Monday, July 15, 2024
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Wisconsin: A Midwestern LGBTQ+ Haven

Harley Davidson, beer, bratwurst, and cheese curds are are few things that come to mind when most people think about Wisconsin, but what you may not know is that the state is LGBTQ+ friendly! Just check out Madison, Wisconsin which has a lesbian-owned wine bar and a growing queer-owned craft brewery scene. There’s more to the Diary State you should know – the LGBTQ+ history, events, and queer-owned businesses you can support year-round.

LGBTQ+ Facts You Should Know About Wisconsin

  • In 1966, Wisconsin witnessed the first public call by a political body advocating for the abolition of restrictions against queer individuals, emphasizing their right to “freedom of action.” 
  • Just a few months after the 1969 Stonewall rebellion in NYC, several gay men founded the first gay liberation organization in Wisconsin—the Madison Alliance for Homosexual Equality (MAHE).
  • Before Harvey Milk’s historic election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, several Midwest cities, including Madison, already boasted openly gay elected officials. 
  • In a pioneering move in 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to enact a gay rights law, thereby prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. 
  • Wisconsin was the first state to elect three openly gay/lesbian individuals to Congress: Steve Gunderson, Tammy Baldwin, and Mark Pocan.

The legacy of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ Pride continues today! The Dairy State hosts a wide array of queer-friendly celebrations and events. 

LGBTQ+ Events: Save the Date

PrideFest Milwaukee (June 6-8, 2024): Wisconsin’s largest Pride event, this 3-day extravaganza brings people together in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Dance the days away with a star-studded lineup of live entertainment, peruse vendors, savor your fill of food trucks, and much more.

Ride With Pride (June 8, 2024): Ride With Pride is the season kickoff event for the Wisconsin Pride Rides motorcycle group. What started as one rider’s idea is now (unofficially) the largest LGBTQ+ motorcycle run anywhere. Join the fun by meeting at the House of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee and ride with pride. 

Brewers Pride Night (June 11, 2024): This annual celebration of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ communities takes place every June at American Family Field. Tickets include a special Brewers Pride t-shirt. 

Open Door PrideFest (June 29, 2024): The annual Open Door Pride Festival takes place every summer in Door County in Sturgeon Bay featuring vendors and entertainment, all with the mission of making Door County a welcoming place to live and visit.

Pride in the Park (TBA): La Crosse’s free annual Pride celebration, held in the city’s Riverside Park every September, offers visitors a family picnic, live musical performances, kids’ activities, and unique events like “So You Think You Can Drag?”

No matter when you visit Wisconsin, you can always support queer businesses throughout the state. Here are a few of Wisconsin’s many LGBTQ-owned businesses.

LGBTQ+-Owned Businesses

Kickapoo Valley Ranch: Stay the night at the LGBTQ+-owned Kickapoo Valley Ranch in nearby La Farge. When you open the door to your luxuriously appointed guest cabin, you’ll find a small basket of delectable cookies that were created by Cowboy David, one of the owners.

Mala Yoga Center: Located in Monona, the mission of Mala Yoga Center is to hold space for authentic self-expression and healing for people from all walks of life, offering an extensive schedule of yoga classes and workshops. 

Stockholm Pie & General: Make sure to stop in at this LGBTQ+-owned spot, which is known nationwide for its delectable, scratch-made pies. Score staples like apple crunch and pecan, plus inventive flavors like peppermint marshmallow and mint mocha brownie.

Proud Theater: With chapters in Madison, Green Bay, and Sun Prairie, Proud Theater is a powerful community of queer youth who share their stories with the world via theater, music, dance, and spoken word. 

Forward Craft & Coffee: Coffee. Beer. Community. What more do you need? Madison’s Forward Craft & Coffee is a neighborhood bar for all things craft beer, craft coffee, and cold brew.

Visit Travel Wisconsin and VISIT Milwaukee for more information about LGBTQ+-owned businesses, Pride events, and more! You can also find more queer-owned businesses and resources via the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s website

Vacationer Staff

Vacationer Magazine's writing staff works hard to bring you all the latest LGBTQ travel articles to help inspire and inform.

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