#lgbttravel

Travel Thursday: Staycation or A Little Getaway - Thanksgiving in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Less Traditional, Just as Memorable - Thanksgiving in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Thanksgiving is a time to come together with family and friends to reminisce about the past and to make new memories that will last a lifetime.

I've been living in Fort Lauderdale for just over five years now and it looks like I will be staying in Florida for this November's turkey day, just like my first and second year here. In 2013, the whole fam-damily came to me and we went to Key West to celebrate.  But the next year found me enjoying the First day at Gay Days – Fort Lauderdale. Showing Me Another Part of the City.  Staying at the W Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach with a multitude of gay men wasn't a bad thing at all. 

Gay Days has not returned to FTL/FLL since, but the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area still has many things to do this Thanksgiving Weekend. If you're local, stay put and enjoy, but if you're not local or not from Florida, here are some things that may entice you to come down for this long holiday weekend. 

Here are some of the best Thanksgiving weekend activities to create a new spin on old traditions.


RECREATION - Thursday, 11/22

Fort Lauderdale Turkey Trot

If you're one of those athletic LGBTers, you know the tradition of having a quick 5k on Turkey Day in prep for the tryptophan trauma later on in th day

Fort Lauderdale has you covered.  You can run, walk, or jog in the Holy Cross Hospital Fort Lauderdale Turkey Trot 5k race along the beautiful A1A to benefit two local leadership foundations, Leadership Broward Foundation, Inc. and the Helena Ramsay Soaring Leader Scholarship.



THANKSGIVING DAY DINING

When it comes to dining, my first staycation found me eating a great meal at the H2O Cafe right along A1A (the road separating the beach from the businesses along the Atlantic Coast in Fort Lauderdale). But there are other places I may branch out to this upcoming holiday weekend.


Thanksgiving Dinner Luau at Mai Kai

I've heard a great deal about Mai Kai and have not been there yet. What we learn from the their website is that ... Like Polynesia, the Mai-Kai Dinner Attraction is a feast for all senses, and offers a perfect mix of authentic South Seas entertainment and exquisite gourmet selections. The Mai-Kai resembles a Polynesian village with palm thatched roofs, flaming torches, waterfalls, lagoons, and orchid collections. The Mai-Kai features an international cuisine with oriental specialties, and over 50 unique tropical drinks. Beautiful maidens and agile warriors perform native songs and dances during the nationally renowned Mai-Kai Islander Revue.


2018 Thanksgiving Buffet at Hollywood Beach Resort

More than 40 of my Thanksgivings have been in Maine.  Every turkey holiday we would wonder, will it snow, heat wave, freezing rain? What I loved about my 2014 year here was while I was ingesting food, I was watching men walk along the beach, tourists riding bikes, the sun gently caressing me and wishing me thanks.  Boy that got corny quick.  But seriously, taking the weather component out of the equation for the fall and winter months is an amazing stress reliever.  And when you can be thankful and eat your turkey and trimmings in a venue line this one pictured here, overlooking the ocean and the boardwalk, it's so worth it. 


Thanksgiving Brunch at ETARU Hallandale/Las Olas

I'm just going to keep telling you how amazing it is to just have so many less cares in the world while you give thanks for your past year as you listen to the waves crash on the Atlantic shoreline and watch the beautiful Florida bodies make you realize that it's also good to be at a restaurant where they usually only serve one dessert to you. This chain's venues may be getting my vote as some of the more inspirational and unique for Thanksgiving, along with their fireside cooking featuring a turkey carving station and bottomless specialty wines. And we are liking the BRUNCH idea so maybe we could have two Thanksgiving meals that day.


Council Oak Steaks & Seafood Thanksgiving Specials

There's nothing wrong with mixing a little gambling with gluttony. And if you win big, well, there's more to be thankful for. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will provide a 3 course meal and some fun, for a nominal fee.  Most of the restaurants in the area are providing specials between $40 and $50 with some lesser options available. Maybe this will be the place to fill my second stomach.



Friday 11/23

Black Friday Shopping - If you need to, there are several options.

Retail Therapy: Discover the convenience and the value of shopping in everything from boutiques to department stores in Greater Fort Lauderdale. There are special shopping tours for groups and local shuttle buses from the beach. And, most hotels provide easy access to major shopping centers for car-less travelers. You can even shop at The Galleria by Water Taxi. Sawgrass Mills, the world's largest discount and entertainment mall, the Swap Shop, South's largest flea market, Festival Marketplace, a quarter-mile long shopper's paradise, and Westfield Broward, a one level, 1,000,000 sq ft shopping mall in Plantation, are just a few of the venues to begin your retail therapy. Translated "the waves" in Spanish, Las Olas Blvd is known as Greater Fort Lauderdale's "style mile," lined with independently owned boutiques, a restaurant row with acclaimed chefs, and lively lounges and cafés with sidewalk seating. Las Olas also a major stop along Greater Fort Lauderdale's Water Taxi system. - sunny.org


Full Moon Kayaking

When I moved from Maine to Fort Lauderdale, I did not leave my love of canoeing and kayaking behind.  Good for me, Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. There are several canals around the area, but one of the better ones is the one that circles around Wilton Manors and actually creates the island where so many gays live, love, and party. I have my own kayak, but most travelers don't pack one for their journeys.  Lucky for all of us, there are several companies around that rent kayaks right on the water's edge. 

One of the adventures I have not done before is to kayak at night. And look!  The full moon is a beaver moon this time. 


Las Olas Food Tours

If physical activities is not for you, maybe eating more is! There are a handful of food tours in the area.  I went on a great one in West Palm Beach recently, but have not dabbled in the ones closer to home. There are different levels and depths of food tours offered, so we would recommend visiting their website at  https://www.lasolasfoodtours.com/ and picking your poison. Las Olas, translated to "the waves", is a small walkabe street in downtown Fort Lauderdale that has a variety of moderately priced options mixed in with a little higher end venues, art galleries, and so on. 


Saturday 11/24

Take Saturday and recuperate the body while filling the mind with culture and art.  Las Olas has some great art galleries, but there's also other events occurring Thanksgiving weekend you may want to enjoy.

ELTON JOHN: Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour

I've had the pleasure of seeing Elton John twice in my life. Both times were in Portland, Maine.  Once was sitting in the nosebleed section, and the other was from the front row as he said, "This next song is for my wonderful six Tiny Dancers in the front row." I of course still have that ticket.  Any chance to see Sir Elton play, one must take it. He does look amazing in that pic.  We should see how he looks in person. 

After more than half a century, Elton will be having one final tour stopping in Fort Lauderdale.


FATVillage Artwalk  

An emerging arts community filled with great art, food, and music. Flagler + Arts + Technology makes Fat Village what it is today.

FATVillage is relatively small only in geography, but this unsuspecting district has been noted, and is coming under further notice nationwide. It’s a differentiated experience when explored below its surface, and that is part of the FATVillage appeal.

I've been to two different last Fridays of the month art walks.  When I'm in town and they are happening, I will be there.  And if you can get into Henry's Sandwich Station, they have poutine, an amazing fried chicken sandwich, and many other great things on the menu.


6th Annual Yarn Bombing on Andrews Avenue  

If you actually want to create some art, check out the 6th Annual Yarn Bombing on Andrews Avenue.  I just learned about this recently and 

 This year’s holiday streetscape will bring the story of The Nutcracker to the 10 street trees on the 400 block of N. Andrews Avenue. Join your friends and neighbors and come spread holiday cheer Thanksgiving weekend!

Even if I am not a part of this, I will remember the address and make sure to drive by shortly after the event. 


Sunday 11/25

You need to try Rebel House in neighboring Boca.  When I have the time for the quick drive north and want quality food and an amazing time, You will find me at the Rebel House at the bar enjoying it all. Every time I return, the menu has changed.  At first I am sad some ot the tantalizing offerings are gone, but I quickly find a new love for my eyes and mouth to enjoy.  Here's a local production "Check Please" that helps many of us find new and exciting places to eat. 

 

 


Rosie's Bar & Grill

If you want to remain in Fort Lauderdale and gay it up, start, celebrate, and end your Sunday Funday at Rosie's Bar & Grill.  Yes, every gay seems to go here so it's packed, yet fun, and the peach vodka drink with the side car of infused peaches will need to be followed by another since they are that amazing, and I don't like peaches. 

Flip FlopsShooters Waterfront

You can check out our story 'Boys With Boats' Offers A New Way To Meet Men With Similar Interests, Away From The Bars. to learn a little bit about Flip Flops.  We recommend the mile high nachos as they are a mile high. Everything is good here and the service is quality.  Nope, it's not a fancy place, but you're right on the Intracoastal Waterway where you can see all the boats and boys going by and we've seen dolphins and manatee, too. 

Shooters has been called " the most popular waterfront dining destination in the city with a completely new look and scenic inspired menu."  I like the laid back feel of Flip Flops, but if you want a little more shine on your silver, then just go next door to Shooters. Both are great bargains, waterfront dining, and just very relaxing. 



I love living in Fort Lauderdale because there is always something to do.  You just need to look for it, find it, and have the time to do it.  Life here is not fast paced at all.  If you want that, go to Miami.

You can find a list of events during Thanksgiving weekend in Fort Lauderdale at  https://www.sunny.org/events/ and definitely check out that site as there are savings on many items listed above.

While We Weren't Looking: Trump Signed New Law Radically Changing Airline Travel

As we all debated the Supreme Court appointment of Kavanaugh, the government was still rolling on writing and approving laws.  We're not sure if it was strategy or not but when Sen Collins was making her speech about the SCOTUS nomination, Trump decided to sign into law a bill that had been sitting on his desk for two weeks.

This new bill that received the John Hancock of #45 was the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, altering many aspects of how we travel in the air, but leaving two major issues untouched and actually placing them out of the reach of the FAA.

What do we now have to thank Congress and #45 for changes in airline policy?  Well it's actually what has not changed and what cannot be regulated that is the main part of the FAA Reauthorization Act. 

One of the biggest issues we all have as airline passengers is the cost of things.  We received no help from lawmakers in that department as the bill, now act DOES NOT regulate two of those main charges we hate.  Baggage fees and flight change fees. INC.com shares this on flight change fees:

As you might have experienced yourself, those fees can lead to passengers simply discarding a reservation they can't use, because paying the change fee would cost more than a brand new ticket.

Add it all up, and it's about $3 billion or more annually across the industry. American Airlines alone made $878 million from change fees last year, which adds up to about 2 percent of its revenue, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"It is our top priority to ensure that this--what we consider an existential threat to our business--does not become law," Sharon Pinkerton, the lobbying group's senior vice president for policy, told the Journal a few days ago.

And baggage fees? Well those can be whatever the airlines want them to be.  Even Southwest, an airline that has two free checked bags for passengers helped to lobby against baggage fee regulation.

What else was part of this Reauthorization Act? The fees were what the FAA is not authorized to act on, but the Act does give them the ability to alter our travel.  Let's sum up sone of the changes.  The first section you may notice as issues that were in the news quite a bit.  We're happy that Congress is paying attention to public opinion and current events.  We wonder if this was all found out because we're all watching Twitter a little more for our presidential briefings.

Here are the new things the FAA can do, thanks to pop culture and all that is viral:
  • Prohibits airlines from "bumping" passengers who've already boarded a plane.
  • Makes it illegal to store a dog or other animal in an overhead bin.
  • Mandates that airlines must allow passengers to check strollers if they are traveling with small children.
  • Increases the penalties for interfering with cabin crew or flight crew.
  • Tells the FAA to set up an "aviation consumer advocate," so that when you have something bad happen to you on an airplane, and you don't know who to tell, you'll have at least have someone to complain to.

These are other alterations that were not so newsworthy, but things we all have complained about at one time or another. They are:

  • Requires the FAA to set minimum standards for seat width and seat pitch.
  • Prohibits passengers from using mobile phones to make voice calls during flight.
  • Bans e-cigarettes from planes.
  • Requires airlines to refund passengers for "services they paid for but did not receive."
  • Requires the government to look into whether it's "unfair or deceptive" when airilnes say flights are delayed due to weather, when there are actually other factors involved.
  • Lets the FAA require airlines to let pregnant women board airplanes first.

One subject that was very viral in our community was the separation of or not allowing families with same-sex parents to board together. Some airlines were guilty of not considering them families or just allowing one parent to board and not both.

And in looking out for the flight attendants, the act also included:

  • Creates a task force to study sexual harassment and misconduct among airline employees.
  • Establishes minimum standards for how much rest time flight attendants get between shifts.

As for future travel and safety:

  • Requires the FAA to consider whether to allow supersonic airplanes over the continental U.S.
  • Allows the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and other federal law enforcement to hack or shoot down privately owned drones if they deem them a threat.
  • Also requires the FAA to work on regulations to allow "regular flights of package-delivery drones," like what Amazon wants to do.

And then there's the things that don't belong on the bill, but Congress decided to tag onto it to get them by.

  • Authorizes $1.68 billion for relief for Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas last month.
  • Requires the FAA to set up an "Office of Spaceports." 

h/t: bulleted lists from www.inc.com

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: Charleston, S.C. - Home to Southern Charm, Comfort, & Hospitality.

This is a repost of our trip last year to Charleston.  As Hurricane Florence lands in the Carolinas, we are thinking of you all. Stay safe and see you soon.  You are a resilient community and have faced hurricanes before and they recovery from them has become part of your history.


“Why did you come to Charleston, South Carolina?” I asked a nice couple having a drink at the rooftop deck of the Belmond. They stated that they had traveled down to Charleston from Maryland, because they had never been and they heard some great things about the city.

Why do we visit a place? Why do we choose to spend our time and money going somewhere we've never been?  One of my main reasons for going to Charleston was because my siblings had been born there and spent a couple of years of their early years while my father was stationed there during the Viet Nam War.  Besides my mother saying “you’re gonna love it” over and over again, others have stated it is one of the great cities of our nation and a true gem.  It was time for me to find out. 


THE SIGHTS –


- CARRIAGE TOUR - During our stay, we were able to squeeze in a city tour. I’ve been to New Orleans over 15 times, but never taken a horse carriage tour.  Jumping at the fact that the carriage tours are one of the more popular ways to see Charleston, we could not wait to see which sector of the city we would see. The structures around Charleston are quintessential southern architecture.  From the churches, meeting houses, government buildings, and the hospitality doors, my camera was very happy.  The guides for the Old South Carriage CO. dressed in Confederate garb, a red sash around the driver's waist. Our guide entertained us with both historical facts and humor. They guarantee satisfaction and we were satisfied.

CARRIAGE TOUR WITH OLD SOUTH CARRIAGE CO. | @oldsouthchs  12 Anson Street, Charleston
(843) 723-9712, oldsouthcarriage.com


 - HAUNTED JAIL TOUR -

Bulldog Tours runs many tours in the city.  One we were excited to attend was the Haunted Jail Tour. As seen on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and The Travel Channel, we went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Old City Jail, which housed some of Charleston’s most infamous criminals, 19th-century pirates, and Civil War prisoners. The Old City Jail was in operation from 1802 until 1939, and most of the building’s original structures — like the cells and warden’s quarters — remain intact. If you want to learn the history behind the haunted, take our new Charleston Jail History Tour. Our tour guide was Eric Lavender.  I am sure the guides are all good, but Eric was perfection. I even had a little paranormal experience that I will remember forever.


 

- MIDDLETON PLACE - Besides the history downtown, we were fortunate to have some time to tour Middleton Place. This National Historic Landmark is home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens and a lively stableyard with free-grazing sheep, cashmere goats, Belgian draft horses, guinea hogs, peacocks and majestic water buffalo. We did not stay for all of the demonstrations on making pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, candle-dipping, and open fire cooking methods. I was astonished to find out that this land was used for growing rice, a crop that made Charleston the wealthiest colonial city during the eighteenth century. I’ve been to several plantations in Louisiana and they all had a different “take” on the history of the land, the people that lived there, and the people that worked or were enslaved there. Take a tour like we did or do a self-guided tour of the gardens and property. Catch up on some of the history in a video below.

Downtown … check.  Out in the countryside … check.  Where else should we see Charleston?  How about from the water.


- COASTAL EXPEDITIONS -

We were lucky enough to secure a boat tour from Coastal Expeditions. While heading out into the bay, it was evident that shrimping was very popular and important to the local economy. Our captain and fellow guide Henry Brandt III and T.J. Chavis were great on the journey.  Their enthusiasm and knowledge were great to have as we learned about the history, present, and future of the Charleston and the water that surrounds it. As a history major, teacher, and lover, it was a chilling moment to see Fort Sumter along with other historical landmarks, ships, etc.

 

Since 1992, the basic mission of Coastal Expeditions has been to take people to beautiful places to experience meaningful things. Being that Charleston is a water town, the best ways to get to these spots are by kayak, canoe or powerboat.  Our guides delight in showing you dolphins feeding in a saltwater creek or the Holy City skyline at sunset.  And they can't wait to take you to the Boneyard on Bulls Island at daybreak or share Charleston history with you as you paddle by historic rice fields.  We offer something for everyone- kayak and paddleboard rentals, daily tours, blackwater adventures, camping and more. 

As we toured around where the two rivers met, the Ashley and Cooper, we were flanked by dolphins. Henry even pointed out that we were seeing them mating.  Of course we would be the group that would see that.  I would definitely book another excursion with Henry and T.J. and Coastal Expeditions.

 


THE NIGHT LIFE –


 

- DUDLEY'S - We had some time to play around and the place we decided to spend our fun money was at Dudley’s.  The full name of the bar is Dudley’s on Ann – Charleston’s “Everybody” Bar.  All the staff was great From Daniel Brinker , to bartender Chris, to DJ Matterhorn, to the other bartenders I saw hustling in this small and lively place, BRAVO. It was a great spot to spend a couple nights in.  The nights consisted of drag shows full of great talent, performers all around,  fun groups, yes, bachelorette parties, but they didn’t hang all night, and a mixed crowd of all members of society.  Tuxes with bowties next to shirtless boys next to silver-spooned preppies next to the shy silent types. Pick a person, they were there and that made the nights very enjoyable. There seems to always be a line to get into Dudley’s for it’s one business in from King Street and the straight bar nightlife. I did want to check that out, but we were too busy enjoying ourselves at Dudley’s.  


THE FOOD –


People rave about many things when it comes to Charleston and food is right around the top of the list. We had our opportunities to taste a great deal of what Chucktown has to offer.

 

- HOMINY GRILL - Our first wonderful instance of mouth happiness took place at the Hominy Grill. James Beard Awarding winning chef Robert Stehling takes this single home with charming courtyard and envelops it with offerings like a Southern-style cocktail, shrimp and grits, or the infamous Charleston Nasty Biscuit. This last option called my name and reminded me of the Biscuit Bitch in Seattle, Washington.  When something calls you, you need to go with it and I’m so glad I did. It was great to fill me up as we all ogled over the men in scrubs enjoying their meals in the courtyard.  That’s another thing that Charleston has going for it. There’s a good amount of young professionals, new growth, and great options for every age bracket, but it is nice to see a vibrance of post collegial peeps enjoying the city.


- MAGNOLIAS - This seems to be a must-eat-at locale when visiting.  Honestly, every place we dined at was impressive and satisfying. Nestled on East Bay Street, Magnolia's combines old world charm with contemporary excitement. Chefs Kelly Franz and Don Drake are recognized as pioneers in the creative use of the Lowcountry's bounty. What is Lowcountry? It’s a term I feel is used instead of local and fresh.  I’ve had fried green tomatoes before, but these had to be the best that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and eating. The home made chips were very crisp and the blue cheese was powerful, just how it should be.


 

- LEWIS BARBECUE - When in the south, anywhere in the south, you need to try the barbecue. Lewis Barbecue was the site of our meat coma of an experience.  They opened their doors and their smokers to us and we were very appreciative.  They didn’t have corn bread for us, but we had the corn pudding, which we all wanted to bathe in. The service was the type we have grown to experience in Charleston, from our first beer served to us at the Club Level at Belmond Place to the airport, the amazing southern hospitality lived up to his name. We were all very appreciative of the great food, good little gift corner, and the tour of the smoking room.  All the barbecue was perfect, but my favorite offerings from Lewis Barbecue, which surprised me, were the sausage and the turkey.

@lewisbarbecue   464 North Nassau Street, Charleston (843) 805-9500, lewisbarbecue.com

Former pitmaster at award-winning Texas restaurant La Barbecue, John Lewis brings his signature barbecue to Charleston with the opening of Lewis Barbecue.

 

Named “The Brisket Evangelist” by Garden & Gun magazine, Lewis welds his own custom-designed smokers to create expertly smoked beef brisket, pork spareribs and beef ribs.

 


- THE DARLING OYSTER BAR - And then there was brunch before we flew home after our wonderful long weekend.  No good gay goes without brunch. Executive Chef Joe DiMaio, former chef at the Old Village Post House and Stars Rooftop & Grill Room, opened The Darling Oyster Bar, a space featuring a 14- seat bar, a vast cocktail program, and a seafood inspired menu including fried, raw, and baked options.

Even if you are not an oyster fan like myself, there are plenty of options.  Maybe you could even start off brunch with the massive “The Captain” which contains vodka, hose mix, celery, pickled shrimp, hushpuppy, a king crab leg, and a lobster claw.  Some in our party had two, glushes!

@darling_oyster_bar 513 King Street, Charleston
(843) 641-0821, thedarling.com


LGBT HIGHLIGHTS -


- AFFA - I recommend making friends while in the city for it’s easily done.  Meeting up with some of the LGBT citizens in Charleston, we were invited to the home of Doug Warner, Director of Media Relations, Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

 

The evening was to honor Linda Ketner, Founder of Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA). It was interesting to learn about AFFA for its history highlights the Charleston LGBT community and how it has changed and grown over the past 25 years.

 


- LGBT TOURS - You can also check out this resource - New map highlights gay history in Charleston.  One of our new friends took a walking tour by Bulldog tours that was focusing on LGBT history.  It's good to see that there are options to learn about Charleston's history and it's homosexual side.

My last post on Charleston (Travel Thursday: Our First Visit to Charleston, SC.), highlighted where we stayed, Belmond Place, but this post hopefully filled in what else you can do during your stay in one of the best cities in the United States.


 

Las Vegas To Get That Much Hotter With The Return Of Tyson Beckford To Chippendales

A “Tyson Takeover” will keep the Las Vegas summer heat scorching through the Fall as Chippendales® announces the return of international supermodel, fashion icon and actor, Tyson Beckford as celebrity guest host.

After breaking box office records during his previous engagements, Beckford returns to the award-winning male revue at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for six weeks only, Sept. 27 through Nov. 3, 2018 (Thursday through Saturday performances).

“We are thrilled to bring Tyson back,” says Kevin Denberg, Managing Partner, Chippendales. “Our audiences have grown accustomed to Tyson; his star-power, charisma and sex appeal are the perfect compliment to our already sexually charged show.”

“This last year has been amazing with some new television and film projects but, being asked back to join my brothers at Chippendales on stage is always an honor,” said Beckford.  “I love Vegas and the cast, and any chance I have to perform for live audiences is always a guaranteed good time - I can’t wait to put on those cuffs and collars again.”

In reviewing the supermodel’s star turn with the men of Chippendales, the Las Vegas Sun wrote, “Fans of Beckford will not leave the show disappointed, as he not only flexes his buff bod throughout the adult male revue, but also bares his backside in a solo act with a female member of the audience…Beckford fits like a glove in Chippendales.”

Chippendales, the original male revue, recently celebrated its 39th anniversary as a brand, and its 16th year headlining in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

And yes, men are always welcome at Chippendales.

Previous celebrity guest hosts featured in the Las Vegas production include ‘sexually fluid’ Dancing with the Stars and America’s Next Top Model champ Nyle DiMarco, Beverly Hills 90210 and Sharknado star Ian Ziering, Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball winner Tony Dovolani, and openly gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, among others.

It’s worth noting that Beckford’s return dates with the Chippendales takes place at the same time as Las Vegas’s Pride celebration, October 19-21.

This year’s special guest star at LV Pride is none other than RuPaul’s Drag Race star, Bianca Del Rio.

So plan a trip to Las Vegas this fall and make it a sizzling hot weekend with Beckford and Bianca.

Here’s just a taste of what audiences will get to see when Beckford takes to the Chippendales stage this fall.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Did you train those muscles today? #beardgang #tysonbeckford #blackexcellence #teamtyson #abs #chestday #nyc #nyfw

A post shared by Tyson C.Beckford (@tysoncbeckford) on

 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MAN CRUSH MONDAY Tag a friend to bless them with this photo of #Chippendales’ @ryguy220.

A post shared by Chippendales® (@chippendales) on

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Chippendales® (@chippendales) on

 

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.


 

Travel Thursday: Calgary Draws Us In With Its Plentiful Food Scene, Buzzing Arts & Culture, And LGBTQ Acceptance.

We took the #ExploreAlberta as a challenge and came away with loving two great cities, Edmonton and Calgary.  We’ll mention Calgary, Alberta, Canada first, since that city will be having their pride festivities this weekend. Hold on to your cowboy hats and let’s go to Calgary!

Arriving into Calgary, we did not know what to expect.  We had heard the city over the past few years to a decade had been transforming from a Dallas-like oil driven city to a more white collar, artistic and cultural city. We experienced at every turn in the city the western hospitality the city is known for. Yes, yes, yes.  We joked all the time that Canadians apologize for everything and are overly polite, but to be honest, it’s no joke.  They are so polite! And so honest! And so accommodating.  We joked about it, but it just made us feel guilty that we were not like that, that they were better. 

The first real taste of hospitality came from the Hotel Arts, our accommodations that were in the best location geographically. The moment we walked through the door, we could tell this hotel was designed for function, appearance, appreciation of art, and the happiness of the customer.  Art, design, extraordinary service and a dash of whimsy were all present. We noticed while staying there that through personalized service and a boutique experience, the Hotel Arts welcomes both locals and tourists to enjoy the grounds, restaurants, bars, pool, and ballrooms (where they have hosted several same-sex marriages).

Soon after checking in we walked around the small pool area, which had been rumored to be very busy with hotel guests and locals most sunny weekends, and checked out the Raw Bar for their nightly $5 happy hour.

Yes $5 Canadian or $3.85 American at the current exchange will get you a nice happy afternoon drink.  It’s not that we needed it, but it as there, so we had two, each.  Don’t judge.

Well, go ahead and judge.  We had a brief respite on our private balcony in our room as we prepared for our next stop, Betty Lou's Library (The Devenish Building, 908 17 Avenue Southwest).

Walking into the building we were soon halted by a velvet rope and were presented with a phone near a hidden entry. ‘m not sure if I am supposed to give you the password or not so I won’t, but we gave it and were let into this hideaway.

Take a step back in time when you walk through the hidden door and have a seat in a vintage velvet chair. Their chandeliers give off a soft glow while their bartenders prepare original cocktails of superb quality. Sip, savor and socialize in this unique space that marries the American 1920’s Prohibition era with Paris’ Lost Generation.

Yes, the prices were a little more than I would usually spend, but my barrel proof old fashioned was a treat, making the $20+ bill so worth it.  They often have a limit of a 2 hour visit since the place is not a large space and gets very busy so they want to guarantee turnover. Go for the experience, the drinks, and the award-winning staff Thanks Jimmy for the great service and letting us benefit from your bartender expertise.

Frenchie Wine Bar (616 17th avenue SW) was our next stop, a short stroll from Betty Lou’s Library.  The walk, to the back of the building and behind UNA Takeaway and Bread and Circus Trattoria, made the experience more secretive and special.  I cannot tell you when the last time I had fondue, and it was great.  Along with the fondue, we had other small plates and a plethora of adult beverages in this 20-seat wine bar which also had spirits flowing in this once again speak easy ‘30s style environment. I could not find the menu online and the reason many be that their food menu features cheese that rotates weekly. Frenchie also serves house made ricotta, cheese fondue and desserts.

Why stop there, with drinks at Betty Lou’s Library, more drinks at Frenchie, we were off to Ricardo's Hideaway (1530 5 St SW).  The name is misleading as this restaurant sits out in the open especially with its large deck along 5th Street.  I think the Hideaway name is to prepare you for the great rum (and other spirited drinks) and food that has been inspired by parts of the Caribbean and Cuba and a little bit of the South Pacific, every place you want to have a hideaway. The walk from Frenchie to Ricardo’s was short once again, which did not work up our appetites too much, but when in a hideaway, who’s counting calories!

 Gay bar? Sure!  Twisted Element was our bar of choice that night. The self-proclaimed “Calgary's hottest LGBTQ nightclub, and the largest gay bar in Western Canada” Twisted was hosting one of its well-attended drag shows.  The large space has been operating since 2004 and also hosts variety shows and weekly karaoke nights.  The space would be one I could see myself coming back to.  The night we were there, the crowd was very mixed as locals say it usually is.  So when I say gay bar, it’s more LGBTQ+ bar.  Some other comments about the night.  I think there were two bachelorette parties there that night and they did take up most of the seating at the front of the stage, but they did bring in a large crowd that had never been there before.  The performers ranged in talent from “awesome they are trying and they’re doing better than I could” to “daaaaamn, there’s some talent.”  That night, I think I saw one of the best drag king performances ever.  Bravo!

 

We had noticed in Edmonton that there were many ethnic food offerings everywhere so when we started the next day with brunch at Calcutta Cricket Club (340 17 Ave, SW), we were very ecstatic. A mix of West Bengal, India and Golden Girls’ lanai, this barely one month old Indian restaurant gets its name from the Raj-era Calcutta Cricket & Football Club that dates back to 1792.

Clean.  Yes, the restaurant is fairly new, but I could not get over how clean everything was.  The brunches are packed as well as being a great deal economically for the culturally amazing servings of goodness you receive.  Not only is the food great, but the heart is too.  As we were leaving, they were setting up outside in their courtyard  a benefit for children with HIV. I bought a ring and met some wonderful people.  Food and heart will bring me back here on my next visit. 

From the food and heart, we went to talent.  If you have the chance and love music, you need to do the Backstage Pass Tour Studio Bell National Music Centre (850 4 Street, SE)

His name escapes me, but our tour guide of Studio Bell’s artist spaces not only provided us a behind-the-scenes look at three world-class recording facilities, but also a look at an epic collection of musical instruments that spans 450 years of music innovation and technology.

Studio Bell is the first national cultural institution of its kind dedicated to celebrating music in Canada in all of its forms. More than a museum, Studio Bell rises in nine interlocking towers, clad in glazed terra cotta in the heart of Calgary’s East Village. The 160,000 square-foot building includes five floors of exhibition space, a 2000+piece collection of artifacts, instruments and music technology, and other features including recording facilities, workshops, classrooms, an event space, and a 300-seat performance hall.

Tours are just on Sundays and well worth it. I enjoyed my experience here more than most of the Museums in Nashville. 

Food and music culture were now satisfied.  LGBT history and culture were next. Reservations had been made to leave Studio Bell and to go on a Historic LGBTQ Walking Tour through Inglewood, Prince's Island Park, and East Village.

Kevin Allen (LGBTQ community leader) led us through the downtown area of Calgary and namely Inglewood, Prince's Island Park, and East Village. Kevin has been documenting and profiling queer people and events for 25 years through freelance writing and editing for various queer publications including: Clue! Magazine, QC Magazine, Xtra! West, and Xtra.ca. He is a career arts administrator and the past Executive Director of the Alberta Media Arts Alliance (AMAAS), and has previously worked for the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF), NUTV, and the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts.

Kevin Allen is also a founder of Calgary’s now largest queer non-profit organization, the Fairy Tales Presentation Society, which produces many cultural events including the very successful Fairy Tales Film Festival every year in May. More cities need caring individuals like Kevin Allen to share the LGBTQ history of their cities.  I always hope for a resource and a person like Kevin when I travel so I get to know a city even more, especially from “our” perspective.

Charbar: (Simmons Building, 618 Confluence Way SE) would be our dinner venue where we experienced a variety of items from the ocean, prairies, and local gardens. The Argentine wood-fired grill is the star of the restaurant and the source of charbar's identity. 

We were fortunate enough to have Jason A KingsleyExecutive Director, Calgary Pride: join us at Charbar. He is currently serving as the President and Executive Producer for Calgary Pride, is the Vice President of Travel Gay Canada, and is the Regional Director, Prairies for Fierte Canada Pride, having recently brought the National Fierte Canada Pride Conference and AGM to Calgary for the first time since the organizations founding in 2004. Over dinner we were able to learn more about Calgary Pride.  Since I had been very vocal in the past on police presence in Pride Parades in the US and Canada, I asked Jason about what Calgary was doing in regard to the “issue.” His answer was well explained and I won’t transcribe it all from my brain, but what it boiled down to was that they were going to lead the discussion by having a conversation.  By talking to the people involved.  There isn’t a Black Lives Matter group really in Calgary, so pride organizers talked to a group that resembles other cities Queer People of Color (QPOC) and that group is Voices - Calgary's Coalition of Two-Spirit & Racialized lgbtqia+.  Jason said they were dealing with the concern by having a conversation.  The result is that Calgary police will not march in uniform and will not march together, but they will march with t-shirts that will identify them as police, but they will march with the group or organization they identify with or belong to if they choose to march at all.  I thought this was great since it would show that police are more than police, are more than an entity, but members of our community in many ways and many different levels. Calgary, you are leading the way with this year’s solution.  Bravo.  Of course, next year’s solution may be different, but let’s see how this year goes.

With a little drizzle in the air, Gears and Beers Bike Tour (1048 21 Avenue SE)was up next.  A tour guide service to get you around town and enjoy the craft beer culture, Gears & Beers Bike Tour made me realize that I was out of shape so I should just stop and drink more. It was a fun time and gave us all another way to see and feel the city. We were running late and the tour does not go after dark so we had to minimize our breweries to two.

Cold Garden Beverage Company: (1100 11 St. SE)
Cold Garden Beverage Company is a Calgary-based microbrewery. Cold Garden brings a casual and eclectic vibe to the community, along with a lineup of traditional and more...eccentric beers. 

The Dandy Brewing Company: (2003 11 St SE). The Dandy Brewing Company is Calgary's original little brewery. Although it has grown some, it's still small at heart. They produce inspired ales, with lots of care, in small batches. Their unique approach to brewing and keen eye to every detail fosters creativity in both our recipes and beer styles. On site, they are pleased to offer a unique brewery experience, featuring a full service tasting room with an exquisite menu of fine dining drinking food, a curated selection of cocktails, glass pours of selected wines, and 20 taps of Dandy beers.

Throughout Canada, you will see many young breweries. The reason being that Canadian laws were suppressing the brewery business, but in recent years, legislative changes have allowed the beer and imaginations to flow.  Turn any corner in Calgary or even Edmonton and you will find new and successful baby breweries.

Our last full day in Canada was to be one to remember.  We started off with a small breakfast at Little Henry (next door to Ten Foot Henry and across the street from Hotel Arts) (1209 1 Street SW). In the morning, the restaurant is a local favorite grab-and-go cafe (Little Henry), which opens at 8 a.m. Ten Foot Henry is quite literally a 10-foot replica of the famed 1930 comic strip character named Henry. This cartoon boy became larger than life as a muse for Calgary's creative community in the 1980s.

The sustenance was just enough for our 90-minute trek to Banff National Park. For over 125 years, Banff National Park has been known as Canada’s Alpine Adventure. The unspoiled wilderness, refined amenities and endless array of opportunities for active exploration combine to make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a “must-see” destination for travelers around the world.  The pure and sheer beauty of this destination and it being so close to Calgary makes it worth the simple voyage.  As part of our trek we enjoyed the Banff Gondola.

Journey to the top of the Banff Gondola to see a whole new side of Sulphur Mountain and the Canadian Rockies. We’ve completely rebuilt, redesigned and reimagined our mountaintop experience, creating a world-class indoor experience that equals the awe-inspiring ridgetop boardwalk 2900 ft. above Banff. From new restaurants and interactive exhibits to a multisensory theatre and a breathtaking 360-degree rooftop observation deck, the all-new Banff Gondola experience heightens every sense.

Atop of the Banff Gondola on the summit of Banff’s Sulphur Mountain was Sky Bistro, a dining sanctuary in the sky.  A distinctly Canadian menu that features the unique flavors of Canada through a hand-picked selection of regionally-sourced local meats, produce, and ingredients. Enjoying the cuisine and the view was an experience that seems from dreams or a James Bond movie.  Plan accordingly, take your time, and enjoy this adventure that Calgary citizens get to enjoy whenever they want to.

Coming off the mountain, we then went to Pomeroy Kananaskis - Nordic Spa.

Don't forget your bathing suits as day passes are available so guests can enjoy the much-anticipated, newly renovated Nordic Spa.

We relaxed and enjoyed the hydrotherapy cycle as the picturesque mountains looked down upon us. The 50,000 sq. ft. of contemporary indoor-outdoor space, Kananaskis Nordic Spa is purposefully designed for those seeking equal parts stimulation, recuperation and balance. 

Save time for a glass of wine, cheese plate, or other offerings after the body scrub/steam room. 

 

 

Departing the mountains and getting back to the city, a quick freshen up at Hotel Arts and then a walk to our dinner at Foreign Concept (1011 1st Street SW). An upscale restaurant featuring modern pan-Asian plates and craft cocktails in an elegant, airy space. The award-winning Canadian chef Duncan Ly mixes his Vietnamese roots, infused with inspiration from executive chef Jinhee Lee’s Korean background and their combined love for bold flavors, charm, and whimsy.

The duo’s commitment to sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients makes the dining experience at Foreign Concept a true fusion of their passion for scratch made food, traditional cooking techniques presented with modernity.

Just around the corner from Foreign Concepts was another gay bar I wanted to frequent.  I convinced some fellow travelers to journey over to the Back Lot. A small dark bar with two floors and a back area patio, I found this place entertaining. After ordering a drink down stairs and heading upstairs to listen to some very good karaoke, we struck up some conversations with some very friendly Canadian men.  Would this be my haunt of choice if I lived in Calgary?  I think it would be a good option.  A little dark, seedy, mysterious, but very welcoming with nice attendees.

On our day of departure, we had to say goodbye to Calgary and Hotel Arts.  Our final meal was at the Yellow Door Bistro, where we met Fraser Abbott, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hotel Arts. If you ever need anything, I think this man could get it for you.

Opening in 2013, with a nostalgic yet creative design, this contemporary restaurant features bistro-style dishes with modern and seasonal twists. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, Yellow Door Bistro believes in elevating simple food with quality ingredients.

Calgary has emerged as a must-visit culinary destination with a buzzing arts and culture scene. Restaurants with chef-driven cuisine, classic and quirky theatre, and lively music events and outdoor festivals, Calgary is a vibrant city that is centered around four UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park - making it the perfect complement to any Alberta adventure. WE only had time for one park, looks like we have to go back again to complete the rest .. as well as to find our cowboy.


For more information on some of the great places mentioned above, check out the following links.

Instagram @TourismCalgary #CaptureCalgary

Twitter @TourismCalgary #CaptureCalgary

Facebook @TourismCalgary


Hotel Arts:
T: @HotelArtsYYC
I: @hotelartsyyc


Betty Lou's Library
I: @bettylouslibrary
F: Facebook.com/BettyLouslibrary


Frenchie Wine Bar
I: @frenchiewinebar

T:@restofrenchie


Ricardo's Hideaway
I:
 @ricardosyyc
T: @ricardosyyc


Twisted Element: http://www.twistedelement.ca
I: @twistedelementyyc 
T: @twistedelement


Calcutta Cricket Club: http://www.calcuttacricketclub.com
T: @CalcuttaCricket
I: @calcuttacricket


Studio Bell National Music Centre http://www.nmc.ca
I: @nmc_canada
T: @nmc_canada
F: @NationalMusicCentre


Charbar:
I: @charbar_yyc
T: @charbar_yyc


Gears and Beers Bike Tour
W: Gears and Beers YYC
I: @gearsandbeersyyc
F: @gearsandbeersyyc


Cold Garden Beverage Company:
I: 
@cold_garden
T: @cold_garden

 


The Dandy Brewing Company:
T: @DandyAlesYYC


Little Henry (next door to Ten Foot Henry)
www.tenfoothenry.com.cafe-menu
I: @tenfoothenry
T: @10foothenry


Banff National Park
http://www.banffgondola.com

 


Sky Bistro
http://www.skybistro.ca/


Pomeroy Kananaskis - Nordic Spa
www.knordicspa.com
Facebook:@knordicspa
Twitter: @knordicspa
Instagram @knordicspa


Foreign Concept
I: @eatforeign
T: @eatforeign


Yellow Door Bistro
I: @yellowdoorYYC
T: @yellowdoorYYC

 


 

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: Our Time At Maui's South Shore Paradise - Fairmont Kea Lani

Traveling to Hawaii has been one of our loves ever since my partner and I started vacationing as a couple.  The ease of getting to the islands and the costs have become easier and easier over the years.  What we personally have found is that the island of Maui is our home away from home.  Our last journey had us experience the lovely Fairmont Kea Lani.

After landing at the Kahului Airport, we boarded our transportation for the brief and beautiful 30-minute ride to Hawaii’s only all-suite and villa luxury oceanfront resort.  Situated on Maui's Wailea coast, we knew we were going to enjoy the spectacular sunsets while we enjoyed the legendary Fairmont hospitality.

We settled into our one-bedroom suite, checked out the large private lanai with its spectacular ocean view.  The personal slice of paradise would be ours to enjoy for the next few nights.

For our first night, we wanted to celebrate being on Maui. We chose to visit Luana. The  venue was the perfect spot start our immersion into Hawaiian modern culture with the view of the ocean and the sun setting.  We enjoyed conversing with the mixologists and enjoying their cocktails and spirits along with the great offering of live music and pupus or light fare.  We watched as others joined us and celebrated the pau hana, translated to “finished work.”  Luana, just open in the evenings after 4 PM, was the perfect choice of places to begin our enjoyment of the Fairmont Kea Lani.

And that is one thing that you should always familiarize yourself with, which eating venues are open for which meals.  While enjoying our coffee on our lanai we examined the list of other eateries we would enjoy during our Maui stay.

Kea Lani Restaurant was where we would dine for breakfast during our stay.  The offerings consisted of breakfast favorites and fruits of the islands all presented on a wonderful buffet.  The open-air dining area was an ideal place to start our days enjoying the comfort breakfast foods, guavas, mountain apples, rambutans, papayas and even some Asian style breakfast foods.

The other best practice we do when on vacation at such a wonderful resort like this is to either book a spa treatment before or as we arrive.  Resorts are usually very accommodating and will give you a tour of the spa to entice you even more.  No enticement needed here as we’ve spent a good many hours in a spa at the beginning of our stays at resorts as it sets up the relaxation mode right from the beginning.  The experience we had at the award winning Willow Stream Spa (recognized as "World's Best Hotel Spa - Hawaii") was full of  state-of-the-art, locally inspired, and tried and true relaxation options for guest to experience.  Make sure you treat yourself to a spa treatment as we do.

As we let our spa treatments and thiri after effects calm our bodies even more, lunch was in order.  Coming to Maui, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you are able to experience more than just Hawaiian culture and cuisine.  , the Fairmont Kea Lani’s signature restaurant, embraces its location on Maui as well as the island’s heritage and offers plantation-inspired cuisine featuring Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese menu items.  The recipes used by Executive Chef Tylun Pang are island family recipes that have been passed down for generations, all the way back to the days of sugarcane plantations.

We definitely enjoyed the options Kō offered for lunches and dinners, not only the international cuisine, but we would recommend checking out the Twilight Dinner, a four-course dinner in a private candle lit cabana.  On the flip side of the private romantic dinner is the Sunday Night Laulau, a true celebration of food, Hawaiian style.

The Fairmont Kea Lani, with its the spa treatments and food options, truly satisfied our soul and bellies, but now it was time for the poolside cabanas and beach.   The pool and beach attendants were very accommodating in assisting us in finding the right spot to continue our relaxation.  We found it perfect to enjoy a cabana as it allowed us to go from sun to shade and back again as our hearts and skin desired. 

As always, leaving paradise is hard.  The ride back to the airport was still beautiful and enjoyable, the fight off the island, breathtaking.  We will return Maui to enjoy the award winning Fairmont Kea Lani again.  If you need more enticements that the Fairmont Kea Lani is the place to stay, here are some recent accolades of Fairmont Kea Lani as well as link to promotional offers (https://www.fairmont.com/kea-lani-maui/special-offers/hotel-offers/) such as free nights, food and beverage credits, and amazing discounts.

 

2018 AWARDS  

FAIRMONT KEA LANI  
TravelPulse.com, Best Destination Wedding Hotel/Resort - Hawaii, Silver
TravelPulse.com, Best Honeymoon Hotel/Resort - Hawaii, Silver
U.S. News Travel, Best Maui Hotels and Best Hawai’i Hotel

 

 2017 AWARDS  

FAIRMONT KEA LANI  
Travel + Leisure Magazine, The World’s Best Awards, Top 25 in Hawai’i
Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Top 25 Best Resorts in Hawai'i
BRIDES, 2017 Best Honeymoon Awards, Top 10 Resorts in Hawai’i
Trip.com, 2017 Family Tribe Best Hotels
Family Vacation Critic, 2017 Family Vacation Critic Favorite
TripAdvisor, 2017 Certificate of Excellence
USA 10Best Awards, Best Waterfront Resort
Travel Weekly, Silver Magellan Award, Beach Resort/Hotel category

KŌ RESTAURANT 
Maui No Ka Oi, 'Aipono Award, Best Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, Gold
TripAdvisor, 2017 Certificate of Excellence 
Wine Spectator Magazine, 2017 Award of Excellence
Maui Time Weekly, 2017 Best of Maui,Best Kama’aina
The Maui News, 2017 Best of Maui, Best Multinational Cuisine

LUANA
Maui Time Weekly, 2017 Best of Maui, Best Mixologist - Aaron Alcala-Mosley


 

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.


 

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.


 

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.

Pages