Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Cool Blue Islands in Seas of Red: Contrary to Popular Myth, Many Red States Harbor Bright Blue Spots of Tolerance and Acceptance for LGBT Travelers. Our Pick of 10 Gay-Friendly Oases:

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Cool Blue Islands in Seas of Red: Contrary to Popular Myth, Many Red States Harbor Bright Blue Spots of Tolerance and Acceptance for LGBT Travelers. Our Pick of 10 Gay-Friendly Oases:

Article excerpt

With the majority of gay Americans living and vacationing in relatively liberal "blue" states, it's easy to forget that even in some of the nation's deepest oceans of conservatism, you can still find numerous islands of tolerance. In fact, some of the coolest little gay and lesbian vacation spots in the country are situated in otherwise redder-than-red states such as Utah, Alaska, Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming, Virginia, and Texas. Not surprisingly, many of these idyllic retreats are educational, artistic, and political hubs--the types of communities that draw educated, tolerant, and creative individuals from the surrounding state to their refuges of progressivism.

1. ATHENS, GA.

Population: 103,000

Nearest Big City: Atlanta (70 miles)

Queer faves like R.E.M., Indigo Girls, and the B-52's have helped put this erudite college town (home to the University of Georgia) on the music map, and bustling Athens is a growing gay destination. According to the most recent census, the surrounding Atlanta metro area ranks among the top 25 U.S. population centers by percentage of LGBT households. Be sure to check out Boneshakers, one of the coolest little gay clubs in the South. The AthFest music and arts festival is a huge draw in late June.

2. CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.

Population: 42,000

Nearest Big City: Richmond (70 miles)

In a state that's passed some of the most gay-hostile legislation in America, it's refreshing to find a progressive, upbeat city like "C-ville," part college town (home to the University of Virginia and its regal Jeffersonian architecture) and part cultural hub--you can visit Jefferson's Monticello estate, tour a winery, and catch an outdoor opera performance all on the same day. The historic downtown pedestrian mall plays host to hip bistros and wine bars, plus a pair of lively gay nightclubs.

3. EUREKA SPRINGS, ARK,

Population: 2,500

Nearest Big City: Tulsa, Okla. (150 miles)

Yup, it's true: This tiny town in the conservative Ozarks is home to one of the biggest statues of Christ as well as a world-famous Passion play production. Yet it happens to be a hugely popular gay weekend destination for urbanites from all around the region--Little Rock, Tulsa, Kansas City, and Dallas. Strangely, everybody seems to get along just fine. Check out the dozen or so gay-owned B&Bs, a slew of offbeat art galleries, curative hot-spring spas, and acres of gorgeous hilly countryside. Just bring your own date--this isn't exactly a nightlife haven.

4. JACKSON HOLE, WYO.

Population: 8,800

Nearest Big City: Salt Lake City, Utah (300 miles)

How "blue" is Jackson Hole? It's the seat of the only county in Wyoming that John Kerry won in 2004, despite being the part-time home of Dick Cheney. But there's much, much more to love about this friendly yet chic pine-scented ski town on the edge of magnificent Grand Teton National Park (and not far from Yellowstone). Think luxe mountain resorts, stylish shops selling cowboy boots and rusticchic furniture, and some of the best outdoor recreation in the country.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

5 GALVESTON, TEXAS

Population: 57,000. Nearest Big City: Houston (50 miles)

A seaside jewel on a slim barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston has quietly but assuredly developed gay cachet as a charming weekend hideaway. Historic Victorian hotels, gay B&Bs, and a few hopping gay bars complement 32 miles of golden-sand beaches (including a popular gay section). …

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