As I noted in my previous blog on the Austin hotel landscape, I recently spent a few days in this charming part of Texas checking out new things to see and do. I highly recommend trying to set aside time to visit both cities - they're about an hour apart - if you get to this part of the state. Austin and San Antonio are quite different in many respects, but they also complement each other perfectly. There are few more charming and romantic destinations in the Lone Star State than the scenic Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio - here's a guide that I'll be adding to and further developing over the next couple of weeks to gay-friendly hotels, inns, and resorts in this historic, multicultural city.
The world-renowned SXSW (South by Southwest) Music, Film, Interactive festival kicks off next week in Austin, running from March 7 through March 16. If you haven't already booked a room - in fact, if you hadn't done so weeks ago, you're likely out of luck, although there may be some last minute cancellations, and you could always try commuting to the daily events from San Antonio, about an hour away. Still, as I was just in the constantly evolving and always exciting city of Austin for a few days last week, I decided now is a good time to create an Austin Gay-Friendly Hotels and Inns Guide. Keep checking back throughout the week, as I'll be expanding it over that time, aiming to include about 15 lodging options in total.
It's rare, but every so often I determine incorrectly that a business I've written about on the site has closed - usually some combination of a website not working, nobody picking up the phone when I call, and one or more other sites reporting a closure leads me to this false conclusion. A few months ago I got it wrong with Madhatter Lounge, a great little LGBT neighborhood bar in the small city of Lake Worth, Florida, just south of Palm Beach. I recently received a very nice but concerned note from the owner of the bar, assuring me that Madhatter Lounge is alive and well, and asking that I update my write-up (based on a visit I made to the bar a couple of years ago) to reflect this.
I've done that, but as I also recently wrote a short article previewing Palm Beach PrideFest, which takes place in Lake Worth over the weekend of March 29 and 30, I though I'd also post a quick blog promoting this increasingly well-attended event. It takes place in Lake Worth's charming downtown and includes a parade as well as a two-day festival at picturesque Bryant Park. If you're in southeastern Florida at the time, I encourage you to attend. Palm Beach PrideFest is friendly and a bit more laid-back than some of the larger Pride events around the state. Also keep in mind the Pride South Florida PrideFest, aka Fort Lauderdale Gay Pride, takes place 45 minutes south of Lake Worth in sunny Fort Lauderdale this weekend (March 1 and March 2), and Miami Beach Gay Pride is set for April 11-13.
Minnesota was one of several states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013, and plenty of couples around the state have already tied the knot. If you're looking for an stylish, conveniently located, and embracing venue in Minneapolis for your own wedding, consider the Commons Hotel, which has developed the Equality Ever-After same-sex nuptials package. Situated on the leafy campus of the University of Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from the city's attractive downtown and 10 miles west of the state capitol, St. Paul, the contemporary, 304-room, eco-conscious property is one of the most inviting and relaxing accommodations in the city - you get the feeling of being sheltered a bit from the urban din, but close enough to hit the many trendy restaurants and bars in Minneapolis, and cultural icons like the distinctive Guthrie Theater across the river, and the iconic Walker Art Center near Loring Park.
The hotel's Equality Ever-After package, which you can read about in detail here, comes with full planning and addresses all of the services related to the big day. Starting at $7,500, it includes accommodations, photography, custom "Mr. & Mr." or "Mrs. & Mrs." chalk-art drawings, a rather intriguing-sounding "Love Elixir" mixology lesson, a couples stationary-making class at the Minneapolis Center for Book Arts, and a bottle of champagne for the big toast. Venues at the Commons can accommodate from 50 to 500 guests and range from lavish interior ballrooms to leafy outdoor terraces.
Happy Valentine's Day! Earlier this week, I wrote a recommendation of the Candace Walsh memoir Licking the Spoon, thinking it a great read during this week of romance (or commercially excessive gift and greeting card pitches, depending on your perspective). Today, I'm recommending the latest literary collection from my friend Michael Luongo, an acclaimed and experienced travel writer and editor who's produced some fascinating works over the years, a favorite of mine being Gay Travels in the Muslim World. His latest anthology again entwines the subjects of same-sex love - this time with an explicitly erotic bent - and travel.
Released by the popular gay Berlin-based publisher Bruno Gmünder, Sensual Travels: Gay Erotic Stories was edited by Luongo, who also contributed one of the 20 always steamy, sometimes sweet, often funny, and occasionally wicked tales. Other contributors to this well-crafted, thoughtfully curated collection include the iconic queer novelist and critic Felice Picano, who recounts a visit to Japan that provides an intriguing outsider's perspective on LGBT culture in Tokyo; actor Jesse Archer, who gamely details his sexploits in Paris, Beirut, Buenos Aires, and Brooklyn; Lawrence Schimel, who waxes eloquently about a particularly memorable kayak-paddle-gone-ménage-à-trois in Spain; and Sebastian V, who brings us along on one hell of a night train ride from St. Petersburg to Estonia. These are brisk, often stirring stories - fine inspiration for your next trip to the beach, bedroom, bathhouse, or just about any far-flung land where opportunities abound for serendipitous sexual encounters.
I'm writing a couple of blog posts this week about books I've lately enjoyed and that strike me as especially fitting during these days immediately leading up to Valentine's Day. Candace Walsh's wryly funny, admirably candid, and deliciously inspiring - especially if you love to cook, and eat - Licking the Spoon isn't specifically about travel, but this thoughtful memoir does recount the author's unpredictable journey from a tryingly tumultuous childhood in suburban Long Island ("one long anxiety attack," she recalls, "relieved only by reading or baking") to college in Buffalo (she chose the westernmost New York metropolis over all the other the SUNY campuses, because "it was the farthest away") to finally discovering her true passions, by way of lower Manhattan and then Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As a point of disclosure, Walsh and I are friends - she's the managing editor of New Mexico Magazine, to which I'm a contributing writer. And I especially enjoyed this read because although I didn't know her at the time, she lived in New York City's East Village roughly when I did, and she recalls hanging around some of the same spots I frequented - such as the iconic Ukranian diner Veselka. She then eventually moved to New Mexico with a romantic partner she'd soon split with (hey...same here!). But you needn't have visited any of these places, or ended a relationship in Santa Fe, to appreciate Walsh's existentially satisfying, and ultimately uplifting, expedition. As much as anything, this is a tale about Read More...
Miami and its stylish, historic cross-bay neighbor Miami Beach have more LGBT events and activities taking place from now through May than just about any U.S. destination I can think of (although it may be a tie with Palm Springs). Here's a quick rundown of some of the celebrations and deals to keep an eye out for over the next couple of months.
- Check the GoGayMiami calendar for a variety of upcoming parties, cocktail mixers, networking luncheons, arts events, and other LGBT gatherings taking place in the region.
- Beacon Hotel South Beach Pride Package - Book the LGBT deal at this snazzy Art Deco hotel gem on Ocean Beach and receive 10% of your rate, two welcome mojitos, and free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and beach chairs/towels. For just $25 more per night, you can upgrade to a king room overlooking the ocean.
- Miami Design Preservation League's Gay & Lesbian Walking Tours - Sign up ($20 per person) for one of these entertaining guided walks for a novel take on South Beach and its rich GLBT heritage. The next ones are February 22, March 22, April 26, and May 24.
- Monthly Wynwood Art Walks - Held the second Saturday of each month, these festive gallery strolls take visitors through one of the country's fastest-emerging arts districts, Wynwood (around NW 25th St. and NW 2nd Ave., a 10-minute drive north of downtown Miami or 15-minute drive west of South Beach).
- Food Network's South Beach Food & Wine Festival - Eat your way through Miami Beach's exceptional restaurant scene, partaking of all sorts of fun meals, tastings, and seminars. The dates are February 20-23.
- Miami Beach Winter Party Festival - Now in its 21st year, this iconic fund-raising weekend of parties and beach fun is set for March 5-10.
- Miami Gay Pride - It takes place this year April 11-13, culminating on Sunday, the 13th, with a parade along fabulous Ocean Avenue in South Beach. Check the Pride site's travel section for a list of hotels offering Read More...
Destination Resorts Hawaii, which a huge portfolio of condos, villas, and other vacation homes in the highly desirable Wailea Resort community of Maui, is making winter and early spring vacations far more affordable than usual this year. Book a rental between now and April 2014, and you'll a 30% discount off the nightly rates, which range from $189 (normally $279) for a one-bedroom Grand Champions garden villa to $1,799 (down from the regular $2,429) for the ultra-swank three-bedroom Wailea Beach Villas with private plunge pools. Other lodging types available include one- and two-bedroom oceanfront Wailea Ekolu Village units, three-bedroom oceanfront Makena Surf villas, and two-bedroom Polo Beach Club oceanfront homes. You can learn more and book your vacation online.
Stays in these Wailea vacation units managed by Destination Resorts Hawaii include a bunch of additional free perks: free parking, Wi-Fi, and long-distance calls within U.S. and Canada; $40 dining credits at Ruth's Chris and Tommy Bahama, and discount grocery-shopping cards. If you're traveling with friends or family, planning to dine in a bit, or simply prefer the home-y vibe of a vacation rental versus a resort hotel, this is a great option - and it makes the exclusive Wailea resort area pretty affordable. This community just south of charming Kihei is home to some of the best golf courses, beaches, restaurants, and hotels in the state; it's also very close to gay-popular Big Beach and Little Beach at Makena State Park.
Among the factors that led me to include Indianapolis in my article on America's top underrated gay cities is its exceptionally vibrant arts and cultural scene. In addition to supporting several first-rate theaters, the capital of Indiana is home to several superb museums, including a particular favorite of mine, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. This terrific repository of both historic and contemporary arts and crafts hosts compelling rotating shows throughout the year. Just recently, the museum opened a first-of-its-kind exhibit, Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo, a candid collection of 41 black-and-white images shot by Seattle native and L.A.-based photographer Blake Little.
The show touches on a side of gay culture that's fairly unknown to many Americans - even a surprising number of gay Americans. Gay Rodeos are tremendously popular events in a number of mostly western U.S. and Canadian cities, including Phoenix, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Calgary, Denver, Santa Fe, and Kansas City - it's worth checking out the website of the International Gay Rodeo Association for more about the many rodeo events taking place around the country each year.
Eiteljorg assistant curator has this to say about Read More...
Gatherings geared to bears and their admirers have been going strong for at least a couple of decades, although there's been some concern since the end of San Francisco's long-running International Bear Rendezvous, which ended in 2011 primarily due to the challenges of financing the event. But other events continue to thrive or develop. In sunny Puerto Vallarta, on the Mexican Riviera, the annual Beef Dip gathering - geared to bears and leather men - kicked off this week and runs through February 2.
And in the winter desert playground of Palm Springs, the first annual International Bear Convergence will take place February 13 through 17, bringing in bears, cubs, otters, wolves, pandas, and plenty of other "wildlife" connected to this hirsute fraternity. The centrally located Renaissance Palm Springs, which is also HQ for the legendary Palm Springs White Party in late April, is hosting the key activities, which include a Meet & Greet T-Dance, four pool parties, a Sunday Beer Bust, and nightly parties that culminate with the Furrageous grand Sunday-night finale, at which legendary pop singer Andy Bell (of Erasure fame) will perform. Check the official site for details and information on booking a room at the Renaissance (which is offering a special rate, with rooms starting at $179/night). You'll also find info on buying passes to the various events, which also include a ride up into the mountains on the scenic Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. While in town, you might also want to partake of events related to the concurrent Palm Springs Modernism Week (which runs from February 13-23).
Palm Springs, of course, has more than 20 gay resorts as well as numerous gay-friendly mainstream lodging options, including some with particular bearish followings - check out the Palm Springs Gay Hotels guide for recommendations, along with the Palm Springs Gay Bars guide for tips on nightlife.