Everything You've Ever Wondered About Nudist Communities, Answered

naked woman walking in neighborhood
Shutterstock/ Jennifer Bui/Thrillist
Shutterstock/ Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

In certain communities in the United States, you can be naked in front of your house and not get arrested. In fact, your neighbors are also naked in front of their houses. Hey look, everyone's genitals are swaying in the breeze!

These are real, possibly magical places, and we wanted to learn more about them. So we spoke to residents of nudist communities (don't call them "nudist colonies," since nudists say "colonies are for ants"), where you can go for a brisk walk in broad daylight without wearing a stitch of clothing. We also spoke to nudists about popular nudist resorts, since the communities are often located on the same grounds. Now let's answer all your questions about what it's like to live in a place where nudity is the norm.

Caliente Resorts
Courtesy of Caliente Resorts

What the hell is a nudist community?

Simply put, nudist communities are places where people live without their clothes. Some are just collections of mobile home units clustered in the same area where clothing is optional, while others are more upscale, like Caliente Resorts outside Tampa, FL, a walled-in community of upscale homes that can sell well into the 600k range. At spots like Caliente, condos, townhomes, and single-family homes operate as a homeowners association, making it very much like the gated community your grandparents retired to... just with less clothing.

So nudist communities are not nudist resorts?

Many of these fancier spots, like Caliente and Palm Springs’ Desert Sun Resort, have resorts on the premises. While living at Caliente has a higher price tag than trading your clothes in for a spot in one of the mobile home communities, residents can take advantage of the resort amenities like pools, restaurants, and organized activities, which hopefully offsets the excessive sunscreen costs that are accrued while living in Florida naked full-time.

Unsurprisingly, the resort does function as a recruitment tool for making the lifestyle switch. "[People] visit, go on nude cruises and to nude beaches, and then decide, 'This is how I want to live my life,'" says Deb Bowen, marketing director of Caliente.

Are the people who live there all swingers?

This is a common misconception, but one that’s understandable. Nudists know “that people associate them with [swinging], because the only time [regularly clothed people] are naked is when they have sex or when they're taking a bath,” explains Mark Storey, consulting editor of The Naturist Society's N Magazine.

Bowen says that "there's no correlation between nudists and swingers," but it’s worth noting that Caliente does host swinger parties on select weekends. And some of the residents do participate in the "lifestyle," as they call it. One longtime resident estimates that "about a third of residents take their partners to swingers parties." And most nudists who live there respect the swinger lifestyle, and vice versa.

Are the people who live there all super old?

This stereotype isn't a misconception. While the age makeup of nudists vacationing in a resort ranges from people in their 20s to much older, Storey says that typically the people who actually live in nudist communities are retired. "Some people still work," he says. "But these are folks who have moved from their primary residence to this other resort/live-in place, and probably their jobs aren't going to go with them."

Caliente Resorts
Courtesy of Caliente Resorts

Can you just show up to a nudist resort?

That's the idea! For the most part, they are just like any other vacation resort. The exception here is that many nudist resorts in the US do not allow single men. Caliente is an outlier in that respect, although single men are charged more money than a single woman. At all resorts, couples are always encouraged, and even a place like Caliente strives to have a good balance of genders.

What do people do in nudist communities?

The residents I spoke to all had a ton of activities they loved doing naked: getting the mail, fixing the car, watching an outdoor concert, riding a motorcycle, taking out the garbage, taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, and playing Scrabble outside under a shady oak tree.

Why would you want to be naked in your neighborhood?

Remember that time you went skinny dipping in college? And how fun that was and how good it felt, once you got over the fact that your friends were making fun of your junk? Nudists get to enjoy that feeling all the time. A Caliente resident explained it like this, "If you're sitting on a picnic bench under a shady oak tree and it's 82 degrees and there's a nice breeze blowing, it feels a lot better to have that breeze blowing across your skin than on the outside of clothes you're sweating on the inside of. The human body has this beautiful mechanism called perspiration for regulating its temperature." That should be an advertisement: "Live in a nudist community and say goodbye to pit stains forever!"

Do the nudists who live there ever leave the community?

There's certainly not a need for it. While Caliente (and most resorts in the US) don't have a standalone grocery store -- for nude grocery shopping, you have to go to the Cap d'Agde resort in France -- you can easily get groceries delivered from nearby stores. And Caliente offers courier services for its residents and guests so they never have to put on clothes and leave the grounds to run errands. And if there's a nice breeze that day, why would you want to go?

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Special thanks to Mark Haskell Smith and Rich Pasco, coordinator of the Bay Area Naturists, for their input.

Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and had clothes on while he wrote this story. Follow him to clothed Scrabble games at @LeeBreslouer.