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(This article originally was published by SDGLN media partner The BottomLine.)
The SoCal Rainbow Triangle
It’s pretty clear when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered folks in our Desert that we are one third of a huge tourism movement of folks among three top LGBT travel destinations in the world – us, West Hollywood and San Diego. The magical rainbow triangle works in several ways.
First, the many folks visiting our area from around our nation and the world will typically spend time in all three destinations. Secondly, many LGBTers from each of the three places will visit the other two several times in the course of a year. Easy access, and better weather either in the Desert or on the Coast, depending on the season, allow this rainbow tourism flow to easily happen. Basically each point of the triangle is two hours or so away.
Most folks love the rocking, urban, edgy, let it all hang out there West Hollywood – aka, WEHO. Its restaurants, nightlife, hip shopping and street action are all fabulous, and very busy.
San Diego is urban but with a, “I am really just a grown-up beach town” mentality. Hillcrest and adjacent neighborhoods provide visitors with some of WEHO’s atmosphere, but it’s a much more mellow and laid back presentation.
And, then there is Palm Springs, which is clearly the slow-down, shuffle-along, travel destination of the three. There are many great restaurants, trendy hotels (not to mention about 40 exclusively gay or lesbian ones), some unique shopping, and excellent outdoor recreation. From hiking, to bicycling, to sitting by the pool soaking up the continual sun – we offer visitors a stark contrast to our two “sister” cities. We exude our famous saying, “We do nothing – really, really, really well.”
The major tourism sights to see in and nearby the West Hollywood area are the massive Pacific Design Center, the fabulous new WEHO City Library, the Farmers’ Market, the Los Angeles County Museums and the museum at the La Brea Center. The Avenues (Robertson, Beverly and Melrose) of Art and Design, the legendary Sunset Strip and the “LGBT Main Street,” Santa Monica Blvd., are all tremendous walking adventures. Yes, people do walk in Los Angeles.
The accommodations are endless and varied. Unique and absolutely fabulous is The Charlie. It’s a group of totally lovely English country cottages – each named after stars of yesteryear! How Hollywood is that? Named after Charlie Chaplin, it has 14 lovely suites. Pulling up and moving through the website is a joy in itself. thecharlie.com
On the, hip new, high-rise, state of the art side is the Andaz. It’s now become an icon on the Hollywood Hills. The Grafton is an iconic sleek boutique hotel. The London West Hollywood is the ultimate in new luxury and festive accommodations.
The classic Ramada Inn on Santa Monica Blvd. is a motor inn with fun customer service in a perfect location. The rooms are a bit dated but the location is marvelous – can’t get better for clubbing. Then, there is a lovely, old, shall we say, “Palm Springs/ Key West” style gay place – clothing optional and very friendly. The location is central as well. Visit their fun website at thesanvincenteinn.com.
San Diego is one of the largest cities in the country and contains some amazing tourist sites – beautiful classic parks, the world’s largest zoo, stunning world class beaches, unique and endearing neighborhoods, and a vibrant night life. It also has the oldest gay neighborhood in California – Hillcrest – which pre-dates Castro and West Hollywood. It has to have more rainbow flags flying per capita than any other town.
San Diego has an amazing variety of hotels for every budget and taste, but here are some that are very enjoyable, check them out. The Hillcrest House Bed & Breakfast is a must for those of you who enjoy small inns, attention to detail and an amazing place to stay. The Inn at the Park is a classic historic hotel which started as apartments so many rooms come with full kitchens, balconies with sweeping views and San Diego’s most famous roof top Friday happy hour. Some lovely properties to check out are The Sofia, the US Grant, Andaz, The Keating and the amazing Del Coronado. For dog lovers who love to travel, experience the Ocean Villa Inn at Ocean Beach – right on the famous OB Dog Beach.
Jump on our own Rainbow Triangle and enjoy a quick and easy escape!
Fort Lauderdale has been an LGBT travel destination for decades. It actually has been referred to as “Palm Springs with an Ocean.” As with our town, there is a huge resident population of our community and it’s one of our larger tourist destinations. There are over 150 LGBT run businesses, three LGBT publications, and the largest MCC congregation in the United States.
The town, which sits along side of 25 miles of one of the state’s most pristine white sand beaches was long known as a tawdry spring break paradise. That is ancient history now. The downtown has dozens of high-rise condos, sophisticated dining and a large pedestrian friendly area, Riverwalk, which is devoted to fun boutiques, eclectic restaurants and clubs.
This city is clearly one of the gayest places in America. Over 30 of the once dated ’50s motels have turned into lovely gay resorts. The main street of Wilton Drive is chockablock full of gay shops and restaurants. Most of the gay bars are along that street as well. The largest gay neighborhood is Victoria Park, though the towns of Wiltom Manor and Oakland Park are gay majority spots as well.
More than just a beach town, the Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale contains impressive collections of Pre-Columbian, Pacific islands, and West African art. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts presents Broadway performances, along with dance and music. A unique stop for your group will be the International Swimming Hall of Fame – with hundreds of pictures of Speedo clad swimmers. One of Florida’s largest Gay Prides is in March.
The beach is the thing here, and there are three gay beaches. Sebastian Street is the most well known and most popular. Every day is a party. Terramar is the closest beach to most of the gay guest houses. A less known, quieter place, is the 18th Street Beach.
The variety of gay owned accommodations is varied. They range from sophisticated inns to wild and wooly clothing optional resorts. Find a style that fits your needs and prepare to have a wonderful escape.
A unique and fascinating destination is the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. The culture and cuisine is varied and festive, the spectacular beaches are beautiful, and the historic center of the city is one of our nation’s prized jewels. The city is very gay friendly, with bars, clubs and restaurants scattered about. Condado, the tourist district, Historic San Juan and Santurce are the more concentrated gay neighborhoods. Accommodations are varied – from ultra upscale resorts to inexpensive guest houses. Other than sunning, there is a wide range of outdoor activities. And for those of you looking for a good time, there are dozens of clubs, gay and mixed, that are open for long evenings that last until dawn. Most usually include wild, and fabulous, salsa music.
Contado Beach is where many of gay sun worshipers are hanging. And after the beach time, folks pour into the district which has recently become the leading Caribbean destination for a sophisticated travel experience. The sense of hipness here is greater than in any other part of San Juan. The new chic resorts such as La Concha and the newly opened Contado Vanderbilt are starting to make world travelers pay attention.
It is also, along with Old San Juan, the neighborhood for dining. Puerto Rico is the culinary capital of the region, with its amazing mix Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino ingredients. You can find food in all venues from dives to upscale.
Puerto Rico might be seen as an exotic paradise, but it is a US territory do its dollars, no passport needed, and the locals are English tolerant!!
This amazing city is one of the premier urban tourist destinations in the world. Along with this, it’s also a leading LGBT destination. This beautiful cosmopolitan city has over 4 million folks in neighborhoods from beach towns to mountainside neighborhoods. The Sydney Mardi Gras is one of the largest LGBT celebrations in the world, growing the ranks of gay tourist before and after the event.
Many of the city’s gay and lesbian bars, (which total more than 50 at last count), boutiques and restaurants are in the area of trendy Oxford Street in Darlinghurst. Folks there call it “Darlo.” There are other neighborhoods in Newtown. The lesbian scene is in a place called Leichhart, aka – “Dykeheart.”
There are many gay owned and gay friendly accommodations. Three, which have been recommended by Desert travelers, are: The Kirketon Hotel in Darlinghurst, The Governor’s B & B in Fitzroy, and the Devere. It has some full apartments. It is similar to the Inn at the Park in San Diego.
It is a VERY long plane ride to Sydney, so stay in Australia for awhile and explore more on the diverse continent. Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast all have lots of LGBT venues to explore. The natives are very friendly and partying is a national custom. Cheers, mate!
The “City of Spires” has much more than great historic sites and fascinating architecture. Though the city beckons travelers like an open-air museum, for our community Prague and The Czech Republic has become a very progressive and gay-friendly destination over the last decade.
For starters there is the Vinohrady area in the center of the city. It is truly vibrant, and exciting. There are around 30 gay bars, discos and saunas and there are new establishments opening all the time.
LGBT folks have full rights and there are no prohibitive laws against people with HIV/AIDS. In a country with one of the finest medical coverage in the world, high education levels, and partnership laws since 2006, the place is wonderful. The Czech military has allowed openly LGBT service men and women for a decade. Prague prides itself on being the Amsterdam of eastern Europe.
Recent local visitors to Prague recommend the Hotel William. “It’s very conveniently located, newly remodeled and very gay friendly.” In addition, check out the Rainbow-Inn, the Hotel Metamorphous, and the Hotel Constans.
Choose this dynamic city as a destination or mix and match with some other favorites such as Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Budapest. You will certainly make Prague one of your favorites!
The general rule of LGBT travel is to explore the world, and even though there are LGBT folks everywhere, be prudent in your choice. Read, study and choose a gay friendly travel professional. They are easy to find!
You may reach George Zander at email@example.com
TOP TEN LGBT DESTINATIONS
Last year, The BottomLine published a great Top Ten destination list for LGBT travelers. Here is a brief review for those of you who didn’t see it (gasp!), or threw it away (double-gasp!).
1. Puerto Vallarta: Great beaches, fine tropical hotels and condos, festive bars and restaurants, and super wide opened LGBT friendly – and close by.
2. San Francisco: We are in every neighborhood, and part of the structure of the city. It is great year around, but in the late summer, fall and holidays reservations are a must!
3. New York City: Clearly on the top ten list for everyone – it contains gay neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, and gay, gay, gay Broadway.
4. Berlin: One of the leading hip destinations on the hippest Continent. Entertainment, and like in San Francisco, we are everywhere – with the main gay center in Scheonburg.
5. Toronto: Many LGBT owned and operated bed & breakfast inns, one of the largest gay pride parties in the world, and the second best theater scene in North America make Toronto a huge hit with our community.
6. Patong Beach at Phuket: It has become a gay hotspot because of its unbelievably inexpensive nightlife and overnight accommodations. Coupled with the busy and exciting city of Bangkok (a gay paradise), the two cities make a great pair – one vibrant and busy, the other a first class chill spot.
7. Barcelona: Catalan in spirit and European in appearance, this city has roots. A great history of art and music since the early 1900s, gay neighborhoods sprang up everywhere. The beaches of Sitges are short train ride away from the city and offer a relaxing experience after busy Barcelona.
8. Rehobeth Beach: Starting as Washington D.C.’s Provincetown, the town has become a huge travel destination for our kind from all over.
9. Costa Rica: This lush country, with its cloud forests, volcanoes and lovely beaches, is now known for laws protecting LGBT folks, so it’s an extremely friendly place to visit.
10. Buenos Aires: The vitality of this emerging gay and lesbian scene is obvious throughout the city. Spicy, sensual, and sexy, it has risen to one of the world’s major tourist destinations.
So, what now? It’s time to explore some new and favorite LGBT destinations. Do not miss these!!