10 Best Cities for LGBTQ-Friendly Conferences

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San Francisco is a top destination for LGBTQ-friendly group events.

In this era of state roll-backs of anti-discrimination laws, prioritizing LGBTQ+-friendly destinations is a way to openly demonstrate your commitment to hosting inclusive events.

When planning events in inclusive-minded destinations, a few obvious choices may spring to mind, but for a fuller picture, take a look at the following list of 10 LGBT-friendly cities championing diversity and progressive values.

San Francisco

Many people know about trailblazers like Harvey Milk and Sen. Dianne Feinstein—whose public support of the gay community went back to the 1960s—but San Francisco’s identity as queer-friendly took root in the mid-1800s, when the frontier Gold Rush town had an “anything goes” attitude untouched by the stricter norms of the nascent U.S. in the East.

The Moscone Center.

Closer to the modern era, San Francisco was the first U.S. city to legalize gay marriage and still provides a supportive environment for hosting memorable and inclusive conference experiences for everyone who attends, with the annual San Francisco Pride Parade attracting millions of visitors from around the world every year.

Stressing an, “everyone is welcome” theme for visitation, including meetings, the city’s Moscone Center is as central as it gets—blocks from Union Square and offering more than 738,000 sf of exhibit space, up to 107 meeting rooms, and nearly 152,000 sf of pre-function lobbies.

New York City

Renowned for its rich history of LGBTQ+ activism and its thriving queer culture, New York City offers an unmatched atmosphere filled with plenty of activities and sights to see, making it a great choice for event planners who want a diverse setting for their next conference or seminar.

The Big Apple boasts an array of gay-owned businesses, attractions, event venues, and more. You’ll also experience a multitude of LGBTQ+ events, including the legendary NYC Pride March, which commemorates and celebrates NYC’s diverse community.

LGBTQ-friendly venues include The Center, a centrally located option for meeting planners looking for a variety of room options and furnishings. You’ll even receive an event production and reservations team for your support.

New Orleans

New Orleans calls itself “Built to Host,” and that means everyone. In fact, it was named “Most Welcoming City of 2017” in Best of Gay Cities.

Explore the famous French Quarter, visit numerous inclusivity-friendly establishments, and enjoy some of the best LGBTQ-friendly tourism in the United States. One highlight is the ‘Lavender Line,’ the beginning of the LGBTQ+ section of Bourbon Street. New Orleans is also home to Café Lafitte’s in Exile, one of the oldest gay bars in the U.S. Event planners can rely on this city’s welcoming atmosphere and unique cultural charm to create a memorable experience for attendees.

Madison, WI

State Street, Madison.

Located in the heart of southern Wisconsin, Madison is a progressive and welcoming city, making it a top choice for event planners looking for a fresh city for hosting events. Wisconsin’s capital is known for its vibrant museums, restaurants, outdoor activities, arts scene, and iconic UW campus. Madison is also home to many LGBTQ+-friendly organizations and businesses.

“LGBTQ+ pride is a year-round thing in Madison,” states Visit Madison. “…We’re a city known for its progressiveness. We recognize there’s lots of work to be done, and we’re proud that LGBTQ+ owned-and-operated businesses (and LGBTQ+ friendly businesses) continue to flourish here.”

Madison supports LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance throughout the city. The annual OutReach Magic Festival, for instance, showcases local queer performers, vendors, games, and activities for all ages. Madison is also located in Dane County, which announced in June of 2023 that it is now a sanctuary for trans and non-binary people.

Meanwhile, the LGBTQ-friendly Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center is Gold Standard LEED-certified and can accommodate virtually any event, from board meetings to multi-day conferences and conventions.

Chicago

Dynamic and diverse, Chicago is a go-to choice for event planners seeking a safe and inclusive environment for meetings, conferences, and events. Here, you’ll find a vibrant LGBTQ+ community celebrating PRIDE year-round, with events including the Chicago Pride Parade, a four-mile procession that draws enormous crowds.

Attendees can also enjoy the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives in Rogers Park, which contains rotating exhibits that cover everything from local drag icons to queer sports groups. Groups also might want to visit during the Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, the second longest-running film festival that showcases the artistic contributions of LGBTQ+ filmmakers. From award-winning films to experimental shorts, this film festival works to educate and counteract stereotypes.

Boston

Known for its progressive values, the city of Boston has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to inclusivity and acceptance. The city embraces its LGBTQ+ community with many inclusive establishments, organizations, and events spread throughout its neighborhoods.

Cambridge dance party.

If you are an event planner actively seeking a city with comprehensive laws that protect individuals from discrimination, Massachusetts fits the bill. In Boston, you’ll find legal safeguards for LGBTQ+ residents and visitors alike. Choose Boston for your next event to support a welcoming atmosphere and showcase your team’s commitment to inclusivity.

Among the LGBTQ-friendly venues is the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, featuring 175,000 sf of exhibit space, 37 meeting rooms, a 25,000-sf ballroom and 4,000-seat auditorium. In addition to welcoming all types of events, the Hynes promotes eco-friendly practices by conserving energy, water, and waste.

Orlando

Orlando is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community (the 3rd largest in the U.S.) and has become a symbol of resilience and unity in the state of Florida. This city continues to be a prime choice for conference planners and event professionals alike, thanks to its strong commitment to inclusivity and its celebratory atmosphere.

Orlando features a wide variety of LGBTQ+-owned businesses, clubs, bars, and restaurants. One highlight is the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which features live theater, ballet, opera and comedy performances but also is available as a group venue, with opulent theaters and smaller rooms available for private events.

Disney’s Gay Days—taking place the first weekend in June at the Magic Kingdom—invites  members of the LGBTQ+ community, their friends, and their family dress up in red and celebrate Pride. That same weekend, One Magical Weekend encompasses 10 LGBTQ events at a variety or Orlando venues, including Disney Springs and the House of Blues.

Portland, OR

A group hike in Portland.

Known as one of the most trans-friendly cities in the U.S. and known for its open-mindedness, commitment to diversity and celebrations of inclusion, Portland is a great choice for planners who want to host their events in a progressive city.

In fact, Portland’s queer community includes a Guinness World Record-holding drag queen, gay dance clubs and sports leagues, community organizations, and dozens of LGBTQ+-owned businesses. Portland was also the first major city to elect an openly gay mayor (Sam Adams in 2008).

To host a more inclusive event in Oregon, check out Oregon Pride in Business (ORPIB), the chamber of commerce for LGBTQ+-owned businesses in Portland; as well as the LGBTQ-friendly Oregon Convention Center, which has written policies and goals around supporting LGBTQ+ communities, gender equality, racial equality, and inclusive event environments.

Denver

With its laid-back, welcoming nature, Denver is one of the true queer centers of the West, attracting members of the LGBTQ+ community from all over the world.

Self-guided audio tours here highlight Denver’s LGBTQ+ history via a GPS-led app on that takes listeners through LGBTQ+ landmarks right from their smartphones—a unique off-site activity to offer at events.

The Denver PrideFest in June is considered one of the top Pride events in the county and features world-class performers, a parade, exhibitors, vendors, and a PRIDE-themed 5K race. The free, two-day festival draws more than 525,000 attendees annually.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. has been labeled one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the entire world, with numerous inclusive businesses and establishments as well as LGBTQ organizations and advocacy groups supporting the community.

Any event planned in the nation’s capital can include visiting historic LGBTQ+ sites, stopping by the best gay and lesbian bars in the city and joining the fun at events like Capital Pride.

The LGBTQ-friendly Walter E. Washington Convention Centera 2.3 million-sf venue equipped to handle events for 500 to 42,000 attendees—is actively committed to accessibility and accommodations for people of all abilities and backgrounds.

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