5 Hot LGBTQIA+ Destinations to Escape to This Holiday Season

Our favorite queer-friendly places where you can do the holidays on your own terms.

Maui, Hawaii | Shutterstock
Maui, Hawaii | Shutterstock

While stores have you thinking about holiday gifts, we’ve been thinking about vacay. Why play a game of insult roulette with family when you can play actual roulette and see Katy Perry or a Whitney Houston hologram in Vegas? Or, instead of a 10-hour drive in the snow, you can use your time off to enjoy LGBTQIA-friendly skiing on the epic slopes of Vermont. Even better, ditch your winter coat for your sexiest swimsuit in Miami or Hawaii. Whether you like your holidays hot or cold, here are some of the best destinations to start a new tradition of escaping to.

Go island-hopping and clothing-optional in Hawaii

If you want to truly escape it all, follow the rainbows to the Aloha State and experience one of the most LGBTQIA-welcoming destinations in the United States. Stay in Maui for picture-perfect beaches like Kaanapali Beach and Makena 'Big' Beach, whale watching and snorkeling tours, and sunrise bike tours through Haleakala National Park. Don’t miss a breathtaking drive on the road to Hana for waterfalls, rainforests, and black and red sand beaches. For the best queer bars and clubs, head to the famed Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. Start at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand for waterfront Mai Tais and take a ride on Hula's Catamaran for the “wettest, wildest, half-naked ride.” Then strike up a convo with friendly locals and play trivia at Bacchus Waikiki or belt out a power ballad or two at Wang Chung’s Karaoke. Stay in a clothing-optional private cottage close to the action or at queer-friendly beach resorts like The Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider. Save some energy to ride the waves of Queens Beach (napping on the sand is okay, too), hike Diamond Head, and visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Over on the Big Island, hike through lava tubes and look for eruptions at Volcanoes National Park, try some of the world’s best coffee at Hula Daddy, and surf and paddleboard with Kona Boys. Then, relax and unwind at queer-owned inns like Isle of You Naturally, Horizon Guest House, Ka’awa Loa Plantation, Kane Plantation, or Aloha Guest House.

Soak up Southern hospitality in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Even the streets aren’t straight in the “Gay Capital of the Ozarks,” where queer life is served with Southern hospitality (and a seven-story statue of Jesus). Here, over 30 percent of residents identify as LGBTQIA+. Get a taste of the town's famous water on the Eureka Springs Natural Springs Trail or bathe in them at the Palace Bathhouse. Then get to know the lovably crooked streets with easy DIY walking tours. Saunter and take selfies on the Rainbow Steps, gaze at grand historic Victorian houses, and stop along the 3.5-mile trek to support queer-owned and welcoming businesses like Nibbles Eatery (named “Best Coffeeshop in Arkansas” by USA Today), Sugar & Spite & Everything Tight, and Earthbound Trading Company. Or go below the surface and learn about Eureka Springs’ colorful (and sometimes dark) history. Take an Underground Walking Tour or ghost tour at the famously haunted Crescent Hotel, where you can also spend the night and channel your inner Ghostbuster. If you prefer chill rather than chilling, check out Magnetic Valley Resort, which is clothing-optional and caters to gay, bi-sexual, and straight men. Stay at the queer-owned Bridgeford House with four-poster beds and antique furnishings or the lesbian-owned Pond Mountain Lodge & Resort where you can enjoy secluded cabins, wine by a fire, or a soak in your private hot tub built for two. Once you’re relaxed, hit the town again for cocktails and live music at Missy’s White Rabbit Lounge, order fried pickle chips and wings at the Rowdy Beaver Den, and hit up the dancing and drag shows at Eureka Live.

Ski the best slopes and chill by the fire in Stowe, Vermont

With its snow-covered mountains, world-renowned skiing, and plenty of bars and inns to get cozy by a roaring fire, Stowe is an East Coast winter done right. Strap on your ski boots and a toasty pair of gloves, then head to Spruce Peak to find slopes for all levels, including four double-black-diamond runs. If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, opt for ice skating, snowboarding, and dog sledding. Or enjoy nature (and some alone time) on miles of cross-country trails. After a day of working those muscles, take a soothing dip in the heated pool and hot tub or get a Stone Cider Uber Scrub at the resort's spa. Book a room at the Lodge at Spruce Peak for yoga and forest bathing, and a meal at the WhistlePig Pavilion, serving barbecue classics like pulled pork and mac 'n cheese. Or get a taste of Austria and relive your favorite moments from The Sound of Music at the Trapp Family Lodge, complete with a bierhall and family history tours. For something a bit more low key, try queer-friendly inns like Timberholm Inn, Brass Lantern Inn, or Stone Hill Inn. For food and drinks in the area, grab a maple latte at Black Cap Coffee & Beer, the freshest Green Mountain grub at Hen of the Wood (think mushroom toast and braised rabbit), sample some freshly made Chunky Monkey on a Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour, and take a DIY brewery tour to try some of the country’s best beer and cider. If you can’t get to Stowe for the holidays, or you love it so much you want to go back, visit in January for Winter Rendezvous, an LGBTQIA+ pride festival featuring five days of skiing, a performance by the hilariously brilliant Dina Martina, drag bingo, cocktails by a bonfire, and dance parties.

Hit the hottest winter spot in Miami, Florida

Miami is literally the hottest place in America in December and January, so grab your sexiest swimsuit and head to South Beach. Hotel Gaythering is where the boys are, and you can enjoy the onsite sauna and theme nights like Boozie Bingo Thursday and Bears and Hares Friday. Or stay at the all-welcoming Axel Beach Hotel, an Art Deco throwback with a bohemian vibe, rooftop bar, and inviting pool and hot tub. Both are super close to 12th Street Beach, the queerest patch of sand in Miami. Spread your towel under the swaying pride flags, check out the hotties, and go for a swim in the turquoise water. After fun in the sun, cool off with a refreshing cocktail at TwistNathan’s, or The Palace, where you can eat a “quesadiva” and see one of Florida’s best drag shows. For a different beach experience, ditch your bathing suit and go au naturel at Haulover Park, where the north section is popular with LGBTQIA+ locals. If you're not a beach-all-day person, get a taste of Italy at The Venetian Pool, an Insta-worthy swimming spot with waterfalls, grottos, and plenty of palm trees to chill under. Of course, there’s more to Miami than just beaches and pools. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the city's famed architecture with an Art Deco walking tour (with or without cocktails), or get your culture fix at cool museums like The Wolfsonian, Rubell Museum, Superblueand Pérez Art Museum. If you're seeking adventure, search for alligators in Everglades National Park. When you get hungry, try a mouth-watering Cuban sandwich or ropa vieja at Versailles or a Honduran Antojito at Típico Centroamericano Café.

Gamble on a great time in Las Vegas, Nevada

Spending the holidays in Sin City stacks the odds in your favor to have a great time. Mega hotels like Luxor, Wynn, Mandalay Bay, and Caesars Palace are super LGBTQIA-friendly, plus the Bellagio Water Show and gondola rides at The Venetian never disappoint. If you’re looking for something different, rank it up at the Pinball Hall of Fame, take selfies under the lights of the Neon Museum, or relive the Roaring '20s at an underground speakeasy in the Mob Museum. For the best live shows, sashay over to RuPaul’s Drag Race Live and watch superstar show queens like Asia O’Hara and Kameron Michaels werk it for you. We also strongly suggest going for belly laughs at Absinthe, and giving yourself the present of Katy Perry, Usher, and a hologram of Whitney Houston. Save some energy for the LGBTQIA+ bars of the Vegas Fruit Loop like Fun Hog Ranch, The Phoenix Bar and Lounge, Badlands Saloon, Freezone, and The Las Vegas Lounge (Nevada’s only trans bar). After you’ve had all this fun, get some fresh air away from the Strip with a hike at Red Rock Canyon or a cruise on Lake Mead.

Orbitz believes everyone should be able to travel freely, no matter who you are, who you love, or where you’re going. Discover LGBTQIA-welcoming hotels, plan queer-friendly trips, and get inspired to vacation. You’ll feel welcomed whenever you book with Orbitz. Travel As You Are.
Mark Jason Williams writes essays and travel articles and is working on a travel guidebook for LGBTQ couples. He can be found at www.markjasonwilliams.com.