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Best Lesbian Places to LiveFrom Girlfriends MagazineWe ranked America’s gayest cities and towns by their livability and the vitality of their lesbian communities. Here are the best. 1. Provincetown, Massachusetts 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts 3. Olympia, Washington 4. Albany, New York 5. Denver, Colorado 6. Davis, California 7. Chapel Hill, North Carolina 8. Key West, Florida 9. San Francisco, California 10. Seattle, Washington * The Top 100The year 2000 census marked the first time data was gathered on a large scale about where lesbians (or lesbian couples, at least) tend to live. But the census didn’t tell us where they might want to live. No problem: for ten years now, Girlfriends’ annual "Ten Best Lesbian Places to Live" feature has helped point readers in the right direction. Each year, our editors amass data about more than 100 cities, towns, and metropolitan areas across the United States. We count each community’s number of lesbian organizations, bars, publications, and other LGBT businesses. We check to see if the places have an LGBT community center, if they’ve passed anti-discrimination laws, and— new this year—if they host a Dyke March as part of their Pride celebrations.Girlfriends also takes into account some quality-of-life factors that make our list unique. Others have published "best gay places to live" lists, but only Girlfriends’ weighs heavily some non-gay factors that we strongly believe are important to our readers—for example, chief among these is the price of housing. We gave maximum points to cities that reported an average two-bedroom apartment rental of $500 or less; same with cities where a lesbian has a chance of landing a two-bedroom house for under $100,000.That’s why cities such as Albuquerque, New Mexico (1995) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2001) typically top our annual rankings rather than the better-known gay meccas. In fact, primarily because of its astronomical housing costs, San Francisco, California has had a tough time even making it into our top twenty some years.Oh, what a difference a Dyke March and a community center can make. Those factors were primarily responsible for hoisting San Francisco and Seattle into the top ten. As for our winner Provincetown, well, what can you say about the burg that, due to its deep concentration of gay and lesbian households, was determined by the census to be the gayest city in America?1 Provincetown, MassachusettsPopulation: 3299Crime rate: 353.6Median home cost: $143,790Median rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $805Unemployment: 3.24Job growth: 5.98%Air quality: 39DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: noThe come-hither, crooked finger of the tip of Cape Cod ain’t home to celesbian couple Kate Clinton and Urvashi Vaid for nuthin’. Powerful local and state-level gay rights—including the right to legally marry—helped catapult P-town to the top of our list. (It was number 131 in 1996.) Our right to party is also a factor: per capita, there are 800 times more bars in this fave gay vacation destination than in New York City. True, Provincetown doesn’t have a LGBT community center, but maybe it doesn’t need one; with the highest concentration of lesbian couples of any city in the U.S.—gay women are seventeen times more likely to set up housekeeping here than the average American—you can’t throw a rock without hitting a dyke home. And if you did, it'd be a hate crime. -HF2 Cambridge, MassachusettsPopulation: 94214Crime rate: 580.1Median home cost: $217, 940Median rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $1,725Unemployment: 2.23%Job growth: 1.94%Air quality: 11DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: yesCambridge, Massachusetts’ smarty pants reputation (it’s home to Harvard and MIT) got a big gay boost on May 17, 2005, when more than 200 gay and lesbian couples flocked to City Hall to get legally hitched. On that, the first day of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, of all the Bay State’s communities, Cambridge hosted the most knot-tiers by far. Our winning city in 2004, the brick and cobbled city once again finds itself in the top tier of our list because it’s protected by the Charles River from more congested Boston, filled with charming cafes and nightlife (including forty-one LGBTowned businesses), and noted for it brainy liberal ladies and a famous folksinger who got discovered while busking in a subway station. Cambridge nearly nudged out neighboring Provincetown, but a higher cost of living held her down. —LK3 Olympia, WashingtonPopulation: 42,525Crime rate: 325.3Median home cost: $140,700Median rent, 2-bedroom apartment: $615Unemployment: 4.63%Recent job growth: -2.55%Air quality: 40D/P, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: yesThey say it’s in the water, but maybe it’s just the rain and small-town restlessness that gives Olympia its formidable reputation for creativity. Olympia revolves around the art it produces, and queer female artists have been pouring out of the scene and into the spotlight for decades. This is, after all, where the Riot Grrrl movement, Ladyfest, and Sleater- Kinney were born. You can wear your politics on your sleeve at Evergreen State College or at the Washington State Capitol, or take it to the streets at Homo A Gogo, a week-long queer film, music, art, and activism festival. Go to Dumpster Values for your clothes, Orca Books for your reading material and Jakes on 4th for your dance party and karaoke fix. This is Olympia’s first appearance on our list since 1995. -CT4 Albany, New YorkPopulation: 103,505Crime rate: 950.1Median home cost: $106,520Median rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $497Unemployment: 3.45%Job growth: .89%Air quality: 19DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: yesOne might think snow-covered cabins, toasty fires, and glacier-carved lakes when picturing upstate New York—or industrial towns, brick factories, and Ani DiFranco (who hails from Buffalo). Yes, all of that is there, but who knew that capitol city Albany is one of the best places to plunk down your lesbian household? Low housing prices, a copious amount of gay-friendly bookstores (ten), a dyke march, two community centers, and other factors helped this small city reach fourth on our list. We welcome Albany back to our rankings; it placed ninth in 2000. Warm up on a wintery night in one of Albany’s fourteen lesbian or mixed gay bars or just stay home with your lady in your shockingly cheapo two-bedroom apartment. —LK5 Denver, ColoradoPopulation: 494,659Crime rate: 580.8Median home cost: $168,150Median rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $947Unemployment: 2.2%Job growth: 3.16%Air quality: 21DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: noLGBT Community center: yesEdging up from number six in both 2003 and 2002, the mile-high city is a perennial high ranker on Girlfriends’ list. Thanks to its vibrant economy, a lesbian on the move should have an easy time landing a job, and with dozens of queer businesses— including Sisters Books and the very good local LGBT newspaper Out Front—she might even get a cool one. Housing is accessibly priced, queer spiritual groups are abundant (you can even join a Christian-Buddhist contemplative circle at St. Paul’s on Ogden St.) and, thanks to the neighboring Rockies, sporty types have every possible winter and summer athletic activity at their trimmed-nail fingertips. Bonus hotspot: the Molly Brown House museum, where you can learn all you need to know about the butchest Titanic survivor. -HF6 Davis, CaliforniaPopulation: 51,174Crime rate: 367.7Median home cost: $238,550Average rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $954Unemployment: 4.17Job growth: 6.48Air quality: 43DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: yesAn agricultural town par excellence, Davis, by way of the University of California, is home to the largest veterinary school in the country. Now if that’s not a dyke-friendly occupation, we don’t know what is. But Davis offers much more than that: a "Delta of Venus" acoustic and dance night, a weekly farmer’s market (also great for meeting those of the lesbian persuasion), and free concerts downtown on Fridays in July and August. Davis first made our list in 2003 when it ranked third; since then rents have gone up around ten percent. But its queer community center, along with its anti-discrimination policy and domestic partner benefits, ensured it remained in our top ten this year. The city also promotes a number of yearly events celebrating African American, Asian, Latino, and Native American culture. -SB7 Chapel Hill, North CarolinaPopulation: 46,144Crime rate: 459.3Average rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $197,080Average rent: $818Unemployment: 1.67%Job growth: 2.56%Air Quality: 55DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: noLGBT Community center: noPrimarily known as the home of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has long been considered one of the most progressive cities of the south. It boasts a thriving arts community and is home to many historic plantation-era buildings. The area’s abundant greenery is a certain attraction for jaded cityfolk who may be looking for an antidote to little saplings planted along traffic islands; the visitor’s bureau even hosts a "Poet’s Walk" through the woodlands along the banks of the Eno river. Its low unemployment rate and healthy rate of job growth also contribute to this city’s livability—but its lack of official recognition of lesbian partnerships and a queer community center could be major drawbacks to anyone considering an escape to this otherwise attractive southern town. -SB8 Key West, FloridaPopulation: 24,859Crime rate: 639.5%Median home cost: $230,480Average rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $1201Unemployment: 1.62%Job growth: 3.18%Air quality: 51DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: noLGBT Community center: yesKey West, the southernmost tip of the United States and home of legendary gay playwright Tennessee Williams, is an incredibly inclusive place for being such a small town. Yearly events such as Pride Fest, WomenFest, and Fantasy Fest colorfully celebrate our diversity but are also popular among non-gays as well. Its tropical climate and seemingly endless parties make it a favorite of queer travelers from all over the world, but precious little available real estate has made housing prices soar in recent years. Still, this protective island community takes care of its own; Key West’s crime rate is better than average, and the city has an anti-discrimination clause in its housing ordinance. Its high concentration of lesbian and gay households won it a number-eight "gayest town" ranking in The Lesbian and Gay Atlas. -HF9 San Francisco, CaliforniaPopulation: 747,070Crime rate: 866.3Median home cost: $453,880Average rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $2,539Unemployment: $2.10Job growth: 4.66%Air quality: 19DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community center: yesFor years, despite being one of the most unquestionably gay cities in the nation, bright, beautiful, crazy San Francisco has been getting the shaft on our list because of its sky-high housing costs and the economic hit it took after the dotcom crash. Not so this year. We awarded points for new criteria such as San Francisco’s highly active LGBT Community Center and the end-all-beall of dyke celebrations—the San Francisco Dyke March. Queer bands, literature, performing arts, and activism thrive in the Mission district. The city boasts the highest number of gay-owned businesses on our list (220) and also has a strong women-of-color contingent and a rockin’ nightlife. Among the African American and Latino communities nationwide, San Francisco has the highest ratio of gay to straight households. -LK10 Seattle, WashingtonPopulation: 569,000Crime rate: 767.3Median home cost: $223,320Median rent, 2 bedroom apartment: $1,192Unemployment: 3.43%Job growth: 1.8%Air quality: 4DP, Civil Union, or marriage rights: yesLGBT Community Center: yesAfter slipping from number-one in 1999 into the twenty-somethings in Girlfriends’ last several rankings, the Emerald City seems intent upon making a comeback. Seattle got a boost this year from the extra points we gave cities with Dyke Marches, and it was helped by its extra large number of gay-friendly businesses and nonprofits—only Manhattan, San Francisco, Chicago, and Provincetown host more—all of them accessible via the beefy yellow pages published by the queer Greater Seattle Business Association. For ferry commuters, nearby lies Vashon Island, in the sixth most lesbian county in the country according to The Lesbian and Gay Atlas. Must-visit pilgrimage: East Pike Street, home to the humble, first storefront of the sex toy empire Babeland and the women-only bathhouse the Hothouse. -HFThe Top 1001. Provincetown, MA2. Cambridge, MA3. Olympia, WA4. Albany, NY5. Denver, CO6. Davis, CA7. Chapel Hill, NC8. Key West, FL9. San Francisco, CA10. Seattle, WA11. Portland, OR12. Missoula, MT13. Burlington, VT14. Tucson, AZ15. Northampton, MA16. Boston, MA17. Washington, DC18. Durham, NC19. Portland, ME20. Iowa City, IA21. Santa Fe, NM22. Madison, WI23. Providence, RI24. Asheville, NC25. Bangor, ME26. New Orleans, LA27. Palm Springs, CA28. Amherst, MA29. Phoenix, AZ30. La Crosse, WI31. St. Paul, NM32. Syracuse, NY33. Baltimore, MD34. Albuquerque, NM 35. Philadelphia, PA36. Honolulu, HI37. Berkeley, CA38. Columbus, OH39. Rochester, MN40.Warwick, RI41. Chicago, IL42. Green Bay, WI43. Tampa, FL44.Columbia, MO45. Boulder, CO46.Sheboygan, WI47. Milwaukee, WI48.Athens, GA49.Oakland, CA50. Eugene, OR51. Long Beach, CA52. Appleton, WI53. Atlanta, GA54. Hartford, CT55. St. Cloud, MN56. Newport, RI57. Detroit, MI58. Manchester, NH59. Auburn, NY60. Ithaca, NY61. Los Angeles, CA62. Austin, TX63. Minneapolis, MN64. Duluth, MN65. Rochester, NY66. Savannah, GA67. Concord, NH68. Omaha, NE 69. Pittsburgh, PA70. Nantucket, MA71. Buffalo, NY72. Las Vegas, NV73. Anchorage, AK74. Ventura, CA75. W. Hollywood, CA76. Bloomington, IL77. Fort Lauderdale, FL78. Boise, ID79. Fargo, ND80. Danbury, CT81. Frederick, MD82. Charlottesville, VA83. Trenton, NJ84. New Brunswick, NJ85. New York, NY86. Ypsilanti, MI87. Houston, TX88. Dallas, TX89. Columbia, SC90. Dayton, OH91. Tupelo, MS92. Sarasota, FL93. Cambridge, MD94. Little Rock, AR95. Grand Forks, ND96. Santa Monica, CA97. Chattanooga, TN98. Oberlin, OH99. Brooklyn, NY100. Boonton, NY
Schewpid farking bots. I also take issue with SF. It is not a particularly good place to be a lesbian. Great place to be a gay man, though. Uh, I'll stop here, because I could probably go on for at least 800 words.
Sounds like you've just issued yourself a challenge, Badphairy. Git to writin', missy!
Done, check your e-mail.
I always wonder why Santa Cruz doesn't show up on these lists. Our rent is no higher than San Francisco!Or maybe we're just lumped in with San Francisco?
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I would have to disagree with Pittsburgh, pa being anywhere on this list. I moved here from Chattanooga nearly 3 years ago and and rushing through school so I can get the hell out. the glbt community is lazy, pride sucks and the people are rude. If you can find an actual lesbian chances are she's drunk at the bar screaming. "Here we go stillers". I went to the glcc during pride for an event last year...there were 2 people there and they were so catty I left.
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I'm actually surprised with the negative Pittsburgh comment. I've lived in several cities on this list and I honestly feel Pittsburgh had the best lesbian community. With Impulse and Lez Liquor Hour, I always felt like I had events to look forward to. I also was well accepted despite being an outsider.
As a lesbian from Missoula Montana who has lived in San Fransico, Seattle, Olympia, and now Portland Oregon. Portland should be much higher.And iMissoula is number 12, not the Missoula I grew up in.
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