An aerial view of Saugatuck.

When considering gay travel destinations, don’t overlook the Midwest. Saugatuck, Michigan for instance, boasts a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere that radiates with Pride year-round. This is a place where gay shenanigans can go from zero to a hundred because there are options for every personality except the stuck-up.

So, why not board a plane to Saugatuck and experience its unique blend of charm and gayness firsthand? First, Queerty is taking you to the core of the small town’s enchantment on pink tourism.

A queer awakening in the Art Coast of Michigan

An older man wearing sunglasses and a suit waving a Rainbow flag.

Middle America has plenty of homophobic problems. But it also has plenty of gays. Lo and behold – Saugatuck, a small beach town on the shore of Lake Michigan with a population of under 1,000 residents. And yet it attracts nearly 2 million yearly visitors.

Although the gays seem to migrate to the corners of the map, this getaway in Michigan has welcomed LGBTQ+ tourists for over 100 years. Its origin story is similar to Provincetown’s, propelled to liberal values by the influx of artists.

Naturally, the gays followed, if not were already there.  

Artists staked the small town as a liberal getaway 

Saugatuck’s LGBTQ+ community came to fruition when the Art Institute of Chicago opened an artist colony in 1910. It breaks the most harmful stereotypes associated with small towns while offering the perks. 

As a tourist destination, the town’s allure is centered around the immaculate Oval Beach. It wasn’t until the 1950s that its demographic became known for queerness, including housing West Michigan’s first gay bar, the Blue Tempo. 

A view of the sand leading to the sea with trees above at Saugatuck.

Its artistic roots never stopped holding a grip on the area’s culture, and today, a lively art scene remains with a plethora of galleries. Saugatuck is also popular for its parks and an impressive farm-to-table food scene.

You won’t find the exclusionary pretense of gay resort towns like Fire Island or Palm Springs. However, most gay destinations share cultural similarities. They promise safety.

The Dunes Resort is where gays socialize and party 

Two men facing forward holding each other in the pool by the ledge.

The Dunes Resort has been the queer face of Saugatuck since 1981 and evolved into one of the region’s most prominent LGBTQ entertainment complexes, including offering the only gay resort in Michigan. 

You’ll find the town’s most lively gay nightlife within the compound’s walls, taking your pick from multiple gay bars, including The Main, The Club, The Vinyl Bar, The Show Bar, The Deck, and The Splash Pool. 

This place carries the queer social sphere of the town and is arguably the biggest attraction for gays looking to mingle. 

There are no formal gay cruising bars or saunas. But with many queer people around (a high percentage of locals being Daddies), finding like-minded individuals is always an app away.

The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center honors a century of gayness 

Despite Saugatuck containing generations of LGBT history, little has been told about the communities that have stapled the town to the bucket lists of queer travelers. 

The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center committed to telling these stories with a project called “Century of Progress: A Timeline of Saugatuck-Douglas LGBTQ History.”

This is an example of the work executed by locals that has ensured Saugatuck was kept a hideaway catering to the gays.

There’s a Pride festival every weekend in June, and one in August.

The Midwest is just as gay as any region

Two shirtless men kissing upside down on a rainbow flag.

If anything, Saugatuck is important because it brings queer visibility to a section of the map laden with homophobia. It turns Middle America into an LGBTQ+ destination. Although the Art Coast of Michigan is not as culturally omnipotent as other gay resort towns, it offers a nearby escape to people in the region.

A comparable number of gays are born throughout America. Some have a harder time than others based on location.

Saugatuck became a liberal attraction in a conservative enclave. The vibes here are atypical to metropolitan queer culture, and that’s part of the charm. Think Schitt’s Creek made for the gays.

But don’t take Queerty‘s word for it. Come frolic in the gayest lands of the Midwest.

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