The Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Marica van der Meer—Arterra/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The birthplace of mariachi and tequila, Mexico’s second largest city is committed to its past while embracing a future where all are welcome. Known for holding one of Latin America’s largest gay pride parades, this November it becomes the first Latin American destination to host the Gay Games, a worldwide sporting event held every four years.

The plant-filled al fresco eatery, Peligro al Fondo, is a popular meeting spot for Guadalajara’s LGBTQ community, with a weekly drag show, and the annual Prohibido Festival in mid-June celebrates diversity through art, workshops, and performances. Other groups breaking barriers are the increasingly popular all-female mariachi bands heard on Saturday nights at Hotel Riu Plaza and at El Patio restaurant, in the neighboring arts enclave of Tlaquepaque, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos, a distinction given to towns of cultural importance. Travelers will enjoy Tlaquepaque’s new Hotel Dex, a former home that’s been transformed into a thirteen-room boutique hotel with a pool and rooftop terrace. It’s only a block from the main pedestrian shopping street, Calle Independencia, lined with restaurants, high-end galleries and unique shops with hand-crafted items.

Jalisco’s capital city is also a cycling capital. Sunday is the best day to experience Mexico’s second largest bike share system, when Guadalajara’s traffic-clogged major streets are closed to cars. Roll through colonial plazas where fountains and benches make for perfect people watching. Don’t be alarmed by the raucous chorus of bells; it’s the surrounding churches, including the majestic 16th century Guadalajara Cathedral, in this overwhelmingly catholic city. Continue through Centro Historico to the Cabañas Museum and be mesmerized by the provocative work of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco.

For a mind-blowing culinary experience head to Alcalde, where award-winning chef Francisco Ruano mixes traditional local flavors with European influences, or try his newly opened Fargo, a sophisticated take on a Mexican cantina.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at

Ladakh, India
Jeju Island, South Korea
Aqaba, Jordan
Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia
Tampa, Florida