Learning about queer history on LGBTQ walking tours is a great way to explore a new city, or even get a new perspective on the place you call home. In honor of LGBTQ history month, here are 16 LGBTQ walking tours in US cities to add to your queer travel bucket list.
Philadelphia LGBTQ History Walking Tour
Philadelphia Beyond the Bell Gayborhood Tour
Beyond the Bell offers inclusive walking tours of Philadelphia that shine a light on underrepresented historical figures, from women to LGBTQ history.
Highlights on 90-minute walking tour of Philadephia’s gayborhood include:
- The city’s oldest gay bookstore
- Philadelphia LGBTQ rights pioneer Barbara Gittings, who organized the local chapter of lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis
- A discussion of racism within the LGBTQ community and how queer folks can be better allies to BIPOC communities
Philadelphia LGBTQ walking tours are offered daily at 3 pm. The Philadelphia gayborhood tour covers 1 mile and lasts 90 minutes.
New York City LGBTQ History Walking Tours
All the queer history I ever learned took place in New York. That’s where Act Up AIDS activists fought for HIV/AIDS treatment and funding. That’s where BIPOC queer folks started the Stonewall riots and fought back against the police. That’s where the Harlem ball scene inspired the drag shows we love (more on drag in a minute).
New York City has six LGBTQ walking tours centered around the city’s queer travel hub, Greenwich Village. There is a lot of overlap in the city’s queer walking tours, but each offers something unique.
LGBTQ History Walking Tour of Greenwich Village
The LGBTQ History Walking Tour from Christopher Street Tours brings our queer history to life with historic tours of:
- Stonewall Inn, the bar where it all happened
- NYC Aids Memorial
- NYC’s LGBT Community Center
- Christopher Park
In between LGBTQ history landmarks, you’ll learn about the personalities of activists and queer icons that shaped this queer travel hub.
“Wig Walk” Drag History Tour
This two hour, 1.5 mile LGBTQ walking tour gives into the history of drag divas. In between stops, tour guides dish the gossip on NYC drag queens and talk about drag as a queer art form and cultural touchstone. No matter how many bachelorette parties take over gay bars, drag is ours.
The drag history walking tour includes a drink, a snack, and visits to:
- Washington Square Park
- Stonewall Inn
- Ridiculous Theatrical Company, a legendary off-off-Broadway venue important to New York’s gay community
- Cowgirl NYC, a Texas BBQ restaurant that’s served as a gathering place for queer community since 1989(!)
Note, the drag history tour is upon request only at this time.
LGBTQ Pub Crawl
For decades, gay bars were the only safe places to build queer community.
This LGBTQ pub crawl takes you to three queer bars in New York, including Stonewall Inn where the LGBTQ rights movement started and the number one lesbian bar in the world (of only 27 remaining). Lesbian travelers deserve a place to socialize and unwind where we don’t have to worry about unwanted male attention. Visiting queer-owned bars on an LGBTQ walking tour helps them stay in business and support local queer communities!
Savor a pint while toasting to gay and lesbian history and a future full of queer joy. The walking part of this tour is one mile, and the LGBTQ bar crawl lasts 3 hours.
At present, the queer bar crawl is by request only so contact Christopher Street Tours to book.
Oscar Wilde Gay Walking Tours of New York City
If you’re looking for something a little different from the Stonewall LGBTQ walking tours, consider these LGBTQ history tours from Oscar Wilde, which runs several gay history and art tours.
- LGBTQ Artist walking tour: If you appreciate art and culture, and want to learn more about LGBTQ artists and celebrities throughout history, this is the LGBTQ walking tour for you. Learn about legendary gay and lesbian New Yorkers, from James Baldwin to Walt Whitman to Eleanor Roosevelt.
- East Village gay history walking tour: You might know of the East Village’s gay history some from the musical Rent, which is set in the East Village and chronicles thqimpact of AIDS in the gay community. This LGBTQ walking tour points out homes of LGBTQ luminaries from Allen Ginsberg to Jean-Michel Basquiat, local gay bars, and other important gay history sites. If you’ve already done the LGBTQ travel classics like a trip to the Stonewall Inn, give this one a try.
- West Village gay history walking tour: The West Village is New York City’s classic gayborhood, so why not tour it with an expert in LGBTQ history? Beginning at the historic Stonewall Inn, you’ll explore the West Village’s counterculture and gay history from the Beats to Andy Warhol.
New Orleans LGBTQ Walking Tours
New Orleans is one of the most LGBTQ inclusive cities in the South, so it’s no surprise the city has several LGBTQ walking tours!
NOLA Drag Tour
Hosted by local BIPOC drag queen Quinn Laroux, this NOLA drag tour spotlights the contributions of BIPOC, queer and trans people, and women to New Orleans’ queer culture. Pause at the famous 700 Club for a cocktail while Quinn schools you on New Orleans’ LGBTQ drag icons, trans history, and famous LGBTQ residents.
Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour
Led by the President of the Louisiana LGBT+ Archives Project, this LGBTQ walking tour focuses on the city’s history, including historic gay parties like Carnival and Decadence. If you’re a gay history buff, book this by-appointment-only tour.
Secret Queer History Tour
A must for first-timers to New Orleans, this French Quarter walking tour spotlights places with important LGBTQ history. See the gay Carnival exhibit at Presbytere, which includes amazing costumes from galas past, and learn about arson attack on historic New Orleans gay bar UpStairs Lounge fire, which killed 32.
Boston LGBTQ Walking Tours
In Boston LGBTQ walking tours are offered by The History Project, an LGBTQ archive, and The Gibson House, a historic house.
The Gibson House’s LGBTQ history tour takes place at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
This tour focuses on Boston’s gay community in the early twentieth century. You’ll learn about Charlie Gibson, the Victoria era gay subculture which he belonged to, and Boston’s LGBTQ community from then to now. Charlie Gibson grew up in Boston’s wealthy Back Bay neighborhood and embraced a bohemian lifestyle – a term that was queer coded in the late Victorian era.
Gibson escaped conservative Boston society for France where he had a male lover he stayed in touch with throughout his life. Gibson eventually returned to Boston to care for his dying mother. He remained a bachelor, and opened his private family home for queer community gatherings.
The History Project offers three LGBTQ walking tours in downtown Boston. Tours take place from spring through fall. At present, tours are private run by appointment only, and limited to groups of twenty.
- LGBTQ Freedom Trail: Walk the route of Boston’s earliest Pride march and learn about LGBTQ activism in Boston.
- Queer Beacon Hill: It might surprise you to discover that posh Beacon Hill has a queer history. This walking tour focuses on Beacon Hill’s queer history in the bohemian era. You’ll learn about gay bars, queer life in a time when most gays and lesbians stayed in the closet, and bohemian-era LGBTQ icons like lesbian writers Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Fields, who were partners, and Prescott Townsend, a gay rights activist whose ancestors came to America on the Mayflower.
- Public Lives: Stroll through Boston Common and the Public Gardens – some of the prettiest spots in Boston – while learning about LGBTQ rights, queer activism, protests, cruising spots, and Boston’s drag culture.
Detroit LGBTQ Walking Tours
Detroit Pride History Tour is a two hour LGBTQ walking tour of locations pivotal to Detroit’s gay rights history from pre-Stonewall up to the present day. See the gay bars and bathhouses where queer community was built, the joyful drag queen Halloween parades, and Detroit’s historic gayborhoods. Learn about Detroit LGBTQ rights pioneers, the Black queer community’s underground house parties, and the LGBTQ rights movement in Detroit.
Charleston LGBTQ History Tour
Charleston, South Carolina offers a self-guided LGBTQ walking tour focused on seven historical sites with LGBTQ significance.
See the spots where notable lesbian and bisexual writers Gertrude Stein and Edna St. Vincent Millay hung out, the home of transgender woman writer Dawn Langley Simmons, and the home where a former Charleston Museum director lived in a Boston marriage, a historical term referring to lesbian couples who lived together, with her socialite wife.
The Lavender Landmarks tour is unique for centering the experiences of lesbians, bisexual women, and trans individuals. Grab your copy of the LGBTQ walking tour map and deepen your appreciation for queer roots!
Did I miss one of your favorite LGBTQ walking tours? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll update the post.