#gaytravel

Travel Thursday: Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Festival Stimulates All Our Senses

California has been my travel destination about a dozen times, both in pre-adulthood and in my gloriously legal gay days.  The trips have been mainly to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Napa Valley, and once to Sacramento. The first three locations I have been to multiple times and with my trip in 2016, it was to all three. 

The goddesses must be rolling the dice in my favor in the big casino in the sky for this past weekend, I found myself in Sacramento, California. It was a meant to be trip, a trip to update me since my last visit to Sactown, almost 20 years ago.

If you’re looking for a new way to experience California, look no further than Sacramento. Once a quiet government town, the Golden State’s Capital City is experiencing a renaissance that has quietly transformed the region. The city is bustling with new restaurants, a thriving public art scene, exciting redevelopment and amazing weather to complement any activity. - Visit Sacramento

That was what I was going to be looking forward to, seeing how a quiet government town that I visited in the late 1990’s has transformed itself into a place of food, culture, art, and livelihood.

What better time to experience Sacramento than during the region’s annual Farm-to-Fork Celebration.  The festivities lasted all September long with farm tours, special dinners, street parties, culminating with the Farm-to-Fork Festival on Sacramento’s Capitol Mall during the last weekend. And then there is the big finale, a dinner on the city’s iconic Tower Bridge.  The drool was happening even before I stepped foot onto the plane. Let's see how the weekend began and where I ended up.


Lodging

Our home for the long weekend would be the The Kimpton Sawyer, (500 J Street, Downtown Sacramento). Just a brief 20-minute ride from the Sacramento Airport, this newly constructed Kimpton is home to the Sacramento Kings as it sits next to the Golden 1 Center. I’ve stayed in many Kimptons and they all have impressed, always with service, cleanliness, welcome-ness, and making you never wanting to leave. The Sawyer’s location could not have been better for what I wanted to experience while in Sacramento; art, the farm to for festival, and getting a better feel for the redeveloped downtown SAC.  That never wanting to leave feel was magnified as the property features a rooftop pool and bar (Revival at the Sawyer), as well as Echo & Rig’s second steakhouse location in the United States.

The Kimpton Sawyer is also conveniently located next to the Downtown Commons (DOCO) entertainment and retail complex.

Edibles.

Beer and barbecue were to be ingested during our first night in Sacramento and the choice of venue was Urban Roots Brewing and Smokehouse. Walking into the restaurant, you knew they took both beer and bbq seriously. Sacramento had a rich beer presence before prohibition and is now gaining ground back to recapturing its old title of “The Beer Capital of the West.” Having more than 60 craft breweries seems to be a great start in wearing that crown once again.

We loved the energy present at Urban Roots Brewing and Smokehouse and the assistance we received from the handsome Bennett Cross, General Manager.  Just get everything since it was all amazing (try all the sauces, too), but if you want some of the best smoked turkey you have ever tasted, seriously, it is here.

Beer

Another libations home you should wet your lips in is the Bike Dog Taproom.  There are two locations.  The one I rested my rump and worked out my liver at was at 915 Broadway Suite 200, next door to Selland’s Market Café (where I had a great meal and will share that in another post later this month).  Sitting there I met Jenny, who, besides giving me an amazing Wit, also gave me the lay of the land, what men are like in Sacramento, and what she’s looking for in a man. Did I mention the Wit? It was intense. The others were very good too as this was my second Mexican influenced beer.    IPA’s are not my cup-o’-tea, but I will drink them to compare, love the doubles and wished I was there for Bike Dog’s seasonal triple Bigger Boat.  Jenny and Bike Dog, thanks for a great time during my weekend.

Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Celebration.

6th Annual Farm-to-Fork Festival - Designed to showcase where our food and drink come from, Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival has grown to be one of California’s most- anticipated food events of the year. Hosted on Sacramento’s iconic Capitol Mall, the admission-free festival boasts over a half-mile (and more than 80 vendors) of local food, beer and wine, along with exhibits from farms, ranches and other food and ag vendors. Attendees will also find live music, cooking shows and a butchering competition on several demo stages and much more. The 2017 Festival attracted more than 60,000.

The largest commodity coming out of Sacramento County is wine grapes, so when in Ro … when in the Clarksburg wine country, you have to drink wine. Bogle Vineyard, just 15 to 20 minutes outside downtown would be where we got our taste of Sacramento, California wine.

The Bogle location was separated into three major areas, the tasting room downstairs, an upstairs private wine tasting room, and the lawn area with family and adults only area. We entertained our taste buds with 10 different wines, accompanied with some cheese, crackers, meats.  Needless to say, I came home with two new favorites.

Bring a blanket, some goodies and enjoy a bottle or two of the one(s) that tasted the best.  The tasting was great, listening to the explanations of the wines was educational, but enjoying the wines while sitting on the Bogle Vineyard’s grounds with friends was the most relaxing time of the weekend. I’m closing my eyes and remembering that moment now.

Fine Dining Restaurant

Dinner at Ella Sacramento was not an eyes-closed moment for the sights and colors at one of Sacramento’s best downtown fine dining locale are ones to enjoy. Founder Randall Selland, known to be an integral part of Sacramento’s farm- to-fork movement, ensures that his restaurant’s menu is designed around the farm-to-fork mentality. After eating at Ella, it is clear why it is a staple in the region’s dining scene.

Other things to do.

We optioned to do one of the Sac Tour Company’s offerings. Wide Open Walls (Sacramento’s mural festival) walking tour took us around town to see a multitude of creativity splashed along walls, alleys, dumpsters, and entryways.  Sac Tour Company provides walking and running tours that help visitors and locals explore Sacramento and get a sense of its culture, all at the same time.  The weather, which I am beginning to think is beautiful all the time in Sacramento, was perfect for a quick walk around town.  More murals are added every year, some change, and some go away, so the tour changes every year, too.

Tower Bridge Dinner

This has to be one of the highlights of the culinary scene and maybe in all of Sacramento as the Tower Bridge Dinner finds 800 people dining on one of the most iconic structures in all of the city. It is the culmination of the month-long Farm-to-Fork Celebration.  The the region’s top farmers and chefs must work for a whole year to plan such an event. Six is my lucky number so attending this celebration in its sixth year was just meant to be. The Sacramento’s Tower Bridge Dinner was led by famed Chef Jeremiah Tower.

Mike Testa, President & CEO, Visit Sacramento introduces U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Chef Jeremiah Tower at the Tower Bridge Dinner.

 

 

Recognized by Martha Stewart as “a father of American cuisine,” Chef Tower is renowned for leading the kitchen at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where the insistence on fresh and local ingredients quickly gained notoriety. Chef Tower will collaborate with chefs and farmers from the greater Sacramento area to make the 2018 dinner truly unforgettable. The late Anthony Bourdain produced a documentary on Tower that is available now on Netflix – The Last Magnificent.

 

Not only is the Tower Bridge Dinner an amazing night out for 800 people, it also serves as a critical fundraiser that feeds back into the system. A portion of the proceeds help pay for the free Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall that attracted more than 65,000 people in 2017. Last year, Visit Sacramento also utilized a portion of the proceeds to fund the first in a series of scholarships for CAMP students, children of migrant farmworkers, at Sacramento State.

After dinner, we left the bridge to walk along the Sacramento riverside to partake in the Tower Bridge Dinner Dessert on the Embassy Suites Riverfront Promenade.  If we were not stuffed already, this made us overflow.


The amount of new friends I made, the amount of food and wine I ingested, Sacramento will not be forgotten any time soon.  I do think that I did just scratch the surface of this city and will return soon.


Here are some of my other journeys in California that I have shared on Instinct Magazine.

Travel Thursday: The Wine Valleys Of Sonoma & Napa. Don't Choose One Or The Other. Do Both!

Travel Thursdays - Sonoma & Napa Valleys. Wine All You Want. It's What They Do Here.

Travel Thursdays – Falling In Love With San Francisco

Travel Thursdays - Los Angeles Calls, We Listen.

Here are some other pictures of my trip to Sacramento.

 

  

Thanks to the following

Facebook: @VisitSacramento, @FarmtoForkCapital

Twitter: @VisitSacramento, @SacFarm2Fork


IG: @VisitSacramento, @SacFarm2Fork

 

Travel Thursday: Maine Labor Day Tradition Mr Gay Ogunquit Turns 40

Sometimes you just need to just go home to get recharged. Luckily part of my home for 13 years while living in Southern Maine was a little beach town called Ogunquit. 

The name of the town is a little different, pronounced O–Gun-Quit, or if you ask Edie the Entertainer, host of Zumanity in Las Vegas, it's pronounced O-Go On-Quit.  However you want to pronounce it, Ogunquit, Maine is one of the gayest places in New England.  If you had to name the top three places to enjoy being gay with other gay people in New England, it would be Provincetown, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, and Ogunquit, Maine.

I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate many summers in Ogunquit. The town has been celebrating being LGBT longer that I have been alive.  One of the town’s celebrations is just about as old as I am as this year marked the 40th year of the Mr. Gay Ogunquit competition. 

Before the competition began on the beach, one of the hosts of the event from the Mainestreet bar in town polled the crowd to see if there were competitors from previous years.  Hands went up from multiple participants from the early '00s and the ‘90s.  It’s a great simple event where anyone can participate in the fun gathering where contestants parade in front of the judges, run down to the Gulf of Maine/Atlantic Ocean, and then jog back up to the judges while glistening and suffering from shrinkage for their final review to hopefully place in categories like Best Buns, Best Package, Best Legs, Best Chest, Best Personality, and Best Overall.

What keeps this competition fresh and new is that it is a tourist town.  Over the years, contestants have been local as well as from all over the country and the world.  We love hearing French, German, Spanish, Tagalog, etc. being spoken on this little gay beach in little ol' Maine.

Here are some pictures (thanks David Sullivan Photography) and videos from the event.


Thanks to the DJ, we had some great tunes before, during, and after the competition.

 

 

 

 

 

This contestant won for best legs.

 

 

 

 

As the event closed, even the drag queen hosts took to running the sand runway to the water and back.

 

 

 

 


Yes, anyone can participate and me as a bear thought about entering and throwing a wrench into the buff and ottery mix.  I haven’t seen many bears participate over the many years, but it’s open to anyone, but contestants are also sought out by organizers. There was some hair present this year, but many were of the more fit and trim crowd.  Maybe if there was a Best Belly category which could go either way to a bear belly or an ab show, maybe I could have won a category. As to the judging, with finding out that there were previous participants, I would have also varied the judges in their demographics, by inviting previous years’ contestants to be judges.

Being gay in Maine was an enjoyable experience, but it would have been very different if I did not have my summers in Ogunquit. I often try to get back there to see friends and acquaintances.

Ogunquit is great any time of the year.  It all depends on what you are looking for.  From a leaf peeper’s hub for exploration, to a beach town during the summer months, to a beautiful winter getaway, people in mid-New England, Montreal, and New York know that this local gay vacation spot always offers a good time, especially Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve.


Ps.  

If you are looking for other places besides the beach and Mainestreet bar, definitely check out:

Restaurants:

So Zap, So Zap is an Urban Thai Kitchen that serves foods from all over Thailand. It takes the most popular and traditional flavors from every corner of the country and combines them into a multitude of  mouthwatering goodness. Located on Route 1 and next door to Mainestreet, it is the perfect location to enjoy a bite to eat and jump back into enjoying town.

Roberto's - Reservations are welcomed here (open table or call), but we tried our luck and were able to eat at the bar with an amazing bartender John.

If you are looking for Italian restaurants in York County Maine there is only one place you need to know about Roberto’s! We have a beautiful menu of your favorite Italian foods cooked authentically to give you the real taste of Italy that you crave! We serve the Italian food in York County Maine that makes even a Wednesday night a special occasion!

Place to Stay

Bourne Bed & Breakfast (B3).  Besides its quaint size of 7 guest rooms, the location is perfect.  B3's placement equidistant from the center of Ogunquit Village and picturesque Perkins Cove makes it ideal for explorers.  Both destinations are just a 5 minute walk from B3 and in both areas of town, you will find convenient simple dining next to some of the best eateries New England has to offer tucked between shopping, art galleries, and other tourist delights. The Bourne Bed & Breakfast is under new management and we wish Jimmy and Brian the best.  Travelocity reviewers seem to like them.

 


h/t:  https://www.mainestreetogunquit.com/

http://www.dsullivanphotography.com/


If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.


 

Sopping Wet Men Ran In Tight Red Clothes This Weekend For Red Dress Run 2018

A bunch of folks had a lot of fun this past weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An annual event that a lot of locals and tourists have fallen in love with is the Red Dress Run.

According to Nola, this event is a charity event that ends up benefiting more than 100 charity organizations.

The event happened this past Saturday (August 11) and hundreds of people, men and women, gathered to take part in the two-mile run. But what set this event apart from other charity runs? Everyone, men and women, were wearing red dresses and outfits.

Despite some rain, everyone had fun running, dancing, and drinking in their clothes and we have a bunch of pictures below to show just how much fun they all had.

Doesn’t hurt that a lot of them men there were looking VERY good.

 

It’s a sea of red on Bourbon Street today for Red Dress Run!

A post shared by Amour NOLA | New Orleans (@amournola) on

 

A post shared by Wade Scioneaux (@justwade12) on

 

A post shared by Luke Layfield (@lukelayfield) on

 

A post shared by (@instaviiibes) on

 

A post shared by VJBrendan (@vjbrendan) on

 

A post shared by Steve Williams (@scubasteve_08) on

 

A post shared by @supa_taytay on

 

A post shared by Q93 (@q93fm) on

 

A post shared by La Galerie Hotel (@lagalerienola) on

h/t: Nola

June and in America Isn't the Only Time and Place to Celebrate Pride

When it comes to Prides, do you stay local? We use our travel pieces to share with you our own personal experiences.  Our writers are on the go and visiting these places they write about.  In the past year, I personally have visited two great locations during their pride celebrations.
 
 

International Prides are amazing with so much energy, freshness, activism, and foreign men.  We branched out from the US covered in the above two posts, but is it time to explore outside of June, too?

These FIVE international Pride events continue to spread love and equality through August and September in some of the most sought-after locales. From boat parades in Amsterdam to drag shows in the Dominican Republic, these celebrations will not disappoint. 
 
Amsterdam Gay Pride — July 28 thru August 5
 
We missed the boat on this one (pun intended) for this year, but we can still plan for next year!  This unique European celebration is different from all the rest as their parade involves hundreds of decorated boats that sail through Amsterdam’s canals. More than 500,000+ spectators line the canal and watch as these vessels sail through the Reguliersdwarsstraat, Amstel Rembrandtplein and Paardenstraat areas. 
 
For more information, visit www.pride.amsterdam/?lang=en

 

CSD Berlin — July 28 
 
Also known as Christopher Street Day, this celebration is one of the biggest gay Pride events in Europe. This one-day event focuses on the fight for equal rights for same-sex marriage throughout Germany. The parade takes place around Kurfürstendamm street and an abundance of street festivals and dance parties can be found across the city. 
 
For more information, visit www.csd-berlin.de

Copenhagen Pride — August 13 thru August 19
 
Copenhagen Pride takes place around the Town Hall Square, where thousands of colorful people line the city center for the Parade on Saturday, August 18. Multiple parties will also be taking pale throughout the city. Fun Fact: Copenhagen Pride will be hosting World Pride in 2021!
 
For more information, visit www.copenhagenpride.dk/#!/en/home

Caribbean Pride — September 15 thru September 22
 
This year CHIC Punta Cana is excited to bring back their second annual Caribbean Pride Week. This celebration of fun and inclusivity will include performances from world renowned DJ’s such as DJ Citizen Jane and Johnny Dynell, as well as electric drag performances from Toronto star Miss Conception. 
 
Check out our Travel Thursday: CHIC Resort Won Us Over With Its Staff, Relaxation, & Luxury post we did last year as well as the video of their weekly foam pool party and imagine it LGBT-ified.
 
For more information, visit www.caribbeanpride.com

Curacao Pride September 27 thru September 30 
 
Curacao Pride is a five-day celebration with plenty of parties and activities for both the local and international LGBTQ travelers. The highlights of the event include a Pride Walk, Beach Party and Pride Happy Hours. 
 
For more information, visit www.curacaopride.com

Where have you been out of state and out of country and out of June?  What as the best non-American Pride you've attended.  Help us plan the rest of this year and next!


If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.


 

Do you travel with sex toys? Carry on or checked, you may need to explain.

Do you get worried when traveling through security with your adult pleasure toys?  The secret is ... DON'T DO IT!  I have a hard enough time traveling with two laptops, an iPad and all the cables that go with them. I'm usually checking a bag as well so that's where the toys go. 

But if you're one of these travelers and all you bring along is the carry on and you feel you cannot go on vacation without battery operated stimulation, be careful.

Various sex toys, including a vibrator, were mistaken for a bomb, causing a partial closure at Berlin's Schönefeld Airport on Tuesday. Employees at the airport were conducting routine X-rays of luggage when they spotted "suspicious content in a luggage piece," according to the federal police in Berlin.
Oh crap, this was during a scanning of the checked bags.  I'm in trouble now.
 
But you would think that as one of the sex tourist capitals of the world, Berlin would have knowledgeable security checkers. Because someone operating the x-ray machine was unsure of what they were seeing, an alert was issued shortly before 11 a.m., which closed the airport's entire Terminal D as more security was called to gaze at the pleasure-filled package. 
 
Imagine if you were the owner of the bag.  He was called to the security desk to talk about what was in his luggage. Would youy just be honest and tell then what it was?  I mean, they're not going to say "ah okay" and let you go if you just say it's technical stuff,  and that's what he said.
 
Because technical stuff was not accepted, the bomb squad was called and after a full hour of involving way too many people, Terminal D of the Berlin Airport was reopened once it was determined that the technical items were sex toys.
 
Now don't go pranking your friends line this, or maybe we should.
 
When you plant a 12 inch dildo and lube in your sons carry on. Priceless. For usage and licensing please contact Licensing@viralhog.com
h/t:  cnn.com

Travel Thursday: When Key West Calls, The Ocean Key Resort & Spa Has The Answer.

In all my travels to Key West, I’ve always stayed with a very good friend.  Now that she has moved back to New Hampshire, It was time for me to find a different place to stay than a guest room. Since I had been to Key West many times, walked around, knew where all the hot spots were, I knew where I desired to be and at which resort I wanted to stay.

Ocean Key Resort & Spa at 0, yes, zero Duval Street was to be my home for the next three days and two nights.  Arriving at the resort, I was greeted by the handsome hockey knowledgeable valet, Jeremy. He was the first and last face I would see staying there and all others at the resort would follow his lead of having a pleasurable and helpful personality. Cara Johnson, Director of Sales & Catering, would later give me a tour of the picturesque resort, educating me on everything from the spa to the hand-painted ceiling tiles in the Hot Tin Roof Restaurant to the soon to be reconstructed Sunset pier.

When cutie Jeremy showed me to my suite, I think my face may have said what my brain was thinking, “Seriously? This is my suite?”  The resort used to be all time shares but has since been taken over by Noble House Hotel And Resorts.  Some of the time share residences are still owned by families, but maintained and handled by Ocean Key.  My suite with one bedroom, living room, dining area, full kitchen, and massive bath was more than I expected. The cathedral ceilings throughout added a wow factor to my lodgings.

I had two reasons for coming to Key West that weekend.  One was to see one of our writers that I had never met in person, and second was to have a relaxing weekend in a Key West resort.  The amenities at Ocean Key Resort & Spa allowed me to do both.

Dinner at the resort’s restaurant Hot Tin Roof was amazing as I enjoyed its Little Gem Salad (tomato, pickled red onion, humboldt fog cheese, billionaire’s bacon, buttermilk dressing) followed by Albondigas Picadillos (pork & beef meatballs, tomato, queso blanco) and then the Sunset Ale-Braised Lamb Shank (smoked gouda polenta, wilted spinach).  Dinner was accompanied by a 2015 Zinfandel while the dessert, a salted caramel and dark chocolate tart, was enjoyed alongside a Tawny 10 year old port. I will say, the service was remarkable.  I was eating by myself so besides enjoying the great food, I admired the service and the great team someone assembled.  My Ukranian waiter was visually stunning and a great conversationalist.  The rest of the staff assisted each other with ease, grade, and accuracy. It was a symphony and I told that to the head of house. I was impressed.

Brunch was just as exceptional and had the same view as the first night's dinner.  Many more families were present as the Hot Tin Roof is known to have one of the best brunches on the island, reservations recommended, but walk-ins welcome.

On my last day at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, I checked out of the resort and into the spa (it's in the same building, but that just sounded cool). Spa Terre has many different services to choose from and I actually chose two, the Balinese massage and a facial.  Being a man with a beard, I was unsure how a facial would go, but the experienced staff, both for the facial and the massage, were friendly and excellent with their hands.

I hated to leave, but now being relaxed and more clean than ever, it was time. 

Recommendations off the chart for the Ocean Key Resort & Spa.  One of the best locations on the island at 0 Duval Street, a staff that strives for nothing but excellence, and amenities and rooms that will satisfy you and your memories.


There's a lot more to the keys than just one resort Here are some other aspects of my trip to the keys.


Getting to Key West

Since my first trek down 95, to Route 1, to the end of the state and country, I’ve been to Key West several times, none of them will match the beauty and awe I experienced the first time, going over the bridges, hopping from one island/key to the next, seeing the magnificent indescribable hues of blue and green seawater. Many wrinkle their nose at the 4.5 hour drive from Fort Lauderdale (3 to 3.5 from Miami), but it is truly an enjoyable and important part of visiting the keys.  Yes, you can fly into Key West International Airport or take the Key West Express departing from Fort Myers Beach at 8:30 am, from Key West at 5 pm, with a travel time of about 3 1/2 hours once underway.

 


Since Hurricane Irma

It had been about 9 months since my last journey to Key West.  I had gone down Route 1 in November of last year, just two months after Hurricane Irma blasted through the middle of the archipelago. Key Largo at the top of the keys and Key West at the end were the least damaged of the keys, but everything in the middle was affected.  I didn’t want to stop and stare at the devastation, but I was able to take some pics from my car as I drove.  What I notice was how much greenery was gone, how many homes were gone, how much garbage there was alongside the roads on keys that I never thought had homes to begin with.   This most recent journey down, there was so much lush greenery present, new construction, activity, and promise.  There was still talk of the damage, a great amount of repair still going on, some keys were a little further in the process of recovery, but none were still in devastation mode.


More to see than just Key West?

I will always enjoy my expedition to the Keys for I truly have just scraped the surface of what they have to offer.  Being in Florida, I am bombarded with many resorts marketing that they are coming back alive and will be at full swing in 2019.  I love Key West, but with having 7 trips down there under my belt, maybe it is time to explore more destinations along one of my favorite roads in America.  


Enjoy these other pics and their descriptions from other aspects of my trip.

 


If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.

Travel Thursday: Cities Welcome LGBT+ Travelers With Visitor Centers Made For Us. Add Fort Lauderdale, Florida To The List

With LGBT Travel being a multi billion dollar business ($200 Billion in 2014), cities are working to market themselves even more.  We know of the gay meccas in the nation like San Francisco, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and New York City, with the smaller beach towns of Rehoboth, Saugatuck, Ogunquit, and Provincetown, but what the heck do you do when you get there?  Or what the heck should you do before you get there?

Just a little over a month ago Fort Lauderdale, Florida opened up its LGBT+ Visitor Center. It's a wise move since the Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomes 1.5 million LGBT+ visitors annually who spend roughly $1.5 billion. The Visitor Center is a result of a partnership between the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau & the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce. 

We are proud to have a long and positive history of supporting the LGBT+ community. The opening of this Visitor Center marks another important milestone in the uniqueness of our area in recognizing the value and needs of the LGBT+ visitor. We are very excited about this latest advancement in calling attention to all of our great attractions, hotels, clubs, bars and restaurants that cater to this important audience. - Richard Gray, Vice President of LGBT+ for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Remember sending letters into or calling visitors bureaus to request brochures and trip guides from cities as you planned your vacations? Pouring through the selections and pages was always fun with great pictures of destinations, but where were the rainbows? Well, here come the rainbows. The World Tourism Organization estimated in a 2016 report that LGBT travelers account for five to 10 per cent of global tourists.  We have the money and we are spending it, but we need the help to know where our money should be spent on quality and at gay owned businesses and businesses that welcome us.

There are hundreds of gay-owned and operated businesses in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area as it arguably has the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country. Th diversity in Southern Florida is quite noticeable and that does include LGBT+. 

The economic impact the LGBT+ community locally cannot be understated, especially by LGBT+ visitors that come here from all over the world year after year. While LGBT+ travelers have many of the same needs as straight travelers, many unique needs exist. This Visitor Center will serve as a place where people can stop in, ask for recommendations and receive information about the community, our member businesses, events and organizations. - Keith Blackburn, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce

When it comes to gay travel, Instinct Magazine posts its Travel Thursday pieces each week as a way of sharing with its readers our own experiences from our own personal travels.  The trips our writers share are ones they have been invited to go on while others share their personal vacations to destinations all over the world.

We are just visitors in some of these communities. We do our research as well as inquire from locals what things we should be doing while visiting. Now, cities are doing the work for us. There are other cities across the nation that have a dedicated LGBT Community Center, LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and LGBT Visitor Center. 

Here are some other LGBT Visitors Centers we know of across the nation. Feel free to give a nod to others you know. 


The Key West Business Guild and its LGBT Visitor Center have relocated to a new, larger location. The guild, acclaimed as one of America’s leading gay business associations and among the oldest in the nation, and its visitor center are now located at 808 Duval St. The guild office and center are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for walk-ins. Visitors also can call the guild for assistance at 305-294-4603 or e-mail office@gaykeywestfl.com. - http://gaykeywestfl.com/


San Diego LGBT Visitors Center

San Diego's official travel resource for LGBT tourists and our allies. We provide the most trusted and useful information, maps and local recommendations. 

The goal of the San Diego LGBT Visitors Center is to share San Diego's LGBT friendly brand and image with the world. We are partially funded by the Southern California Equality Business Alliance, operating under the fiscal guidance of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  - https://www.lgbtvisitorscenter.org/


 

LGBT Visitor Center Miami Beach

The LGBT Visitor Center in Miami Beach, at 1130 Washington Avenue, opens its door with Pride to thousands of tourists from around the globe each year. Situated in the historic Old City Hall building, we’re literally at the epicenter of LGBTQ activity in South Beach. Steps to Ocean Drive and the Beach, a few blocks from famed Lincoln Rd and right in the middle of bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Our vibrant LGBTQ community helps make Miami and the beaches one of the top LGBTQ destinations in the world!

The LGBT Visitor Center builds strong community by fostering social engagement and community wellness. We enhance the health and well-being of the LGBTQ communities by providing activities, programs and services that create community and empower community members. We also provide essential resources for the LGBTQ tourist promoting socioeconomic development and tourism. 

1130 Washington Ave, First Floor North, Miami Beach, FL 33139-4600 - http://www.gogaymiami.com/
 
h/t:  skift.com  , www.sunny.org/lgbt , https://www.gogayfortlauderdale.com/visitor-center

If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.

Travel Thursday: When Home Happens To Be One Of The Best LGBTQ+ Places To Live In The US

I often write a Travel Thursday posts about one of my wonderful trips, going to Tel Aviv Pride, Puerto Vallarta Pride, visiting Scottsdale, Arizona, spending time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, enjoying a weekend in Key West, and so on (I do love my job!), but I also write about my staycations here, where I live, in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, Florida.  My trips are amazing, but staying home and enjoying what I have here is just as great.  When friends visit me from out of state, they always ask, what is it like to live in a Gay Mecca?  I guess when you live here, you don’t think about it.

Besides being a place that has 15 gay bars within 5 blocks, quick access to one of the best beaches in the world, and a climate with about 2 days of winter and the rest of the year it’s all summer, Wilton Manors, Florida just knows how to embrace the gay as well as embrace life.

Instead of telling you about the Stonewall Pride that happened last weekend, I wanted to mention the two great activities I attended tonight, on a school night, on a whim.  The first was the 25th Anniversary of the Pride Center. I am currently not a member, but have known about the The Pride Center at Equality Park since I moved here back in 2013.

What was great about this Pride Center event was that it welcomed current and possible future members (one of them being me) to enjoy a nice night out, sponsored by Hunter’s Fort Lauderdale and Temptations Catering. The emcee of the event made it a point to tell all that the 2-hour open bar and hors d’oeuvres were all donated by the two businesses.

What may not have been designed as the main event of the evening and something that did cause my eyes to water up was the speech given by the new Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.  The words, those amazing words about how love and policies start local, the praise he gave the Pride Center for being an integral part of the community of Wilton Manors and For Lauderdale, and how lucky we are to have such a great political local core that supports us as LGBTQ+ citizens, I was kicking myself all shades of black and blue for not recording his speech. I need to know when Dean Trantalis is running for something next so I can vote for him as much as possible.

Related Post: Awesome! Fort Lauderdale Elects Its First Ever Openly-Gay Mayor!

The Founders Circle Reception lasted from 6 to 8 PM, but we wanted to find a place to watch the Ru Paul’s Drag Race finale.  We didn’t have to go far as we walked into the smaller side bar at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar and the RPDR reunion episode was on the 6 or 8 television screens.  While at Hunter’s, my friend and I discussed what place had the best food on the drive (Wilton Drive).  A place I always forget is Georgie’s.  Needless to say, the great food and drinks at Alibi helped us get through a stressful RPDR Finale (#teamkameron).

So besides the great organizations like the Pride Center, and the successful watering and food holes like Georgie’s Alibi Monkey bar, what else is great about this Gay Mecca of Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida is that you just don’t think about being gay as an issue while here. It’s a label you do not need to wear.  It’s that rainbow ribbon around your heart that you do not need to show OR hide while being present. I’m not sure of the last time I felt I was gay or it clicked I was gay while being out in public.  Geesh, that sounds odd, but yes, being gay is part of who I am, but it’s not something I have to prove, project, protect while here.  I’m just me, a man that lives in this town and goes to bars and goes to restaurants and goes to Bed, Bath, & Beyond, goes to open houses, and drives a sweet three miles to work.  Life is f&$king great!

Of course, living in a Gay Mecca, make sure you have time to enjoy it. At any time of the day or night, you can just say, hey, let’s go have fun and you’ll have it, and you won’t have to worry if you left your gay card at home.

Thanks Wilton Manors and Greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole for being a wonderful and accepting place to call home for the past 5 years and hopefully many many more.

I know this may sound a little banal to some, but I do realize how good we have it here and often think about our LGBTQ+ citizens here in the US and those around the world whom cannot hang out together, that cannot be seen together.  We have it so good here.  As mentioned, I can go one mile and be at 15 gay bars and do things from be political or social or drink or watch a gay television show with complete strangers in a gay bar. 

So what is it like living in a Gay Mecca? I don't have a good answer to that, but it may be just like how straight people live every day, without worrying that someone may judge you by whom you love or whom you have relations with.  Living in a Gay Mecca is living care free and full of LGBTQ+ adventure.  Let me know if you want to use my guest room some time.


 

The Pride Center at Equality Park  Mission:

We provide a welcoming, safe space — an inclusive home that celebrates, nurtures and empowers the LGBTQ communities and our friends and neighbors in South Florida.

The Pride Center meets the distinct health, social, educational, socio-economic and safety needs for the LGBTQ community and our allies.

Last year, more than 35,000 adult and youth attended activities at The Center. The Center hosts more than 65 regularly-meeting groups each month.  Support, social and educational groups focus on seniors, youth, women, men, transgender individuals, recovery, health, the arts, athletics, spirituality, games and more. Outreach activities over the past year directly impacted over 125,000 residents and visitors to South Florida.

Stop in and learn about all we provide: a community Flea Market; women’s health initiatives; parenting workshops; transgender education series; family outreach days; Bingo; unique exercise classes; cultural competency trainings; a playground for children and families; Wicked Manors; healthcare navigation; financial investment series; art gallery openings; Bingo; couples counseling; a rentable auditorium; social media outreach; Diversity Honors with the Harvey Milk Foundation; a beautiful courtyard; music, movies and live theater presentations; a variety of health fairs; and a spectrum of creative symposiums, speakers, forums and events for the entire community.

The Pride Center is a major site for HIV testing, prevention, outreach, education, healthcare linkage, support, holistic health and counseling. Our popular Senior Services activities include: weekly Coffee and Conversation events with over 200 LGBTQ Seniors; individual linkage services, wellness workshops, daily Enhance Fitness senior exercise classes; SAGEWorks technology and job skills courses; a speaker series; recreational activities; healthy aging seminars; cultural events; and our annual Senior Health Expo. The Center also spearheads the three-county collaboration to organize, develop and market the current online health directory of culturally competent providers for LBTQ women at LBTHealth.org.

We own five-and-a-half acres of property at Equality Park with 30,000 square feet of meeting and office space for individuals, programs and services, as well as synergy among organizations. Our Vision is to be the premier point of connection for our community.


If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.

Travel Thursday: Scottsdale, Arizona Stimulates And Satisfies Us This Summer.

When in Scottsdale, Arizona, do as the locals do.

We recently enjoyed an exciting long weekend in one of the top Spa / Resort cities in the country.  Scottsdale, Arizona offers not only great beauty, but great resorts, as well as outdoor activities.  Yes!  Enjoyable outdoor activities in the desert. The highlight of our trip was staying at the Andaz.

Andaz – Scottsdale Resort & Spa

Our picturesque Arizona nights were spent at the Andaz - Scottsdale Resort & Spa, a "World of Hyatt" resort that I had only heard great things about from friends out west.  Driving up to the resort, walking to my Saarinen Bungalow, I could see why they loved the Andaz brand so much.

The bungalows bare the name of Finnish American architect and interior designer Eero Saarinen, designer of Washington Dulles International Airport and the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.  The largest bungalows the resort offers are 485 sq ft, with one king bed, spacious mid-century modern interiors, an oversized dual-fixture shower that could fit nine people comfortably, a banco terrace, as well as a private patio with luxurious outdoor lounge seating. The comfort and design of the bungalows made it hard to depart any of its 7 amazing spaces: the shower, the separate multiple sitting area inside and out, the bed, and even the walk-through closet/changing area wowed us.

Once we were able to gain the internal strength to leave our beautiful bungalow, the rest of the resort did not disappoint.  Any resort in Arizona needs a pool and the Andaz has three. The Turquoise Pool is the central pool of the resort where cabanas can be rented and bar food and drinks enjoyed.  The Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary pool was a pleasant surprise to find after our spa treatment.  The views from every part of the resort were breathtaking, but the spa pool kept us in awe for some time.  The third pool, the Retreat Pool, is a little more private as it is among a cluster of private cabanas and only useable by those guests.

The main building housed reception as well as Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, where we had most of our meals, unless it was the phenomenal room service.  Two recommendations – get room service to bring you breakfast one day as it is epically wonderful – and – get the dirty hash when you go to Weft & Warp.  Most of the menu is breakfast items that you can order throughout the day, but the dirty hash danced all over my taste buds, especially when I added the homemade hot sauces.

Living in Florida, I know heat and humidity.  I had not been to Arizona in well over a decade and I could not remember what the dry heat felt like.  It did worry me knowing that temperatures would easily reach triple digits, but as a heavier set man that sweats at the drop of a hat, as long as there was some shade, the Arizona dry heat was so much easier to handle than the Florida humid heat.

And not knowing how that heat was going to be, I was rethinking a couple of my planned activities in Scottsdale. I went forward with them anyway and I am so happy I did.

Kayaking the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures

A water adventure in Arizona? Why not? We were picked up at the Andaz for the simple van ride out to the Lower Salt River.  The plan was to float down the relaxing, class-1 Lower Salt River surrounded by spectacular and unobstructed views of four different mountain ranges. But there is enough water in Arizona to make this happen? Flowing from the mountains in Northern Arizona, the Salt River is captured by four dams and released for use by Phoenicians and farmers.

The paddling was more like floating and pointing on that day and we didn’t mind one bit. Some of us had never kayaked before and this was an easy and great first experience for them. We saw many different birds, like the great blue heron, as well as many wild horses. I would take anyone on this kayaking journey again. Wear a bathing suit and a light shirt and a hat and you’ll have to wear shoes so bring some water shoes or sandals and they will provide you with a life jacket.   www.aoa-adventures.com/daytours/half-day_kayak_tours.html

A Balloon Experience by Hot Air Expedition, Inc.

So, yeah.  I did that.  We left the Andaz at 4:30 AM for yet another short van ride to go and experience something I cannot wait to do again.  If you’ve ever been on a plane, this is 1,000 times easier.  If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry.  By the time you realize you are off the ground, you’re smiling from ear-to-ear.  Just don’t look straight straight down.  The view from the balloon’s handcrafted wicker basket is virtually unobstructed during your approximate hour-long flight.

We did partake in the morning flight, but afternoon flights occur, too.  Both provide magnificent views of desert terrain and towering mountain ranges, as well as the opportunity to spot local plant life and wildlife – all from up to 5,000 feet.  We could not tell what some of the animals were as they ran around, but once the shadows were elongated, we could tell most were rabbits.  Breakfast/evening hors d’oeuvres are provided immediately following the balloon ride. You are welcomed back to earth in the traditional manner with flutes of champagne and delectable gourmet cuisine, a custom dating back more than 100 years.

 

 

It is recommended that you wear sunglasses, sunscreen, and closed-toed shoes. The temperature in the air is the same as on the ground, so dress for the day’s anticipated temperatures. We would also recommend wearing a hat and a thin long-sleeved shirt as the heat from the balloon’s fire is intense so any way to block that direct heat from your skin is advised.

Other Places To Stay

The Andaz Resort & Spa was a great place to call home for a couple of nights and the summer rates are quite exciting.  Definitely check out the summer deals as some are great discounts, many waive resort fees, and others provide some free adult libations, and some do all three and more!  We learned that in the summer, when rates are lower at hotels, resorts, and spas, the locals will find these great deals and have staycations or pampering days.  We met many wonderful locals enjoying the summer pricing.

We desired to check a couple of other places to stay while in town.

The Scott

The Scott Resort & Spa was a refreshing palate for this Floridian’s eyes.  The mix of natural wood and elegance gave this downtown Scottsdale resort a feeling of warmth and comfort.

Both The Canal Club Restaurant and The Canal Club Poolside helped us fill up on amazing food and drinks our first night in Scottsdale.  We also checked out the two pool areas the next day, with one being a sandy beach pool, where sand castles are definitely encouraged. 

The Spa was not as large as others in the area, but for the amenities it offers, it ranks a respectable 7th best spa in Scottsdale, a town of resorts and spas.  If I had more time, I would work in another stay at The Scott.

Hotel Adeline

This simple yet well designed hotel was my last place to stay for the evening.  When I arrived at Hotel Adeline, the pool was hopping with a great young and attractive crowd enjoying a live dj.  I was told that I had a great room overlooking the pool and one of the more perfect spots to enjoy the live music later that evening.  I was worried that the hotel would be hopping all night long, but the bustling crowd must have been out and about in Scottsdale as Hotel Adeline was a quiet place to lay my head. 

Places to Eat

Besides the amazing room service and the Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen at Andaz, we tried out a couple of other places. 

FnB

Tucked inside the charming and historic Craftsman Court in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, FnB, short for Food and Beverage, owes its praise and passion to its owners, Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director Pavle Milic.

As chef and co-owner of the award-winning FnB restaurant in Scottsdale, Charleen Badman is one of Arizona’s most celebrated chefs. A four-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef of the Southwest, Charleen is known as the “veggie whisperer” for her ability to coax the very best flavor out of locally grown vegetables, which are featured prominently – although not exclusively – on the FnB menu. Her unfussy, yet boldly flavored menu changes seasonally, and sometimes even week-to-week with tweaks based on what’s currently available from local farmers.

We ate family style at the restaurant.  I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but the way that Chef Badman worked her magic with a large variety of vegetables (and meats), I was a fan and will be a fan of her work.  Others are fans, too - “Best Chef Southwest Nominee 2014 + 2015 + 2016 + 2017” by the James Beard Foundation Awards.

Culinary Dropout

This chain restaurant was one I had never heard of when in Maine or Florida so when my friend from Tempe recommended it, I was up for something different.  We were well taken care of by the polite staff and our server Sarah. Muscles for an appetizer as well as a brussell sprouts dish kept us going until the main dishes came out.  We would recommend Culinary Dropout and basically anything on the menu.

If you find yourself passing through Arizona and cannot decide on which part to prop your feet up in, our vote is for Scottsdale.  The over all feel of the area, the artistry, the welcoming and happy people, as well as the views and opportunities to go hiking, kayaking, ballooning, and other outdoor activities make this part of the desert a beacon for travelers, adventurers, and those seeking relaxation.


Here are some other pictures from our trip.


If you have travel ideas, places we should visit, or work for a PR company and are looking for writers to visit, please reach out to customerservice@instinctmagazine.com and address your comments to the Managing Editor.

Help Me Out: How Do Gay Men Afford Such a Lavish Lifestyle?

This is a bit of a continuation from a piece I did back in August. 

A major debate landed on social media yesterday, when the topic of gay men and their disposable income once again became the focal point of a major conversation. The reason for this is due to the amount of vacations and trips many have taken over the past week or so due to the variety of gay events that are happening across the country (International Mr. Leather AKA IML, Gay Days in Orlando, Texas Bear Roundup, etc).

The argument was two-fold a bit, as there were questions raised regarding how many of these men can afford this sort of lifestyle while having copious amounts of PTO (Paid Time Off) in order to make it happen. 

I for one, am not a hater of how anyone chooses to live their lives in the gay community nor am I envious of these people. Over my years of living in New York City, I have developed somewhat of a "stay in your lane" mentality where I don't let other people's thoughts about me or the world influence my overall opinion on things. But this situation is more of a curiosity one, as I struggle to really understand just how gay men, albeit single or partnered, can really do this every year?

The events that one can go to as a gay man in a 365 day calendar year knows no limits. It can be one that is gay themed, or simply a vacation that they would like to take for their own reasons. Regardless of cutting corners and whatnot, these trips can average costs of at least $1,000 if not more... so how is this happening? Are these people simply lucky in their careers that they are able to do this sort of thing, do they have a "sugar daddy" of sorts who provides them with lavish trips or is it something else that they have done to ensure a fabulous year ahead of time?

I once again asked this question to a bunch of my friends, who came up with some pretty interesting theories regarding the affordability and time off some gay men have in our community. This included the term "f**kboys," saving up, location of where you live, age, and so much more. 

Some of us don’t live in the most expensive city in the states (New York City, San Francisco, etc). 

Daddies, Drugs, and some hardworking guys. Lol.

Marry a New York City lawyer, 

This doesn't apply to me personally, but I talk to lots of people about finances since I'm a recruiter. I've found that big Silicon Valley tech companies will still pay pretty high salaries for people to work remotely. So making San Francisco money when you live in Missouri goes a long way.

So people just get to go cause they use others and are Fuckboys. But that’s a thing some folks are into...

For a lot of guys, they save all year long for their bear-filled vacay.

I didn’t do IML nor can i speak for everyone else but i usually plan all my trips 6 months - year in advance. They release dates a year ahead for the sake of saving money, i don’t have last minute circuit coin lol.

As a flight attendant my job allows me to fly for free and with seniority, I’m lucky enough to have off 18 days a month. So I think it depends on the job one hold also.

I've worked on circuit parties all over the country and few a hot minute did the bear/leather market in the midatlantic. most packages except for rather elite VIP were around 250-300. that's an average going out 2 nights a week in most cities. hotel, again worked out basically the business rate deal with a hotel that had breakfast. there u go. most parties or runs had healthy food out that was donated just show the badge or there in the case of the bears a dinner incorp'd into the price. i agree with most unless u are a true queen and u need a bag of peanuts for an hour or two flight go coach, sorry, i ate breakfast before needing a snack. know the locals, there is this thing called the internet, find out where they go for cheaps, stay away from the chains. i dont know how on a 3 day weekend u are spending 300 on food unless u have a disorder...no shade..as someone who worked it for a living. maybe 100.

Most bears are older and more established, many of my bear friends are attorneys, doctors, realtors, IT managers and those trips arent that expensive. I would spend $1000-$1500 for a trip to Tidal Wave. and someone who makes on average over $100k as a couple, it's really not much. As a realtor I took 6 vacations a year and when u are older you also have accumulated some vacation time.

It’s called the gay club. You have to be a member. Like the softball players. How can they travel all over the country every weekend for a game? Yes how do employers like giving so much time off and yes how do people afford 19 vacations a year? It’s called the gay club I guess. I’m elderly and I usually get just one major vacation a year and then leftover vacation days here and there for long weekend getaways that has to be planned in advanced and saved for. Frustrating.

I work remotely and share rooms. I haven’t been able to travel much since I live alone now. Before when my rent was 400 LOL I could do anything!

How do you think gay men afford these trips, does it make you envious in some kind of way?

This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject. 

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