This post is written by Sandi Combs, Marketing Coordinator for Experience Columbus. You can follow Sandi on Twitter @Sandi_ExpCols .

We're proud that Columbus was just nominated by TripOutTravel, LogoTV and Orbitz for best NewNowNext (up-and-coming) LGBT travel destination!  (Help us win - vote here !)

Over the past year or so, our city has had increasing recognition of being a hidden gem of LGBT tourism. Gay Travel named Columbus its “Most Underrated Gay City” and Gay Cities named Columbus as the “Up-and-Coming Gay City of 2011.”

So, what is it about Columbus that makes the city so Gay-friendly?

The first step I took in answering that question was talking to our media relations manager, Scott Peacock. Scott said:

Experience Columbus has been hosting LGBT travel journalists for over a decade now and their reaction to the city remains the same. Over the last few years more often than not journalists coming into town have heard that Columbus was a great LGBT friendly destination, but don’t know why that is. Whether it's the openness of the city, feeling safe holding hands walking up and down any street; support for the LGBT community from civic leaders; the amount of LGBT-owned business in town or just the friendly, inviting nature of our residents, they always leave saying, “WOW, now I get it.” Almost every journalist has mentioned they would or are planning to come back with their partner, friends or family on a vacation and many have."

Then, I read through what writers are saying. Here are the points that keep coming up:

  • Columbus is open minded – “This classic American city surprises with its modern attitudes, and the city has been rated as one of the best places in the country for gays and lesbians to live.” GuideMag.com
  • Superb Culinary and Gay Nightlife Scenes – “As gay nightlife goes, Columbus stands out not simply for having so many bars, but for having so many attractive ones - smartly decorated places with clear-glass windows, smart decor, and popularity with both gays and straights. … The city, and particularly the gay community, supports a superb culinary scene as well, with a number of stellar restaurants in the gay-popular Short North district. GayTravel.com
  • Annual Pride Festival – “[Columbus has] one of the most popular and successful Gay Pride festivals in the country, Columbus Pride. [The festival] set records last year, drawing roughly 210,000 participants and spectators.” GayTravel.com
  • Third highest per-capita LGBT population – “The queer population spent three decades quietly building Columbus’ neighborhoods and embedding themselves citywide. Now Columbus has a widespread LGBT population with $7.5 billion in purchasing power that has helped establish the queer community as an integral part of the culture.” Queerty.com
It boils down to Columbus being an open-minded and welcoming city with a flourishing LGBT population. When a group of travel writers were in town last month, the Short North welcomed them by changing the lights on their arches to be rainbow-colored. Perhaps (614) Magazine said it best: "The chorus of support for our GLBT residents is increasingly encouraged – not simply tolerated – by a community working together to make Columbus a more progressive city as a whole."

Never been to Columbus, but thinking about visiting? Fall is a wonderful time of the year to visit. Come in late October and experience HighBall Halloween – a Halloween extravaganza like no other. The famous Nina West is back as this year’s emcee.

Been to Columbus? Why do YOU think the city is a great LGBT destination? If you want to keep in touch, Experience Columbus puts out a quarterly e-newsletter for LGBT travelers - you can sign up here .