Discover a more rustic side of Northern California’s LGBTQ+ scene in the woodsy setting of Guerneville, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. Set among majestic redwood forests on the banks of the Russian River, the tucked-away hamlet has been the go-to gay getaway for Bay Area weekenders for decades, earning the nickname the “Gay Riviera.”
For pinch-me-perfect romantic settings to enjoy with any partner, book a stay at the luxurious, Mission Revival–style Applewood Inn, or at least dine in the firelight-lit restaurant (the wine list is a stunner—not a surprise in the Sonoma County setting). Another option is Boon Hotel + Spa, opened in 2008 by local entrepreneur and quasi-celebrity (she was named Triple Grand Champion on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show Grocery Games) Crista Luedtre. Also check out her other local restaurant endeavors, farm-to-table bistro Boon Eat + Drink, German beer hall Brot, and modern Mexican bar El Barrio. For a truly down-to-earth and easygoing stay, Highlands Resort offers a wide array of homey cabins and suites, and promotes an “unplugged” approach to relaxation.
During the day, rent a canoe at Burke’s Canoe Trips—a local classic for decades—then zigzag down the easy-to-paddle Russian River. Back on land hike through stands of giant trees in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, just north of town at the end of Armstrong Woods Road.
Add some indulgence to your day with a wine or champagne tasting at Korbel California Champagnes in Guerneville, or follow country roads south towards Healdsburg, sampling acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels at countless wineries along the way. At night, catch the action at the landmark Rainbow Cattle Co., a party destination since 1979, or the Bar at the R3 Hotel, another longtime favorite of the LGBTQ+ crowd. Featured prominently on the Russian River calendar of events is an entire week starting in late July devoted to “bears”—and good deeds—during Lazy Bear Week, when profits from all dance parties, pool parties, wine tastings, gourmet meals and more go to charity.
If you’re visiting with kids, be aware that many LGBTQ+-focused accommodations in Guerneville are adult-oriented. Check their websites before booking. If you’re looking for kid-friendly events to celebrate Pride Month, see what’s happening at sonomacountypride.org.