8 of the Best LGBTQ Family Travel Destinations
There are so many wonderful places in the world to travel as an LGBTQ family, and we’ve visited many of the best spots. From those experiences, we’ve identified some of the best places for a LGBTQ family vacation.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if our family of two dads and two daughters will be welcomed with smiles and open arms at various travel destinations. We’ve worked so hard to become a family and raise our kids in an atmosphere of acceptance and love that we certainly don’t want to pay good money for a vacation and arrive to a weird vibe that sours the experience.
Will the hotel staff try to give the two men double beds instead of one king? Will we get that puzzled stare from behind the front desk: fathers to children, and then back to fathers in wonder? Will we feel unspoken prejudice or judgment from local shop clerks and restaurant staff?
The good news is that the world is becoming more accepting every day, and there is a long list of best places that are great candidates for LGBTQ family travel. Here, in no particular order, are a few of our favorites.
The East Bay area cities of San Francisco are naturally on this list, and they are especially easy to reach via Oakland International Airport. Long celebrated for progressive views and acceptance of all lifestyles, Berkeley and Oakland are great places for LGBTQ families to visit and feel comfortable.
Just 15 minutes from San Francisco via BART, these cities blend cultures, backgrounds and interesting personalities into a colorful pageant. In Berkeley, the University of California campus is gorgeous and full of parklands. It’s surrounded by neighborhoods teeming with activities, culture and arts for kids of all ages. Tilden Regional Park is great for easy hikes and gorgeous views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
There is even Tilden Little Farm, where families can bring celery and lettuce to feed the hungry goats, pigs and other farm animals. In Oakland, hit up Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Parlor for some delicious treats before visiting Jack London Square for a maritime fix, boat rides and lots of room for the kids to run off some energy. Nearby, the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland is filled with fun restaurants, galleries, shops and local color.
Where to Stay
- Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel (Berkeley)
- Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, A Joie de Vivre Hotel (Oakland)
Los Cabos, Mexico
We love traveling in Mexico, and Los Cabos is one of our favorite destinations. Although the town of Cabo San Lucas is known for more late-night fun, the town of San Jose del Cabo is a quaint Mexican village with cobblestone streets and an historic colonial square. On Thursday nights, many downtown blocks are closed for pedestrians only, and artist studios open late for wandering guests while food stands offer traditional and delicious Mexican fare. In addition to the obviously gorgeous beaches and fun boating options to see whales or catch fish, Los Cabos offers several fun activities including some of the gnarliest ziplining (at Cabo Adventures) that our family has ever experienced.
Our kids especially loved our visit to Flora Farms, a farm-to-table compound of restaurants and shops located a short drive out of town. Our dinner table was positioned alongside vegetable fields planted with chard, squash, tomatoes and towering sunflowers, and our meal featured items grown on-site. A nearby pond filled with turtles and fish was a kids’ favorite.
Where to Stay
Long known for its LGBTQ-friendly stances and openness to same-sex weddings, Hawaii is literally the land of rainbows. Our family has visited Hawaii regularly since our kids were babies. With such a laid-back atmosphere and friendly vibe, Hawaii is paradise on many levels. Our family is preferential to the Garden Island of Kauai, which is lush and not as tourist-packed as some other Hawaiian islands.
Snorkeling off Kauai tremendous, with colorful sea life to enjoy at every beach and lagoon. We like the Luau Kalamaku, where the kids were amazed to see the whole pig baked in the ground and unearthed for our dinner. Near the main city of Lihue, the tubing experience with Kauai Backcountry Adventures is not to be missed. Guides drove us into the rainforest and dropped us at a waterway carved long ago to irrigate the sugar cane fields. Jumping into giant inner tubes, we slid down chutes of water for miles while splashing and laughing the whole way.
Where to Stay
- Koloa Landing Resort, A Marriott Autograph Collection Property (Poipu Beach)
- Westin Princeville Kauai
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Maybe it’s the way Italian culture embraces the concept of family, but we very comfortable on the Amalfi Coast among all the Italian locals and visitors. We made friends everywhere we went and older Italian ladies would take the hands of our little girls, leading them off to show them some garden treasure or gaggle of kittens. At the beach, the kids were offered free ice cream and treats with no strings attached.
If you go, we recommend two excursions: the Island of Capri and the ruins of Pompeii. We took a private boat from the dock at our hotel in Priano along the coast toward the stepped cliff dwellings at Positano and out to Capri. There we walked the island, ate tons of gelato, shopped a little and enjoyed watching the beautiful visitors from around the world. In Pompeii, the kids were fascinated to learn the tragic history of this city. Buildings still stand where ash had once covered them, unearthing examples of ancient restaurants, homes and places of “trade.” Preserved in volcanic ash, there are several figures of people who perished in the eruption.
Where to Stay
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Even though Provincetown is an obvious choice for LGBTQ-family friendliness, the entire Cape is nonetheless a fantastic spot for a vacation with kids. The acceptance of P-town extends down the Cape and over to Martha’s Vineyard, where we stopped for bikes at Anderson’s Bike Rentals and peddled along the shoreline from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown for ice cream cones. We even spied the famous beach and bridge where the movie Jaws was filmed.
Back on the mainland, countless lighthouses are ready for visitors, while sand dunes and warm oceans beckon little swimmers. As the grown-ups enjoyed a Cape Codder Cocktail, the kids played hide and seek in the tall dune grasses until dinnertime. With so many walkable towns and villages, the entire Cape Cod area is a paradise for families. Rainbow flags fly from at least one house on almost every block.
Where to Stay
Cork, Ireland, may not the first place an LGBTQ family might think of to visit on vacation, but Ireland is one of our family’s favorites. Our kids beg to return to the green fields and open skies near Cork, where the Blarney Castle and famous stone are just nearby. Rocky seashores, salty air and the friendliest locals ever made this trip really different from others we’ve taken. Our hotel was a large country manor called Ballymaloe House, converted into an ivy-covered B&B with a duck pond, farmlands, apple groves and some of the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted in Ireland.
We all enjoyed a guided tour of Blarney Castle, realizing the grounds are far more interesting than simply that kissable rock. The kids loved the fables and stories about ancient druids and witchcraft, conjuring images from Harry Potter about potions, spells and fantastical creatures. In nearby Cobh, we visited the Titanic Experience, honoring the last stop of the infamous vessel before it embarked across the sea to its final resting place. The seafront shanties in Cobh are all painted impossibly bright rainbow colors.
Where to Stay
Palm Springs, California
One of the "gayest cities on Earth", Palm Springs is a haven for LGBTQ families of all shapes, sizes and varieties. I've been visiting Palm Springs since I was a teenager, and now am happy to return as a parent over and over again. There is just something special about the combination of warm sun, swaying palm trees and purple mountains jutting from the desert floor. LGBTQ families with kids swarm to Palm Springs at all times of the year, and most definitely in the spring. When you add the Hollywood history, famous celebrity residents and mid-century design aesthetic, it's an LGBTQ magnet.
When we were in Palm Springs for spring break last year, we nodded knowingly to dozens of male and female couples pushing strollers, holding little hands while walking, herding toddlers and patiently waiting for teens to get off their mobile phones. There is so much to do here in addition to swimming pool fun. The Living Desert Zoo is an amazing collection of animals designed for hot temperatures. We like the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which hurtles visitors in a gondola from the desert to the mountain tops in under 20 minutes. Another cool adventure is the Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault, which takes you out into the desert foothills to study the geology of earthquakes.
Where to Stay
Siem Reap, Cambodia
A bucket list item of mine has always been to see the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. After watching Angelina Jolie rock those ancient statues in the Lara Croft movie, I wanted to see the enormous trees growing out of ancient stone relics. Not only did we see that, we were moved by the simple lives of local monks honoring their traditions in their bright orange robes.
One guided outing put us on bicycles, riding along muddy trails through the jungle to discover hidden villages and monasteries. Along the way, we sampled local delicacies like roasted crickets, frogs on a stick and sweet sticky rice served inside a hollowed bamboo stalk. This was far different from any cultural experience our kids have ever witnessed, and they totally understood the significance.
As an LGBTQ family, we were initially concerned about Cambodian cultural acceptance of our family structure. We could not have been more pleasantly surprised at the way we were treated — with respect and dignity. As we explored Cambodia, we noticed many people pushing the boundaries of gender fluidity. Clearly this ancient culture has survived many atrocities, and it seems locals care little about simple truths like who loves who. Honestly, this is one of the most peaceful and accepting places we have ever been.
Where to Stay
A City We Won't Re-Visit as LGBTQ Parents: Istanbul, Turkey
Others might have different experiences to share (TPG himself loved his 2015 visit), but our visit to this gorgeous city was a more mixed experience. We’d heard nothing but amazing things about Istanbul from our LGBTQ friends who visited before us, although none of them were parents.
As two dads of two adolescent girls, we witnessed quite a few side glances and some outright inappropriate behavior. Our American girls were dressed as they would in the US, and perhaps this fashion did not sit well with some of the more conservative members of the local population. As we toured the beautiful and historic buildings and architecture of this great city, we always felt slightly on edge.
In one instance, a female couple traveling with us was repeatedly refused taxis — until a man hailed one for them. Local mothers sometimes appeared openly judgmental about two dads raising daughters, their sneers apparent to us all. Our experiences in Istanbul made us sad, especially because we knew our kids felt it, too. I had always wanted to travel to Istanbul, and have beautiful pictures to show from our visit. However, I’m not sure we will be back, at least not with our kids.
The Earth is full of amazing destinations for LGBTQ family vacations. We continue to enjoy exploring different places with our girls: seeing how they view the world and how the world is becoming more and more inclusive and accepting. Where are your favorite spots for LGBTQ family trips?
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