Vancouver, Washington is probably the best kept secret amongst the GayBorhoodsof the Portland Metro area. A lot of you readers think there may not be anything there for you, but think again. Yes, it is quite different than Portland, and defiantly so, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to appreciate and enjoy. And, there is A LOT across the river in Vancouver, just about ten minutes away.

Vancouver walked into the spotlight in early 2011 when The Advocate ranked it as the sixth most “gay friendly” city in the country in their fun (and highly unscientific poll). That put it ahead of every other west coast city, to everyone’s surprise. While the local LGBT community had a lot of fun with that article (especially when some Portlanders gnashed their teeth and get red in the face about it), the truth is that Clark County has had the largest growth in queer households of any PDX region. Why? Well, my sources tell me that some of the reasons include (1) Washington’s civil rights are even more progressive than Oregon, (2) the tax issue and (3) because it isn’t Portland.

So, what is there in Vancouver? This is a community that comes together through events and gatherings. Each July, you can come to Saturday in the Park, Vancouver’s “family friendly” pride event with local queer nonprofits, businesses and entertainers. It is a fun laidback picnic-like environment that is inclusive of everyone. The local court—the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Raintree Empire—stage events and fundraisers on a near-monthly basis that brings out a diverse crowd. Queer youth come together via Triple Point, a multi-faceted program providing safe spaces and social connections. And, many of the organizations hold events to raise funds for Martha’s Pantry, a local support service for those living with HIV and AIDS.

One of the best ways to keep abreast of what is happening in Vancouver to regularly visit the community website, which is run by the local PFLAG chapter and the Sexual Minority Leadership Roundtable. There you can find fun social gatherings, like potlucks with the VanBoys and the Les Couve Groove, gay-friendly churches and other resources for almost anything you need.

More and more LGBT-owned businesses are making themselves known throughout Clark County. Canine Utopia has special treats and toys for all of the dogs and cats in your life. Get a massage and a facial at The Spa at Esther Short Park….a lovely escape in downtown Vancouver. Two Monkeys can handle any and all of your special printing needs—from tee shirts to banners. And, Tim Bias at Farmers Insurance can help you with all of your insurance needs. (Oh, and I can help you buy and sell real estate throughout Clark County).

And, I’m sure you are curious about the housing. One of the main draws for LGBTers to reside in Vancouver is the tax benefits, but there is more than that. You can usually get a lot more house for your money in Clark County, as opposed to Portland. And, if you want a larger lot size with room to roam, Vancouver might be the place for you. The housing stock is diverse, and many of the schools have high rankings. And, you have a nice variety of neighborhoods to choose from, such as the hip uptown section of Vancouver along Main Street and the suburbs with a view up on Prune Hill in Camas. There is something for almost everyone.

So, do yourself a favor and make some new friends in Vancouver….one of the friendliest and fastest growing LGBT communities in the country.