The start of a new year brings many opportunities for LGBTQ travelers eager to get out and explore the world. Here are eight destinations that are leading the way in 2020:
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Following the other countries of the United Kingdom — England, Scotland, and Wales — Northern Ireland will begin legally recognizing same-sex marriage by Valentine’s Day 2020. Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, and has undergone quite the transformation in recent years, making it an ideal time to visit.
Shaking off its reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world just a few decades ago, Belfast now draws millions of visitors for its unique attractions including the Titanic Building (pictured above) and Ulster Museum. It is also a great hub for visiting the beautiful surrounding countryside and seashore. LGBTQ travelers will find a large and visible community in Belfast, which holds an annual Pride celebration in August and Outburst Queer Arts Festival in November.
Where to stay: Having been damaged more than 30 times by IRA attacks, The Europa Hotel Belfast is known as ‘Europe’s most bombed Hotel.’ Beyond that unique piece of history, it is among Belfast’s most luxurious hotels and located near many of the city’s most popular LGBTQ nightlight spots.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
With its outstanding beaches and a neighboring gayborhood, Wilton Manors (home to one of the highest percentage of gay couple households per capita in the U.S.), Fort Lauderdale has consistently ranked as a top destination for LGBTQ travels.
In 2020 it will host the first-ever Pride of the Americas, April 21 to 26. Bringing two continents and 35 countries together, the six-day event will include a parade, beach party, arts festival, A-list entertainment, sunset concerts, top DJs, drag brunches, and a fashion show featuring designs by Bravo’s Project Runway alumni and local designers.
Where to stay: Gay-owned and operated, The Grand Resort and Spa recently celebrated 20 years of exceptional service as a spa-resort for men. With 33 well-appointed rooms and suites, it is located just steps from the beach and convenient to all of Fort Lauderdale’s attractions and nightlife.
Making up the “Twin Cities” with adjacent St. Paul, Minnesota’s capital city, Minneapolis is a hip Midwest escape. It also happens to be one of the gayest cities in the U.S., with a high percentage of same-sex households. While that fact has no connection to Minneapolis also being very near The Mall of America, one of the largest shopping malls in the U.S., it does certainly add to the city’s appeal.
In 2020, Minneapolis will roll out the rainbow carpet to welcome more than 6,000 LGBTQ singers from over 100 choruses and ensembles from around the world participating in the GALA Choruses LGBTQ Festival, July 4 to 8. Many of the approximately 200 planned performances will be open to the public.
Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Minneapolis is an LGBTQ-friendly property located in downtown Minneapolis and has 644 contemporary guestrooms with views of the city skyline or beautiful Loring Park. Among its many amenities are an indoor heated pool and a 32,000 sq. ft. fitness center.
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is in the final phase of massive multi-million dollar “refresh” that has included new hotels, restaurants, retail shops, and entertainment venues. At the same time, the desert resort city has preserved its wealth of mid-century modern architecture that is showcased annual during Modernism Week and embraced its cultural heritage with the planned late 2020 opening in downtown Palm Springs of a new 5.8-acre Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, celebrating the native Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
LGBTQ travelers are still able to select from more than a dozen LGBTQ exclusive resorts (many clothing optional) and partake in legendary events including The Dinah, a lesbian event and music festival, and Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party (pictured), a gay dance music festival.
Where to stay: In addition to the many LGBTQ exclusive resorts that have distinct personalities designed to appeal to different segments of the community, the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel offers outstanding accommodations. The chic all-welcoming 153-room hotel with superb rooftop pool and bar is located in the heart of the city’s downtown.
San Francisco, California
The unofficial capital of the LGBTQ community in the U.S., San Francisco will hold its 50th anniversary Pride celebration in 2020. With the theme “Generations of Hope,” the two-day event will be held Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28.
Saturday includes one of the largest LGBTQ parades in the world and the start of the two-day festival in Civic Center Plaza with speakers, entertainment, 300-plus exhibitors, and more than 20 community-run stages. The second day of the festival on Sunday includes an expanded schedule of speakers. The entertainment line-up has yet to be announced; however, there is little doubt that it will include some major performers.
Where to stay: A sponsor of San Francisco Pride, the high-rise Parc 55 San Francisco – A Hilton Hotel is located along the parade route and just a 15-minute walk from the festival. Guests are also only minutes from stops for the city’s iconic cable cars, MUNI & BART trains, and historic street cars.
San José, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a long history of being a top destination for Americans traveling to Central America. It’s a country rich in biological diversity, unique wildlife, dreamlike landscapes, and rich culture — and also a generally safe destination for tourists. Its welcoming nature is showing even more in 2020 with the legalization of same-sex marriage happening no later than May 26.
San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, traditionally serving as the starting place for most visitors and the hub location for exploring the rest of the country. It is also where the country’s LGBTQ community is most visible at many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Where to stay: Located next to the Juan Santamaría International Airport and just a short drive to downtown Costa Rica, the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen offers modern accommodations set among a former 30-acre coffee plantation. It features multiple restaurants, two outdoor swimming pools, secluded hot tub, golf driving range, tennis court, fitness center, and spa.
Sonoma County, California
Much like San Francisco located just 30 minutes to its south, Sonoma County is an extremely LGBTQ-friendly destination with hundreds of vineyards, charming towns, ancient redwood groves, stunning ocean shores, among other inviting offerings.
A massive fire damaged nearly 80,000 acres at the end of last year, though most of the damage was in the mountains and wild land in northeastern section of the county, beyond where most tourists go. For 2020, visitors have the opportunity to both enjoy the richness of Sonoma County and help with its recovery, including attending one of its many annual events such as Sonoma County Pride, Gay Wine Week (previously Gay Wine Weekend), Lazy Bear Week, and the Russian River Women’s Weekend.
Where to stay: The small town of Healdsburg is centrally located in Northern Sonoma County and home to many outstanding restaurants and more than 30 wine tasting rooms. It is also the location of Healdsburg Hotel, a chic property with tranquil rooms, pool, spa, and restaurant.
Honoring its ancient roots while also serving as a modern metropolis, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and its unofficial cultural capital. Located along the shores of the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea, its popularity as a tourism destination has been growing steadily over the last two decades, fueled by increasing awareness of it diverse offering of archaeological sites and museums, traditional markets and contemporary restaurants, and its award winning beaches with crystal clear water.
For 2020, Thessaloniki is serving as the host for EuroPride, June 20 to 28. The week-long celebration will include art exhibitions, outdoor parties, concerts, film screenings, a human rights conference and, of course, a massive Pride parade.
Where to stay: Capsis Hotel Thessaloniki is the largest hotel in the city with 407 contemporary guestrooms and luxurious suites. It is conveniently located in the city center and within easy walking distance from all the main attractions and points of interest of Thessaloniki.