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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
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 .