Travel
4 min

7 great gay-friendly, family-friendly destinations

Combining all-ages fun with a queer sensibility

Home to a wide array of world-famous amusement and theme parks, the Orlando area is a natural choice for families.  Credit: VisitOrlando

For LGBT families with children thinking about vacations, it can be tricky planning a getaway that satisfies everyone, but these seven destinations — which combine family-friendly activities with gay-friendly attitudes — provide some of the best options.

1.  Key West, Florida
Its scenic location in the Caribbean makes Key West one of the most exotic destinations in the United States, while the city’s historic laissez-faire attitude makes it ideal for LGBT families. A ride aboard the Conch Tour Train is a fun way to get an overview of the city and learn a bit about its history. The Keys also offer plenty of opportunities for kids to interact with local wildlife: they can pet a shark at the Key West Aquarium and get close to herons, owls and pelicans at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, a wild-bird rescue and rehabilitation facility in nearby Tavernier. In Islamorada, families can swim with stingrays, dolphins or sea lions at the Theater of the Sea. For a more James Bond–infused experience, older kids might enjoy a jetpack ride at Tiki Jet, which allows participants to soar into the sky in retro-futuristic style. Or to add a few goose bumps to the vacation, take the kids along on Sloan’s Ghost Hunt, a tour offered by Key West paranormal expert David Sloan that leaves nightly from Kelly’s (ie McGillis) Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery.

Florida Keys & Key West: fla-keys.com

2.  Orlando, Florida
Home to a wide array of world-famous amusement and theme parks, the Orlando area is a natural choice for families. And enjoying these attractions is easy for LGBT families, thanks to several events that celebrate diversity. The most famous is Gay Days Orlando, with the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld serving as the host hotel. The event brings more than 150,000 LGBT people to Orlando, with throngs of red-shirted park-goers descending on the Magic Kingdom for the signature outing, on the first Saturday in June. Orlando is also home to Family Outfest, an annual gathering that celebrates family diversity. Taking place in July, the lineup includes visits to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot and Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. There is also a parents’ night out that’s just for grownups and Nick After Dark, an evening of fun for kids only at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort.

Visit Orlando: visitorlando.com

3.  Provincetown, Massachusetts
This popular Cape Cod beach destination is the kind of place where just about anyone can fit in. Biking and boating are among the memorable activities for families here, while Herring Cove, Race Point and Long Point are some of the best beaches for family getaways. Whale watching is an especially exciting experience during the summer months; Provincetown is the closest port to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a protected marine habitat that’s home to a variety of marine life, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds. Among the noteworthy events in summer is Family Week, organized by the Family Equality Council, with activities for all age groups.

Provincetown Tourism Office: provincetowntourismoffice.org

4.  Los Angeles, California
With its temperate climate and sunny, star-studded activities, the Los Angeles area can be a rewarding choice for families. Popular theme parks include Disneyland and Six Flags, known for its breathtaking roller coasters. Don’t forget the celebrity angle when planning a family vacation in LA; must-see sites include the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where visitors can pick out prints left by their favourite stars. Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures studios provide exciting, Hollywood-style experiences, and companies like Starline Tours offer outings that highlight celebrity hotspots and residences.

LA Tourism & Convention Board: discoverlosangeles.com

5.  New York City, New York
Big cities like New York are excellent choices for families looking to satisfy a variety of tastes and interests. Grownups can enjoy the diverse dining options in gaybourhoods like the West Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, while kids of all ages will enjoy wandering Central Park, visiting the top of the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History, where the reconstructed bones of tyrannosaurus rex and barosaurus — as well as a life-sized representation of a blue whale, the largest animal alive today — are sure to thrill even the most jaded kid. New exhibits include Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, which runs until Jan 4, 2015. Don’t forget Broadway’s family appeal when planning a visit to NYC. The Lion King, Aladdin, Wicked and Matilda are among the top choices. The massive Pride parade takes to the street on the first Sunday in June, and if you happen to visit the Big Apple in May, check out the LGBT Family Building Expo. Co-hosted by the Family Equality Council, an organization that works to connect, support and represent LGBT parents, this free event will include presentations and exhibits by experts in the fields of adoptions, alternative insemination, foster care and surrogacy, with one-on-one consultations with doctors and lawyers available.

NYC official guide: nycgo.com

6.  Vancouver, British Columbia
This decidedly visitor-friendly city combines the best of big-city sophistication with easy access to natural beauty and outdoor activities. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is a great place to take the kids, with horse-drawn tours and Vancouver Aquarium among the top choices for families. For more outdoor fun, head to Kitsilano Beach, where a playground and basketball and tennis courts complement the allure of the golden sand. Davie Village is a hub for Vancouver’s gay life and a wonderful place to relax and refuel, with its variety of shops and restaurants. Family-friendly warm-weather events in the city include the Vancouver International Children’s Festival in May, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in mid-July, and the Pride parade and festival, on Aug 3.

Tourism Vancouver: tourismvancouver.com

7.  The Caribbean
As an alternative to staying put in one destination, some families prefer to venture out onto the sea. R Family Vacations, a travel company that is celebrating 10 years in business, offers several LGBT family cruises this year, including a Caribbean itinerary aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, leaving from Fort Lauderdale and making stops in Jamaica; Cozumel, Mexico; and Labadee, a private island in Haiti. An optional one- or two-night stay in Fort Lauderdale can be added to the itinerary.

R Family Vacations: rfamilyvacations.com