Atlanta, Blue Ridge battle for most queer-friendly city title

Two Georgia cities with seemingly little in common landed on separate lists ranking the country’s most LGBTQ-friendly cities.

Realtor.com ranked Atlanta the second-most queer-friendly U.S. city to live in, while Blue Ridge beat out the ATL to land on Thrillist’s list for most queer-friendly city in Georgia.

Why each city landed where it did on the rankings comes down to metrics.

Realtor.com looked at cities with at least 50,000 households (which knocks out Blue Ridge) that had at least 0.5 percent headed by same-sex partners according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers. It also factored in each city’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index and the number of gay bars and Meetup groups per 10,000 households. An annual Pride parade or festival was also a necessity to make the list.

Atlanta came in second behind San Francisco, Calif., on Realtor.com’s list of best queer-friendly places to live. St. Petersburg, Fla., rounded out the top three.

Here’s what they had to say about the “Hollywood of the South.” Spoiler alert: it’s very Midtown-centric.

Median home list price: $408,250

Atlanta is known for having one of the largest gay populations in the South, drawing folks from smaller, less welcoming communities who are excited to arrive in the "Hollywood of the South."

The gay community revolves around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue NE and 10th Street NE in midtown, where the best bars are located, including nearby Blakes, a hopping neighborhood place that's been around for the past 30 years. But like many gayborhoods on our list, homes here aren't cheap.

Housing is a mix of brick ranches and two-story, older homes that have been renovated near Piedmont Park, says local real estate broker Tim Hur of Point Honors Realtors.

These three-bedroom, two-bath homes go for around $800,000 to $900,000. There are also plenty of newer, high-rise condo buildings that have gone up in the past two decades.

"You can [still] probably find a decent one-bedroom condo for $250,000," says Hur.

This walkable neighborhood is located in a central spot in sprawling Atlanta. It's near the Georgia Institute of Technology and Piedmont Park, where the annual pride festival is held.

"There's a lot of things to do. There's public transportation, plenty of restaurants, and bars," says Hur. And in this neighborhood, "people don't have to worry about who they are."

Thrillist used a less scientific approach for its score of the most queer-friendly cities in red states. They asked locals for their observations and impressions on LGBTQ life and factored in a city’s score on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, which is odd because Blue Ridge has never been ranked on that list. And the "local" Thrillist spoke to was a notable Atlanta gay. However it did factor in the concentration of same-sex households. 

Here's what Thrillist had to say about beautiful Blue Ridge.

A welcoming burg smack in the middle of the Bible Belt

Population: 1,444

Bona fides: Though it lacks the robust legal protections of a metropolis like Atlanta, this tourist town in the Appalachian foothills has an active LGBTQIA+ community.

A recent influx of gay residents and business owners has helped to revive this once-depressed Appalachian logging town by bringing a spate of gourmet restaurants, boutiques, and, most importantly, a climate that’s welcoming to all. With one of the highest concentrations of same-sex households in the state, tiny Blue Ridge has its own PFLAG chapter, an Independence Day parade complete with a marching band in drag, and a handful of churches that buck Bible Belt orthodoxy by embracing faithful of all orientations and gender identities. "It's a great little mountain community," says Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, who frequently vacations in Blue Ridge with his husband. "It's a very friendly, pleasant atmosphere that a lot of folks wouldn't expect in a very conservative part of Georgia."

Honorable mentions: Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus

Both lists were released in June.