1. Minneapolis
Over the past decade, Minneapolis has become the gay magnet city of the Midwest. It makes sense: People here are no-nonsense, practical, and don’t deal well with hypocrites. This is where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America took a historic leap forward and voted to accept gay and lesbian pastors, including the Reverend Mary Albing, the denomination’s first openly lesbian pastor. And Minnesota senator Al Franken introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT youth from school bullies. But that’s not all. Minneapolis also has the very hot Mayhem rugby team and a thriving bear community with events like Bob’s Bear Bash, every Wednesday night at the Saloon.

2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
At an elevation of 7,000 feet, Santa Fe is the nation’s oldest state capital — and the highest. This is where seasoned gays come to center themselves, but not in a boring way: LGBT retirement community RainbowVision has raucous drag shows at the Silver Starlight Lounge (nominated a Top 60 bar in the USA by Out magazine). Not only is Santa Fe home to plenty of body workers, reiki practitioners, and shaman-type hippie gays, it also has the most restaurants per capita of any city in the country and boasts the third largest art market.

3. Las Vegas
Dozens of flashy shows every night! Home of Siegfried and Roy! The setting of the campiest film ever made (Showgirls)! According to a survey by Community Marketing Inc., Sin City is the top destination for American lesbians as well as the number 2 destination for American gay men and gay seniors (after New York City). Things are unsurprisingly over-the-top here, including Krave (KraveLasVegas.com), the 17,000-square-foot entertainment venue that bills itself as the number 1 gay nightclub in the country. The city also draws forward-looking conventions, including last November’s Same Love, Same Rights LGBT Wedding Expo, which hosted more than 50 gay-friendly businesses.

4. Orlando, Florida
Everyone knows that many Disney employees are friends of Dorothy. But now Orlando itself is coming out as a hot spot for gay and lesbian life and a hotbed of progressive attitudes. Last November, when Orange County leaders voted 6-1 to add sexual orientation protections to the private-sector antidiscrimination law, not a single resident or religious organization opposed it. Meanwhile the annual Theater Fringe Festival continues to be one of the gayest in the country; it spawned the Oops Guys show Bitches of the Kingdom! about fairy-tale princesses gone sour.

5. Pittsburgh
The historic home of daddy Andy Warhol, mommy Gertrude Stein, and cool lezzie aunt Willa Cather, Pittsburgh has always had a gay streak, but it’s been unsung as a major destination. But now gays and lesbians are taking advantage of the bargain housing prices in this beautiful, cleaned-up urban landscape. The vibrant arts community — including the Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory contemporary art museum — plus a vigorous theater arts program at Carnegie Mellon University is augmented by the well-attended Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival over 10 days in October, and the fast-growing Pride Theater Festival over two weekends in June.

6. Vancouver, Washington
One gets the sense that a lot of those groovy gay and lesbian Portlanders are mellowing out and coming here to settle down. Friendly, low-key, neighborhoody Vancouver is right across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore., and has bars such as the Northbank with affordable happy hours and uncrowded pool tables. The city of around 165,000 has six gay-friendly churches, and its Skyview High School has a student-led gay-straight alliance.

7. Atlanta
Atlanta has always had the infrastructure to be the gay nexus for the South, and if the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has its way there will continue to be an influx of LGBT businesses that will promote advocacy through economics and provide a more powerful voice for equality. Not to mention that Atlanta is awash in burgeoning gayborhoods, from business district Candler Park and eclectic East Atlantic Village to the tree-lined Virginia Highland area, where residents elected a lesbian council member, Anne Fauver.

8. Washington, D.C.
In the past few years, D.C. has been loosening its tie and doffing the boring blue blazer. There are large, thumpy dance clubs like Town, which hosts variety shows by LGBT troupe Crack, and monthly parties have cropped up all over the city, such as the alt-queer/pop/dance night Taint at DC9. Even the once-defunct, sleazy stripper bar Ziegfeld’s/Secrets reopened in a grand new Southwest location in February 2009. The gay center of the city has migrated east to Logan Circle, a hip, funky area with friendly bars and Whole Foods. Plus, gay-owned restaurants like L’Enfant and Comet Ping Pong are tantalizing the city’s more refined palates.

9. Seattle
Seattle has always had a creative, fun gay scene, making this cosmopolitan city the shining gay star of the Pacific Northwest. This is where the graceful and hip Ace Hotel chain got its start. It’s where The Stranger hosts its yearly homemade porn film festival. It’s the home of gay spokesman Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project, and the jaw-droppingly warped drag performer Dina Martina. Gay life here continues to be artsy, funky, lively and multifarious. And if you haven’t been to Pony, the coolest (and perhaps the smallest) gay bar in the country, then you are missing out.

10. St. Louis
This is the open-minded heart of the Midwest. Anheuser-Busch just made a cash donation to the gay-and-lesbian-centric Gateway Business Guild, and St. Louis artist and gallery owner Philip Hitchcock was named as Mr. Midwest Leather 2010. But it was last October’s First Annual Trans Family Picnic, put on by local advocacy group TransHaven in Tower Grove Park, that most signals how St. Louis has become a welcoming city for queer folk.

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