Tag Archives: LGBTQ travel

Merida, Mexico: The Yucatan Capital of Gay & Day Drinking

Cathedral in Merida
Merida Cathedral

The new buzzy destination topping everybody’s lists these days is Merida.  Mexico’s new IT girl is enjoying quite a moment, with accolades and coverage in major travel publications, including Condé Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Award for “World’s Best Small City.”

IQ’s Merida Gay Travel Guide

Though it is the capital and largest city of Mexico’s Yucatan State, Merida is pedestrian-friendly and compact, with most tourism centered around the Centro Historico (historic center). It is accessible by direct flights from Miami, Houston and Tijuana/San Diego; and only a three-hour drive from the Cancun airport, with flight options from major cities all over the world. And you’ll feel comfortable here. After all, Merida was voted the second safest city in all of North America by CEOWorld Magazine—ranked above any city in the United States. 

Merida Centro Historico is a pedestrian friendly city
Pedestrian-friendly Merida

Also, Merida has potential to evolve into Mexico’s newest LGBTQ+ destination. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco Marques, the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) and Queer Destinations signed a “Letter of Intent” to further promote LGBTQ+ tourism to Mexico. The first action in this new effort, engaging and instructing the tourism private sector in Yucatan, was held in Merida. 

DAYS FOR DRINKING

La Negrita Cantina is Merida's most popular cantina
La Negrita Cantina

Liver be damned: Merida is a day drinking city! The parties center around its cantina culture, starting at noon and closing at 10pm. Though many locals have their favorite neighborhood spot, the most popular cantina in Merida is La Negrita. Literally, every single person I asked for a recommendation mentioned La Negrita. Expect fantastic live Cuban music, dancing and a very friendly crowd. It’s the type of place where, if you are fortunate to get a table (and for that, you should arrive early), you’ll instantly spark a conversation with your neighbor. The musical vibe of Merida has a strong Caribbean influence and salsa dancing reigns supreme, so this Cuban boy felt quite at home. 

For day-drinking with a side of man muscle visit Cantina Bullpen, Merida’s gay cantina featuring go-go boys throughout the day. In keeping with traditional cantina hours, Bullpen closes at 10pm, so it’s a great place to start the party. 

NIGHTS FOR GO-GOS

Strippers in Merida Mexico
Papis Dancer Struts

Nighttime is Papi time. The stripper bar Papis does its name juicy justice, with a plentiful selection of muscular muchachos strutting on the bar and leaving little to the imagination. The cheesiness of their costumes is part of the charm. During my visit, I saw a cowboy, fireman, cop and construction worker—all started fully dressed and ended with a fully erect lasso, firehose, billy-club and hammer. Yes, you will see penis. And though the audience was mainly gay men, the crowd had a nice mix of adoring ladies enjoying the show as well. Apparently straight women like hot, naked men too.  

The largest LGBTQ+ club in Merida is Blue Gay Club, about a ten-minute drive from the Centro. Ubers are inexpensive and plentiful in Merida, so travel within the city is very easy to navigate. My night started with a drag performance that was challenging to follow even though I speak Spanish. I’d suggest arriving closer to midnight, when the focus shifts to a more traditional club night, with go-go boys and dancing. You should know the crowd was also pretty mixed, so all will feel welcome. For a change of scene, Deseo is next door and also owned by Blue. The bar feels more intimate and has an outdoor patio (and also go-go boys). And though I did not partake of their company, it was clear that private dances were available from the fellas at both bars. 

MERIDA GAY TOURS

Once you recover from your evening, you’ll be quite busy. Merida is a perfect base from which to explore the Yucatan State’s most unique and revered sights, including 19 Mayan archeological sites and countless cenotes: fresh-water sinkholes and underground rivers. 

Cute and sweet gay tour guide of Merida, Mexico. Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours
Ricardo of Merida Gay Tours

You’ll need some wheels to explore beyond the city. Why not add an adorable, knowledgeable gay guide? The boys of Merida Gay Tours can help plan your entire trip and customize an adventure suited just for you. Created by a gay couple interested in growing the city’s LGBTQ+  tourism, David and Ricardo can arrange sightseeing tours of Merida, recommend specific gay-friendly nightlife spots or create a multi-day itinerary throughout the state. Their packaged experiences include days at the beach, Mayan archeological sites and visits to nearby “Magical Towns.” They are accommodating, sweet and will instantly make you feel like you’ve reconnected with a long-lost friend. Have I mentioned they’re adorable? They can also help orient you toward roving nightlife events that aren’t held in large clubs. The weekend I visited we ended up at a “house ball” hosted by La Fantasía Salón, complete with voguing battles and plentiful cheap tequila. Category was Merida Friendliness and these kids slayed.

The Municipal Palace in Merida in Yucatan State in Mexico
Municipal Palace in Merida

Merida is a contemporary city with reverence to its Mayan and Spanish colonial history. It’s a great home base for your explorations and it’s the LGBTQ+ center of the Yucatan State. Merida is also fun, beautiful and exploding in popularity. Get thee there pronto and witness this jewel of a city evolving into Mexico’s newest queer destination.

For travel info on Merida, visit the websites of Yucatan Tourism and Merida Gay Tours.

And to learn more, read my article on Mexico’s Yucatan State.

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Stay Fab While Traveling

Gay pillow fight

Traveling while fabulous has unique challenges. We all want to feel welcome. Now, a new hosting platform is removing all “coming out” awkwardness from short-term rental bookings.

FabStayz.com guarantees LGBTQ+ travelers a hospitable host. 

“Travel is about fun and exploration, coming out to a stranger is no way to kick-off a vacation,” says Robert Geller, Founder and CEO of FabStayz. “Be your ‘FabSelf’ wherever your travels take you. No more scouring listings for clues if the host is LGBT+ welcoming, an ally or member of our community. FabStayz wants to take away all the guesswork for the LGBT+ traveler.”

According to Geller, property owners listed on FabStayz must meet the platform’s criteria of seven months minimum hosting on another major platform (like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and HomeAway), with at least 10 great to excellent reviews. Additionally, all FabStayz hosts agree to FabStayz diversity and inclusion statement.

Within weeks of launching, FabStayz had quintupled its hosts and featured a castle in France, tiny homes in Portland, a vintage RV in Los Angeles, and rental listings throughout the United States, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and the U.K., among others. 

Fab your stay at FabStayz.com

Rv on hillside on FabStayz.com

Photos courtesy of FabStayz.com

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Filed under Canada, Europe, Gay/ LGBTQ, Hotels, Mexico, Travel News, U.S.A.

Join IQ on VACAYA’s Inaugural Provincetown Cruise

Ivan Quintanilla/ Traveling IQ sets sail on the VACAYA inaugural cruise to Provincetown.

Sail with IQ! I’m so excited to take my first ever cruise today! Fresh off its completely revolutionized makeover, the Celebrity Summit will sail from New York (Port Liberty, NJ) with stops up the coast in St. John, New Brunswick-Canada; Bar Harbor, Maine; and an overnight in Provincetown, Massachusetts to coincide with the Carnival Week kick-off party.

The Summit will be the largest ship to ever overnight in P-town and I’ll be sharing this “first” with about 2,000 new best friends, all joining VACAYA’s inaugural cruise.

VACAYA is the first LGBTQ+, adults-only vacation company to launch in decades–focused on creating bespoke experiences that welcome all members of our community. In their own words: “Traveling with VACAYA is all about being completely comfortable in your own skin, no matter where you fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Whether you’re single, coupled, black, white, skinny, thick, or even straight, you’ll easily find a welcoming tribe.”

Follow my travels through Instagram posts and stories to experience all the theme parties, destinations and the entire extravaganza of my first ever “gay cruise.”

It’s going to be a hoot!

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Sarasota is Here to Recruit You

“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”

Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay men ever elected to public office in the United States, started many of his most famous speeches with that line. He had a clear plan for LGBTQ progress: come out, be visible and take an active role in your community. And if you feel unsafe, seek refuge in the “nearest biggest city.” 

Harvey Milk

Forty-one years after his assassination in 1978, I think Harvey would be very proud that a festival bearing his name—with the mission of “fostering the arts as a catalyst for social and political change”—marked its 10thyear in the not-biggest-city of Sarasota, Florida. 

This May, the Harvey Milk Festival (HMF) celebrated the milestone anniversary with an art show and photo exhibition showcasing American LGBTQ+ history from the 1890’s to the times of Harvey Milk; a panel discussion with queer professors, historians and authors; an evening of dance, music and spoken word; and an all-day music festival in Downtown Sarasota, featuring 10 emerging musicians. 

Beyond the yearly festival, HMF [a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization] launched a Youth Outreach Program in 2014, with scholarships and internship opportunities open to all LGBTQ+ students in Sarasota County between the ages of 13 and 25.

According to HMF: “The most significant benefit to participants in the HMF Youth Outreach Program is the encouragement and financial support that youth are given to continue their education… Many of our youth have experienced alienation and discrimination from family, friends and schoolmates and lack the essential network of support they need when they are in school. HMF Scholarship and HMF Internship programs offer participating youth opportunities to connect with the LGBTQ+ community through their work, receive feedback from youth, artists, mentors and allies, and further their professional development with support and encouragement from their community.”

Next, HMF hosts the Fabulous Independent Film Festival, Sarasota’s only LGBTQ+ film festival, held at the Burns Court Cinema on September 26-29, 2019.

To learn more information about the Harvey Milk Festival, their diverse cultural programming or to donate to the organization, please visit their website.

And to plan your trip to Sarasota, read IQ’s Gay Travel Guide to Sarasota, Florida.

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Gay Guide to Guadalajara

Photo courtesy of Guadalajara CVB

When in 2015, the governments of the Mexican state of Jalisco and its capital Guadalajara began a bid to host the Gay Games in 2022, they unwittingly set the city on a path to LGBTQ-awakening. 

The Gay Games are an LGBTQ-Olympics of sorts, whose mission is to promote equality through sport and culture. They’ve been held every four years since 1982 and have grown into an internationally-popular event that in 2018 brought more than 10,000 participants to Paris.

For Guadalajara, the three-year bid process signified a shift in focus for a government that had not previously engaged the LGBTQ tourism market…

Read the full article published in EDGE

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Don’t Pride And Drive

Amtrak in New York City. 
Share Fares for Pride
Photo courtesy of Amtrak

This summer, Amtrak is making it easy to leave the car at home and keep your Pride on the rails.

Just in time for World Pride in New York, Amtrak Share Fares invite you and your crew to ride and save together. The deal is valid for up to four passengers on most Northeast Regionals between Washington D.C. and Boston, and on long-distance trains as far away as Savannah, Charleston and Atlanta. Here’s how the pricing works: 

  • Passenger 1—full price
  • Passenger 2—15% off full price
  • Passenger 3—60% off full price
  • Passenger 4—70% off full price

All together you can save up to 35% on four tickets. So invite the throuple next door, pack some cocktails (or purchase them in the bar car) and start your kiki in the caboose. 

*For more information visit Amtrak.com 

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Hilton Hotels NYC Celebrate Pride

Gay Party at the Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar in NYC
Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar at the Conrad Downton Hotel

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. 

Hilton New York Hotels create Pride inspired cocktails for World Pride
Hilton World Pride CocktailsPhoto courtesy of Hilton

“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. 

Troy Petenbrink "thegaytraveler" at a Hilton Hotels Glitter Glamour Station on Gay Pride/ World Pride in NYC
Troy “@thegaytraveler” feeling sassyPhoto courtesy of Hilton

*Visit Hilton’s own World Pride Guide for more information.

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LGBTQ Monuments Around the World

Stonewall Inn in NYC. Birthplace of the Stonewall Riots Uprising that ignited the LGBTQ rights movement.
Photo: Brittany Petronella/NYC & Company

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…

*Read the full IQ article published in National Geographic

Ivan Quintanilla is published in National Geographic

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Sarasota is Coming OUT!

Man Swimmer on beach in Sarasota Florida
Photo courtesy of VisitSarasota.com

IQ’s Sarasota Gay Travel Guide

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.

Hot guys playing on the beach
Photo by Pixabay courtesy of Pexels.com

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

Ca' d'Zan mansion. Photo courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Càd’ZanPhoto courtesy of The Ringling

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.

The Courtyard at The John and Mable Ringling Art Museum at The Ringling in Sarasota
Photo courtesy of The Ringling

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.

Howard Bros. Circus Model in the Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota
Howard Bros. Circus Model — Photo courtesy of The Ringling

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.

Gay Bars in Sarasota
Photo by Mauricio Mascaro on Pexels.com

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).

TravelingIQ at Oasis gay bar in Sarasota with go-go boy

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.”

Sarasota PridePhoto courtesy of SarasotaPride.org

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 Big Gay Beach Party from SarasotaOUT.com
Big Gay Beach Party — Photo courtesy of SarasotaOUT.com

Other LGBTQ events to consider when planning your Sarasota visit include the Harvey Milk Festival in May; the Fabulous Independent Film Festival in September; Tea Dance at (the fab!) The Sarasota Modern Hotel, held on the first Sunday of the month; and Sarasota Pride in January 2020, which is adding a Sunset Pride Cruise to the events next year.

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. 

*For more information head to VisitSarasota.org
*For all your LGBTQ event and social planning head to SarasotaOUT.com

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