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Andrew Collins

A Rocky Mountain Dude Ranch Extends a Warm Welcome to GLBT Guests

By May 31, 2010

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Guest dude ranches are a highly popular form of tourism in many western states - the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association has nearly 30 members, each charging from about $1,800 to $3,600 per person (high season) for a week-long adventure of horseback, fly-fishing, and typical ranching activities. As vacation styles go, dude-ranching hasn't picked up much of the gay and lesbian market. This has much to do with the somewhat conservative reputations of ranch owners and staffers, and the propensity for somewhat more glam activities on the part of GLBT travelers, most of whom come to Colorado with skiing and - at least in Denver - clubbing in mind. But as we all know, there are plenty of exceptions out there to every generalization. Dude ranches offer a rugged, rustic, and in many cases quite posh vacation experience, typically against a stunningly beautiful backdrop of soaring mountains, verdant meadows, and roaring rivers.

Ernie Noia, the owner of Lake Mancos Ranch near Durango, Colorado, spends much of his time at his other home in Palm Springs, where he's cultivated made many friends of the years in the gay community. It made perfect sense for Noia to try reaching out to the GLBT market - he even invited a friend, Michael Green, one of the owners of the Triangle Inn gay resort in Palm Springs, out to Lake Manchos Ranch to help train his staff in GLBT sensitivity - a visit that went well for all parties involved. Additionally, he's had openly gay Palm Spring radio personality Bill Feingold out to broadcast live from the ranch.

Noia would love to see more gay guests anytime of year, but he's especially excited about a new GLBT week he's developed for the ranch with the respected tour operator, OutWest Global Adventures. The 7-day, gay-oriented Colorado Dude Ranch Vacation at Lake Mancos Ranch takes place Sept. 5 through Sept. 11 and costs $2,075 per person, based on double-occupancy (there's a $500 single supplement available, too).

If you're concerned that your lack of horseback or ranching experience might be an issue, fear not. Noia points out that roughly 90% of the ranch's guests are beginners. "We start off slow, an hour of riding the first day, building up to an all-day ride near the end," says Noia, who also points out that he's assembled an experienced team of wranglers to help guests. Other activities on-site include hiking, country-dancing, and soaking in the pool and hot tub. There's also an excursion one day to nearby Mesa Verde National Park, which contains vast troves of ancient cliff dwellings.

Many guests spend time before or after their visits touring other parts of the Four Corners region, including Durango, Ouray, Pagosa Springs, Telluride, Monument Valley, Moab, and more. Here's my guide and gallery to Ouray, Colorado, which is famous for its hot springs, as well as my guide and gallery to Durango.

June 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm
(1) 4Corners says:

What evidence do you have that Durango and Ouray are, in your words, “gay-friendly?” Other than this gay friendly dude ranch, are there any gay bars or GLBT community centers?

Many towns in Western Colorado and the 4 corners states are populated by conservative Mormons. Places such as Durango, Ouray, Grand Junction, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Prescott are about the last places I’d expect to feel safe or welcomed. In my experience, the four corners states are very anti-gay, except perhaps Denver, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

June 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm
(2) gaytravel says:

My evidence is years of living in and traveling throughout the Four Corners region, and comparing my experiences with those all over the world. Sure, there are plenty of people in this area who aren’t welcoming of gay visitors, as is true of many parts of the country. But I’ve always felt warmly welcomed throughout the region, and I’ve met quite a few gay and lesbian residents, and many others who have welcoming attitudes. There are no gay bars or community centers in these areas, but that’s more a reflection of sparse population than it is a lack of gay-friendliness.

Of course, we all have different ideas about what constitutes a gay-welcoming destination, and what doesn’t. In my own experience, I feel comfortable traveling as an openly gay man pretty much throughout the United States. There’s the potential for an unwelcome encounter or negative experience anywhere, but if I restricted my travels to places only with large numbers of gay bars and GLBT community centers, I’d barely be able to travel anywhere. There’s a big world out there, and I’m keen to see as much of it as I can. It’s a shame you feel so unsafe and unwelcome in Durango, Ouray, Grand Junction, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Prescott – I’ve found every one of these places a pleasure to visit.

June 3, 2010 at 11:27 am
(3) STEVEN LUTZ says:

Please feel free to use any or all of the information in this article that I wrote.

ATLANTIC CITY is the new hot getaway for the LGBT community!
Fort Lauderdale and Miami are huge tourist destinations for Gay men and women from around the world. But where do we Floridians go when we want a fabulous getaway?
LasT Friday after work, I grabbed my cute boyfriend Jose, and off we went for a fabulous 3 days to the land of Casinos, Boardwalk, and beach, to find out what the “other” Las Vegas had to offer.
One of the best things about Atlantic City, is that you don’t need a car. Everything is an easy and fun filled walk, or at most a 5 minute cab or JITNEY ride away. The boardwalk is wide, clean, and full of cute little shops, with traditional sweet treats like salt water taffy, yum! Jose’s favorite is chocolate, but I love eating the banana….hum.
We checked in to our room at The TROPICANA. At the front desk I asked if they might consider upgrading us to a suite, and since the room was available, they did! Hey, it never hurts to ask, and as we were soon to find out, Atlantic City is the Queen of “comps”. All you have to do is sign up for The Tropicana’s Diamond Club, (it’s fast, easy, and free). Then every time you gamble, you earn COMP REWARDS. Here is the best part; all your drinks are free! Since we are sometimes frugal, (cheap) Jose and I stationed ourselves side by side at the 1 cent slot machines. So here we were drinking out free cosmos, talking, laughing, cranking the handles of our slot machines, AND earning rewards points that we used later for a free dinner! On top of all that, we were winning huge jackpots. OK, a win of “500″ was really only five dollars on the penny machine, but when all the “7″‘s line up and the machine is dinging away it really is a blast!
Later that evening we headed out to explore “THE QUARTER”. Do you know that light just before sunset, when the heat of the day is cooling off and the world glows with a soft pink as the sky above turns cobalt? Imagine it is this time of day, all day, 365 days a year. The weather is always perfect. Twinkling lights from the shops, outdoor markets and restaurants are romantic and welcoming. The Quarter is just off the Casino at Tropicana resort. It’s a picture perfect world with central plazas, fountains, and wonderful and exotic places to sip a cocktail, listen to music, people watch, and EAT! Want to drink ice cold vodka in a Russian restaurant, stop by RED SQUARE. In the mood for something Latin and spicy, (no you can’t have Jose, he is taken), have a fabulous meal at CUBA LIBRE. We chose CARMINES, for an authentic Italian feast, with lots of crusty home baked bread that we happily dipped in garlic infused olive oil.
The next day while exploring THE QUARTER, we came upon BLUE MERCURY SPA, and decided to treat ourselves. Jennifer welcomed us with a warm smile, and explained all the different services they offered. I chose the relaxing massage, and Jose, liking things on the ruffer side, went with the sports massage. Afterwards,swathed in our terry robes, skin glistening and fresh, we relaxed in the meditation area, sipping orange infused water, and snacking on fresh fruit and delicious home made muffin; heaven!
That night we decided to do something fun and different for dinner. Jose loves his wine, so off we went to the TOP OF THE TROP for their famous wine, cheese, and tapas at ALTO VINO. Our handsome Dominican waiter Caesar greeted us with a flash of bright white teeth and a warm and welcoming smile. Plate after plate of delicious food arrived, and Jose and I stuffed ourselves. We kept marveling as each bite we tried was tastier than the last. Our mouths were literally dropping open; this food was incredible! Best moment: Sunset, Chardoney, and dipping the gourmet flatbread into the white and black truffle honey, infused with garlic and jalapeno!
After dinner, we went to see LA GRAND CIRQUE at the TROPICANA theater. It is only running until June 16th, but it was incredible. Funny, spectacular, and lots of muscular swimsuit clad acrobats showing off their bodies in group contortionist maneuvers. Sprinkle the entire stage in millions of pieces of shinning confetti, and the finale was like being inside of a snow globe. If at all possible, you need to go and see this show!
Before leaving TROPICANA make sure to visit Golden Dynasty restaurant, the Irish Pub, Old Farmer’s Almanac general Store, and the Godiva Chocolatier!
The following day we were up early because now that Jose was hooked on massage, he wanted to check out QUA BATHS & SPA at CAESARS. Besides having a spectacular glass enclosed gym, the SPA boasts a Roman baths area, with multiple soaking pools, each set at different temperatures, ranging from lobster red to the ice cold plunge! Add a sauna and steam, and we were ready for our Spa treatments. I chose the FIGI RITUAL. 90 minutes of massage, sugar scrubbing, and coconut hot oil…..you have to try this one, it makes your skin baby smooth! Jose went with “Poker Face”, which stills cracks us up, because it is a deep pore cleansing facial. His skin was really glowing and youthful looking afterwards.
Relaxed, refreshed, and ready for action, we were back on the Casino floor at CAESARS. Jose had never played Roulette and was eager to learn. Our Croupier was friendly and helpful, showing us how to place the chips and what the rules were. Maybe it was beginners luck, but after 2 hours at the table, we walked away with $180 more than we had started with. Again, free drinks, having a blast, making money, and earning those valuable free comps that can be used for hotel, food, shopping, almost anything!
We decided to celebrate with an afternoon by the pool. The JITNEY took us over to HARRAH’S RESORT, where we discovered the amazing glass enclosed “outdoor” world called simply “THE POOL”. No need to look up the weather on the internet, here at THE POOL it is always a perfect day! No humidity, no bugs, no worries. Louren, our adorable server, guided us over to our private cabana overlooking the pool, palms, jacuzzis and bar. With gently billowing 18 foot white curtains, bamboo, ferns, and flowing beach grape, it was like being on our own private island in the caribbean! Jose ordered nachos. the platter was gigantic, literally flowing over with crispy red, purple and gold chips, covered in fresh green guacamole, sour cream, beef, and cheese. I got the “shake and go” cocktail….large enough for two; you get the entire shaker and can take it home as a souvenir as well!
Since it was our last night, we decided to try Harrah’s THE WATERFRONT BUFFET. We were not disappointed! Wide comfortable leather seating, hundreds of hand blown amber pendant lights suspended from the ceiling, immaculate carving stations, racks of salmon and ribs grilling over open flames; a feast! Jose was actually jumping up and down like a child at a theme park. First thing, he ran to the seafood area and literally piled 6 racks of king crab legs onto his plate, toting the now 18 inch high meal back to our table. I opted for Mongolian Bar-B-Q, a fresh grilled steak cooked to order as I watched, and an assortment of fresh steamed vegetables and snow pea pods from the Chinese station. I was amazed at how knowledgeable all the chefs were at each area. We watched as our fresh sushi was rolled right there for us. Our server, Norma, told us she has worked for Harrah’s for over 29 years. She came here on vacation from Puerto Rico, and never went home. I can see why, with Resorts like Harrah’s, I wanted to stay forever too!
A bit of history and political information: Harrah’s Entertainment was the first company in the industry to receive a perfect score on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. They have scored 100% for three consecutive years. Their non-discrimination policy covers all employees regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity. They endorse ENDA, and have offered domestic partner benefits for a number of years. Their benefit programs even include counseling for gender reassignment surgery.
ATLANTIC CITY has 4 miles of pristine beach, the famous BOARDWALK and STEEL PIER, An amazing Outlet Mall with over 100 designer stores, resorts, casinos, and spas. And now ATLANTIC CITY has a burgeoning GAY LIFE. Visit the Westside gay Bar, and get information from the GREATER ATLANTIC CITY GLBT ALLIANCE.
In 2007,civil unions were legalized in New Jersey. You can even have a legal commitment ceremony performed at a Lighthouse!
MAY: Fun N “GAY”mes weekend
JULY: Fireworks and Jazzfest
AUGUST: Arts Alive, Thunder over the boardwalk Air show
OCTOBER: Gourmet Food and Cooking Festival

January 23, 2011 at 2:01 am
(4) Mike Wooten says:

WOW! If gay bars and GLBT community centers are the criteria for gay-friendly, then I guess most places in the US/world are not gay-friendly. This being true, I still expect to feel safe and feel welcomed wherever I travel, as has always been the case.

I have found that gays who feel threatened and unsafe around a general category of the population are not ostracized solely (or at all) for their attraction to the same sex. There are far more reasons one would feel unwelcome.

January 25, 2011 at 5:57 am
(5) gaytravel says:

Thanks for the comment Mike – I couldn’t agree with you more…

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