Recently, my husband and I embarked on our house-hunting journey. We ultimately decided that we needed at least a two-bedroom house that was somewhat updated, had enough land for our dog, and close enough to a city (my husband is a city person, I am not). We found a number of houses we liked, but one we particularly loved was on an old apple orchard, about 25 minutes from a small city. We were hooked — the kitchen was gorgeous, and the land was more than we thought we’d ever get.
Then we went to look at it. Nothing was wrong with the house or the land, but we quickly realized it was the location that wasn’t going to work. It was pretty apparent from the moment we got to the town that this area was not entirely LGBTQ+ friendly. With hateful rhetoric on many of the political signs lining the street, we knew this small Maine town couldn’t be for us, as much as we loved the home itself.
This is an all too common experience for LGBTQ+ couples. Which is why I want to share with you a list of the most LGBTQ+-friendly towns in the U.S. that are not only home to many LGBTQ+-owned businesses, but that also offer a ton of resources.
And before you say anything, yes, I’ve left out the obvious one — San Francisco — in favor of some more money-friendly cities.
City Best for
Hallowell, ME Art opportunities
Austin, TX Small business owners
Pittsburgh, PA Affordability
Columbus, OH Large community
Kansas City, MO Entrepreneurs
Ogunquit, ME Theatre opportunities
Northampton, MA College students
Tucson, AZ Early retirees
Miami, FL Beach-lovers
New Orleans, LA Nightlife
- LGBTQ+ population: 2.1% of the population.
- Local resources: LGBT Justice Fund, Equality Maine, MaineTransNet.
I’ll be honest, I live right next to Hallowell and spend a significant amount of time there, but that’s exactly why I know this is one of the most inclusive towns in Maine. With a population just under 3,000, their downtown features an array of art galleries, bars (one of which hosts a drag night every month), and riverside coffee shops.
Personally, I know of a handful of businesses owned by LGBTQ+ folks in Hallowell, so this town is definitely LGBTQ+ business-friendly. And, if you’re an artist of any kind, whether that be a musician, painter, writer, etc., you’ll find work in Hallowell. From art galleries to a vibrant local music scene, there’s a little something for everyone.
Finally, if you’re looking for a relatively low-cost-of-living area, Hallowell offers both homes and rental properties that are affordable. My husband and I actually looked at a few houses in Hallowell that were well under the $200,000 range.
- LGBTQ+ population: 5.3% of the population.
- Local resources: Atticus Circle, Equality Texas, Out Youth, The Q.
Many people don’t think about Texas as being all that LGBTQ+-friendly, but Austin is actually one of the highest-rated LGBTQ+ communities in the country.
In Austin, you’ll see tons of bumper stickers and signs with the slogan “keep Austin weird” — and, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what Austin is. With an eclectic array of bars, restaurants, and galleries, you’ll find anything you can think of here.
While Austin does have a higher cost of living, the higher average salary somewhat makes up for it. Plus, Austin is growing significantly right now, so it’s perfect for small business owners.
- LGBTQ+ population: ~ 3%.
- Local resources: PGH Equality Center, Dreams of Hope.
Pittsburgh has the smallest population of LGBTQ+ folks on this list, but it is also one of the most affordable. Many houses in Pittsburgh are priced at $300,000 or less — which is very low, considering Pittsburgh is a major city.
If you’re into a funkier scene, Pittsburgh has a lot to offer. The Ace Hotel is just one example of a business that hires many LGBTQ+ folks and they host a variety of events for LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ people alike.
- LGBTQ+ population: 6.7% of the population.
- Local resources: Stonewall Columbus, Equality Ohio.
Columbus has one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations in the U.S. after San Francisco and New York, so if you’re looking for a large LGBTQ+ community with some great resources, Columbus may be the perfect fit for you.
With dozens of bars, restaurants, and retail locations owned and operated by those in the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll find a vibrant scene on the streets of Columbus.
And while Ohio doesn’t have a ton of protections for LGBTQ+ people, Columbus (along with five other cities) scored a perfect score on the equality scale that ranks livability for LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
Kansas City, MO
- LGBTQ+ population: 6.7% of the population.
- Local resources: Kansas City Passages, EQUAL, LGBTQIA Center for Inclusion, PROMO.
Like Columbus, it may come as a surprise that Missouri is home to plenty of LGBTQ+ families. While their travel page states that all bars and restaurants are open and accepting, Kansas City has plenty of gay bars as well.
And while it may not make everyone’s list of top destinations, it actually is a surprising hub for gay and lesbian travelers, making it perfect for anyone in the tourism industry.
Kansas City is growing, albeit slowly, so it’s a perfect place for young entrepreneurs to get started.
- LGBTQ+ population: Ogunquit is a very small town, so exact numbers are hard to determine.
- Local resources: Equality Maine, Ogunquit Playhouse, MaineTransNet.
I’m including another Maine town on here (not because I’m biased or anything), but because this town is known throughout Maine as one of the most supportive, gay-friendly towns. If you’re looking for a small town, Ogunquit is it! With a population of just under 900 people, you’re sure to know your neighbors.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of a theatre community, Ogunquit is the place to be. The Ogunquit Playhouse is where many of my LGBTQ+ friends have either interned or currently work at. And the Playhouse often has a number of famous actors who join in on the productions (Clay Aiken performed a couple of years back, and I’ve never seen tickets sell faster).
It is important to note that Ogunquit does have a fairly high cost of living. It’s a coastal town, so you’ll regularly see homes over the $500,000 range. But, hey, that’s the price you pay for being so close to lobster shacks.
- LGBTQ+ population: There are no exact numbers, but Northampton has one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations per capita in the U.S. according to multiple studies.
- Local resources: The Stonewall Project, LGBT Care Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Smith College.
I went to college near Northampton, and it’s well known that it’s an LGBTQ+ hub — even the crosswalks are painted rainbow! There are countless LGBTQ+-owned businesses, and Smith College is home to dozens of LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations.
In college, Northampton was often seen as a place where LGBTQ+ folks could be open about who they are in public. In fact, Northampton has one of the largest Pride celebrations in Massachusetts (besides Boston, of course).
- LGBTQ+ population: No data reported on the actual number.
- Local resources: Eon Youth, Equality Arizona, Living Out Loud AZ.
Tucson is also rated one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly cities in the U.S. It’s easy to see why — they’re home to the University of Arizona’s Institute For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, which is the first university of its kind. If you’re interested in a career in LGBTQ+ rights, you’ll feel right at home at the University of Arizona.
And while this may not be on Millennials’ and Gen Z’s minds quite yet, Tucson is one of the ultimate retirement destinations for LGBTQ+ people. So, if you’re ready to retire early, there is plenty that Tuscon has to offer.
- LGBTQ+ population: 4.5% of the population.
- Local resources: LGBT Visitor Center, Pridelines, Equality Florida, The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth.
Beach lovers will obviously thrive in Miami, but what I was pleasantly surprised to find is that Miami is not only a gay travel destination but also dubbed “America’s Gay Riviera.”
If you’re in the tourism industry or want to get into it, Miami is a must. They’re one of the only cities in the country that has a visitor center solely dedicated to LGBTQ+ travelers. The Miami Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce also claims a unique Pink Flamingo Certification for businesses, which is given to cities that guarantee a welcoming space for LGBTQ+ travelers. And like many of the cities on this list, if you’re an artist, Miami has a thriving art scene.
New Orleans, LA
- LGBTQ+ population: 5.1% of the population.
- Local resources: LGBT Community Center, BreakOUT!, SAGE New Orleans.
New Orleans also has one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations in the country, coming in at 5.1% of the population. That’s thanks to their nightlife, which offers over a dozen gay bars, and it’s many LGBTQ+-themed parades (besides their Pride parade).
If you’re looking for warm weather, a low cost of living, and you aren’t afraid of some intimidating weather, New Orleans is perfect. The French Quarter is likely where you’ll want to move to if you really want to be entrenched in the LGBTQ+ community. And if you love old houses, New Orleans is even more perfect.
How I came up with this list
I used a couple of different methods to come up with this list. First things first, I didn’t want to focus on the “usual” locations that often make these lists. Everyone knows that San Francisco and New York have thriving LGBTQ+ communities — but they also come with very high price tags. Not every city I’ve included on this list has a super low cost of living, but all of them have a much lower cost of living than New York and San Francisco.
In addition, I also used the following to create this list:
I’ve been fortunate to live in many LGBTQ+-friendly areas, so I do have personal experience with a handful of these cities.
I also have LGBTQ+ friends who live all around the country, and I took into consideration their personal experience as well.
Size of the LGBTQ+ community
I obviously wanted to take into consideration the size of the LGBTQ+ community in each of these cities, since having a supportive community is always helpful. Many of these cities rank in the top 10 of LGBTQ+-friendly cities, and they all offer a plethora of resources and support spaces for LGBTQ+ folks.
I also wanted to make sure I had a mix of large cities and small towns included on this list since not everyone enjoys big cities (I’m not a city person at all!).
Articles from reliable sources
The LGBTQ+ community has become more and more accepted throughout the U.S., but not every city is as welcoming as you may hope. That’s why I wanted to take the time to create this list of some of the best cities for LGBTQ+ folks to live, grow, and work.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. So, what I would recommend before moving to any city or town is to do a quick Google search and see if the town has a government page with LGBTQ+ resources. And if possible, hop in a car and simply drive around town — you’ll quickly be able to tell who lives in the community and get a feel on whether it’s LGBTQ-friendly enough for you.