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Fall 2008 | Perfect 10: College Towns

Fall 2008 | Perfect 10: College Towns

Deep in America’s belly of ranches and farmland lie bastions of education endowed with performing and visual arts facilities, lively cafés, and even a handful of gay bars.

1. AUSTIN [population 715,000]
THE 411: Few cities over the past decade have skyrocketed more dramatically in popularity among hipsters, gays, artists, and techies than Austin, the stylish and progressive capital of that otherwise reddest of red states. The main campus of the University of Texas occupies a sizable chunk of downtown?s northern edge and infuses Austin with a youthful buzz. From jammin? live music clubs to all-night Tex-Mex joints to a county-owned park (Hippie Hollow) that officially sanctions public nudity and has a huge gay following, Austin keeps a gay traveler busy.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS: StandOut, University of Texas Queer Student Alliance

LOCAL GAY HANGS: The gay bars Oilcan Harry?s and Rain on 4th, South Congress Avenue district, Katz?s deli, Hippie Hollow

2. COLUMBUS, OHIO [population 733,000]
THE 411: It?s still a secret to some?especially those coastal dwellers who mistakenly assume that Chicago is the only midwestern metropolis with a dynamic gay scene -- but the liberal and prosperous city of Columbus enjoys a phenomenal ?family? following. Massive Ohio State University is like a city within a city, and it routinely ranks as among the best campuses in the country for LGBT students. That?s due in part to its proximity to the ?bertrendy Short North district, a giddy jumble of queer-frequented lounges, clubs, coffeehouses, and shops.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS: OSU GLBT Student Services, Stonewall Columbus center

LOCAL GAY HANGS: The Short North neighborhood (see Gayborhood Watch: Short North); the gay bars Axis, Wall Street, and Union Caf?; the German Village neighborhood; Cup O? Joe; Easton Town Center; the food stalls at North Market

3. MADISON, WIS. [population 225,000]
THE 411: Out lesbian U.S. representative Tammy Baldwin presides over Madison?s congressional district, and that should tell you something about the region?s social and political climate: It?s firmly left of left of center. Among midsize cities, Madison is one of the gayest in America. The regional political ethos is tolerance, and the city?s role as state capital and home to the University of Wisconsin?s oldest and largest campus informs both the community?s attitudes and styles. Madison also cuts a dashing figure, occupying an enviable position along a narrow isthmus between two rippling lakes, Mendota and Monona. And with biking and hiking trails crisscrossing the city?s gently rolling hills, it?s easy to see why Money magazine once named Madison the best place to live in America.

CAMPUS/COMMUNITY LGBT ORGANIZATIONS: OutReach, University of Wisconsin LGBT Campus Center

LOCAL GAY HANGS: Memorial Union Terrace on campus, overlooking Lake Mendota; State Street pedestrian mall; Michelangelo?s Coffee House; the gay bar Club 5

4. IOWA CITY [population 63,000]
THE 411: Even if you?ve heard that Iowa City is a pretty fab place to go to college, you may not know it ranks 13th among the country?s metro areas in percentage of gay households. The prestigious University of Iowa helps account for the city?s vital intellectual demeanor?its famed Iowa Writers? Workshop helped nurture the careers of such queer lit figures as Michael Cunningham. Surrounded by rolling green hills (no, Iowa is not flat as a pancake) and bisected by the Iowa River, the city is ideal for strolling and biking, and a downtown pedestrian mall is rife with cool caf?s.


LOCAL GAY HANGS:Iowa Memorial Union, Prairie Lights bookstore and coffeehouse, the gay bar Alley Cat, the gay-friendly nightclub Gabe?s Oasis

5. ANN ARBOR, MICH. [population 115,000]
THE 411: Just 35 miles west of Detroit, Ann Arbor deserves props for its infectious spirit and stellar restaurants. The University of Michigan (of which prominent gay author Edmund White is an alum) has long been a liberal beacon of high culture and vibrant campus living. The sense of community and tolerance exemplified by the university and local police and government officials makes this a wonderful place to call home, and an ardent reforestation project a century ago has created a surplus of lush, leafy parks.


LOCAL GAY HANGS: ?The Diag? (campus green), the Kerrytown neighborhood, the terrace at Zingerman?s Delicatessen, Caf? Zola, the gay Aut bar, the gay-friendly dance club Necto

Part One | Part Two

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