The 10 Most LGBTQ-Friendly Towns and Cities in the U.S. Provide a Few Fierce Surprises
In the face of a global coronavirus pandemic, many gay pride celebrations have moved from jubilant festivals on the streets to … computer screens. But the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community still has plenty of reasons to fly those rainbow flags high.
Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a monumental ruling that gay and transgender people are protected from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Previously, there was only a patchwork of protections varying by city and state.)
That decision could lead to big changes in where LGBTQ folks choose to live, work, and buy homes in the future. Many members of the community have long preferred to live in big cities or smaller, queer-friendly meccas where they felt more accepted and safer from violence, harassment, and discrimination.
“Until [the ruling], you could be fired for being LGBT,” says Jeff Berger, founder and president of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “People were concerned about taking job opportunities in places they may not feel comfortable.”
Discrimination, and the fear of it, is one of the reasons that members of the LGBTQ community have been much less likely to become homeowners than straight people, according to NAGLREP and Freddie Mac’s 2020 LGBT Real Estate Report 2020–21. Less than half of LGBTQ adults, 49%, were homeowners, compared with almost two-thirds, 65%, of heterosexuals.
Those LGBTQ folks who do buy homes prioritize living in fun, safe communities with lots of other gay residents where they’re less likely to be harassed.
“They can have a level of comfort [in these places] because other people have charted the waters,” says Berger.
To find the gayest towns in America, the realtor.com® team of data analysts looked at five-year U.S. Census Bureau data from 2014 to 2018 to find the places with the highest percentage of same-sex couples. To make sure these cities are really LGBTQ meccas, each place had to have its own Pride celebration festival (in the pre-COVID-19 era) and/or a LGBTQ center. The list was limited to towns with at least 1,700 households with a margin of error under 105%.
While many big cities like San Francisco and New York have long been renowned for their thriving gay culture, they’re just so big that the number of same-sex couples made up a smaller percentage of their total populations. That’s why these places didn’t make our list. We also limited our list to just one destination per state to ensure geographic diversity.
So, where are these both famous and off-the-radar “gayborhoods”? And more importantly, what is the real estate like in the LGBTQ meccas?
Median home list price: $449,000*
No, it isn’t nearly as renowned as some of the other gay meccas on this list, but don’t let that fool you. Adjacent to Fort Lauderdale, the self-proclaimed “second-gayest city” in the United States (after our list’s No. 2, Provincetown, MA) boasts an epic Stonewall Street Festival and Parade, which attracted 40,000 revelers last year. Rainbow flags fly in front of dozens of LGBTQ-owned homes and businesses. And it’s just a five-minute drive from the beach.
“It’s not just the nightlife” that makes Wilton Manors a welcoming place for LGBTQ folks, says Scott Moreau, broker associate at Lokation Real Estate.
“It’s also community,” says Moreau, who frequently kayaks and barbecues with his neighbors.
While the city isn’t exactly cheap, budget buyers can score a one-bedroom condo with a pool area and clubhouse in the development for $119,900. Or folks can splurge on a three-bedroom bungalow with a tropical garden and private pool for $475,000.
Median home list price: $759,050
P-Town has been one of the nation’s premier LGBTQ destinations for generations, a shining beacon for artists, sun lovers, and partiers everywhere. Since its experimental theater days in the 1920s, the LGBTQ crowd has been migrating to the beachy tip of Cape Cod for the coastal views, epic parties, and the many unique boutiques and art galleries.
Today, rainbow flags flutter among the historic buildings along Commercial Street, the main base of themed events during normal—that is, nonpandemic—times. Popular extravaganzas include Bear Week, Womxn of Color Weekend, and the nearly 50-year-old trans celebration Fantasia Fair.
Buyers will pay dearly to live in this world-famous gay mecca. One-bedroom condos overlooking busy Commercial Street can set purchasers back $399,000—about $70,000 more than the national home list price of $330,000 in May, according to realtor.com data. Those with unlimited funds can opt for grander accommodations, like this fully renovated four-bedroom home of a former sea captain for $2,875,000.
Median home list price: $489,050
Palm Springs’ annual Dinah Shore Weekend might just be the largest lesbian event on the planet. The five-day festival each September attracts big-name performers, including Lizzo, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga, as well as thousands of LGBTQ-friendly folks.
The desert town, two hours east of Los Angeles, happens to also be a gay oasis the other 359 days a year. In 2017, voters elected an all-LGBTQ City Council, which started the following year. The city is also known as a queer-friendly retirement destination, with around half of the 55-plus community identifying as LGBTQ.
One-bedroom condos in the desert paradise start around $129,000. But those quintessential, beloved midcentury moderns cost quite a bit more. This decked-out three-bedroom with a Zen pool is listed for $685,000.
4. Sheridan, CO
Median home list price: $349,000
Gay home buyers in the Rocky Mountain region have an affordable alternative to Denver. Sheridan, a suburb about 10 minutes south of the larger city, is its own gay mecca at just a fraction of the price. (Denver’s median home list price is just north of $525,000.) It’s also home to the Transgender Center of the Rockies, which provides counseling, medical services, and social activities like game and movie nights.
Sheridan residents are still close enough to Denver’s gay bars and pride festival, which has an estimated attendance of more than a half-million people.
The only downside: There isn’t a ton of listings in the smaller town of Sheridan. Although there is this remodeled three-bedroom townhouse near the center of town for $249,000. Many LGBTQ folks settle in other welcoming hoods like nearby Glendale, CO, where a two-bedroom townhouse goes for $589,990.
“There’s a lot of areas around Denver I would say are gay-friendly,” says Jason August of Gourmet Real Estate.
5. Lewes, DE
Median home list price: $399,050
Much of this sandy community’s appeal lies in its location at the intersection of the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. While it doesn’t have its own LGBTQ center or annual festival, the quiet coastal town neighbors Rehoboth Beach, DE, which has both—along with dozens of gay bars and restaurants.
Though the whole area has become a top East Coast LGBTQ vacation destination, many folks who want to stay year-round prefer the calmer vibe, natural scenery, and better deals in Lewes.
House hunters can score this three-bedroom townhome with a pool and fitness center in the community for $394,900. Or they can live the dream and get into this six-bedroom cottage on the bay for $2,295,000.
6. Nyack, NY
Median home list price: $727,050
This funky river town in the Hudson Valley boasts good restaurants, cute mom and pop shops, and numerous art galleries and organizations. It’s also home to the Rockland County Pride Center and the annual, rainbow-filled pride weekend. And at just an hour north of New York City, this hippy oasis gives buyers a lot for their money even despite its high median price tag.
Many of the prototypical, suburban single-family houses in the middle of the town run between $500,000 and $600,000, while those on the Hudson River sell for quite a bit more.
Handy home buyers can get a three-bedroom Colonial right around the block from the pride center listed at $250,000. Members of the richest 1% can score a renovated, five-bedroom Queen Anne with gorgeous views of the mountains and river for a cool $1,900,000.
Median home list price: $569,950
The Jersey Shore town of Asbury Park is another popular beach destination for the LGBTQ population—and just about everyone else. Known for its lively music, bar, and restaurant scene, the town is also typically home to the Garden State’s annual gay pride celebration.
Just about 90 minutes from New York City, Asbury Park is hopping during the summer. But it’s also becoming more of a year-round place to live.
It offers an array of condos and townhomes, often older, subdivided Victorian homes, as well as those brightly painted homes themselves on tree-lined blocks. Buyers can get in starting around $149,900, like for this two-bedroom fixer-upper. Or they can go all in with this five-bedroom former summer residence of the Woolworth family for $1,399,000.
Median home list price: $379,050
Most folks are probably more likely to associate Indiana with its conservative former governor turned vice president, Mike Pence, than its thriving gay culture. But Bloomington, home to Indiana University, may be the exception.
The Advocate magazine ranked Bloomington as the fourth-gayest city in the country in 2010. The city also received a perfect, 100-point score on the Human Rights Commission’s Municipal Equality Index for five straight years.
The progressive small town has a rich theater and music community, an annual pride fest, and LGBTQ+ community center, and is home to the groundbreaking Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Those looking for a gay-friendly, Midwestern community can scoop up a remodeled four-bedroom townhome for just $117,000. Or they can get a historic Elm Heights four-bedroom Tudor Revival for $584,485.
Median home list price: $245,050
The great restaurants, breweries, and thriving cultural scene earned this cute river town a spot on Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the 20 Best Small Towns in America. It turns out Brattleboro, about two hours northwest of Boston, is also a low-key gay mecca in the heart of ski country.
The ultraprogressive city is home to an LGBTQ center dedicated to the rural residents of northern New England, an annual LGBTQ film festival, and frequent men’s gatherings, workshops, and retreats.
The best part may be the city’s relatively inexpensive real estate. Folks can spread out at a three-bedroom fixer-upper on 10 acres for $89,900. Or they can get a turnkey five-bedroom house on an acre lot for $249,900.
10. Atlanta, GA
Median home list price: $385,050
Atlanta is the cultural epicenter of the Southeast, a giant blue dot in a sea of red. The progressive city has such a large, active LGBTQ community that it hosts two major pride events: Atlanta Pride and Atlanta Black Pride.
The city’s reputation as the “Hollywood of the South” has attracted gay people from other nearby, more conservative towns and states.
“People want to be where other LGBTQ friends and family live,” says Tim Hur, managing broker with Point Honors and Associates Realtors. “We have a sense of family.”
The heart of the gay community, where all the best LGBTQ bars are located, is in midtown, around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue NE and 10th Street NE. There are plenty of brick ranches, recently renovated two-story abodes, and high-rise condos in the area, but none will come cheap. Classic, four-bedroom Victorians overlooking the park are going for more than $1,595,000.
The gay community is spread throughout the city. The big, fancy homes in Buckhead, including this $799,00 four-bedroom ranch, are popular as are single-family houses and condos in artsy Inman Park. This one-bedroom loft is on the market for $269,900.
* Median home list prices in each town or city as of May are from realtor.com data.