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3 Must-See LGBT Neighborhoods on the West Coast

California, Oregon

3 Must-See LGBT Neighborhoods on the West Coast

By: Matt Kirouac

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  • States:
    California
    Oregon

Emerging as the hub of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the West Coast of the USA is home to many iconic and progressive destinations.

Interstate 5 conveniently ties major cities between California and Washington, providing an easy route to visiting historic LGBT neighborhoods and commemorative sights that celebrate civil rights in the U.S.

West Hollywood — Los Angeles, California

To find the heart of Southern California’s LGBT culture, head to West Hollywood in Los Angeles. Here, you’ll find dedicated LGBT museums like June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives, featuring lesbian literature, artwork, videos and clothing. Next door you’ll find ONE Archives Gallery and Museum, the first museum in Southern California dedicated to gay history that houses a monumental collection of LGBT historical and cultural materials.

In the evening, stroll Santa Monica Boulevard, a rainbow-lined stretch of bars and clubs including The Abbey, a long-standing gay bar since 1971 popular for its martinis, dancing, celebrity sightings and live music. In June, West Hollywood hosts the three-day LA! Pride Music Festival & Parade, the first LGBT pride festival in the world and the largest in Southern California, featuring musical performances, parties, exhibits and, of course, a rainbow-colored parade.

Grab a martini and dance the night away at iconic gay bar The Abbey in Los Angeles.

Grab a martini and dance the night away at iconic gay bar The Abbey in Los Angeles.
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The Abbey Food & Bar

The Castro — San Francisco, California

Home to one of the largest LGBT populations in the U.S., the Castro District is a must-see historic neighborhood in San Francisco, California. Emerging in the 1960s as a stronghold of activism, this landmark community created a sanctuary for LGBT people to settle, conduct business and socialize.

Begin with a visit to the GLBT History Museum, the first permanent museum dedicated to LGBT culture and history in the U.S. Follow Castro Street to find the LGBT Walk of Fame, aka the Rainbow Honor Walk, featuring bronze sidewalk plaques of prominent LGBT individuals. Also on this street is Harvey Milk Plaza, named for the first openly gay person elected to public office in California, and marked by a 21-meter rainbow flag, a mural of Milk and a plaque memorializing his former Castro Camera store. Afterward, stop into Twin Peaks Tavern, the first gay bar in San Francisco officially designated with landmark status.

Burnside Triangle and Hawthorne — Portland, Oregon

When in Portland, Oregon, a visit to Burnside Triangle and Hawthorne, the city’s two LGBT neighborhoods, should be on your to-do list. In the 1960s and ’70s, gay and lesbian clubs emerged in these enclaves, and continue operating today with an abundance of gay-owned shops, restaurants, social services, theater and nightlife.

Grab a bite at The Roxy Diner, a casual restaurant known for its gay-friendly service and quirky menu items like the GLBT sandwich, a riff on a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich) made with “gay bacon.” May is a good month to visit and catch the annual Red Dress Party, a famous AIDS fundraiser gala in which more than 2,000 attendees come clad in a red dress, regardless of gender.

Thousands of people in red dresses turn out for Portland’s annual Red Dress Party fundraiser.

Thousands of people in red dresses turn out for Portland’s annual Red Dress Party fundraiser.
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Red Dress Party PDX / Flickr

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