5 LGBTQIA-Friendly Destinations to Hit up in the New Year

Whether you want to relax in the sun or get out and explore, our list will start you off right.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado | Jonathan Tung Photography/Shutterstock
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado | Jonathan Tung Photography/Shutterstock

Sometimes, it's party vibes you crave and other times, it's quieter transitions. But the first months of the New Year — no matter where you spend them — is the time to do what brings you joy. From chilling in our favorite California small town to sipping craft brews in Colorado, we’re here to help you start 2022 in style at one of these LGBTQIA-friendly locales.

Find a favorite brew in Boulder, Colorado

Named one of Advocate’s 10 queerest cities in the country and one of Nat Geo’s happiest cities in the USBoulder has it all. A leader in same-sex rights, Boulder was the first county in Colorado to issue a same-sex marriage license (in 1975). Just about 30 miles from from Denver, it sits against the majestic red sandstone backdrop of The Flatirons. Hike or picnic to see them up close or find them on business logos and artwork all over town. If you travel for good brew, you’re in luck, as Boulder has one of the highest concentrations of breweries per capita in the entire country. Brewery-hop as you check out the street art dotted around town, thanks to a mural festival a few years back. Stay at The Nest B&B, a lesbian-owned private cottage with rave reviews that's only a short walk to hiking and restaurants. For a larger property, Hotel Boulderado will wow you with historic charm, a perfect downtown location, and Victorian-inspired rooms.

For even more brews, enjoy daily happy hour at The Corner Bar, the perfect place to people-watch or kick off your evening party. Take a ride to Gold Spot Brewing Company in Denver, which is queer-owned and known for its unique ingredients such as Guanabana and Sudachi lime. While you’re there, head to the The X Bar for drag brunch or queer comedy. If watching the game is more your thing, visit Tight End, a gay sports bar with a full weekly schedule. For one of the only lesbian bars left in the country, visit Blush & Blu for spirits, coffee, and community.

If all that fun requires you to nurse a hangover, head back to Boulder and hit up the decadent Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, with hand-carved ceilings and hand-painted tables by more than 40 artisans in several cities of Tajikistan. Before you go home, consider hitting the slopes at Eldora Mountain Resort (20 miles north of Boulder) or visit Colorado Springs’ stunning Garden of the Gods, a registered National Historic Site 90 minutes from Boulder, where you can gaze up at huge red rock formations, go climbing, take a Jeep tour, or rent an electric bike to explore.

Tipple & Ramble | Sune Goldsteen

Prioritize relaxation in Ojai, California

Located just 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, the quaint town of Ojai is so LGBTQIA-friendly that its residents say “everyone is just out, everywhere.” You'll feel like you’re living in a boho-chic magazine in this Shangri-La of chill energy, great food, and gathering places. While the Ojai Valley Inn is grand, try the smaller Emerald Iguana Inn, which has a totally exotic feel and is walkable to town. For cheese and wine plus one of the most Instagram-worthy hangouts we know, head to Tipple & Ramble, a female-owned business where everyone feels at home in the impressive yard filled with lounge chairs, hammocks, string lights, and retro furniture. In the morning, grab coffee downtown and meander through the queer-owed Porch Gallery, located in a historic building with works by emerging and contemporary artists (make sure to visit their nearby Beato Chocolates, which creates bite-sized sculptures from iconic Ojai artist Beatrice Wood's pottery molds).

In the tiny neighboring area of Meiners Oaks (only minutes away), browse Farmer and the Cook for organic fare like wood-fired pizza, vegan soup, and a date shake you’ll be talking about for months. For stunning views of the valley and to watch Ojai’s famous pink sunsets, check out Meditation Mount (make sure to pre-register). For some of the best authentic Mexican food in Southern California, hit up The Tortilla House, which closes shop when they sell out — so get there early. Once you’re fueled up, drive out into the valley and take the short 1-mile hike to Rose Valley Falls, great for most fitness levels. If you prefer water to land, visit nearby Lake Casitas for boat rentals and fishing.

After a long day, treat yourself to some style at Bohème Salon, a boutique studio offering gender-neutral cuts. Then have dinner at family-owned Boccali’s Pizza and Pasta with idyllic views of wine vineyards and a famous strawberry shortcake that won’t disappoint. No trip to Ojai is complete without perusing Bart’s Books, the world's largest outdoor bookstore, which was founded in 1964. Bart’s carries mostly used books, including many queer titles and books on gender and sexuality.

Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel | David Mitchell Photography

Experience New York City like the locals do

New York City done right is NYC done like a local, which means hitting the streets and doing what New Yorkers do best: walk. Join Christopher Street Tours for walking tours that start in The Village and hit all the city’s important historic LGBTQIA+ sites, or try the Drag History Tour for something different. While you’re there, visit BGSQD, a volunteer-staffed queer cultural center and bookstore inside the LGBTQ Community Center. Don’t miss Marie’s Crisis Café, an iconic gay piano bar with history dating back to the 1850s when it was used as a den for prostitution (it's now solely used for drinking and belting out show tunes). For a curation of the city’s best eats all in one place, head across the Brooklyn Bridge to Time Out Market, where no one has to agree on dinner. Then, take in a Broadway show like SIX, whose playwrights, students from Cambridge, set out to address the lack of gender diversity in theater and re-imagined the lives of Henry the VIII’s six wives into a high energy performance you won’t forget.

Instead of falling into the tourist trap of staying in Times Square, spend the night at the Marriott Bonvoy's Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel. With Marriott Bonvoy's Power of Travel initiative, the brand is declaring travel an antidote to biases and narrow minds — which feels like just the hopeful New Year mantra we can all celebrate. The hotel’s perfect central location sits in one of Manhattan’s quintessential gay neighborhoods. Just down the street from the famous Chelsea Flea — host to over 50 vintage and antiques vendors — this brand-new hotel evokes a secret garden (because of its proximity to the flower district) with its dark hallways covered in ivy wallpaper, eclectic furnishings, and swinging hammock chairs in the lobby. And while we’re not usually huge fans of hotel restaurants, the understated Cotto has surprisingly thoughtful dishes and one of the best steaks you can get in the city without needing a reservation weeks in advance. For an epic party vibe, make a reservation to go up to Somewhere Nowhere, a hidden rooftop bar and nightclub on the top floor of the hotel, with mind-blowing panoramic views of Manhattan’s skyline.

For more of why to love NYC, go to Central Park (stay above the 80s for a more authentic experience). While you’re there, visit the Museum of the City of New York's eye-opening exhibit on activism, including LGBTQIA+ rights. For a truly unforgettable experience, discover American Legion Post 398, a basement speakeasy in Harlem where you can order a life-changing fish fry and listen to heart-pounding jazz. As a final hurrah, book a slot at the luxurious and LGBTQIA-welcoming AIRE Ancient Baths in Tribeca. Change in their private restrooms for privacy, then dip or relax in different pools located in their stunning candle-lit basement spa.

Mystic, Connecticut | Amy Scher

Celebrate with seafood and waterfalls in Connecticut

While upstate New York often gets all the press, Connecticut is our hidden gem. It’s one of the most LGBTQIA-friendly states in the US, thanks to its early adoption of equal rights legislation. From its sparkling sea to rolling hills, you can do it all here. On the coastline in Mystic, get a slice for lunch at Mystic Pizza, made famous by the 1980s movie of the same name. Then, book dinner at S&P Oyster with its waterfront views, outdoor fire pit tables, and fresh seafood like linguini & clams, seafood paella, and of course, oysters galore. While you’re downtown, get lost in the shelves of Bank Square Books, which has an impressive selection of queer titles. Stay at the Mermaid Inn of Mystic, an enchanting lesbian-owned B&B of 20 years. In the morning, run (don’t walk or they’ll sell out) to Deviant Donuts with choices for vegans and gluten-sensitive peeps, too. Then, head to Beer’d Brewing Company for their taproom, beer garden, and brews like Hobbit Juice (an exclusive), Connecticut Casual, and 8 Days a Week with a dash of graham cracker character.

When you’ve had your fill, pack up and head north through the fairytale town of Kent. Stop at 109 Cheese & Wine for vintage rosé and a charcuterie board before heading to the cascading Kent Falls, where you can walk through the charming covered bridge on an accessible paved path to get up close. Continue further north to Salisbury — where Litchfield County meets the Berkshires — to the queer-welcoming White Hart Inn, established in 1806, whose taproom and dining experience are so memorable that New Yorkers flock here for the food alone. Just a half a mile off the Appalachian trail, the Inn’s motto is "kindness to strangers," felt from the minute you walk in the door. Add that to the town’s Gilmore Girls vibe and you have the perfect base for new adventures. Grab a drink at the bar, where Ryan will make you a killer cocktail. He’s known for his creative mixes, but we can attest to him doing the classics right, too.

After a good night’s sleep, grab food to go at Provisions next door, along with the best brownie you'll ever have. Then take your eats to the public beach and stunning lake at Town Grove. For more nature, go 30 minutes farther north and cross over to Massachusetts for a mild to moderate hike up to Bish Bash Falls, the highest waterfall in the state. Or stay closer and take the quick trip to Falls Village, where you’ll feel transported back to the 1800s. When you get there, park at the dam and watch the waterfall’s show from a sturdy viewing platform.

Luckenback, Texas | Amy Scher

Explore Austin (and beyond) to Hill Country, Texas

While the LGBTQIA-friendly mecca of Austin makes many "best of" lists for good reason, the Texas Hill Country, less than 50 miles west, has our hearts as well. Start in Austin, with its perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, and stay at Austin Marriott Downtown, a chic urban retreat with tropical rooftop bar and pool. Not only does it have breathtaking city views, but it's only a few blocks to queer dance bars Rain on 4th, Olican Harry’s, and The Iron Bear. Still within walking distance, you’ll find Cheer Up Charlie’s, a lesbian-owned vegan bar and music venue with a packed events calendar.

For classically Austin eats, go straight to lesbian-owned la Barbecue, with recipes all their own and grass-fed meat from a local ranch. Or, go food truck hopping and taste it all in one place. While in town, stop by Book Woman, one of our favorite queer bookstores. And finally, soak up all the outdoor offerings of this city: South Congress for a fun neighborhood with great views of Texas, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery for inspirational graffiti art, a walk around Lady Bird Lake, a hike or bike on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and Congress Avenue Bridge for sunset views and its famous Mexican Free-Tailed Bat colony (you’ll have to come back spring through fall for that; and yes, we are talking about real bats).

When you’ve had your fill of Austin, head to Hill Country for more barbecue, unforgettable music, and vineyards for miles. One of America's fastest-growing wine regions, the area is made up of over a dozen small towns with over 100 wineries and tasting rooms. In the tiny hamlet of Luckenbach, a country music mecca with only 13 residents, you’ll find an outdoor stage, dance hall, and general store (now turned gift shop). Brought to its fame by a song from Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Luckenbach lives up to the hype with stiff drinks and music that makes you want to dance all night.

In Wimberley, a queer-popular Hill Country town, stay at the lesbian-owned Abundance Retreat, then grab some grub at Leaning Pear, the official brunch spot for Wimberley Pride that sits atop a natural bluff. When you’re ready to get out and explore, take to the trails by Jacob’s Well Natural Area, known in part for its underwater cave. To sample another fun town, hit up Fredericksburg and stay at the Swiss-inspired Barons CreekSide on 26 tree-covered acres, studded with log cabins and popular for LGBTQ weddings. For authentic Tex-Mex, venture to Hilda’s Tortillas or Hilltop Café, a restaurant converted from a gas station with lively music on the weekends.

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Amy B. Scher is a bestselling author of four books and an editor at Thrillist. She lives in NYC with her beautiful wife and bad cat, where she's always planning her next meal and her next trip. Amy can be found at www.amybscher.com and on IG @amybscher.