With August almost over and Labor Day just a week away, now is the time to start planning a last-minute, end-of-summer vacation.
Big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston are already on everybody's gaydar, but there are plenty of smaller or lesser-known queer-friendly cities and towns across the United States -- some in the unlikeliest of places -- that are worth a visit.
Check out the slideshow of LGBT-friendly small cities and towns below and share your favorite vacation destinations in the comments section.
Bloomington, home of Indiana University and the famed (at least in LGBT circles) <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_Institute" target="_hplink">Kinsey Institute</a>, is one of the most progressive cities in the Midwest, both socially and politically. <a href="http://www.advocate.com/" target="_hplink">The Advocate</a> <a href="http://www.visitbloomington.com/visitors/gay-travel/" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> named Bloomington the 4th gayest city in the United States, <a href="http://www.visitbloomington.com/visitors/gay-travel/gay-bloomington/" target="_hplink">saying</a> "This forward thinking college town is a magnet city for gays in the Grain Belt. It's also home to Indiana University, where Miss Gay IU - said to be the first student-sponsored drag competition held on any campus - is in its 20th year. The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is also here, inspiring the entire town to be heteroflexible." Photo via Yahala at <a href="http://art.alahay.org/" target="_hplink">http://art.alahay.org/</a>, via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bloomington_IN_Kirkwood.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikipedia.org</a>
Eureka Springs, AR
Located in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, Eureka Springs is sometimes called "the hole in the Bible Belt where the belt buckle goes through." The small city boasts fantastic Victorian architecture and hosts three annual gay and lesbian events called <em>Diversity Weekends</em>, but, given the large percentage of gay-owned businesses, LGBT visitors are more than welcome year-round. <em><a href="http://www.outtraveler.com/pictorials/story.asp?did=1432&pid=16" target="_hplink">Out Traveler</a></em> named Eureka one of the "Top 5 Surprisingly Gay Small Towns," and, as <a href="http://outineureka.com/" target="_hplink">OutInEureka</a> explains, "There's no need to look for a 'gay district' in Eureka Springs. You'll find rainbow flags flying throughout the town welcoming GLBT visitors." Their tagline? "Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Where Even the Streets Aren't Straight." Photo via doug_wertman at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/nanoprobe67/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
Greatly influenced by '60s and '70s hippie culture and Ken Kesey (author of <em>One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest</em>) who called the city home, the ultra-liberal city of Eugene has become a haven for anyone looking to pursue an alternative lifestyle, including LGBT people. With the focus on activism and the arts, it's perhaps the best destination in the list for more radical queers who lie outside the L/G and gender binary. Photo via NatalieMaynor at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/nataliemaynor/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
Santa Fe, NM
With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop and muse, this Southwestern city is rife with museums, art and culture -- in fact, it was designated a <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/creativity/creative-industries/creative-cities-network/crafts-and-folk-art/santa-fe/" target="_hplink">UNESCO</a> City of Design, Crafts and Folk Art. For its small size, it has a very large LGBT population, and in most areas, lesbians outnumber gay men. Albuquerque, less than an hour away, is a better destination for LGBT cruising and nightlife, whereas Santa Fe is a more laid-back, romantic vacation spot. Photo via Oemar at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/oemar/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
Though this scenic city in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY is best known as a college town, playing home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College, it has plenty to offer when school isn't in session. Among its <a href="http://www.visitithaca.com/top-10s.html" target="_hplink">many accolades</a>, it was listed by <em><a href="http://www.advocate.com/" target="_hplink">The Advocate</a></em> as one of the "<a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-advocate-publishes-its-first-ever-list-of-best-places-to-live-for-gays-and-lesbians-52159347.html" target="_hplink">Best Places To Live</a>" for gays and lesbians. Though it doesn't have as many LGBT-specific bars and clubs as other "gay-friendly" cities, it is known for its progressive eco-friendly mindset, artistic culture, and eclectic population. For travelers looking to indulge in natural beauty (the gorges, waterfalls, public parks, and Cayuga Lake provide plenty) and stimulating conversation, rather than overpriced cocktails and thumping music, Ithaca is a worth a visit. If you go on the weekend, be sure to check out Ithaca's renowned <a href="http://www.ithacamarket.com/" target="_hplink">Farmer's Market</a>. Photo via solarnu at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/solarnu/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
North Carolina probably doesn't come to mind when thinking of gay travel destinations, but Asheville, located between the smoky blue peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, is a gem with stunning natural beauty, local live music and renowned cuisine. In addition to its generally progressive outlook (perhaps surprising in a sea of Red) it has many gay and lesbian-owned inns and businesses, and has been referred to as a "dyke central" by <a href="http://www.romanticasheville.com/topgaydestinations.htm" target="_hplink">Gay.com</a>. Photo via davidwilson1949 at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/davidwilson1949/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
Coastal Maine, ME
It's hard to showcase just one small town gay destination along the coast of Maine. Ogonquit has been known as a coastal epicenter of New England's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, but nearby Kennebunkport has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/kennebunkport-festival-maine-food-wine-art-showcase_n_1677752.html" target="_hplink">made efforts</a> to showcase that it, too, has gay and lesbian friendly entertainment and accommodations to compliment the natural beauty of Maine's beaches. For a more active destination, Portland, Maine's largest town, has one of the biggest per capita LGBT populations on the East Coast, according to <a href="http://www.outtraveler.com/exclusives_detail.asp?did=1244" target="_hplink">Out Travel</a>, and a vibrant nightlife to boot. Photo via atalou at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/natalieguinsler/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
No collection of small LGBT-friendly vacation destinations would be complete without nod to P-Town, located at the tip of Cape Cod. Though a popular gay destination year-round, the height of the tourism season is August, when the annual <a href="http://www.ptown.org/Carnival.asp" target="_hplink">Carnival Week</a> transforms Provincetown into one big party, complete with boat cruises, inn strolls, music, special events, and the famous carnival parade that attracts over 65,000 viewers and marches the length of Commercial Street. Photo via laura padgett at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/laurapadgett/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>
Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor, like many cities on this list, is a vibrant college town -- it houses University of Michigan -- and a gem in an otherwise somewhat conservative area. <em><a href="http://www.outtraveler.com/pictorials/story.asp?did=1432&pid=17" target="_hplink">Out Travel</a></em> named Ann Arbor one of the top five "Surprisingly Gay Small Towns," citing the large number of LGBT groups and lesbian bars. Photo via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Gsgeorge" target="_hplink">Gsgeorge</a> at <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ann_Arbor_at_Liberty_Street.jpg" target="_hplink">wikipedia.com</a>
New Hope, PA
Since the 1950s, the small borough of New Hope has been somewhat of a gay vacation resort town and its main industry is tourism. That isn't to say that there is no local culture to appreciate -- in the words of the <a href="http://www.newhopevisitorscenter.org/about.htm" target="_hplink">New Hope Visitor center</a>, "The wine connoisseur, history-buff, kid-at-heart, foodie, art lover and savvy shopper can all appreciate Philadelphia's northern countryside, Bucks County." Photo via fauxto_dkp at <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/fauxto_dkp/" target="_hplink">Flickr.com</a>