Tuesday December 3, 2013
One of my ongoing efforts on this site has been to develop coverage on gay-friendly nightlife and dining in less-obvious GLBT destinations, including good-size cities that for whatever reason aren't major draws for leisure travelers or don't have as sizable gay communities as other nearby cities. And then there are smaller cities and even large towns that, in many cases, have relatively vibrant gay scenes but don't get as much coverage by GLBT travel sites and magazines as perhaps they deserve.
My latest gay nightlife articles that cover these sorts of places are on southern Louisiana, where I've spent a lot of time over the years - I used to author a guidebook for Moon Handbooks on New Orleans and Cajun Louisiana. Here's a guide to gay-friendly hangouts in Baton Rouge, which is the 90th-largest city in the country and home to one of the biggest gay discos in the South, Splash. But it's also a pretty classic example of the first type of destination I mentioned above - a fairly conservative, business-oriented city that sometimes falls under the radar of GLBT travelers, especially compared with gay-popular New Orleans, just 90 minutes away. It's a fun city, though, and especially worth checking out if you have an interest in the larger-than-life populist political legend Huey Long, who was assassinated at the dramatic Louisiana State Capitol building during his term as governor in 1935 and was the inspiration for the novel and later Sean Penn film, All The King's Men.
I've also just written a guide to gay nightlife in Lafayette, which lies about an hour west of Baton Rouge and is in the heart of Louisiana's fabled Cajun Country, a region with its own very distinct and alluring history, culture, music, and cuisine. You could easily spend a few days in this area, exploring some of the historic and colorful towns nearby - New Iberia, Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville, Abbeville, Avery Island, Eunice. Don't miss the Acadian sections of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve - in Lafayette, Eunice, and Thibodaux. Lafayette has about 120,000 residents and an increasingly visible gay scene - the city will host the first LGBT Acadiana Pride Festival in late March 2014.
I'll be adding similar guides to some other notable Louisiana communities in the future, including Lake Charles, historic Natchitoches, and Shreveport.
Tuesday November 26, 2013
Having in significant ways reshaped the lodging landscapes of Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs, and Manhattan, the distinctly hip, provocatively artistic, and steadfastly cross-budget Ace Hotels brand has launched a major expansion into several new markets, including two cities abroad. The Ace London opened in the creative-spirited Shoreditch neighborhood in October 2013, and Ace's American Trade Hotel and Hall is set to welcome guests inside a historic building in Panama City's colorful Casco Viejo district by the end of 2013. Then in early 2014, the Ace Los Angeles will begin operations in a striking 1927 downtown structure, the United Artists building.
Characterized by vintage design elements, from in-room turntables to old-school photo booths in the lobbies, Ace Hotels have been a favorite of GLBT travelers since the first property debuted in Seattle in 1999 in what had been a downcast halfway house in the Belltown neighborhood - an area just north of downtown that had already begun gentrifying but no doubt received a jump start with the Ace. Next came the Ace Hotel Portland, in the city's West End, another formerly dowdy district that's become a hub of trendy restaurants (including the Ace's own Clyde Common). The Ace Palm Springs occupies what had been a prosaic Howard Johnson's - it's become that desert getaway's top address with hipsters, both gay and straight. And then there's arguably the most stunning of the bunch (so far at least), Read More...
Tuesday November 19, 2013
I mentioned in a post earlier this year that the gay-popular hip-hotel brand Kimpton (read a profile of the company here) had announced plans to open a brand-new property in 2014 in San Antonio's white-hot Pearl Brewery district - that 146-room project is well underway. And Kimpton continues to expand into some cool new markets.
First up, in July 2014, a rather humdrum hotel called the Mulberry Inn in Savannah's lovely downtown historic district will open as the completely reinvented Brice Hotel. This 145-room property occupies a great old building (it was a Coca-Cola bottling plant at one time, and a livery stable before that) that's been much in need of a stylish redesign. Kimpton pulled out of Atlanta a couple of years ago, so it's good to see them returning to the Southeast.
In 2015, the company will expand its foothold in Southern California (it already has properties in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego) with a new construction, a seven-story still-unnamed property with 190 rooms, a rooftop pool with bar, and a location along North Palm Canyon Drive, close to that city's Uptown Design District. Palm Springs has no shortage of cool properties, from clothing-optional men's resorts to mainstream design-driven hotels like the Ace and Saguaro - it'll be fun to watch this development unfold.
Also planned for 2015, Kimpton will open a still-unnamed 158-room hotel in Milwaukee's up-and-coming Third Ward District, a neighborhood that's been popping over the past few years with swanky lounges, farm-to-table restaurants, and edgy galleries and shops.
Here's a snapshot of Kimpton's future hotel developments.
Tuesday November 12, 2013
This week - quite possibly at any moment - Hawaii will become the 15th state to legalize gay marriage, with Illinois expected to follow in a matter of days. Congrats to, interestingly, the two states most associated with President Barack Obama. In the spirit of celebration, I thought I'd share a handful of the most special resorts and inns in Hawaii for planning a destination wedding and honeymoon (I'll do a similar blog on Illinois next week, with a decided focus, as one might expect, on Chicago). The happy challenge in heavenly Hawaii is narrowing down the extensive list of worthy options - you've got four major islands to choose from, along with a couple of lovely smaller ones, and dozens of properties that have already begun embracing the same-sex wedding market (starting a couple of years ago, when Hawaii legalized gay civil unions).
One of my projects this winter is creating comprehensive gay lodgings guides on each island - I'll be kicking things off this month with Maui. In the meantime, here are just a few favorite recommendations that you'll be able to read more about in the coming weeks:
- Travaasa Hana, Maui - A charming, plantation-style compound in one of the most stunningly secluded towns in the state, Hana.
- Maui Sunseeker - the largest LGBT resort in Hawaii underwent an impressive renovation (chronicled on TV's Hotel Impossible) last year and is looking better than ever.
- Hotel Molokai - Seeking privacy and relaxation but on a tight budget? This 53-room hotel on peaceful and low-keyed Molokai isn't fancy, but the price is right, and it's the only hotel on this often overlooked island.
- Four Seasons Resorts in Lanai - These two swank properties on small and scenic Lanai are ideal for a splurge - the Lodge at Koele is historic and in the verdant upcountry, while a short drive away, the Manele Bay property is ideal for beach bums.
- Hawaii Island Retreat, Big Island - Eco-chic, intimate, and on the lush North Kohala coast, it's an ideal getaway for the spiritually inclined.
- Lava Lava Beach Club, Big Island - This gay-owned compound comprises just four casually posh cottages and adjoins a hip and fun beach bar and restaurant; rent out the whole place for a dreamy wedding.
- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa - Of Kauai's larger mainstream properties, this elegant retreat in Poipu has a fabulous spa, superb restaurants, and one of the best pool-beach settings around
- Fern Grotto Inn, Kauai - This collection of secluded, reasonably priced cottage rentals (most with kitchens) is great for a small wedding group and an easy walk from the sandy beaches of Kapaa.
- JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina, Oahu - A nice option if you wish to be on Oahu but away from the crowds of Honolulu; this luxury resort occupies a 640-acre stretch of sand and lagoons along the island's southwest shore.
- Royal Hawaiian, Oahu - Few resorts in the state have a more celebrated history than Waikiki's "Pink Palace of the Pacific," which has been a favorite locale for weddings and special-occasion getaways since it opened in the 1920s.