Why Chicago, Illinois, is a haven for LGBTQ+ travellers

Chicago Pride, gay-friendly luxury hotels, award-winning bars, Lollapalooza music festival… you name it, Chicago’s got it!

Indeed, America’s third largest city is a must-visit destination for members of the LGBTQ+ community looking to explore a new part of the world. From world-class museums, theatre and Michelin-star restaurants to the fast-paced nightlife, there truly is something for everyone.

Famed for its inclusive queer and trans community and rich LGBTQ+ history, Chicago is a mix of diverse neighbourhoods that boast food and culture from all across the globe.

While there are plenty of great places to stay in the city, Boystown – located in the East Lakeview community – is most loved by locals and visitors alike for its gay-friendly establishments.

It’s not only home to the world’s only outdoor LGBTQ+ history museum, but also famously hosts the iconic Chicago Pride Festival – one of the largest LGBTQ+ celebrations in America. With this year honouring the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the birth of the Pride movement, guests can expect a fabulously exuberant celebration attended by up to 100,000 people.

The city has happily expanded their Pride week into a whole month-long celebration which sees hundreds of events take place all over the city. From the performances by Iggy Azalea and Steve Aoki at Pride in the Park to the 15th year of the music and entertainment festival, Back Lot Bash, the party really doesn’t stop throughout the month of June. Fitness lovers can even work up a sweat at the Proud To Run half-marathon and raise funds for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community. And finish the month in style with the Chicago Pride Parade on June 30.

Chicago is inclusive and diverse. (Brand USA)

But there are also plenty of other attractions throughout the year. August sees the unofficial Pride follow-up, Northalsted Market Days, descend on the city as attendees rock colourful outfits and party with the fiercest drag queens during the two-day street festival. While Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ and International Film Festival, is another great way to soak up international LGBTQ+ culture if you’re in the city in September.

Even with thousands flocking to the city for the Pride Parade and Market Days, it’s easy to instantly feel like a local thanks to the city’s hospitable Midwestern energy.

Boystown – one of the first recognised villages in the US – boasts a lively party scene thanks to the flourishing bar and restaurant district, with popular establishments such as Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club. Visitors can feast on top quality contemporary cuisine while enjoying table-side performances from a number of Kit Kat’s talented divas, or book a table for their legendary drag brunch!

A simple stroll along North Halsted Street provides a chance to check out boutique shops like Beatnix, energetic dance clubs such Hydrate and Charlie’s Chicago and popular bars including show tune institution Sidetrack. The spacious video bar has multiple areas to chat and mingle while guests sip on slushies and enjoy drag shows. Be sure to head up to the rooftop patio during the summer.

Meanwhile, Andersonville is another large gay area which has fast become a hub for Chicago’s lesbian community. A diverse neighbourhood where European eateries like Italian trattoria Anteprima and Belgian-focused Hopleaf are a must visit, the area also boasts bathhouse Man’s Country Chicago and several LGBTQ+ owned business including Marty’s Martini Bar. Plus, lively gay bars like Mary’s Attic, The Call and Big Chicks.

There’s so much to do in the city but one thing’s for sure – no matter who you are or what you enjoy, you’ll find it in Chicago.