The Pride month of June offers a wonderful opportunity to consider the proud if often difficult history of the LGBTIQ+ community. But where do you start?

Many sites, such as New York City’s Stonewall Inn, are widely known for their significance to queer history. Yet there are many other places across the country that have also contributed to this important story in a big way.

For fresh insights into the queer liberation’s seminal figures, events and venues, you won’t want to miss these six sites that made a difference to LGBTIQ+ life in the USA – and the world.

Where to celebrate Pride in the US

The bar at Julius’, a historic gay bar in the West Village, New York City, New York, USA
The bar at Julius’, circa 1990. It hasn’t changed much since © David Lefranc / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

1. Julius’, New York City

Enjoy a burger and a beer – and feel the LGBTIQ+ history. This marvelous bar in the West Village has been welcoming tipplers continuously since 1864. By the 1960s, it had become a gathering spot for gay men – who had to be discreet, since any hint of the presence of “disorderly” homosexuals might have risked revocation of the bar’s license. A group of bold, forward-thinking, proudly out (and thirsty) activists – all members of the Mattachine Society – decided to challenge this status quo on April 21, 1966, when they staged a “sip-in” at the bar, daring the bar’s management and the authorities to question their right to a round or two with friends. The result? Business as usual; Julius’ faced no consequences, and the institution of the gay bar slowly began evolving from house of ill repute to neighborhood staple.

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The Leather Archives and Museum opened in Chicago in 1991 © courtesy of the Leather Archives and Museum

2. Leather Archives & Museum, Chicago

In 1991, Chuck Renslow, an openly gay businessman known for pioneering homoerotic photography in the mid 20th century, opened the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago to preserve a colorful subculture of queer life.

Through temporary exhibitions, visitors can consider how and why the leather, kink, fetish and BDSM scenes blossomed in the queer community. The museum also holds the archives of Mineshaft, a historic, members-only BDSM gay leather bar and sex club that drew gay men to the (then) grungy streets of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District

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A person looks at a phone in front of the entrance to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, West Village, New York City, New York, USA
A gathering spot for activists for decades, The Center remains a vibrant hub of New York’s LGBTIQ+ community © Tamara Fleming Photography / courtesy of The Center

3. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, New York City

This handsome former schoolhouse became a site of urgent activism during the AIDS crisis, when the community gathered to agitate for a governmental response to a disease that disproportionately affected gay men. The activists of ACT UP officially joined forces here; The Center was also the birthplace of such influential groups as the Lesbian Avengers and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

It remains a beautifully maintained community gathering place where anyone can drop in, whether for a coffee, a youth-oriented program, career counseling, a 12-step meeting or art exhibition. Don’t miss the sensational if rather graphic mural by LGBTIQ+ icon Keith Haring, in the second-floor bathroom.

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4. Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, San Francisco

During the HIV/AIDS crisis, this San Francisco parish opened its arms to LGBTIQ+ people, offering weekly support groups and sermons throughout the 1980s that embraced the community with love. Today, the church is a regularly visited historical site and still remains a popular place of worship for those looking for inclusion. 

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An LGBT couple at Jacob Riis Park, Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Queer-friendly Jacob Riis Park has drawn LGBTIQ+ beachgoers for decades © Landon Speers / WWD / Penske Media via Getty Images

5. Jacob Riis Park, New York City

Jacob Riis Park – better known as Riis Beach or just Riis – has drawn queer sun lovers since the 1940s. Located on the oceanfront Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, Riis has for decades been where gay people from New York City went to sunbathe nude, as they were often excluded from other more central or crowded bathing areas. Today, this area of the beach maintains its queer identity as one of NYC’s popular and diverse LGBTIQ+ public spaces. It’s a particularly popular go-to during the summers and over Pride weekend.

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Personal possessions of the late San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk are displayed at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Museum © Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

6. GLBT History Museum, San Francisco 

San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” the GLBT History Museum maintains an extensive archival collection of materials relating to queer history in the US, with a focus on the LGBTIQ+ communities of San Francisco and Northern California. In the historic “gayborhood” of the Castro, the objects and displays here showcase the extensive history of LGBTIQ+ life in the city since the 1850s. 

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This article was first published Jun 27, 2020 and updated May 20, 2024.

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