There's one kind of scaling back that won't have you cursing the current economic climate. Opt for something a little smaller next time you pack up the Samsonite, and consider these delightfully diminutive gems, our top five surprisingly gay small towns.
1. Bloomington, Ind. Why it's on our gaydar? This accepting, forward-thinking, progressive college town (population 70,000) is home to Indiana University and the famed Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction (itself home to one of the world's largest porn collections). Filled with hip caf?s and funky stores, Bloomington markets its many merits to lesbian and gay travelers. For more information on Bloomington, visit www.visitgaybloomington.com.
2. Asheville, N.C. Why it's on our gaydar? Set in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville (population 73,000) is home to an excellent choice of gay and lesbian-owned inns and guesthouses, such as gay-owned 1899 Whitegate Inn and Cottage. For more choices, contact Explore Asheville. There's also a smorgasbord of thrilling, locally owned restaurants, gay bar Smokey Tavern (18 Broadway Street), hot LGBT dance spot Club Hairspray, lesbian-owned bookstore Malaprops, and a constellation of galleries.
3. Eureka Springs, Ark. Why it's on our gaydar? A pint-sized piece of perfection, Arkansas' Eureka Springs (population 2,350) is a charming tiny town with Victorian architecture, twisting streets, and easy going, laissez fair attitude that has lured a diverse community. "Diversity Weekends" run four times a year and gay-owned businesses, including bars, hotels, and guesthouses have proliferated in the town. Check in to gay-owned, fabulously kitschy Tradewinds Motel or lesbian-owned Pond Mountain Lodge and Resort to stay gay. The resort spa town nestled in the Ozarks has gained quite a reputation over the years and answers to nicknames such as "Haven for the State's eccentrics," "The place where the misfits fit," "The hole in the Bible Belt where the buckle goes through," and "America's largest open-air asylum."
4. Portland, Maine Why it's on our gaydar? Home to one of the biggest per capita LGBT populations on the east coast and now host of the entirely enticing Frostbite ME weekend (early March, dates TBA), a LGBT winter celebration with an alluring array of homo hijinks, activities, and events that launched in 2008, Portland is Maine's captivating largest city (population 65,000). Portland has a venerable gay bar, Blackstones, and Styxx Video Club (3 Spring Street), where the dance floor and pool tables are popular with women on Thursdays and Saturdays. For more information on the city's gay goings on, contact Visit Portland.
5. Ann Arbor, Mich. Why it's on our gaydar? An upbeat college town, the home of Edmund White's alma mater, the University of Michigan, is a haven of tolerance, just 35 miles west of Detroit (population 115,000). Women drink, play pool, and have dinner at the miniscule, two-level, lesbian-adored Aut Bar. Thrilling restaurants abound and once you're ready to up the ante, head to gay-friendly club Necto. Ann Arbor is also home to a slew of LGBT groups, from Ann Arbor Queer Aquatics to the Lesbian Moms Network.