs every September.

2. New York City, NY

The riot at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and the first Pride Parade the following year was a watershed moment for the gay rights movement. But New York City was already a refuge for the LGBTQ+ community, with a long history of drag balls, gay bars and clubs, and community centers.

Similar to San Francisco, there’s no one gayborhood that centers queer life. With the largest population of LGBTQ+ people in the country, New York City is one of the gayest places, hands-down. You’ll find several long-running bars and restaurants (Pieces, Ty’s Bar, and Julius’) and the Center (a historic gay community center) in the Village. There are pros to moving to New York City no matter what neighborhood catches your eye.

3. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles hosted the world’s first permitted Pride Festival in 1970, marching straight up Hollywood Boulevard. It’s really not a shocker. As the capital of entertainment, this city has always a home to the fabulous and eccentric. 

One pro of moving to Los Angeles is you’ll find gay pride from the coast to the valley. West Hollywood is often termed the Queer capital of Southern California. Boys Town, a stretch of gay bars, restaurants, and shops on Santa Monica Boulevard, attracts locals and travelers alike. And in nearby Long Beach, there’s an LGBTQ+ center with an extensive library, a gay sports league, and the first open LGBTQ+ immigrant elected to Congress.

4. Chicago, IL

Alongside New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago has one of the longest-running pride parades, which began in 1971. It’s also home to the oldest recognized gayborhood in the country, Boystown (also known as Northalsted). Whether you’re moving to Chicago or just in town for a visit, add a Legacy Walk to your bucket list and learn about the history of one of the U.S.’s gayest cities.

5. Washington, DC

The nation’s capital doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for its place in the gay rights movement. In the mid-1960s, activists Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols picketed the White House, Pentagon, and State Department as an anti-discrimination movement against the federal government’s public outing and removal of gay employees. And due to its place in American politics, it makes sense that Washington, DC hosted several other watershed moments for gay rights, including the Millennium March on Washington and the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Washington DC’s queer life is centered in the gayborhoods of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle. Along with its many gay bars and clubs, the city also hosts the 17th Street High Heel Race, a pre-Halloween tradition, and Mid-Atlantic Leather, which invites leather daddies to compete for the title of Mr. Leather. In other words, moving to Washington DC is never boring.

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6. Miami, FL

Miami scores a solid 100 on the Human Rights Center’s Equality Index. That’s impressive considering Florida’s long track record of discriminatory legislation, including anti-transgender policies, religious exemption laws, and “Don’t Say Gay” restrictions in schools.

Despite the ongoing struggle to fight against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, Miami has one of the most colorful Queer communities in the country. Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Wilton Manors stand out as safe spaces. And in true Miami fashion, much of the culture revolves around gay clubs and the beach, including the 12th Street Beach and Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar. But it’s not all sunbathing and parties — the Stonewall National Museum Archives & Library in Fort Lauderdale.

7. Atlanta, GA

The Big Peach dukes it out with other cities like New Orleans, Louisville, and Virginia Beach for the title of gayest city in the South. But Atlanta stands out for hosting the largest Black gay pride festival in the U.S. Every Labor Day weekend, an estimated 135,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community travel to the event. 

Outside of Pride, you can experience Atlanta’s Queer life in Midtown starting at 10th and Piedmont. A rainbow crosswalk lets you know you’re in the right place. Atlanta’s top gayborhood also happens to be the city’s Arts District, with plenty of businesses, museums, and shops that integrate its diverse populations.

8. Portland, OR

Once a blue-collar logging town, waves of hippies, progressives, and alternative folks gave Portland a flavor of its own. Over time, the Northwestern city cultivated a Queer spirit that quietly paved the way for gay culture — always in its unique Portland way. 

Director Gus Van Sant filmed a landmark movie of the gay canon, “My Own Private Idaho,” around the city. And the drag club Darcelle XV is the oldest continuously running drag club on the West Coast, predating the Stonewall riots and the popularity of drag in a post-Rupaul world. If you move to Portland, you’ll definitely find your people.

9. New Orleans, LA

The Big Easy doesn’t have a perfect score on the Human Rights Watch Equity Index, coming in at 93. But although there’s still work to be done on anti-discrimination legislation, New Orleans advertises itself as a welcoming, gay-friendly city. So, if you’re looking for a mix of gay and Deep South culture, it’s a big party where everyone’s invited. 

Like the rest of its tourism and nightlife, gay New Orleans revolves around the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. You’ll find plenty of gay bars scattered around the area, including Oz, Good Friends, and Bourbon Pub Parade.

10. San Diego, CA

San Diego overflows with gay bars and clubs, queer-owned and allied businesses, and even a gay-friendly nude beach called Black Beach. You’ll spot colorful umbrellas and lively groups from the LGBTQ+ community getting comfortable in their own skin — literally. If you prefer clothing-obligated activities, Hillcrest is San Diego’s official gayborhood. It houses popular hangouts, like Gossip Grill, a lesbian-owned bar and restaurant that welcomes the entire community.

Visit All These Cities with Landing

No two cities are alike. And neither are any two gay communities. So why pick just one? With Landing, you don’t have to. The platform has fully furnished apartments with flexible leases in the top gay cities in the U.S. Become a Landing member today and find the city where you feel like your authentic self.