As jubilant pride celebrations take place across the nation, major cities are rolling out the welcome mat with rainbow flags flying proudly from streetlights. This is the big one: the 50th anniversary of the gay rights movement. But just because the largest metros may be the most visibly gay-friendly, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best places for members of the community to put down roots.
In fact, New York City, the very birthplace of the gay movement, didn’t even crack realtor.com®’s ranking of the top 10 cities for LGBTQ folks. (Extra inclusive version: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, allied.) Instead, some smaller, sometimes overlooked cities topped our list of the best places for the gay community to live and party in. Surprise!
OK, San Francisco is still No. 1. But there are ever-expanding options: places where same-sex couples are a hefty portion of the population, and local government has strong anti-discriminatory laws and policies in place. And there are often areas in these cities that have become epicenters for LGBTQ social and residential life.
Who are the people in your “gayborhood”?
These areas, once dubbed “gay ghettos,” were often originally more run-down or off-the-radar neighborhoods where it was cheap to buy a home or open a business, and where pioneers could create places where they were free to be themselves without harassment. And over time, many of these neighborhoods have become hip, sought-after enclaves with trendy restaurants, expensive boutiques, and real estate prices to match.
“The LGBTQ community will identify a town or neighborhood, will turn it into a safe haven for themselves,” says David Siroty, spokesman for the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “Then businesses and beautification will follow. Over time, the neighborhood improves and it becomes popular with everybody.
“They’re looking for a lot of the same things that anyone would look for: walkability, entertainment, and culture,” he adds. “But they’re also looking for safety and areas where they can live without discrimination.”
That’s because despite the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, only 20 states have enacted explicit protections from housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Freedom for All Americans, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group.
“Discrimination happens every day to LGBTQ people who are simply trying to go about their lives and do something as basic as invest in an apartment or a new home,” says Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans.
To come up with our ranking,* realtor.com looked at cities with at least 50,000 households, of which at least 0.5% were headed by same-sex partners, according to U.S. Census info. We looked at each city’s score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, which measures how inclusive its laws and services are for the gay community. We factored in numbers of gay bars and Meetup groups per 10,000 households, and made sure that each place on our list has an annual pride parade or festival.
So why didn’t world-famous gay meccas such as New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami make our list? Although they have high numbers of same-sex couples, they represented a smaller percentage of those huge cities’ overall populations.
So what are the most fabulously gay-friendly places to live?
Top Places for LGBTQ Folks to Live
Median home list price: $1.45 million**
The Castro in San Francisco, CA
Stefano Politi Markovina/Getty Images
San Francisco might just be the gay-friendliest city on the planet. The city’s main gay district, the Castro, has become an internationally recognized tourist hot spot, with Instagram-friendly rainbows painted on the street. Crowds line up at the Castro Theatre for drag shows, arthouse flicks, and singalongs to classics like “Grease.”
It’s the kind of neighborhood where you can find a pair of backless leather chaps, pop into a home goods boutique, and then meet up with friends for an over-priced cappuccino or glass of wine.
The Castro is filled with multistory, century-old Victorian and Edwardian homes. Most have been divided into two- and three-bedroom condos that fetch between $1.2 million and $1.8 million or more, says local real estate agent Kevin Ho of Vanguard Properties.
It’s rare for these homes in the neighborhood to come onto the market that aren’t subdivided into units. A full house typically has three to four bedrooms and two to three bathrooms. They start at $2 million and go way up from there.
“Gay neighborhoods tend to be better maintained because there’s more of an emphasis on curb appeal and aesthetics,” says Ho, who lives and works in the Castro. “It’s a really fun neighborhood that draws a lot of people from a lot of different places.”
2. Atlanta, GA
Median home list price: $408,250
Condo building on Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta is known for having one of the largest gay populations in the South, drawing folks from smaller, less welcoming communities who are excited to arrive in the “Hollywood of the South.”
The gay community revolves around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue NE and 10th Street NE in midtown, where the best bars are located, including nearby Blakes, a hopping neighborhood place that’s been around for the past 30 years. But like many gayborhoods on our list, homes here aren’t cheap.
Housing is a mix of brick ranches and two-story, older homes that have been renovated near Piedmont Park, says local real estate broker Tim Hur of Point Honors Realtors.
“You can [still] probably find a decent one-bedroom condo for $250,000,” says Hur.
This walkable neighborhood is located in a central spot in sprawling Atlanta. It’s near the Georgia Institute of Technology and Piedmont Park, where the annual pride festival is held.
“There’s a lot of things to do. There’s public transportation, plenty of restaurants, and bars,” says Hur. And in this neighborhood, “people don’t have to worry about who they are.”
Median home list price: $329,900
Homes in the Broadwater neighborhood in St. Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg’s inclusion on this list may come as a surprise—it’s definitely not Miami or Fort Lauderdale. But this vacationer and retiree paradise boasts a high percentage of same-sex couples and gay bars, and received a rare perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s index.
Last year, Mayor Rick Kriseman declared March 31 Transgender Day of Visibility. The city’s gay pride parade, Florida’s largest, culminates in fireworks over the waterfront downtown. There’s also no shortage of quaint, gay-owned bed-and-breakfasts, including one aptly named GayStPete House, for those who plan to make a weekend out of it.
St. Petersburg is one of the most affordable cities on our list for home buyers. And while there isn’t one main gayborhood, there are several go-to areas. The Grand Central District, which hosts that annual parade, is an urban village just west of downtown that’s home to art galleries, antiques stores, and an LGBTQ Welcome Center. Housing is a mix of older, one- and two-story homes and newly constructed modern-style homes and condos.
Another gay-friendly neighborhood is Broadwater, a secluded community near beaches and restaurants. It sits on the Boca Ciega Bay Aquatic Preserve. Broadwater’s three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes start in the low- to mid-$300,000s.
4. Denver, CO
Median home list price: $499,900
Members of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images
From its gay rodeo to well-known queer film festival, the Mile High City has long been known as an LGBTQ oasis in the West.
The heart of Denver’s LGBTQ set is Capitol Hill. The funky, pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly neighborhood is filled with old churches, haunted mansions (or so we hear), and plenty of condos. But unlike some other hot cities on our list (ahem, San Francisco), buyers here can still get a condo at a reasonable price—one-bedroom units start around $200,000. There are also plenty of high-rise apartment buildings, as well as more modest walk-up complexes.
The city’s trendy River North Arts District is also popular with the gay crowd. The former industrial hood is now home to Tracks Nightclub, one of the city’s most popular gay clubs, along with former warehouses and factories transformed into brewpubs, art galleries, and buzzy, new restaurants.
(Note: The baker who reused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony because it violated his religious beliefs is based nearby in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker, Jack Phillips, last June.)
5. Seattle, WA
Median home list price: $695,900
Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA
Capitol Hill is also the moniker of Seattle’s local gayborhood, a lively place with rainbow-painted crosswalks and plenty of gay-owned brunch spots, bookstores, and secondhand shops.
Living in the trendy district isn’t cheap, but there are deals to be found. Condos may be the best bet for those on a tight budget as the complexes have proliferated throughout the community, with units starting in the high-$200,000s. Standalone homes are much harder to find and begin in the $800,000s. This two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom house with a rooftop deck can be yours for $824,000.
The neighborhood is within walking distance of Wildrose, the city’s oldest lesbian bar, founded in the mid-1980s. No need to call an Uber! More intrepid partygoers may opt for The Cuff Seattle, a local leather bar.
Not interested in the bar scene? Seattle claims to be home to the world’s largest queer-identified men’s and women’s choruses in the world.
6. Portland, OR
Median home list price: $489,900
Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, OR
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Portland doesn’t have one main gay hub. And that’s just fine with many members of the local LGBTQ community. After all, this is one of the nation’s most progressive cities.
Hot spots include the Santé Bar, which offers show tune singalongs and a piano cabaret, and the Local Lounge, which serves up the ever-popular LGBT (a lettuce, guacamole, bacon, and tomato sandwich).
The hippy-fabulous Hawthorne District is popular with lesbians and feminists. The strip, which runs down Hawthorne Boulevard, eschews big chain stores in favor of mom-and-pop coffee shops, secondhand stores, and food trucks galore.
“There really isn’t one lesbian or one gay neighborhood in Portland,” says local real estate agent Deb Counts-Tabor at Portlandia Properties, who works with many members of the LGBTQ community. “There are gay flags all over the city, and it’s wonderful.”
These days some of her clients are looking for quarter-acre lots with a house in the city limits that they can turn into farmland!
“They’re buying a house with double lots and turning them into little urban, organic farms,” says Counts-Tabor. “And that’s Portland.”
Median home list price: $349,900
Pride Parade in Minneapolis, MN
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Minneapolis is a lot more progressive than many folks on the coasts realize. The city held its first LGBTQ march in 1972 in Loring Park. In 2011, it was named the “Gayest U.S. City” by The Advocate. And same-sex marriage was legalized in Minnesota in 2013—two years before the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal nationally.
When it comes to housing, gays often head to the artsy Lyn Lake neighborhood, where there are plenty of queer-owned businesses and some good bike trails. One popular spot is the Bryant-Lake Bowl & Theater, where folks can bowl, eat, imbibe alcoholic concoctions, and catch a movie or live cabaret show.
Condos here start in the mid-$200,000s. There are also a few single-family and multiunit homes in the area, which can start in the mid-$300,000 range. There are also lots of rentals in the area, ranging from small duplexes to brand-new complexes. The Murals of LynLake offers units with a sweet rooftop terrace for $1,675 to $2,500 a month.
Median home list price: $214,000
Pride Parade in St. Louis, MO
Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images
When looking for a gay-friendly spot to buy a home, St. Louis isn’t likely the first (or second, third, or forth) city to come to mind. But it turns out this Midwestern metro boasts several lively gay-friendly neighborhoods. And the Grove is the place to be once the sun sets for those who like to see and be seen.
The main strip of Manchester Avenue is filled with buzzy gay bars and clubs, like Just John’s, with show tunes every Sunday followed by a dance party, or Rehab Bar & Grill, the kind of place where everyone truly knows your name.
The busy strip fell into decline after its heyday in the ’50s, but has slowly staged a comeback. Now, it’s trending up, up, up, says local real estate agent Fabian Trujillo of Coldwell Banker Gundaker.
Cool boutiques have been moving into vacant storefronts, and the Grove’s older, single-family homes are being rehabbed.
Most of the housing stock is single- and two-family homes and low-rise condo buildings. Buyers can snag two- and three-bedroom homes in the neighborhood in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range. Anything priced over that takes longer to sell.
“I know Missouri is a red state, but I don’t feel that in the Grove. I truly feel accepted,” says Trujillo, who identifies as gay and spends most of his weekends in the neighborhood. “It’s a great place to go hang out with friends.”
Median home list price: $259,450
Four-bedroom home in Providence, RI
There isn’t really a gay hub in Providence, a city of less than 200,000 people. But bars serving the community are located downtown—as well as throughout the city. It turns out, the state capital of Rhode Island is a pretty accepting place. The artsy, college town is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Housing here is also creative, running the gamut from sprawling eight-bedroom houses popular with college students to a dead mall repurposed into micro-apartments. In 2013, the Arcade Providence, the nation’s first shopping mall built in 1828, was turned into 48 affordable units, ranging from 225 to 800 square feet. There are also plenty of more traditional three- and four-bedroom homes for sale starting in the $200,000 range.
10. Austin, TX
Median home list price: $500,983
A single-family home in downtown Austin, TX
There’s no central gay neighborhood here—instead, the state capital of Texas is one big, gay-friendly mecca. What else would you expect from a funky, college town whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird”?
“You’ll find gay, lesbian, and transgender people everywhere,” says real estate agent Charles Runnels of Realty Austin. His gay clients buy throughout the city and suburbs.
But many of the gay bars are clustered downtown, in the Warehouse District. The neighborhood is filled with mid- to high-rise condo buildings, many of which went up in the past decade. One-bedroom units in the amenity-filled buildings start at $350,000.
There are single-family homes downtown as well, but there are far fewer of them. And costs are high and getting higher: They start between $2.5 million and $3 million.
The beauty of Austin is folks don’t need to pay quite so much or live in just one neighborhood to enjoy queer culture. The city has a LGBT Chamber of Commerce, an international drag festival, and several gay pride parades, including Queerbomb, an anti-corporate alternative to the main celebration. And Match.com named the city the seventh best in the nation for lesbians in 2015.
* Data is from the U.S. Census Bureau, Human Rights Campaign, Yelp, and Meetup. Rankings were limited to just one per state for geographic diversity.
** Prices are only for the city (not including surrounding suburbs and smaller urban areas) as of May 1.
Source: Housing Trends Feed