Updated: Jun 7, 2021
It’s finally Pride month and Pride Journeys is celebrating by highlighting LGBTQ-friendly attractions across the United States. Some of these attractions you will be quite familiar with, while others are lesser known. From Pittsburgh to Oklahoma City and Mobile to Tempe, buckle up and get ready to hit the road for the gayest road trip ever!
We begin our journey on the east coast and then zigzag across the country until we reach the furthest destination, Palm Spring, California.
Binghamton, New York
LUMA was founded in 2015 by a street photographer, a film editor and an event planner. They expected a crowd of 3,000…and 30,000 came. Today, from artists to engineers to city workers and designers, LUMA represents the work of hundreds. Support comes from City of Binghamton, Broome County and the State of New York. LUMA gives artists the freedom to play and the results are incomparable. Using powerful projectors and 3D animation, they create the illusion that enormous structures are transforming as if by magic. City hall turns into a gingerbread house. The courthouse becomes Stonehenge. The light overpowers the surface, and the effect seems real. But more than just spectacle, LUMA is dedicated to the fine art of storytelling through projection mapping.
Pittsburgh is home to a thriving arts and culture scene, and visitors need to make time to explore the unique Mattress Factory, a self-proclaimed “laboratory” where they can immerse themselves in the creative visions of artists from around the world. Bursting with site-specific installations, don’t miss the late Greer Lankton’s It’s all about ME, Not You. Lankton is remembered for eloquently exploring and questioning the norms of gender and sexuality. As an added bonus, the Mattress Factory is conveniently located near The Andy Warhol Museum, which holds the largest collection of Warhol’s artworks and archival materials. Warhol, a Pittsburgh native, openly expressed his queer identity and life in art. Learn more about LGBTQIA+ travel in Pittsburgh.
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Maryland's newly federally designated Chesapeake Country All-American Road Scenic Byway is a great way to travel part of the Great Chesapeake Bay Loop. The Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway (Mid-Shore) is the perfect summer road trip, whether for solo travels or a romantic getaway, with stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay, gorgeous vineyards, ways to get out on the water and of course exquisite cuisine.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach’s three-mile concrete oceanfront boardwalk has been providing entertainment and beautiful views for decades. The boardwalk is always busy with bicyclists, diners, and beachgoers alike. It is also home to Neptune’s Park is a popular, grassy, beachfront park known for its frequent live music and fun outdoor events, as well as its large statue of the Roman god Neptune. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful Virginia Beach day. At night check out the Rainbow Cactus, a popular LGBTQ nightclub featuring DJs & dancing, karaoke, pool & live bands. It's a great spot to spend a night out dancing and having fun with old friends – and meeting new ones. Round out the weekend at Croc’s19th Street Bistro! Every Sunday the Bistro hosts the wildly popular decade-long show ‘Drag Yourself To Brunch’ featuring nationally-recognized female impersonators.
Artist Bo Bartlett is an American realist with a modernist vision. While depicted in a grand, narrative style, the stories Bartlett tells are open-ended. They celebrate the commonplace and personal. The scenes Bartlett depicts are familiar yet there’s an oddity about his works that creates psychological pause within the viewer. The Bartlett Center at Columbus State University is a dynamic, creative learning laboratory that is part gallery/museum, part experimental arts incubator, and part community center. Based on the belief that art can change lives, the Center has a two-fold mission: community outreach programs that help facilitate an inclusive environment by encouraging participation from diverse voices, and a national mission to partner with other institutions to provide innovative exhibitions that deepens our understanding of art through publications, and public programming. The Bo Bartlett Center is an 18,425 square foot interactive gallery space, housed on the River Park campus of Columbus State University.
Savannah, Georgia is a charming and romantic destination with a genuine openness for diversity and love. Known for her southern hospitality and quirky locals, here in Savannah, acceptance of all humanity is a way of life. The city has its own queer history and proudly promotes the contributions of its famous queer+ residents. One of Savannah’s most influential residents was The Lady Chablis, a transgender performer who became an unlikely celebrity for her role in the 1994 best-seller "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Lady was a headliner at Club One for decades where she performed and greeted guests with her quick wit and sassy attitude. They were made most famous by the book and now movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” whose plot revolves around the murder of a male prostitute. This murder is believed to have occurred at the Mercer-Williams House, which is now a can’t-miss museum when you visit Savannah.
onePULSE Foundation, the not-for-profit established following the June 12, 2016 tragedy to honor and preserve the legacy of those killed and to create a sanctuary of hope, has announced a list of community-wide activities being held during the Five-Year Pulse Remembrance Week, which will take place from Saturday, June 5 to Saturday, June 12. The Five-Year Pulse Remembrance Week begins on Saturday, June 5th with the 5th Annual 4.9K CommUNITY Rainbow Run, presented by Orlando Health and Hard Rock International in partnership with the UCF DeVos Sport Business Management Program. The Remembrance Week concludes with the Five-Year Pulse Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday, June 12 from 7 to 8 p.m. The observance brings together the families of those whose lives were tragically taken and provides them a space to remember their loved ones in peace. The ceremony also honors all who survived, the brave first responders and the trauma teams who sacrificed so much to save so many.
Mobile, Alabama Mobile is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community of locals and visitors alike. A melting pot of cultures, Mobile is home to a wide number of attractions, restaurants, tours and more that are fun for all. While there are many favorites in Mobile’s vibrant night life, a must visit is BBob’s. A multi-level night club in the heart of the Lo-Co (Lower Conti Street party district), BBob’s hosts one of the Gulf Coast’s best drag shows! As home of America’s Original Mardi Gras, we put an untraditional spin on the traditional with 3 LGBTQ+ Mystic Societies. Come celebrate all love in the city that was Born to Celebrate!
When you’re road tripping down South, an absolute must-see stop is Birmingham, Alabama. This Southern city is sophisticated and welcoming and is regularly noted in national publications for its exceptional dining experiences. The city is widely known as the “Dinner Table of the South,” so make plans for memorable meals. After dinner, make plans to catch a movie at the Sidewalk Cinema. This hip movie house screens art films and independent movies in the basement of a former downtown department store. Along with the cinema, the renovated Pizitz now houses an extensive food hall and bar on the first floor of the building. Sidewalk Cinema is an extension of the annual Sidewalk Film Festival that takes place in the city’s Theatre District every August. Since 2006, a major component of the event has been the SHOUT Film Festival. SHOUT showcases features, documentaries, and short films that explore issues and situations in the LGBTQ community. The festival is Alabama’s first queer film showcase and is proud to support Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community by advocating for awareness, acceptance, and appreciation of diversity. This year’s Sidewalk Film Festival will take place August 23-29. The festival footprint is Birmingham’s historic Theatre District, with screenings at the stunning Alabama Theatre, a 1920s movie palace, and at the Lyric Theatre, built in 1914 for vaudeville acts.
The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 student visits annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today's global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.
National Museum of African American Music is a 56,000-square-foot facility that encourages visitors to discover the central role African Americans have played in shaping and creating all genres of American music. From classical to country to jazz and hip hop, NMAAM integrates history and interactive technology to share the untold story of more than 50 music genres and sub-genres. It is an unparalleled institution, unconfined by record label, genre or recording artist, and tell a unique narrative through the lens of black music.
Mass Ave in Indianapolis was the city’s original cultural district, home to a number of popular businesses beloved by the LGBT community. Fan favorites include Metro, Tini and 45 Degrees while Union 50’s patio provides an ideal spot for cocktails. Silver in the City will meet your shopping needs while the brand new Bottleworks Hotel is the ideal spot to rest your head after a long day of exploring all that the Circle City has to offer.
Zoombezi Bay water park, connected to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, features 19 state-of-the-art water attractions, including an aquatic adventure area, Otter Banks; a music-themed water slide, SoundSurfer; multi-level play structure and tipping bucket, Baboon Lagoon; a wave pool; an action river; a lazy river; a kiddie play pool and more. New features in 2021 include ZOOMPASS bands to hold your place in line electronically and adults-only premium-loungers, conveniently positioned near the adults-only Croctail Creek. A number of exciting events are on the docket for this year including dive-in movie nights on Wednesdays, a Christmas in July celebration the third week of July and ZOMBIEzi Bay, bringing waves of terror to the park this fall. Admission to Zoombezi Bay includes entrance to the Columbus Zoo, now offering daily sea lion and seals shows at the new Adventure Cove area, and all proceeds from the water park support the Zoo’s operation and mission.
When you make your Midwest road trip stop in metro Detroit, set your destination to the vibrant town of Ferndale. From some of the best brunch spots, unique pop-up markets and an unbridled nightlife to bar hopping, live entertainment and more, this eclectic district has something fun for everyone! Begin your night at one of Ferndale’s most exciting lounges, SOHO. Here, you’re in the perfect place to meet old friends or make new ones. Sip one of their latest cocktail creations and prepare yourself for the most exciting time on your road trip!
Depending on your hobbies and interests, the Gilmore Car Museum is either a national or hidden treasure, but rest assured, you don’t need to be a car enthusiast or even a self-proclaimed history buff to enjoy this Southwest Michigan gem! The museum spans over 90 landscaped acres with nearly 400 automobiles on display from all different eras, making it North America’s largest auto museum! They have LGBT docents on site to help guide you through the museum’s historic exhibits. Read more with this guide of 4 Reasons to Visit the Gilmore Car Museum in 2021.
Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to 77 natural waterfalls, more falls than any other county in the state of Michigan. Be sure to check out Yellow Dog Falls, a beautiful, hidden gem where visitors pass through several small falls and rapids on the trek to the main rushing waterfall. Other highlights include Morgan Falls, Canyon Falls and Dead River Falls.
Celebrated around the world for its beautiful sweep of shoreline and backdrop of rolling dunes, Oval Beach is the main beach in town and the most happening place to soak in the sun. Its impressive pedigree of awards (Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 25 Beaches in the World, National Geographic Traveler’s Top Freshwater Beaches in the USA, and MTV’s Top 5 Beaches in the USA) is proof of its status as a summertime favorite and natural beauty spot. Easy parking, concessions, and a picnic area will keep the whole group happy until the sun goes down.
Champaign County, Illinois
Allerton Park and Retreat Center is a park and event venue and is perfect for quick visits, weddings, and everything in between! The LGBTQ+ friendly attraction is a historical treasure that was donated to the University of Illinois in 1946. The property contains 1,500 acres of woodland and prairie areas, a mansion and reflecting pond, a 10-acre meadow, formal sculpture gardens, hiking trails, a café, and several lodging facilities.
Come visit the Figge Art Museum in downtown Davenport, Iowa. This community-centered facility is a gathering place for residents and visitors alike to experience and enjoy the visual arts. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this 100,000 sq.ft. museum, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, includes: Nine permanent collection galleries, Traveling exhibition galleries, a 140-seat auditorium, and café. The Figge has a collection of approximately 3,000 works that reflect artistic styles and developments from the Renaissance to contemporary art, with particular strengths in American Regionalist, Mexican Colonial and Haitian Art.
Iowa City, Iowa
Wilson’s Orchard and Farm has grown from a cute little place to pick apples with the family in the fall to a year-round destination for foodies and weekend travelers. While picking your own apples, strawberries, or pumpkins is still a rustic highlight of the orchard, enjoying the scenery with a glass of locally made wine or cider while sitting at the acclaimed Rapid Creek Cidery restaurant will be what gets remembered. The locally sourced meats and produce are featured on the menu which is changes daily. Enjoy the patio on the bluff, overlooking the orchard as the sun sets for a truly magical experience in Iowa City.
In March 2013, the Equality House arose in the sleepy neighborhood of Westboro as a symbol of compassion, peace, and positive change. The Equality House, or “Rainbow House” as it is also called, became the headquarters for theLGBTQ+ advocacy arm of Planting Peace, a nonprofit humanitarian organization founded for the purpose of “spreading peace in a hurting world.” Painted the colors of the Pride flag, the Equality House “serves as a resource for all Planting Peace human rights initiatives and stands as a visual reminder of the organization’s commitment, as global citizens, for equality for all.”
Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence, Kansas is bustling with activity from morning to, well… morning! Mass (as the locals call it) is full of coffee shops and breakfast/brunch spots to get your morning started. Spend the day browsing our unique local shops including independent bookstores, vintage apparel retailers, and funky music and gift stores. Music fills the air in the evenings when local musicians take to the patios of local venues. Vibrant restaurants, bars, and clubs fill up with those looking to let loose from the day’s events. Don’t miss the Jazzhaus on Thursday night’s for Ms. Amanda’s Sh*t Show – a drag show done “Lawrence style”. Even after the bars close down in the early AM hours, local eateries are open for your late-night cravings.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Relax outdoors at the expansive Scissortail Park in downtown OKC this summer! The 40-acre park offers lush gardens featuring a plethora of native trees, a dog park, water features, a seasonal roller rink, pedal boats, and a concert stage where a variety of live performances take place throughout the year. This June, Greyson Chance, who was born and raised in Oklahoma City, will headline the OKC Pride Alliance Pride Fest with a free concert in Scissortail Park on June 25 in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in Oklahoma City and beyond. The inaugural downtown Pride Festival will be hosted at OKC’s downtown park June 25-27. This historic event will encompass music, film and art in a way that Oklahoma has never seen before. Elements of the festival will also be presented in a virtual format for those who aren't comfortable attending the in-person events this June. The OKC Pride Alliance’s Pride Parade will take place on Saturday, June 26, starting in Oklahoma City’s vibrant Arts District and ending back at Scissortail Park.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
If you’re looking for a unique summer road trip, look no further than Hot Springs National Park! This year Hot Springs National Park celebrates its 100th Anniversary, so it’s the perfect time to visit. Hot Springs National Park is unique in that the National Park is surrounded by a city, combining the beauty of nature with the hustle and bustle of city life. Enjoy 26 miles of scenic hiking trails located just steps away from Historic Bathhouse Row. Relax after your hike with a soak in the thermal spring waters at the Quapaw Bathhouse or wet your whistle with thermal water brewed beer at Superior Bathhouse Brewery. So whether you’re looking for a spa day, a hike in the woods or a feast fit for foodies – Hot Springs National Park has it all! For a full list of events happening for the National Park’s 100th Birthday or help planning your road trip, check out hotsprings.org.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour is a leisurely sashay through New Orleans LGBT+ history. Based on the research I’ve conducted for my books, this tour focuses on what makes New Orleans queer history distinctive, including Gay Carnival, Southern Decadence, the Up Stairs Lounge arson, and the city’s unique heritage of gay literature. Recently featured in “Prejudice and Pride,” an ABC News Documentary, the Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour has received critical acclaim from both local and national media outlets, including NPR, USA Today, Queerty, GayCities.com, and The Advocate.
This vibrant area of the historic district is a must-stroll for visitors and a popular hangout for locals. Shop in unique boutiques offering curated hand sculpted, hand painted and made with love items while sipping a cup ‘o joe at Cream & Coffee or savoring a slice of pie from Oxbow Bakery, named the South’s Best Pies by Southern Living Magazine. But you can’t stop there… the foodie and bar scene is where you’ll find scrumptious flavors from pub style dining at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse to Cajun seafood at Hambone’s. Finish the evening dancing the night away at The Shelton Gin, a bar/ night club in the original cotton gin in the heart of the historic industrial zone.
With a quick jaunt to the top of "A" Mountain, also less popularly known as Hayden Butte, in Downtown Tempe, hikers are rewarded with views of the lake, ASU and rock drawings left hundreds of years ago by ancient people. Tip from a local: This is a deceivably steep hill, so pace yourself, as needed but you’ll have a halfway point that is a great vantage point, you can also continue up the cement stairs to get true 360-degree views.
Carson City, Nevada
Once the home where Tahoe Beer was brewed, the Brewery Arts Center is now Carson City’s arts & culture haven. With a mission to enrich the quality of life by cultivating arts and culture for all, it’s a mecca for wonderful events like the free summer-long Levitt AMP Concert Series, great theater programs, interactive murals, a sound garden for kids (and adults), unique performances, art classes, hosts an art gallery on the campus and more. It’s a great place to stop on your visit to Carson City. Be sure to check their events calendar when planning your trip at visitcarsoncity.com/breweryarts, where you’ll also find more attractions and things to do in Carson City.
Palm Springs, California
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway The world’s largest rotating tram car travels over 2.5 miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting you to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and wilderness area. During this 10-minute journey, the tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley below. There are only three like this in the world. At the Tram’s Mountain Station, elevation 8,516 feet and 30 degrees cooler than the desert floor, dine, enjoy sweeping vista views, hike over 50 miles of trails, watch documentary films, or visit the natural history museum. This is the #1 attraction in Palm Springs, CA.
To book your summer road trip, visit www.Orbitz.com/pride