Rainbow Nation: Six places in the US celebrating gay liberation

When riots spontaneously erupted at New York’s Stonewall Inn in the early hours of June 28, 1969, anger and frustration sparked a gay liberation movement that would transform the rights and lives of millions worldwide.

Fed up with being punished and marginalised, the gay community was galvanised into action, and the first gay pride marches took place a year later in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Now the event is replicated every year across the globe, with parties, marches and celebrations. Marking the 50th anniversary of the uprising, New York will host this year’s WorldPride on June 28, but it’s not the only US city to champion sexual freedom.

Here are six more progressive American destinations where you’re more likely to see flagpoles hoisted with rainbows than stars and stripes.

1. Bisbee, Arizona

The Grand Canyon state is also a grand destination for LGBQT travellers – with gay rodeos, LGBT bars and a well established arts scene. The former mining town looks like a set from a Wild West movie, but it’s actually one of the most forward-thinking, progressive areas of the state, proudly flying a rainbow flag. (There’s even a rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing.) The town hosts its own Pride every June and was the first municipality in Arizona to pass a Civil Union Ordinance before Marriage Equality became legal. Go to visitarizona.com.

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Crowned the LGBT Destination of the Year by Gay Travel Awards in 2016, Las Vegas hosts a wide variety of LGBT-driven entertainment, dining, nightlife and special events. As part of Las Vegas Pride weekend, there’s a Pride Night Parade in Downtown Las Vegas as well as a LGBT Wedding Expo. Sip and savour the Rainbows Reign, a speciality LGBT cocktail served exclusively at Chandelier Bar inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Party-goers won’t want to miss late night location Piranha Nightclub, and Bastille – the oldest gay bar in town. Visit visitlasvegas.com.

3. Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Located just 30 miles north of Miami, Greater Fort Lauderdale played a key role in the history of LGBT civil rights in the USA, and is home to one of the country’s largest LGBT communities. In 2020, the “land of flamingos” will host the first ever Pride of the Americas Celebration from April 17-26, with up to 300,000 expected to attend. The annual Wilton Manor Stonewall Parade and Festival takes place each June to remember and celebrate those who fought for their rights during the Stonewall riots in 1969, and the city even has a Stonewall National Museum and Archives, dedicated to LGBT history and arts and culture. Visit sunny.org.

4. Seattle, Washington

Seattle may have helped grow tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon, but it has a warm and arty side and a thriving LGBT scene. There are two annual Pride festivals: The two-day PrideFest (June 23-24), which includes the Seattle Pride Parade, and the Volunteer Park Pride on June 9, featuring food trucks, concerts and a craft bazaar. East of downtown is Capitol Hill, the city’s gay epicentre, where crosswalks are painted in rainbow colours, flags hang from buildings and queues snake around the block for popular gay hangouts, Neighbours Nightclub and Re-bar. The city is also home to the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus – the largest LGBTQ-identified men’s and women’s choruses in the world. Go to visitseattle.org.

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is one of the most LGBT-friendly destinations in the Caribbean. The salsa-loving capital San Juan has a 500-year-old centre, flanked by golden beaches, modern condos and mega-shopping centres. LGBT visitors should head to the Condado neighbourhood: At Oceano, there are three bars ranging from rooftop to chilled-out lounge, while Circo has karaoke and drag shows during the week. The biggest event of the year is Pride Puerto Rico, taking place in June. Visit discoverpuertorico.com.

6. Nashville, Tennessee

This year, Nineties girl band TLC will headline Nashville’s Pride festival on June 22, but the Music City is a year-round destination for LGBT travellers, with bars clustered around Church Street. Other nightlife options range from the Lipstick Lounge – which pulls in crowds with its famous trivia nights, darts sessions, dancing and drag nights – and Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, an Asian bar-restaurant in midtown that’s famous for its Drag’n’Brunch. Food lovers should visit in November, when the city’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce holds TASTE Nashville, a party showcasing the signature dishes of the city’s best chefs, with a side of drinks and dancing. Visit visitmusiccity.com.

For more information, go to visittheusa.com.

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