Hilton Hotels of New York City are keeping you tipsy and sparkly this Pride.
To celebrate World Pride and the 50thanniversary of Stonewall, the crafty mixologists of Hilton have created Pride-inspired cocktails at nine NYC hotels. From sexy lounges to rooftop bars, follow their cocktail guide to sip, sample and saunter through NYC all month. I prefer my summer parties outdoors, so my favorites are the rooftops of The Bernic Hotel, DoubleTree Times Square, Conrad Downtown, Hilton Fashion District and the Embassy Suites in Midtown Manhattan.
“No one needs glitter on Gay Pride” …said no one ever. To keep you glitzy, Hilton Hotels of NYC are creating complimentary Glitter Glamour Stations throughout the city on the Sunday of the Pride Parade (June 30). Makeup artists at select hotels will be transforming dazzle-deprived hotel guests and locals from 9am-12pm, with special glitter makeup and applique. For the added shimmer head to the Glitter Glamour Stations in the lobbies of the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Tribeca, Hilton New York Fashion District, Millennium Hilton New York Downtown and New York Hilton Midtown.
Make it a Pride to remember… and remember…and remember …as you discover glitter deep into August.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall riots, the June 1969 uprising that galvanized the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States and beyond. Each year, Pride honors those who stood at Stonewall, as well as countless others who have fought for equality throughout history.
But beyond the rainbow-themed summer parties, parades, and marches that usher in the June festivities, the rich and complex stories of LGBTQ history are honored at permanent sites around the world. Make plans to visit these eight monuments to a heroic heritage…
Sarasota County borders 40 miles of shoreline on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida and includes the City of Sarasota, several neighboring cities and a string of eight barrier islands. With a population of about 417,000 permanent residents and many more snow birds during winter months, it’s an area often associated with an older, affluent demographic.
But today’s Sarasota is expanding, evolving and enticing LGBTQ travelers of all ages to visit its powdery-sand beaches, world-class art institutions and growing gay (and gay-friendly) social scene.
Sarasota’s beaches are world-renowned. Perhaps the most famous, Siesta Key, has enjoyed multiple years on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award for the 25 Best Beaches in North America, including a coveted spot on the 2019 list. And it is welcoming to all.
The popular gay beach with the locals, however, is North Lido Beach. Walk about 10 minutes north of the main Lido Beach entrance, off St. Armands Circle, for a less-trafficked shore and dune-hidden trails that might embrace more private… conversations.
Should you work up an appetite from all that spirited sea-splashing (…and conversation) make your way to the south end of Lido Beach, where the no-frills Lido Beach Restaurant serves delicious beachside food and drinks. Try the Lobster Roll and sip on a cocktail while you tan. It’s legal to drink alcohol on Sarasota beaches
Culture aficionados will love that Sarasota is home to nine performing art organizations less than a mile from Downtown Sarasota and a private art collection that rivals European capitals. First, head to the Ringling Estate. The Godfather of the American Circus (Ringling Bros. and later Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) fell in love with Sarasota in the early 20th century and chose the city for the 66-acre estate that houses his winter home Càd’Zan, a waterfront mansion completed in 1926 and built to resemble a Venetian Gothic palace, and the expansive Ringling Museum of Art and Ringling Circus Museum. You truly can spend an entire day roaming around these gorgeous grounds.
Don’t miss the Rubens Galleries and the Howard Bros. Circus Model, the largest circus model in the world, with 42,000 miniature pieces. On site is also the Asolo Theater, an 18thcentury playhouse dismantled from the Italian original and reassembled in Sarasota in the 1950’s.
Beyond The Ringling, Sarasota is home to the Florida Studio Theatre, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Sarasota Ballet (the only professional ballet company on Florida’s Gulf Coast), Sarasota Opera House and Sarasota Orchestra, to name a few of their cultural institutions. And there’s more on the way. This December, the Sarasota Museum of Art will open its new home at the historic Sarasota High School, with 15,000 square feet of gallery space showcasing rotating exhibits of contemporary art.
Got your culture? Good. Let’s dance.
I always say I need my cities to have at least one gay bar. (Sarasota has two). It’s important for me to interact with my community and I usually learn much from half-drunken conversations with the locals. Lucky for us all Sarasota has Oasis. Oasis is owned by adult entertainer cutie Hunter Vance and features some very attractive go-go boys (and girls too!) on weekend nights. And what’s better than a really hot go-go boy? Well, a really friendly, hot go-go boy. And I’m happy to report the dancers of Oasis are lovely in every way. Catch a glimpse on my Instagram below (including a video peek when you click through).
Beyond the performers, the crowd at Oasis was a true mixture of our LGBTQ community and allies, all coming together for a great time. And it was at Oasis that I met the “gay mayor” of Sarasota, Joshua Beadle. I would later learn the title is unofficial but well-deserved. In 2016, Joshua launched SarasotaOUT.com, to promote Sarasota as a welcoming LGBTQ destination for visitors, businesses and residents alike. He partners with community organizations, local non-profits and the tourism industry to host events throughout the year. According to Joshua: “Sarasota is coming out of the closet.”
SarasotaOUT.com’s Gay Group Happy Hour (G2H2)takes place the first Thursday of every month at a new LGBTQ-friendly location. G2H2 brings the community together to network and have a great time—all while raising money for local and national charities. On June 9, SarasotaOUT.com is taking the party to North Lido Beach for its annual Big Gay Beach Party, a day of fun-in-the-sun, with beach games, contests and, yes, even jello-shots!.
Sarasota, Florida, may not be the first place you think of when planning a gay vacation. But with gorgeous beaches, a thriving cultural scene, and a growing LGBTQ community focused on activism and a good time, Sarasota will make you rethink Florida’s Gulf Coast.
We talk a good talk about the strength of a more unified community. Over the decades we’ve added letters to the movement to create a more diverse, welcoming, and clear representation of who we are. But though we’ve become more inclusive in our language, inclusiveness hasn’t necessarily applied to our travels.
Take the gay cruise as an example. There are cruises that focus on lesbians, gay men, bears, party boys, families, drag-queen enthusiasts, and even an upcoming Golden Girls cruise (it’s not specifically gay, but c’mon!). Can’t we all just vacation together?
Enter VACAYA. The first adult-only, large-scale LGBTQ+ travel company to launch in decades, VACAYA is making it its mission to welcome the entire LGBTQ spectrum…
*Read the full article published in Logo’s NewNowNext
Last month, travel professionals representing 49 countries converged in New York City for IGLTA’s Annual Convention, the premier educational and networking event for LGBTQ+ tourism. The convention was the largest in the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association’s 36-year history, with nearly 700 delegates. And though it was my first, it will most definitely not be my last.
Under the banner of “Unite: Travel-Learn-Connect” the convention was a packed few days of panel discussions, presentations, networking events and fantastic parties. Truly an opportunity to unite the LGBTQ+ travel community.
As the host city, New York made me proud! On the 50thanniversary of Stonewall and the year we welcome World Pride, the city where I’ve lived for twenty years showed the travel world why there’s no place like (my) home. Not only were the locations spectacular (the Pre-Conference reception was held at One World Observatory) but the programming reminded me that no other city can feature performers from the Broadway casts of Be More Chill, Mean Girls and Wicked at a rooftop party DJ’d by Lady Bunny…all like it’s no big deal. Literally every-thing about that previous sentence is a big deal. And IGLTA and NYC & Company brought it!
It was an opportunity to meet exciting new friends (did you know that the Lt. Governor of Guam, Joshua Tenorio, is the first openly gay Lt. Governor elected anywhere in the U.S. or its territories?) and connect with a new generation of travel media who I previously only knew by their Instagram handles.
But beyond the people and places, the convention was an opportunity to learn. I learned more about the experience of trans travelers and the importance of inclusive communication practices. I was inspired by the amazing work of Rainbow Railroad, the organization that helps persecuted members of our community escape violence and death in their home countries, where being LGBTQ+ is a criminal offence.
I emerged from the convention a little smarter, better connected and more energized to continue growing within the travel sphere. And with a rekindled love for my city, “Famous Original NYC!”
This past January, my boyfriend and I visited San Juan for the first time and fell in love with the capital of Puerto Rico. I feel honored to have contributed to the new LGBTQ travel portal of DiscoverPuertoRico.com and, in some small way, help guide new travelers to the Caribbean’s most gay friendly destination.
As a first-time visitor, you’ll quickly realize Puerto Rico’s capital city is the LGBTQ Caribbean destination you’ve been searching for. Rich in history, breathtakingly beautiful and offering non-stop flights from 49 destinations, it is an ideal quick winter getaway.
San Juan satisfies the desire for a culturally-unique, tropical escape, combined with the ease of never leaving the United States. You don’t need a passport, will use U.S. currency, and can easily communicate in English and Spanish. It is also exceptionally gay-friendly.
The New York Times Travel Show, a three-day event held every January at the Jacob K. Javits Center, brings more than 30,000 travel professionals under one roof. And this year, more than ever, it showcased a rainbow coalition of destinations, organizations and publications, actively engaging with the LGBTQ traveler.
For the second consecutive year, the New York Times Travel Show included an LGBTQ Travel Pavilion featuring brands “designed for the enjoyment and safety of LGBTQ travelers and their allies, friends and loved ones.” Four of these destinations later took center stage at the ManAboutWorld-hosted cocktail party and media event, where Puerto Rico, Illinois, Berlin and Fort Lauderdale each unveiled tourism campaigns welcoming us all to visit.
For some travel inspiration, take a look at their videos below:
Do not throw away your shot to see the musical Hamilton… while on a Caribbean vacation…while contributing to rebuilding Puerto Rico.
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, knocking off power to the entire island, devastating homes and landscape, and creating a humanitarian disaster on the U.S. territory.
By August 2018, the death toll had risen to 2,975. (The number of casualties has since increased.)
But while the devastation was vast, Puerto Rico has been steadily rebuilding, reopening and reviving its tourism market. In an effort to continue his support for the island, Lin-Manuel Miranda will once again star in the title role of Hamilton, when the Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning musical plays San Juan from January 12 to 27, 2019.
As expected, general ticket sales (which went on sale November 10) quickly sold-out, but limited tickets are still available through trip packages offered by Discover Puerto Rico. Additionally, premium tickets sold for $5,000 each, will raise money for Miranda’s Flamboyan Arts Fund, dedicated to strengthening arts on the island.
Puerto Rico wants visitors to know they are open for business. Remember the S.O.S. photo that went viral immediately following Hurricane Maria? The plea has evolved into an invitation and a message that we are “Bienvenidos” on the island. Catch a glimpse of the progress in the touching video below:
You can play a role in the rebuilding effort merely by visiting. Be in the room where it happens and let the theatricality of Hamilton affect you while effecting positive change in Puerto Rico.
New York is a city of immigrants, a place where diverse cultures co-exist, thrive, expand and blend. We are a mish-mash of transplants. And that mish-mash tastes real good.
Last month, I had the delicious joy of joining Cristina Lombardi, the insanely knowledgeable owner of Follow Me New York City Adventures on their “Taste of Queens Adventure.” This private, customizable walking tour focuses on the neighborhoods of Astoria or Flushing, depending on the interests of the guests. In fact, Follow Me NYC can customize pretty much any type of tour you’d like: from a tipsy tour through the city’s speakeasies to a sweet-tooth tasting of the city’s best candy and dessert spots. They also offer a la carte adventures exploring Times Square & Theater District, Wall Street & Financial District, Central Park and Greenwich Village.
On a sunny and blustery fall day, our small group set out to taste our way through Astoria, Queens. Queens is the most diverse borough of New York City and, depending on what survey you read, it is either in the top three or the most diverse county in the entire United States. According to the last U.S. census in 2010, 48.5% of the population of Queens is foreign-born.
We began our tour with a brief history lesson. We learned Astoria was named after the wealthiest man in America (at the time), John Jacob Astor, in the hopes he would invest in his namesake neighborhood. And though he could literally see it from his palatial home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it is rumored Mr. Astor never actually set foot in Astoria, nor invested any substantial money. Regardless, the name stuck and, through the years, Astoria became home for every wave of immigrants that landed on our shores.
Throughout the early to mid 1900’s it was primarily Irish, Italian and Jewish. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Greek immigrants began flocking to Astoria and creating one of the largest centers of Greek culture in the United States. So, it was fitting that our first stop was the family-owned Yaya’s Bakery for a taste of Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek phyllo dough pastry filled with warm custard and drizzled with a light syrup made from honey and lemon juice. Not only was it delicious, but it was a dessert I would have never thought of ordering had it not been for our guide, Cristina, who chose this pastry specifically for that reason.
With warmer bellies, we headed to La Cabaña Grocery for Tacos al Pastor (a pork taco with fresh cilantro, pineapple, chopped onion and a squeeze of lime). The bodega sells traditional spices, authentic ingredients and beloved Mexican treats in a no-frills but all-taste setting.
Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant
From one characteristically spicy cuisine to another, we next savored a vegetable Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant, which specializes in Northern Indian dishes. Don’t forget to dunk the potato, onion, pea and lentil-filled pastry in the mint chutney for the full flavor explosion.
Our walk continued to Djerdan for a Spinach Burek, a Balkan staple and probably my favorite of the day. The crispy phyllo-dough pastry is filled with cheese and freshly sautéed spinach and shaped like a (very tasty!) cigar. Insider tip: In between trips to Astoria, you can order from their online store.
At our next stop, Zenon Taverna, a member of the family that owns the restaurant greeted us with a crash course in Cypriot cuisine, explaining “we use a lot of mint and cumin… we use all the spices that Greeks won’t.” He continued describing the flavors as a blending of traditional Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences, before serving us Trahana Soup. The traditional Cypriot soup is made with bulgur wheat, thickened in chicken stock, Greek yogurt, halloumi (a type of goat cheese) and finished off with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
From the traditional to the trendy, our group headed to the very popular Queens Comfort, which had a line of folks waiting to enter. Inside, there was a DJ spinning for a brunch clientele that was equal parts multi-generational families and Millennial hipsters. Our takeaway was a taste of the Atomic Fire Balls–deep-fried, Siracha-infused mac ‘n cheese balls. If these spicy nuggets were indicative of the other menu options, I can easily understand the long line of eager diners.
Atomic Fire Balls
Our final stop took us to Little Morocco for a taste of the Merguez sausage, a minced lamb sausage spiced with cumin, chili peppers, sumac and harissa. The area of Steinway Street, where the restaurant is located, is often called Little Egypt or Little Morocco, as Lebanese, Northern African and Middle Eastern immigrants have been steadily settling in the area since the 1980’s.
This tour through Astoria was a much-needed reminder that diversity makes New York City great—always! As a now seasoned New Yorker I too often stay within my own neighborhood out of habit and, well, laziness. But no one moves to New York to stay within his comfort level. Especially as politicians are using the topic of immigration to stoke unfounded fears, it’s important to remember that our diversity makes us stronger, makes us better, and makes our walks through Astoria all the more tasty.
(The restaurants we visited on our tasting adventure; our fabulous guide, Cristina Lombardi, in center; Trahana Soup lower left.)
Want to fight LGBTQ discrimination? There’s a wine for that. Want to empower girls to grow into strong women? There’s a wine for that. Want to celebrate the women’s suffrage movement ahead of the mid-term elections? There’s a wine for that too.
Jim Obergefell, who in 2015 fought for the recognition of his marriage all the way to the Supreme Court–resulting in the landmark ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land–has continued his fight for equality.
And this time he’s getting a little help from the grapes.
In 2016, Mr. Obergefell partnered with Matt Grove to create Equality Vines, the world’s first cause wine portfolio dedicated to equality for all people. To date, Equality Vines has launched lines supporting LGBTQ causes, women’s empowerment and voting rights, donating a portion of sales to organizations associated with each cause.
“Love Wins” Series
The inaugural “Love Wins” series is anchored by The Decision Pinot Noir (celebrating the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling) and Stonewall Zinfandel, with sales contributing to SAGE, an organization that tirelessly advocates for LGBTQ elders. As stated on their website, “SAGE stands proudly with the LGBT pioneers across the country who’ve been fighting for decades for their right to live with dignity and respect.” Earlier this year, the series launched two new sparkling wines: the Love Wins Blanc de Noirs and Love Wins Sparkling Rosé, benefitting the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the U.S. and one that (near to my heart) in 1965 protested Fidel Castro’s internment camps for homosexuals in Cuba. Today the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. conducts archive activism, “identifying, conserving and interpreting the LGBT historical record.”
19th Amendment Sauvignon Blanc
The first releases of the “Empowerment” series celebrate the women’s suffrage movement and are named after the constitutional amendment which gave women the right to vote, in 1920. Sales of the 19thAmendment Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay benefit the League of Women Voters, the nonpartisan organization that believes in the “power of women to create a more perfect democracy.” Especially now, as the U.S. nears the November 6 elections, I will happily drink to that! Also of note, the 19thAmendment Sauvignon Blanc is handcrafted by Alison Doran-Green, one of the first female winemakers in the United States.
To find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to Equality Vines, look no further than their latest partnership with the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Five dollars from every bottle sold of the “Respect” series ensures the YWCA can continue serving its community. “YWCA Metropolitan Chicago does great work to positively impact the lives of women and families, and Equality Vines is honored to partner with them on this wine to help fund their many services and advocacy work,” said Mr. Obergefell. “Women deserve equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity and this new wine allows customers to participate in making that a reality.”
Now you can use your drinking for good and uncork your activism with your next wine purchase. Order the limited releases through the Equality Vines website (they can ship to 44 states as allowed by current shipping laws), sign up for the wine club or visit their California tasting room. Just this year, they’ve donated over $17,000 to some exceptionally worthy causes. And you can help, one sip at a time.