Why Greenville, California, Is The Perfect LGBT-Friendly City

Just 90 minutes from the Castro district of San Francisco, the town of Guerinville is a one-of-a-kind version of the American countryside.

Business in Guerneville, California.

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I’ve been to Guernsey over 10 times since moving to San Francisco in 2016, and every time I come back, there’s a new gem to reveal.

In early July, I was eager to get a break from my little San Francisco apartment and decided to spend a few days visiting friends in Guernville and getting to know the city again. Here’s what the trip was like and why I think the small town makes it the perfect place to support LGBTQ business all year round.

It was an hour and a half scenic drive to Guerinville from San Francisco with Olive’s dog.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

It took about 90 minutes to drive to Guerinville from San Francisco.

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Having made my way across the Golden Gate Bridge and past several state parks, I reached Guerneville and headed to my hotel.

I stayed at the R3, a popular exotic resort with 23 guestrooms, two bars, and an on-site restaurant, the Rio Bistro.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

R3 hotel entrance.

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Hotel R3 is an LGBTQIA+ leisure resort. Two on-site bars, known as the Main Bar and Pool Bar, serve moderately priced drinks to thirsty customers, both guests and locals, who flock to the top 40 to visit.

The hotel has a swimming pool and plenty of chairs to relax in.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

The pool and rooftop area of ​​the R3 Hotel.

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In the pool, I mingled with other hotel guests. One of them, Stephen Harrison, was visiting friends to enjoy the nearby Russian River, a popular swimming destination during the hot summer months.

“Gerenville in San Francisco has become what Palm Springs is to Los Angeles,” Harrison told me. “We all realized that we feel exactly the same way about this charming city. It’s really cool here and so friendly.”

The R3 is dog friendly too, which made it perfect for my traveling companion Olive.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Olive enjoys relief after driving.

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Three-year-old Olive, a short-haired German Pointer I was sitting in then brought with me from San Francisco, took no time at all to jump on the bed and make herself at home.

During my weekend visit, a lunch show was held on the hotel’s poolside patio.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Check out the Jubilee Queen at the R3 Hotel.

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The show attracted spectators who told me they had come to Guerneville from all over the Bay Area and even Los Angeles. Jubilee, a San Francisco-based drag queen, was among the three performers this weekend.

The number of queer establishments nested within the 10-square-mile city is refreshing, notably the Rainbow Cattle Company, the city’s oldest gay bar.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Rainbow Cattle Company, a Western-style gay bar.

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Rainbow Cattle first opened in 1979. It owns a western saloon and country dive bar, and when I visited it was a mix of techno and country music. Pride flags were hung across the ceiling above well-worn pool tables, and a neon rainbow sign outside lit up the downtown lane at night. The bar hosts ‘Beautiful Tuesday’ events every week which help raise money for local charities.

An inclusivity sign hanging outside the Rainbow Cattle reminds visitors that the watering hole is a safe and welcoming place.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

All visitors are welcome to the Rainbow Cattle Company salon.

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I saw many similar signs all over town.

Most of the people I saw at the Rainbow Cattle Company were mature gay men who all seemed to be either local regulars or longtime patrons visiting from out of town.

The main street, River Road, is filled with quaint cafes, vintage clothes, antiques stores, and a bookstore.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Cafes along the Guernville River Road.

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The two most prominent coffee shops in Guernville, Coffee Bazaar and Country Coffee Organic Espresso & Tea, offer homemade espresso pastries and drinks at reasonable prices, especially when compared to similar offerings found in San Francisco.

Coffee Bazaar also sells packets of honey, vinegar, cheese and oils from local farmers. When I arrived at the register to pay for my coffee the friendly staff member also gave me a puppuccino doll in exchange for Olive.

Nearby, the gay-owned Books & Letters bookstore holds a diverse collection of literature – there’s a section dedicated specifically to literary works from both notable and growing talents. If you want to write a note on an old typewriter, you can do so on the original store unit available for customers to use.

Among the many gay-owned businesses is Equality Wines, which offers a small selection of local wines, most of which are bottled in Sonoma County.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Inside Equity Wines Store.

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Co-founders Matt Grove and Jim Obergefell describe Equality Wines as “a wine portfolio dedicated to the equality of all people.” A portion of the proceeds from all sales go toward initiatives that support reproductive rights, access to education, LGBT rights, and more. The wine shop is open for indoor and outdoor tastings, as well as bottle service and walk-in reservations.

One of my favorite stores was a mystical store that sold crystals, collectibles, and spiritual items.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Collect stones and crystals at the Earth and Spirit Gift Shop at the Center for Sacred Studies.

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The shop, called the Center for Sacred Studies The Gift of the Earth and Spirit Shop, is filled with spiritual décor, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, incense and perfumes, and a large variety of precious rocks and crystals.

At my local dime store, I browsed a huge selection of greeting cards, many made by local artists.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Postcards and greeting cards made by local artists inside the Guerneville 5 & 10 dime store.

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The dime store, Guerneville 5 & 10, sells sewing, paint, and craft supplies, as well as water floats, towels, and swimwear for shoppers planning a day on the Russian River.

I also enjoyed browsing Sonoma Nesting Company and Fife Creek Antiques and Collectibles, two antique stores with interesting and affordable collections.

Having filled my canvas bag with historic postcards and quirky knickknacks, I stopped at the Guerneville Taco Truck, owned and operated by the Vasquez brothers for more than three decades, and ordered Taco Plate. It came with two soft corn tortillas with chicken, cilantro, onions, homemade salsa, rice and beans on the side. At only $7, it was great value and money well spent.

The next day, I passed a vegetable garden of boon eat + drink, a farm-to-table bistro founded in 2009.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

Organic garden outside blessing eat + drink bistro.

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The boon eat + drink restaurant has an organic garden and outdoor seating is open on the weekends, where I enjoyed a plate of salmon served with summer succotash of tomato, corn, and zucchini.

When Olive and I went out for morning coffee picnics, someone was guaranteed to ask for her pet.

Matt Charnock, Greenville, California Travel

All the locals in Guerneville were very welcoming.

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Everywhere I’ve gone in Guerneville I’ve been amazed at how friendly and welcoming the locals are. With less than 5,000 residents, the whole town felt like everyone knew each other and the friendliness was evident even to me as someone outside the tower. In every store I walked into, the owners and staff smiled and had hilarious little talk.

Sitting at the poolside bar on the R3 and rattling glasses of margaritas with new friends, I also became friendly with the bartender who, without asking me, poured a large bowl of water to give to the olives.

I only stayed three days in Guerneville on this trip, but it was the perfect little getaway and I’m excited to be back before the end of the summer.

Matt Charnock is a freelance writer

I plan to return to Guerneville soon this summer.

Matt Charnock


If you are looking for a quiet, gay-centric vacation in Northern California, Guernville is the place to be. The city may be small and doesn’t offer the traditional attractions of larger subways like San Francisco, but its tight-knit community, support for queer-owned businesses, and an overall slower pace of living make it a fun and relaxing place to get away. .

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