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Andrew Collins

Andrew's Gay & Lesbian Travel Blog

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Attending 2014 Folsom Street Fair and Up Your Alley

Saturday May 31, 2014

The dates are now in place for one of the most celebrated queer leather events in the world, the annual Folsom Street Fair, which draws a few-hundred-thousand ardent fans and onlookers to San Francisco in late September (September 21). Here's more on the big event, as well as information about the similarly fun-filled Up Your Alley Fair, held in San Francisco on July 27 this year. And lastly, if you're in Europe, don't forget that Folsom Europe gears up in mid-September in Berlin - the dates are September 13 and 14.

For more on the leather scene in the Bay Area, check out the San Francisco Gay Bars Guide.

Cheapflights.com Shares its List of 10 "New Gay Travel Hot Spots"

Saturday May 31, 2014

I'm always interested to see how other writers and outlets cover up-and-coming gay travel destinations - there's definitely been a movement of late to think a bit outside convention and promote new places around the world as emerging LGBT gay vacation options. I tend to do this a lot myself in my writing on this site - in fact, in tomorrow's New York Times, I'm quoted in a story about less-obvious gay destinations discussing one of my under-the-radar favorites, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

The popular travel site Cheapflights.com - which specializes in connecting readers with deals from airlines, hotels, vacations, and car rentals - recently ran a story of its own on vacation spots around the world that provide an "alternative to the typical gay-friendly destinations." I was excited to see Santa Fe on the list as the one U.S. destination - that's one place I've long been a fan of (I lived there for seven years and return often). Some of the others on the list strike me as unsurprising but still definitely worth recommending - Berlin and Barcelona, for instance. But most of the others, I agree, have much to offer LGBT visitors but are often overlooked. Take Tel Aviv, Cancun, and Niagara Falls, Canada. Here's the full list.

Upcoming LGBT-Popular Events at Hartford's Mark Twain House

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Mark Twain HouseHaving grown up and attended college in Connecticut, I've long considered Hartford's strikingly ornate Gothic Victorian Mark Twain House - along with its superb contemporary museum about the iconic wordsmith - to be one of the Northeast's must-see attractions. I think this holds for any visitor to the region, not just fans of Twain, but especially if you have an interest in architecture and gardens, as the house interior makes for a fascinating tour, as do the meticulously cared-for grounds. The Mark Twain House & Museum is in a section of Hartford known as Nook Farm - here, too, you can visit the home of Twain's literary neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, which is also a museum.

Many who know about the house and museum aren't so aware of this cultural treasure's dedication to bringing in notable speakers and performers throughout the year - check out the official events page for more details. Luminaries ranging from Joan Didion to Michael Moore have spoken here, and a number of LGBT-relevant figures have also been guests, including comedian Poppy Champlin and the Fabulous Beekman Boys. Later this year, drag comic and magician Cashetta will be on hand, and coming up in June, you can attend appearances by the highly engaging friend of the gay community and former actress Alison Arngrim (of Little House on the Prairie Fame - she played the delightfully wicked "Nellie Oleson") on June 11, and star of of Betty Bowers: America's Best Christian and occasional guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race, Deven Green. It's not hard to imagine Mark Twain himself, were he living in the 21st century, greatly appreciating the diverse range of guests who appear regularly at his celebrated home.

For more on the area, check out my guide to gay-friendly nightlife and dining in Hartford and the adjacent Connecticut River Valley.

Boy George Headlines Cleveland Gay Games White Party

Tuesday May 27, 2014

This should be fun, especially to any of us who grew up in the '80s: queer pop icon Boy George will be performing this summer in Cleveland during Gay Games IX. You can catch the show during the week's much-anticipated White Party, which takes place Monday, August 11, at Jacobs Pavilion, in Nautica. The party is preceded by a two-hour scenic dinner cruise on the Nautica Queen, and Boy George will be joined onstage by DJs Marc Vedo and Evan Evolution. Sounds like a memorable evening! Here are more details on this year's Gay Games 9 in Cleveland.

Ace Hotel Plans "International Pride Roadshow" for LA, London, NYC, and Palm Springs

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Ace Hotel Palm SpringsWell here's a fun approach by a hotel to help guests celebrate Gay Pride events in a few fab cities around the United States as well as in London. The hipster-chic Ace Hotel brand is launching a four-city "International Pride Road Show" that will bring a group of DJs and musical guests to the Ace Hotels in Los Angeles, London, New York City, and Palm Springs during these cities' Pride weekends. The dates are June 7 and 8 in Los Angeles, June 26 in London, June 28 in New York City, and November 7 and 8 in Palm Springs.

Party maven, activist, and provocateur JD Samson, who's a member of the "electronic-feminist-punk" band Le Tigre and fronts her her own band MEN, is organizing the festivities in each city, bringing in such notable guests as Kim Anh, Wu Tsang, Victor Rodriguez, Lauren Flax, Amber Valentine, and a slew of other talents. Here are the details, along with links to RSVP for each party.

Travel Gay Portland (OR) Visitor Center Opens June 1

Tuesday May 27, 2014

UnderU4MenOpening adjacent to the fab skivvies shop UnderU4Men, the non-profit Travel Gay Portland visitor center is opening in a few days, just ahead of Rose City's annual Portland Gay Pride Festival (which is June 14 and 15). One of the only such LGBT visitor centers in the nation, the visitor center is on the mezzanine level at 800 SW Washington St., and it's open daily 11 am until 6 pm. Apart from being a relaxing and friendly place to get advice from locals, the center offers a range of complimentary services, including baggage check, Internet and Wi-Fi, phone calls within North America, maps, and LGBT periodicals. You can pick up info on Portland's local gay bar scene, as well as tips on where to stay, what to do in town, how to get around, and how to find fun tours of this trendy city.

Chicago's Hotel Palomar Creates Gay Pride Package

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Hotel Palomar ChicagoChicago's hip and gay-popular Hotel Palomar, which is part of the exceptional Kimpton boutique hotel brand, is offering a special deal and cheeky welcome to those visiting during the Chicago Gay Pride Festival this year. Good for stays from June 19 through June 23, the Palomar Pride package contains the following perks: guests receive 10% off the best available rate (the hotel will donate the difference to the Red Ribbon Campaign); a $30 beverage credit at the sleek and sexy Sable Kitchen & Bar; an "Essential Hangover Kit"; and a late checkout. It's a pretty fun and reasonably priced way to experience one of the city's most stylish accommodations during one of the Midwest's premier events.

Paris to Host Gay Games X in 2018

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Organizers and athletes are preparing for Gay Games 9, which will take place this year in Cleveland (the dates are August 9 through August 2014 - I'll be adding a detailed preview of events in the coming weeks). Cleveland joins cities that have included San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago, and Cologne in hosting this illustrious exhibition and competition. Recently, the host city for Gay Games 10 was announced: the Games will be returning to Europe, to Paris, in 2018. Here's the latest on the efforts Paris is making to prepare for the event.

Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame Completes Major Expansion

Wednesday April 30, 2014

I've long maintained that you needn't even be a major fan of country music to enjoy a visit to Nashville's impressive Country Music Hall of Fame. This prominent cultural institution in the heart of downtown displays an amazing range of exhibits on the women and men who have best defined this genre and also contributed mightily to America's pop cultural heritage. The museum recently doubled in size, with a 21o-square-foot expansion completed earlier this month.

Part of what you'll discover during a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame is background on the more than 100 inductees, from recent members like Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire to notables throughout music history: Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Acuff, and many more. But the museum also presents a number of fascinating exhibits, and the recent expansion has added even more of these. Through June 8, 2014, for instance, you can check out "Reba: All the Women I am," which is filled with personal photographs, outfits worn during concerts, and many other personal effects. Upcoming exhibits are dedicated to Crystal Gayle and Miranda Lambert.

Portland's Former Governor Hotel Reopens as Luxurious Sentinel

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Featured in gay (and local) filmmaker Gus Van Sant's moving film My Own Private Idaho, Portland's renowned Governor Hotel - which had been virtually stripped to the bone during  a major renovation when it appeared in MOPI as the roost of male hustlers played by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves - recently underwent a dramatic $6 million renovation and and rebranding. Now known as the Sentinel Hotel, this sister property to a pair of other stylish Portland haunts - the recently renovated Lucia and the swell-elegant deLuxe. Built in 1909 as the Seward Hotel, the stately Sentinel is in the heart of downtown, a short walk from popular gay bars around the West End (such as Scandals, Boxxes, and Silverado).

The beautiful Italian Renaissance hotel is home to one of downtown's favorite long-running restaurants, Jake's Grill, along with a hip new bar and lounge, Jackknife, which focuses on craft cocktails and light, creative small plates, sandwiches, and salads. Guests with pets appreciate the special pet welcoming amenities and pet room service, and all who stay at the Sentinel enjoy such amenities and perks as in-room iPod and pillow menus, cult-favorite Salt & Straw ice cream available for delivery (for $12 per pint), a 24-hour fitness room, ultra-plush robes and linens, and honor bars stocked with delicious goodies.

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