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.
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...
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.
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.
I know, pardon the headline pun, but it's hard not to reference Denver's "Mile High City" nickname when referencing Colorado's move, in September, to become the first state in the nation to formalize its recreational marijuana laws (in October, Washington state issued its own rules regarding legal marijuana sales for recreational use). Interestingly, as of around the beginning of January 2014, sales of marijuana for recreational use will become legal in Colorado not only for in-state residents but also to those visiting from out of state, leading many to speculate that this move may prove to be a boon for the state's tourism revenue (and especially Denver's economy, as it's the largest city in the state, and a major business and leisure destination). Here's a good summary from Time magazine of the laws as they apply in both Colorado and Washington.
Once the laws take effect in January in Colorado, residents over the age 21 will be able to legally purchase an ounce of marijuana for recreational use, and visitors from out of state will be able to purchase a quarter ounce. Today (Nov. 5), Colorado voters are deciding on the tax that will be imposed on buyers. I was in Colorado last month researching new guides to Denver Gay Nightlife and Denver Gay Bathhouses - the former guide I'll be greatly expanding in the coming weeks, and once the marijuana laws go into effect, I'll be adding a story on where and how visitors can legally purchase pot in Colorado. In the meantime, here are some other stories to help you plan a trip to Denver, including a guide to gay-friendly hotels and a photo gallery on some of Denver's top attractions and businesses.
Two of my favorite destinations to recommend to travelers who seek a mild-weather winter getaway but are more interested in history and culture than lazing by the pool or beach are Charleston and Savannah. I spent a few days in the latter in May, and I'll be writing a guide to gay-friendly Savannah hotels as well as updating some of my current articles on this inviting coastal Georgia city in the next few weeks. I've just returned from a short trip in Charleston, and this week I'm writing a new guide to gay-friendly hotels on that city. Keep checking back, as I'll have full descriptions of about a dozen properties in this article by the end of the week. I'll also soon be revamping my Charleston gay nightlife guide, adding a number of other great bars and restaurants.
One way to experience these cities is to spend a week or so, dividing your time between Charleston and Savannah - they're just about a two-hour rive from each other. But Charleston is also an ideal destination for a quick two- or three-day weekend getaway. It has a major airport close to downtown and served by all the major domestic airlines, and it's within a few hours' drive of Atlanta, Charlotte, and Jacksonville.
Ski season is just around the corner in North America's largest, and in the opinion of many, most beautiful ski resort community, Whistler, BC - the slopes usually get going around the third week of November. This friendly, attractive, and upscale town 77 miles north of Vancouver hosts one of the top GLBT winter events in the world, Whistler WinterPride, in late January (this year the celebration runs from January 26 to February 2). If you're thinking of attending this year, you'd be wise to start looking into hotel accommodations now, as some of the top properties can book up fast - here's our Whistler Gay Hotels Guide, which includes a mix of gay-friendly resorts and B&Bs. Whistler is good fun anytime of year. Well, personally, I'm not much for late spring - when many businesses take a hiatus, and the terrain can be a bit muddy. But the other three seasons are gorgeous, and there's still good skiing here well into April on Whistler Mountain, and until mid-May on Blackcomb (after which there's glacier skiing, starting in late June).
Whistler also hosts a hugely popular event, Cornucopia, just before ski season - the dates this year are November 7 through November 17. Billed as the town's premier "food and drink extravaganza," Cornucopia comprises nearly two weeks of events and activities related to all-things culinary, including parties, tastings, wine seminars, special "Chef's Table" luncheons, wine dinners, and more. Here's a full schedule of events.
During my frequent travels back and forth across the United States over the past few years, I'm not sure I've visited any city with fewer than 100K residents that has cultivated as ambitious, creative, and spirited a restaurant scene as Portland, Maine (pop. 66,000). More than a few recent culinary articles have extolled the city's food credentials, helping to generate further buzz and also pointing out that several chefs from much larger (and more expensive) cities have relocated to this diverse, friendly, and attractive hilltop city overlooking Casco Bay. Portland has a sizable gay following, both in terms of full-time residents and part-time visitors - it helps that the artsy GLBT resort community of Ogunquit, sometimes billed as New England's other Provincetown, is just a 45-minute drive south.
Late October, when leaves are still turning and summer crowds have vanished, is a great time to visit Portland and partake of its stellar food offerings. From October 23 through 26, the city hosts what's becoming one of New England's top gustatory galas, Harvest on the Harbor, an event-packed food and wine festival that's now in its sixth year. During this four-day fete, you can sample the edible accomplishments of countless top local and regional chefs, esteemed brewers (there's a stellar craft-beer scene in Portland), and winemakers. Events include an opening-night Grand Tasting on the Harbor (Oct. 23), a Maine Lobster Chef of the year Competition, an international tasting (showcasing ethnic foods from around Maine), a Maine Farm to Table Restaurant showcase, wine- and beer events on Friday, a brews-and-blues BBQ, and two extensive Samplings at the Marketplace on Saturday (one at noon, another at 4 pm). Here's a full schedule of events, with ticket prices and info.
For more on where to eat, drink, and hobnob around town, visit Read More...
One of the biggest fall Pride events of the year, Atlanta Gay Pride is set for this weekend, and as usual, there's a great slate of entertainers performing during the two-day festival. Taylor Dayne and Bonnie McKee are a couple of the best known acts, but other notables include Aiden Leslie, Sonia Leigh, Kick the Robot (a very cool indie band out of the fun college town of Athens), Monica Mason, Symphony Crack Orchestra, and plenty of others.
If you're in town looking for great places to party, hobnob, and dine, check out this comprehensive Atlanta Gay Nightlife Guide, which includes both bars and restaurants of all kinds. Fall is a great time to visit this part of the world - here, too, are some tips on traveling to nearby Athens, GA, and the historic and beautiful coastal city of Savannah.
Situated in a sunny southern Oregon valley surrounded by orchards, vineyards, forested hillsides, and even a few soaring mountains, Ashland is an idyllic community that's about at the halfway point on the I-5 between San Francisco and Portland. For most of the year, it hosts one of North America's most critically acclaimed theater seasons, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which stages a diverse mix of plays - only some written by the Bard of Avon - during its roughly nine-month season.
This year's festival runs through early November, and next week, it coincides with what's becoming a very fun and popular GLBT event, the Southern Oregon Pride Festival. Here's a profile about both the gay pride festival and some of the other charms in and around Ashland. With relatively few cities in the United States still holding Pride events this year, attending Southern Oregon's friendly event presents a great opportunity for meeting friends and perhaps taking in a few superbly staged plays.