Safe Spring Break: 5 Drivable Destinations from LGBTQ Hubs

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday March 27, 2021

More than any spring breaks of the past, driving is the hot choice for many of us looking for a change of scenery, where we can keep to our pods and enjoy the open road.

Of course, travel isn't quite the same as B.C. (before COVID). This year, "spring break" means less partying (unless you're an unfazed college student) and more open-air experiences and nature, preferably in less-traveled parks, shores and small towns. Here are a few places where LGBTQ adventurers can seek out queer-friendly destinations with picturesque drives from big cities to fresh-air locales.

Los Angeles to Deep Creek Hot Springs
Escaping L.A. for spring break may have you thinking of Pacific beaches, but the savvy will look eastward. Just a 90-minute drive away in Apple Valley via I-15, Deep Creek Hot Springs is a scenic setting for gay-hiking group treks there and into nearby San Bernadino National Forest. The payoff is several hot or cool mineral pools, some of them clothing-optional. Lodge at an Airbnb or a no-frills motel in Victorville, and plan to pack in and pack out in this rocky nature preserve. (FYI campgrounds exist, but are mostly closed.)

Drive another 50 minutes east to the tiny town of Yucca Valley for a bite at beloved, lesbian-owned café La Copine, reopening for outdoor dining on March 19. It's the ideal pit stop before or after hitting magnificent Joshua Tree National Park, whose entrance is about 20 miles south. And if you still need to get your queer on, the bustle of Palm Springs is a short drive away.

New York City to Hudson Valley
The secret is out: New York's Hudson Valley is a dreamy spring getaway. Driving is a good choice for rolling into charming small towns and great parks like Nyack, New Paltz, Hudson, and Harriman and Minnewaska State Parks — all west of the Hudson River. On the east side, the Metro-North Rail Road will bring you to bastions of walkable beauty, like Beacon, about 90 minutes from Grand Central Terminal.

Beacon's popularity has grown in past years, thanks to Main Street's restaurants (many with outdoor dining), antique shops, galleries, and the award-winning Dennings Point Distillery, now open for cocktails and tastings. There is a handful of B&Bs, but The Roundhouse fits a hotel and restaurant into its restored historic property, where you can gaze at Fishkill Creek's waterfalls. Visitors are drawn to Beacon to explore large-scale art at Dia:Beacon or nearby Storm King. Want to raise your heart rate? Enjoy a half day's workout climbing Mount Beacon or a gentle hike along the river from Long Dock Park through quiet Dennings Point.

Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa
Here's an unexpected spring break spot for Chicagoans: Dubuque. OK, so it's not an exotic destination. But as a big college town, Dubuque delivers LGBTQ appeal and has earned high scores on the HRC's Municipal Equality Index three years running.

A three-hour drive from Chicago takes travelers across the Mississippi River, where you can take your pick of hotels and dive into Dubuque's historic sites. Don't miss a ride up the Fenelon Place Elevator, the world's shortest, steepest scenic railway, for a prime hilltop view of the river and three states. Sample suds at Jubeck New World, 7 Hills, and Backpocket Brewing, all just a few blocks apart and part of the downtown dining and queer-friendly nightlife scene.

You can stroll or bike the Riverwalk, see what's blooming at the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, or sip wine with a view at the Stone Cliff Winery, with weekday happy hours and live music every Friday and Saturday night.

Dallas to Turner Falls Park, Oklahoma
For Dallas-based nature lovers, head north on I-35 to discover some of the best regional parkland, just two hours away in Davis, Oklahoma.

Turner Falls Park is tucked inside the Arbuckle Mountains of Chickasaw Nation. It's the state's oldest park, drawing adventurers for rustic camping or lodging, swimming holes, limestone caves, miles of hiking trails, and other recreation across its 1,500 acres. There are even ruins of the 1930s Collings Castle to explore ($12 for adults). But the park's 77-foot-tall waterfall on Honey Creek is the big attraction, inviting swimmers to dive in and float behind the falls. Bring a picnic for a day trip into the park, and be sure to fill up at Smokin' Joes Rib Ranch on your way out.

Atlanta to Tybee Island, Georgia
At four hours, the drive from Atlanta to the Atlantic may seem long, but it's worth the scenic excursion to reach Tybee Island. The barrier island is about 25 minutes east of LGBTQ-friendly Savannah, making it a big draw for queer travelers looking for easy access to miles of sandy beaches. Hotel Tybee has long welcomed gay travelers to its oceanfront perch, and it's walking distance from the restaurants and bars along Butler Avenue. Pods may prefer a bigger space, and Mermaid Cottages has accommodations for all sizes.

It's true; Tybee Island is low-key compared with other spring-break beach scenes, though annual events liven up the island through the year (including fall's Equality Festival). Visit Tybee not to party hard, but to unwind, wander and savor its Southern hospitality.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.