Gay Providence: Proving size doesn't matter

Providence is a small city in a small state, but its gay scene is as active as many of the larger east coast cities. Three schools -- Brown, Rhode Island Institute of Design, and Johnson & Wales -- pull in a high percentage of open-minded, artistic and openly gay folks, creating a friendly, diverse and tolerant community. Providence is the first capital city in the US with an openly gay mayor, David Cicilline, and although Rhode Island is one of the few New England states that does not officially recognize same-sex partnerships yet, there is a liberal social atmosphere.

Providence is home to many art galleries, live music venues and theaters. The city boasts charming and historical buildings, some dating to the late 1700's, making it a fave with architecture buffs. Foodies won't want to miss the Culinary Archives and Museum at Johnson & Wales. One of the benefits of a small city is that most of the nightlife, dining and shopping is within walking distance of each other.

Providence's nightlife is hip and often cutting edge. Ladies will be glad to know that Providence has a friendly and supportive lesbian scene, with quite a few venues dedicated to female performers. Providence is generally less stuffy than other historic New England towns and, unlike Boston, where they have been shuttered, it is home to several bathhouses and strip clubs. Boston's loss is Providence's gain, and you'll see eager guys in these spaces from all over New England as a result. One of the highlights of Rhode Island Pride week is the illuminated nighttime parade -- think Disney's electrical parade plus chaps and thongs.