There’s hundreds of LGBT+ destinations throughout the U.S, but none are quite as memorable as Chicago.

With a proud history of celebrating queer rights and diversity, the Windy City has quickly become the place to be for our vibrant community.

One of the most eclectic sights to visit is Boystown, which was recently voted the world’s best gay neighbourhood by Out Traveller. It boasts some of the best shopping and night life spots in the city, and the iconic Halsted Street can be found at the heart of it.

Pride celebrations kick off here every year, and the packed-out event has featured global stars who have in the past included the likes of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. But what makes the street so special is the history that stands behind it.

Visitors can soak up the past on the Legacy Walk, a half-a-mile outdoor history exhibit commemorating the life of notable LGBT+ figures from Chicago, whose tireless work helped positively impact the LGBT+ community around the world.

If you’re not visiting during Pride, there’s countless other events to get you excited. Every May there’s the International Mister Leather contest, and in June visitors can experience Andersonville’s Midsommarfest. There’s also Northalsted Market Days in August, which stands as one of the biggest gay street festivals in the world. Over 300,000 revellers come from all around the globe to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of this magical two-day event.

But Chicago isn’t just a bustling metropolis – there’s a cornucopia of natural beauty just begging to be explored. Lying on the shore of Lake Michigan, if you’re looking to top up your tan then there’s some of the finest gay beaches in the state just minutes away. Chicago winters may be chilly, but summer weekends at Hollywood Beach are hot.

You can even escape the hustle and bustle for a weekend too, with one of America’s quaintest towns, Galena, lying just a few short hours away by train or car. Among its many accolades, the historic town has been named one of the most beautiful towns in America, the second friendliest town in the country and even one of the most architecturally impressive places in the world. Now you can’t get much better than that, can you?

While you’re on the road, you’ve also got to check out the iconic Route 66, which starts and ends in Chicago, and remains one of the world’s most talked destinations for an unforgettable road trip.

Nearly 2,500 miles stretch between Chicago and Los Angeles, and along the route are museums, restaurants and a constantly changing landscape that make the highway a must-drive for bikers, history fanatics and anyone who wants to capture the American spirit.

Whether it’s breathtaking views, vibrant and inclusive cities brimming with culture, or truly unrivalled nightlife, Illinois has it all to offer and it’s just waiting to be discovered.

Words: Denis Lak