Posted: 02/21/19 | February 21st, 2019
We want to speak to a wide range of voices on this website so have added an LGBTQ column to talk about travel issues that are important to some of our community members. This month, Dani, one of our LGBT columnists, shares the top five lesbian travel destinations in 2019.
I have told you everything you need to know about traveling as a lesbian and how to plan the perfect lesbian-friendly trip, but what about lesbian-friendly destinations? What are the greatest locations for an unforgettable lesbian vacation — where you don’t have to be afraid to get weird stares or have to be careful with PDAs if you’re with your partner.
There are dozens of spots that fit the bill, some of which became more interesting at certain times: Lesbos became popular with gay women when the Sappho Women’s Festival was created in 2000, Los Angeles saw an increase in lesbian travelers when The L Word first aired in 2004, and Madrid was particularly popular with queer visitors during 2017 WorldPride.
Here are five fantastic destinations that welcome LGBTQ+ travelers and have something that makes them particularly interesting for lesbians now, no matter if you’re traveling solo or with your significant other. Read on for why I think you should hit up one of them this year:
1. New York City, USA
Why go?: New York City is not only known as one of the gay-friendliest cities in the world and the top-ranked LGBTQ destination in the US but it is where the Stonewall riots kicked off the modern gay liberation movement in 1969.
2019 marked the 50th anniversary of this significant event in LGBT culture, and to commemorate, New York City hosted WorldPride in June — the Pride of Prides, a full month of festivities, with over 50 events. It’s the first time in its 20-year history that WorldPride was held in the United States, and many celebrities joined in the festivities, including Madonna, who rang in the 50th anniversary year with a surprise performance at the historic Stonewall Inn bar on New Year’s Eve.
There are many more things that make the city attractive for lesbian tourists — from world-class art museums to stunning Broadway productions and dozens of neighborhoods to explore, New York City is always worth a visit. In the summer, you will get to enjoy free performances by the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Philharmonic in the city’s parks, free outdoor movie screenings, and weekend flea markets and food markets. Check out Matt’s 3-day NYC itinerary that covers all of the city’s famous sights and museums.
You’ll also want to check out New York’s lesbian nightlife, including the iconic Cubbyhole Bar and Henrietta Hudson in the West Village, the popular Hot Rabbit party, and a number of Pride parties exclusively for women, such as the Femme Fatale rooftop party on Sunday.
If you want to learn more about the LGBTQ+ history of New York, I recommend this informative LGBTQ History Walking Tour of Greenwich Village.
When to go: June. The biggest event, World Pride Parade, takes place the last Sunday in June.
Before you go: Check out the lesbian events calendar before you visit NYC. There are regular lesbian stand-up comedy shows, dance parties, and exquisite drag shows. Events like lesbian speed dating or a comedy show are especially great if you are traveling solo.
2. Montreal, Canada
Why go?: Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 and has been a popular destination for LGBT-travelers ever since, and while cities like Vancouver, Toronto, or Quebec are all LGBT-friendly , Montreal is known as the city with the biggest LGBT nightlife scene and is particularly lesbian-friendly (unlike most other popular LGBT destinations, which usually focus on male clientele). The favorable exchange rate of the Canadian dollar right now also means that a trip there is not too expensive.
Rue Sainte-Catherine is where most of Montreal’s gay nightlife is centered, and it’s the center of “the village,” Montreal’s gayborhood. Sadly, the infamous Le Drugstore, a lesbian bar on eight floors, closed down, but there are still plenty of amazing nightclubs. Don’t miss Complexe Sky, the biggest gay club in all of Canada, whose four floors each have different styles of music; the terrific rooftop terrace includes a pool and hot tub.
No matter if you make it to Montreal in time for Pride or not, I do recommend visiting in the summer, since the city prides itself on an abundance of outdoor activities during the warmer months. The streets are decked with outdoor seating, and you can relax on Jean Dore Beach on the shores of St Lawrence River, just minutes from downtown. Climb up to the top of Mount Royal for sweeping views over the city, marvel at the murals on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and swing by lesbian-owned industrial warehouse-meets-beer garden Bar Alexandraplatz in the up-and-coming Mile-Ex neighborhood for a cold beer.
When to go?: No dates have been released yet, but there will hopefully be another edition of the popular Slut Island Festival, a feminist-queer DIY music festival that was founded in Montreal in 2013 mainly for performers and audiences who identify as women, trans*, gender-fluid, nonbinary, or people of color. The festival usually occurs in July.
Montreal Pride 2019 happens August 8–18, 2019.
Before you go: LezSpreadTheWord, an organization that publishes the feminist LSTW magazine and created the popular queer web series Féminin/Féminin, hosts the bimonthly girls party “Où sont les femmes?” — try to plan your trip around one of their awesome parties.
3. Mallorca, Spain
Why go?: Mallorca has been a popular holiday destination with Europeans for decades, but in 2012, the Spanish island popped up on the lesbian travel map for the first time thanks to the inaugural Ella Festival in Palma, Mallorca’s capital. In August, the festival celebrates its seventh edition, and no matter if you identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, or intersex, every woman is welcome at Ella! You’ll get to enjoy beach parties, concerts, and a number of activities, from paddleboarding to beach volleyball, as well as island excursions.
While most of Mallorca’s LGBT nightlife happens in Palma, I recommend exploring the rest of the island as well. The easiest way to get around is by car, but you can also reach many beautiful beaches and little towns by bus. There are over 260 beaches in Mallorca, but make sure to visit the picturesque small bays of Cala Formentor and Cala Pi, and Cala Mesquida and Playa de Muro for wide sandy beaches. Also worth a visit: the Cap de Formentor lighthouse on the northern tip of Mallorca, and as many as you can of the charming little villages that dot the island, for example, Sóller, Fornalutx, Valledemossa, and Deià.
When to go?: The Ella Festival is August 30–September 6, 2019. Add on a week of island exploration before or after the festival.
Before you go: Check out Lesbian Mallorca, the “lesbian lifestyle directory” of the island, has a great overview of lesbian bars and lesbian-friendly and lesbian-owned restaurants, hotels, and shops.
4. Provincetown, Mass., USA
Why go?: Provincetown, often referred to as P-Town, is a small fishing town at the northern tip of Cape Cod, and it has long been a favorite with LGBT travelers. The charming little seaside destination is a fantastic vacation spot for anyone — straight or gay — with over 200 independent shops, plenty of art galleries, delicious restaurants, and great beaches, but its focus on lesbian travelers and the celebration of freedom of expression are what makes this open-minded community so attractive for girls.
Provincetown has more lesbian-owned businesses per capita than anywhere else in the US, the highest concentration of same-sex households in the US, and many LGBTQ-owned B&Bs and inns. No matter if you are solo or with your partner, there’s something for everyone: Provincetown is home to the oldest gay bar in the US, the A-House; the gayest main street in the world, Commercial Street; one of the top ten gay beaches in the world; and the East End Gallery District, offering world-class art. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, you’re likely to stumble upon one of the town’s many themed weeks or weekends (see below).
The daily tea dance (4–7pm) at the Boatslip, an expansive deck that overlooks Provincetown’s West End Harbor, is something you have to experience once — expect a packed dance floor and great people-watching. You’ll make new friends there for sure.
When to go: Try to plan your visit around one of the many women-focused events, depending which one best fits your preferences and interests: Single Women’s Weekend (May 17–19); Womxn of Color Weekend (May 30– June 2); Pride (May 31– June 3); Girl Splash (July 23–27); Family Week, the largest annual gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified families in the world (July 27–August 3); the incredible Carnival, which attracts 90,000 visitors (August 15–25); Women’s Week (October 14–20); or the weeklong transgender celebration Fantasia Fair (October 20–27).
Before you go: Since there are so many events year-round, make sure to check what’s going on in P-Town during the dates of your visit. If they happen to be during Carnival, for example, be aware that the town turns into party central. Never arrive without having accommodation booked in advance — B&Bs and hotels tend to fill up quickly.
5. Puerto Rico
Why go?: Just over a year after devastating Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with full force in September 2017, the island is bouncing back. Almost all hotels are open again, the New York Times just awarded Puerto Rico the #1 spot on its popular 52 Places To Go in 2019 list, and thanks to its status as a United States commonwealth, the legal rights of LGBT citizens (same-sex marriage has been legal since 2015) have had a great influence on Puerto Rico, which is now the gay-friendliest of all Caribbean nations. Especially for Americans, Puerto Rico is an easy getaway: there are plenty of direct flights from East Coast airports (and other US hubs), you don’t need a passport, and it’s a fantastic winter escape, with temperatures around 81° Fahrenheit (27° Celsius) in January.
Both San Juan, the capital, and Ponce, the island’s second largest city, have several gay and LGBT-friendly bars and nightclubs, and last year’s Pride Parade in San Juan attracted more than 5,000 people. Most gay bars are in San Juan’s vibrant Santurce neighborhood. Circo Bar is the most popular, and Oceano is a sophisticated, gay-owned, open-air beach bar across from Condado Beach. While there aren’t any lesbian bars per se (the last one, Cups, closed a few years ago), the go-to place for lesbians is El Cojo Bar (in the Hato Rey district), but all of Puerto Rico’s gay bars welcome women. Also worth a visit are the gay bars Tía María Liquor Store and Splash Lounge.
While San Juan is the best base during your Puerto Rican gay-cation, don’t miss out on the rest of the island. The jungles of El Yunque National Forest will wow those who are usually not into hiking, the underground caves of Río Camuy Cave Park are spectacular, and of course there are dozens of picture-perfect Caribbean beaches all over the island.
A quick ferry ride brings you to Puerto Rico’s hidden gems: the island of Vieques, which is famous for Mosquito Bay, one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world, and Culebra Island, where the turquoise waters at the stunning Playa Flamenco makes all your Caribbean beach dreams come true.
Vieques, a small dreamy island largely untouched by tourism, is especially popular with lesbian travelers. Don’t expect any LGBT nightlife there, but instead serene beaches, unspoiled nature, and even wild horses that roam freely in some parts. TripAdvisor listed Vieques as one of Top 25 Beach Destinations in the world, because the island has “more than 40 beaches and not one traffic light.” If you’re looking for a relaxing hideaway or a lesbian-friendly wedding spot—the W Resort offers same-sex ceremonies—Vieques is the place for you.
When to go: Puerto Rico is a wonderful beach destination during the winter months in the northern hemisphere. Mid-April to June, before the summer rainy season starts, is also a good time to visit — you’ll encounter less crowded beaches and fewer tourists. The gayest event of the year is Puerto Rico Pride, but the date for the 2019 edition has yet to be announced; it usually happens on Memorial Day Weekend.
Before you go: The upscale beachfront Ocean Park area of San Juan is where most LGBT travelers tend to stay. Not far from there is Condado, a pedestrian area with a gay-friendly beach (the stretch facing the gay Atlantic Beach Hotel). TripSavvy has a list of gay and gay-friendly hotels in San Juan.
Of course, these are not the only places that are worth a trip this year — there are hundreds of others worldwide. You don’t have to trek halfway around the globe to discover new amazing destinations. Why not plan a lesbian city break during Pride weekend in a city nearby? But, out of all the places I’ve visited, I’ve found these had some of my favorite welcoming and vibrant lesbian communities! They shouldn’t be missed.
What are your favorites? Leave a comment and let us know.
Dani Heinrich is the vagabonding writer and photographer behind GlobetrotterGirls.com. Originally from Germany, she has been nomadic since 2010, when she quit her corporate job and embarked on a round-the-world-trip. She has traveled through over 60 countries on four continents and has no plans to stop any time soon! You can also follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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