2021 LGBTQ Travel in Phoenix

Queer travelers thinking about Phoenix may think rightly first about the Melrose neighborhood.

The city’s gayborhood, which runs along N. 7th Ave., is a fun district, featuring great nightclubs like Stacy’s at Melrose, Pat O’s Bunkhouse Saloon, and Boycott Bar.

But in the midst of the pandemic, many LGBTQ travelers are looking for destinations that have more to offer than the traditional bars and restaurant scene.

Phoenix—and neighboring Scottsdale—deliver in spades here, with lots of Covid-friendly outdoor activities to delight. Here are six great reasons to book your next trip to queer-friendly Phoenix.

Architectural Glory

From the midcentury modern aesthetic to the beauty of local landmarks like The Biltmore, queer travelers will find plenty of stunning designs to ponder. But our favorite architectural outing here was visiting Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona home in his later years during winter months.

Due to Covid protocols, the normal docent-led tours have been replaced with a wonderful hour-long audio tour, called “Guided by Wright.” The narration is excellent and incorporates historical snippets of Wright speaking on different topics.

Visitors will experience some of what makes this architect’s work so moving—including his belief of harmony between structures and the landscape, as well as his practice of using narrow, low entrances to give the open rooms beyond a more spacious feeling.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s incredible Taliesin West is a must-see attraction in the Phoenix area. (Photo by Paul Heney)

Desert Delights

Friends raved about the Desert Botanical Garden, and they were right. This 140-acre gem has more than 50,000 plants and succulents in outdoor exhibits. While the Gardens normally attract a half-million visitors annually, we felt safe walking the wide paths, as it was easy to spread out among the other guests.

The facility hosts a wide range of events, from dog-friendly Saturday mornings to wine tastings to weekend concert evenings. We attended one of the concerts, and it was thoughtfully set up, allowing people to remain socially distanced while listening to a wonderful local band.

Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden hosts a variety of events, such as weekend concerts in the garden, featuring local bands. (Photo by Paul Heney)

If you have spare time, almost next door is the Phoenix Zoo, which features a variety of animal encounters, Stingray Bay, a giraffe encounter, 4-D theater, and more.

A Bounty of Hiking

The Phoenix area is ringed by mountains and hills, and some—such as Camelback Mountain—even sit smack dab in the middle of the city.

We enjoyed multiple hikes in the glorious McDowell Mountain Regional Park. The Gateway Trail is a great hike to burn off last night’s margaritas and dessert, and the views on the Tom’s Thumb Trail on the far side of the park were among the best in the city.

LGBTQ Phoenix
The Tom Thumb’s hike in McDowell Mountain Regional Park offered stunning views back toward Scottsdale. (Photo by Paul Heney)

Other popular hikes include Camelback, Piestawa Peak, and South Mountain Park, although some (Camelback) can be very clogged with tourists, making them less Covid friendly. No matter which one you choose, you can be from your condo or hotel room to one of the trailheads in 15-30 minutes, making this activity super accessible and convenient.

Get Funky With It

Barely a decade old, the Musical Instrument Museum is a unique and fascinating attraction. Divided up into regions of the world, visitors wander through the expansive hallways to learn about—and listen to—the musical traditions of different countries, one by one. As you approach an area, the exhibit actually senses your audio player and you hear the music through your earphones, while a video plays on the large screen in the display.

We spend hours here, not only exploring the similarities of musical styles and instruments across the continents but playing with some samples in the super-fun Experience Gallery. For LGBTQ families with school-aged children, this is a must-stop!

Accommodations Galore

There are so many glorious resorts in Scottsdale alone, but two worth a look are the funky Hotel Valley Ho and the lovely Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows. For our most recent trip, we decided to try something new and booked through Meridian CondoResorts, which specializes in golf packages. Our two-bedroom condo was located in the plush Kierland area of North Scottsdale, and had every conceivable amenity, from a full kitchen to smart TVs in every room, a luxurious pool and hot tub area, and a top-notch fitness facility on site.

Meridian CondoResorts
The pool area at the luxury condos provided by Meridian CondoResorts was a highlight for us. (Photo by Paul Heney)

Great Day Trip Options

Phoenix has plenty to offer, but there are other options within a 3-to-4 hour drive. Tucson is a couple of hours south, and we enjoyed the (mostly outdoor) Pima Air & Space Museum, as well as hiking and scenic drives in Saguaro National Park. And northward, multiple days can be spent in Sedona, Jerome, the Grand Canyon, and the Painted Desert. If the hikes around metro Phoenix got your heart pumping, Sedona hikes like Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge are well worth the drive up I-17.

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