Connect with us

Travel

Loving the Land Down Under

Australia offers LGBTQ travelers a welcoming and diverse culture

Published

on

(Photo courtesy Destination NSW)

By CHAD MANTOOTH

Having grown up in Kansas, in the middle of the United States, I’ve always longed to see more than the flat, flyover states that are the Midwest.

When I was a kid, my dad was a huge Olivia Newton John fan. She was his Australian heartthrob. Many a school day, I would come home to her music blaring or one of her live concerts in the VCR. And as a young gay boy, I was mesmerized by her as well. She was pretty, sang beautifully, and was from this great land far, far away.

I wondered how this pop chanteuse from Down Under got into my living room. And I always wondered what her homeland of Australia was like. Was it filled with dangerous animals as everyone suggested?  Was there something at every turn that could kill me?

To me, it sounded exciting! I’ve always tried to live my life by a Helen Keller quote I heard while in high school: “Lift is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” And it was with that mindset firmly in place that I packed my bags this past spring to visit that mystical Land Down Under. 

Australia is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world, with a progressive culture that embraces diversity and inclusivity. Australia decriminalized homosexuality in the 1970s and legally recognized same-sex marriage in 2017. The country has a very vibrant and dynamic LGBTQ community, and it is a popular destination for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Sydney, the largest city in Australia, is often considered the LGBTQ capital of the country. The city hosts the famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, an annual festival and parade that attracts more than 300,000 visitors from around the world. The festival, with colorful floats, music, and performances, has become a symbol of Australia’s commitment to LGBTQ rights and is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Australia.

The parade, beginning with the roar of hundreds of “dykes on bikes,” is truly a sight to behold. The whole country comes to SLAY at this parade! Everyone puts on their brightest colors and outfits for this over-the-top event. It was one of the best (and longest) Pride parades I’ve ever been to in my life.

In 2023, Sydney was home to the 2023 WorldPride festival, and the city rolled out the rainbow carpet for the estimated 1 million-plus people, staging more than 400 events. And when I tell you that this city went over the top — well, that’s a complete understatement. EVERYWHERE I went, EVERYTHING was covered in rainbows — from the city sidewalks to the lighting on buildings, to every employee I saw in every shop with their rainbow pins and buttons. It was like gay was the norm and straight was the minority; it was weirdly fabulous!

Melbourne

Melbourne is another great city for LGBTQ travelers to visit. Aside from being the current home to my favorite pop star, Troye Sivan, the city is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene and is home to a thriving LGBTQ community. The annual Midsumma Festival, a three-week celebration of queer arts and culture, is held in Melbourne and features a range of exhibitions, performances, parties, and other events.

If shopping is your thing, check out the 145-year-old Queen Victoria Market. This open-air market is home to more than 600 small businesses where you can buy everything from Australian fruits and veggies to gourmet food, clothing, and souvenirs. There is literally something for everyone.

Wild Australia

What initially drew me Down Under were the lush landscapes and wild animals I saw on TV growing up. The country is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural wonders, including the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback, and the Blue Mountains. LGBTQ travelers can explore these natural wonders through a range of activities, including hiking, snorkeling and even zip lines and hot air balloon rides.

One stop for me was the breathtaking Heron Island, a stunning coral cay located on the southern Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland. It is accessible only by catamaran or helicopter and offers a secluded and pristine escape for travelers looking for a uniquely tranquil experience.

The island boasts world-class snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, giving visitors the chance to swim among vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life including sea turtles, manta rays and reef sharks, while its sandy beaches provide a picturesque setting for sunbathing and leisurely walks. The island is an also breeding ground for several species of seabirds, including the endangered black noddy tern and the wedge-tailed shearwater, making it perfect for birding enthusiasts.

I spent three glorious days on this piece of paradise and have never felt so relaxed in my life. I got up close with nature — every kind of wildlife you could imagine birds — in a way that I’ve never experienced before and will never forget.

Accommodation options on Heron Island range from eco-friendly tents to luxurious suites, with all rooms offering stunning views of the reef and the island’s lush vegetation. Facilities include a restaurant and bar and well as guided nature walks and reef talks.

If you need a chance for some peaceful rest and rejuvenation, especially after all the excitement of Sydney and Melbourne, Heron Island is the perfect destination. Its remote location and unparalleled natural beauty make it a must-visit destination.

Bondi Beach

Australia has several LGBTQ-friendly beaches, including the popular Bondi Beach in Sydney. The beach is home to the Bondi Gay and Lesbian Beach Picnic, which is held on the first Sunday of every month and is a great way to meet other LGBTQ travelers.

Food and wine

Australia’s food and wine culture is yet another draw for LGBTQ travelers, offering a range of culinary delights from fresh seafood to world-class wines and unique indigenous cuisine. I know I came back to the states 10 pounds heavier! The cities of Melbourne and Sydney are particularly known for their food and wine scenes, with a range of LGBTQ-friendly restaurants and bars.

Overall, I spent a little more than two weeks in The Land Down Under. I loved it so much that I’ve decided I will definitely be going back to vacation there again, and I might even move there some day. The welcome I felt from the people there is something I will never forget.

Aussies care about their country and the people in it. From the moment I touched down until the minute that I left, I never felt unwelcome anywhere I went.

The country’s progressive culture, natural beauty, and diverse cities make it an ideal vacation spot for LGBTQ individuals and couples. Whether you’re looking to attend a Pride parade, explore the great outdoors or simply relax on a beautiful beach, Australia has something to offer everyone.

So, pack your bags and come and say G’day; you won’t regret it. For more info on traveling to Australia, visit www.australia.com

 Chad Mantooth is a writer for the Dallas Voice. This story is courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Travel

A voyage to Iceland, Greenland, Denmark and beyond

Cruise of a lifetime to unforgettable ports of call

Published

on

Reykjavik deserves a few days to tour since it has some of the greatest landscapes and wonders on Earth (Photo by Jason Villemez)

By MARK SEGAL

(Mark Segal is publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. This story is courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.)

LGBTQ people like to travel, and like many people they take cruises to see the world or just to relax. It used to be when taking something as personal as a cruise, where you’ll be with people in close quarters and where conversations can be easily overheard, you might have felt uncomfortable to be yourself. Today there are numerous LGBTQ cruises for almost every segment of the LGBTQ community where you can be your fabulous self and party until dawn or more. Among those companies are Atlantis adventures, primarily for men, and Olivia cruises for women. But those companies still comprise only a fraction of available cruise sailings. So, how welcoming are non-LGBTQ cruises? 

My husband Jason and I have been on numerous cruises on many LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ cruise lines. For our current trip we booked a cruise on Oceania, a line known for its food (they claim the best food at sea), exceptional attention to detail, and out of the ordinary shore excursions. We chose Oceania once before, and it was above most of the other cruises we’ve done. Another advantage of Oceania is that they do exotic itineraries. Our July cruise started in Reykjavik, Iceland and then proceeded to Greenland, the Shetland Islands, Denmark, and Sweden before ending in Oslo, Norway after a whopping 15 days. We traveled with another gay couple, our friends Klay and Val, who are out and proud like us.

And that really is the heart of the question: How out and proud can LGBTQ people be on a traditional cruise?

On the first night of the cruise, the ship promoted an “LGBTQQIA+ Get Together” in their daily schedule printout. The 4 of us attended along with 3 other couples, though we weren’t the only LGBTQ people on board. Throughout the trip, we met many other LGBTQ people, mostly couples, who also had other cruise experiences. I asked many of them why they picked this cruise over an LGBTQ cruise, as well as how comfortable they felt being out on this cruise. 

The overwhelming answer was that people on a cruise, like the general population, gravitate to like minded people, and since everyone’s on vacation it’s easier to get along. Most of them were comfortable being open about their sexuality. Jason and I felt comfortable enough to show our emotions at times and hold hands or put an arm around each other, just like non-LGBTQ couples. It made a larger point for me. Could we have done that a decade ago? The answer is: probably not. So in that regard, traditional cruises pass the comfort level for LGBTQ people. But what about the more nuanced reality of being an LGBTQ person on a cruise with 97% non-LGBTQ people?

Like any cruise, we found ourselves finding our own friends who turned out to be a fascinating lot. One of those was a couple who work at a small college and are developing new ways to be inclusive to LGBTQ students. Another was a retired couple from Seattle, another from Dallas. That’s the secret sauce in cruising, finding the people you get along with and having a nice time.

For all of us, the two factors that led us to this cruise were the itinerary and the reputation of Oceania. Let’s start with the cruise stops.

Reykjavik, Iceland

The departing port of the cruise, Reykjavik, deserves a few days to tour since it has some of the greatest landscapes and wonders on Earth, and if you’re lucky as we were, you will be met by an active volcano. We had arranged 3 days of touring with an LGBTQ tour company called Pink Iceland. There not only is a sizable LGBTQ population in Iceland, but it seems everywhere you go there are rainbows. The country even has had a lesbian Prime minister. It’s one of the most LGBTQ-friendly places on earth.

Our first day we traveled to the south shore and marveled at the raw natural landscape, which looks like something from the moon but is actually dried lava with moss growing atop. The volcanoes and glaciers are everywhere, and with an abundance of volcanoes, you’ll see steam coming up from the ground in certain places. This has translated to natural geothermal power that powers the country, as well as natural glacier water (which tastes better than any bottled water) in every home. Later that day we went to the black beach at Reynisfjara with its basalt rock formation from eruptions thousands of years ago. We also visited and walked behind several waterfalls, and the sunshine meant that rainbows were aplenty. It was wet, magical, and romantic. 

Our second day began with an adventurous ATV ride on that moonscape with a stop at a dormant volcano’s top ridge. With me driving, Jason held on for dear life. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon in the world famous Blue Lagoon spa, where there are pools of volcanic minerals and silica that are a color of blue you’ll see no other place on earth. As you soak you can apply those minerals as a face mask. Even though it was around 50 degrees outside, by the time we finished, we were all pleasantly overheated.

Our third day we toured the capital city, which is easily walkable and features a giant rainbow street, and then attended a get-together organized by Eva and Birna, the owners of Pink Iceland, with some local LGBTQ community members, including a member of parliament and a playwright who was the first to come out in his village in western Iceland. The audience was among the most engaged I’ve ever spoken to, and they asked insightful questions and were delightful to engage with. Iceland is a country built on stories (called the Sagas), so the people are keen to learn the stories of others.

After our three days in Reykjavik, we went onto our ship, the Oceania Riviera. 

The ship had recently come out of dry dock with a total renovation. The cabin was the most beautiful we’ve ever seen at sea and had ample closet space and a bathroom with a rainfall shower. Our home away from home would be comfy. 

Our friends Klay and Val opted for a larger room with butler service. The room had more closet space than some New York apartments, and the amenities were above average. But their butler, as they learned, seemed to have had no understanding of his role and often overcomplicated things. 

Isafjordur, Iceland

Iceland is still developing its infrastructure for tourism. Our ship had provided 10 shore excursions, but all were completely sold before we even boarded the ship, including the one we wanted most, whale watching. The fact that shore excursions sell out months before the trip was not fully communicated to us. When we attempted to book 6 weeks before the trip, many ports had no available excursions. Nevertheless, in this small fishing village, left to our own devices we discovered one of the treasures of Iceland, The Tjoruhusid Restaurant. Known to be the most traditional Icelandic food in the country, you still needed a reservation since locals and tourists come from all over for its cuisine. But in true Icelandic hospitality, the staff found room and were kind enough to seat us, and I must admit that while I’m not a seafood eater it was amazing. The buffet meal included a fish soup, five types of fish entrees, including fish throat, which I didn’t know existed, various vegetable combinations, and coffee, biscuits, and chocolate. 

After the meal, we took a stroll through the village and discovered that among the fishing boats, fjords, and homes, the town square had a giant rainbow painted down the center. That’s two for two cities in Iceland with rainbow streets.

Paamiut, Greenland

Our second stop was a small village of about 1300 whose complete economy was fishing and seal hunting. Very few cruise ships have ever stopped there, and for good reason. While there are very few facilities and the infrastructure is sparse, the main problem was that as we approached, the seas were somewhat choppy and we found ourselves in a sea of Icebergs. Before I could suggest to everyone that we all break out into a chorus of “My Heart Will Go On,” the captain stated the obvious: he canceled the adventure in Paamiut. It was not safe to take the tender boats to shore (there was nowhere to dock in a port that small). However, a consolation prize was being treated to a sea of majestic icebergs as we sailed away. 

That evening the entertainment and information system in all the staterooms went down. No television, no stateroom information, no map. Not only was the television system down, but the ship’s entire network went down as well. The casinos were out of service, and bartenders and shop staff had to write down stateroom numbers on paper receipts. Getting information about the problem was met with what would become a common complaint on this trip: a lack of communications skills from the staff. 

But we moved on to the next port of call, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

Nuuk, Greenland 

The capital of Greenland, Nuuk, held its Pride celebration the week before we arrived. Discovering small cities with Pride events astonishes me even to this day. We had tried to find a Nuuk Pride T-shirt but since the city is so small (17,000 people) the organizers told me they didn’t have the funds to create merch. 

For our excursion for the day, we chose the Fjord Boat Tour, which was majestic. Our boat driver dodged icebergs like a taxi weaving in and out of traffic. When we stopped for a few minutes, the calmness and solitude, being surrounded by ice and mountains, was otherworldly.

Sadly, our driver said that ten years ago, none of the ice in the water was there, and that it has been a result of climate change and melting ice. I shudder to think what the area will be like in another ten years. There might be so much ice that boats can’t get anywhere.

Qaqortoq, Greenland

In Qaqortoq, a 1,500-person city south of Nuuk, the excursion we chose was the “Kaffemik,” basically enjoying coffee and traditional Greenland cakes in a private house. We walked up the hills and passed by colorful homes to get to the residence of our host, an 80 year old widow with Swedish ancestry who was charming and explained Greenlandic culture. One of her children was there to help translate, while her other children live in Denmark, which Greenland is a territory of. During the pandemic, Greenland received ample funds from Denmark to make up for the loss of income in industry.

After we wrapped up our sightseeing, that evening, while walking around the ship, we came across a portrait of a woman who is the godmother of the ship, Cat Cora, the famous Iron Chef. She and her wife and children were also among the guests on board with us. We went to see her give a talk the following evening. We figured since there was no working casino or state room entertainment, that meeting an Iron Chef would be entertainment worth seeing. During her presentation she introduced her family, and afterwards we got a chance to chat. When I asked her about how it felt introducing her wife, she said “that’s what we need as a community, we need to be more visible.” That was music to our ears. 

Torshavn (Faroe Islands), Denmark

This charming capital of the Faroe Islands is a wonder of old architecture and homes with grass roofs. The town’s Library had several LGBTQ books on display in the window due to the previous week’s Pride celebration. This trip, after learning about Pride in Nuuk, Greenland and also the Faroe Islands, proved to me what I’ve always believed, that Pride is one of the best exports America has ever given to the world. I thought of my friend Ellen Broidy who helped write the resolution that created Pride, and all of us who marched in that first Pride in 1970 in New York.

Lerwick (Shetlands Islands), Scotland

Believe it or not, it was actually stated in the ship’s excursion brochure “encounters with Shetland ponies is not guaranteed” which gave me a chuckle. The tour we were on in Lerwick included going to the town’s museum to learn about the Shetland Bus, where people ferried people and supplies back and forth between Norway during WWII, as well as, thankfully, a stop at a Shetland Pony farm. Seeing the ponies and the beautiful green hills full of sheep was the highlight of this stop. One surprise was that while the Shetlands are part of Scotland, the citizens feel culturally closer to Norway, and there are lots of Viking motifs.

Haugesund, Norway

While there were excursions available to see the Norwegian fjords, by this point in the trip we needed a little bit of a break, so we simply walked around the town’s main square, bought a magnet as a souvenir, and enjoyed the warm sunshine, the first day above 50 degrees we’d had in two weeks. One of the LGBTQ couples did go on a fjord tour, and they said it was beautiful despite spending three hours in a bus to get to them. 

Skagen, Denmark

Skagen is the picture-perfect Danish seaside town. I’d recommend not doing any guided tours and just walking around the city’s downtown area on your own. There are museums, art galleries, shopping, and plenty of outdoor cafes and bistros. There are also top notch garden shops and plenty of greenery for those who have a green thumb.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Sweden’s second largest city has a population of 579,000 and is a model of a beautiful European city with second empire buildings and a very large central shopping area. We stumbled upon some fun shops, including one dedicated to Pippi Longstocking, as well as the largest cinnamon rolls and cookies we’ve ever seen. We took some time to sit in a city park and enjoy the surroundings.

On the final night of the cruise, we enjoyed a performance by Tiano, the tenor and piano duo of Shimi Goodman and Chris Hamilton. They dedicated one of the love songs to Val and Klay, who were celebrating their 25th anniversary. The duo will soon embark on a North American tour, and we’re looking forward to seeing them again. They’re also a couple, and they mentioned that they were glad to meet other LGBTQ people on the ship.

Oslo, Norway

The cruise ended in Oslo, Norway, and many passengers planned a couple day layover before heading home. But others, like Jason and I, decided to head to the airport the morning of disembarkation, and we purchased tickets from the ship that would transfer us and our luggage to the airport. The luggage was put in a truck, and we were ushered into buses. The process was confusing, and there was no ship representative at the airport to direct us where our luggage was. Ultimately, the truck with the luggage arrived about 15 minutes after we did, and everyone was reunited with their bags.

Compared to the other Oceania cruise we did, this one failed to meet expectations. While it had what seemed like the best cabin at sea and a wonderful itinerary, the staff, while helpful, seemed to be learning on the job. The other major disappointment was the food. Oceania no longer has the best food at sea. Other than the specialty restaurants, the food was similar to any other cruise at best, and at times some of the food was severely disappointing. Also disappointing were the ships lack of available shore excursions, and lack of communications skills. The lack of information, especially from the cruise director and excursion staff, was subpar compared to many other cruises we’ve been on. And while the cruise did go to ports that have little infrastructure, there are ways to mitigate that which the cruise staff did not do. 

While the cruise did not meet Oceania’s reputation, it still afforded us the delight in the people we met and the destinations we saw along the way. That’s what we’ll remember most. A private party with some of the LGBTQ guests we met; Tiano on that final night; the maitre’d in the dining room who seemed to know the name of every passenger on the ship. Each evening we had the delight of sharing our experience with our friends over dinner. 

To sum up the reason for this trip, as an LGBTQ couple, we felt comfortable being ourselves on a non-LGBTQ cruise, and the other LGBTQ people we spoke with didn’t seem to have any issues either. As for whether we’d take Oceania again, we sadly would not unless the itinerary was completely unique. Oceania seemed to have lost the sparkle that made it one of the best cruise companies around.

But despite the ship’s faults, seeing Iceland, Greenland, and so many other places was an experience of a lifetime. We can’t wait to go back to Reykjavik someday and see more of the country and meet more of the people, and we’re forever grateful to have seen Greenland, a place of unparalleled beauty and where few others have ever been. It’s a reminder that the planet has existed long before humans, and that we are but a small part of the wide wonder of nature

Continue Reading

Travel

Fabulous San Diego beckons with array of attractions

You cannot beat a vacation in San Diego and there is always something fun and new going on in the city including the Hillcrest gayborhood

Published

on

San Diego’s perfect weather draws visitors year round. (Photo courtesy Bill Malcolm)

You cannot beat a vacation in San Diego and there is always something fun and new going on in the city, including the vibrant Hillcrest gayborhood (fabuloushillcrest.com). The city of 1.4 million borders Mexico and is built on mesas surrounded by canyons on the Pacific Ocean. Interesting neighborhoods and parks will keep you busy. The climate is mild, so any month is perfect for a visit given the climate. The city combines the best of Southern California combined with a strong Mexican influence given the proximity to Tijuana. 

WHAT TO DO

Don’t miss the Farmers Market Sundays in Hillcrest Sundays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Enjoy the Southern California strawberries and dates. I had salmon for lunch. There are lots of local vendors. You will find them on Normal Avenue between Lincoln and University Avenue near the rainbow flag.

On Saturdays, the city’s other large farmers market in Little Italy is also very popular. Little Italy is a cute neighborhood near downtown with lots of trendy restaurants and shops. (Details at littleitalysd.com).

Hike up Maple Canyon and enjoy the native vegetation on Bankers Hill.

See the rarest pine in the world, the Torrey Pine, and enjoy the wildflowers and views from bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the Torrey Pine Natural Reserve just north of La Jolla. You will also see the beaver tail prickly pear cacti, yuccas, cholla cactus, manzanitas, and native wildflowers. To get there without a car (and to avoid the $25 parking charge), take the Blue Line MTS trolley (light rail) to La Jolla (Noble Drive Station) and then catch the 110 North County Coaster bus to Torrey Pines Beach. The bus ride goes through the UCSD campus and is interesting. (See SDMTS.com)

Once at the beach, walk up the hill going south into the preserve and enjoy the Guy Fleming loop trail, which features stunning views of the ocean and the rare and unusual Torrey pines, which are found only here and on Catalina Island. These rare and endangered pines are found nowhere else on Earth except these two small locations. Plan your trip at torreypines.org

Then enjoy the Torrey Pines or Blacks beaches. Then catch the 101 bus back to La Jolla and enjoy fish tacos at Rubio’s Coastal Grill (Nobel and La Jolla Drive) and a fresh carrot juice at the Nektre Juice Bar (8855 Villa La Jolla Drive). 

Walk along the bay at the trails on Harbor Island near the Sheraton. It’s just over a mile to the Liberty Public Market, a new food hall that had been a Navy Mess Hall at the former Navy training facility. It also features museums and an Arts District. Try the craft beer at Bottlecraft or craft cocktails at Mess Hall. There are local clothing, soap, and jewelry vendors as well. Pick up some homemade soap at the Old Town Soap Company. You will find Liberty Station at 2820 Historic Decatur Rd. (libertypublicmarketsd.com). They are celebrating 100 years. On the way back, stop at Spanish Landing, the site where California was discovered in the 1500s by Cabrillo, a Spanish explorer.  

Visit the North Park neighborhood. Take in a drag and dinner show at Lips on El Cajon Boulevard. Stop by the Eagle Bar.

Balboa Park includes museums as well the San Diego Zoo. It is a must for first-time visitors. 

For more ideas, visit the Metropolitan Transit System website. Enjoy a car free, carefree stay.

NIGHTLIFE

You cannot beat the selection of bars, restaurants, and shops in Hillcrest, one of the best gayborhoods in the world.

I stumbled on a fun Saturday night show featuring drag, strippers, and burlesque at Urban Mos in Hillcrest. The strippers and bottomless Mimosas on Sunday were a hit. They also have great food. I loved the fries. 

Richs is always fun as is Flicks, the latter of which has an all-day happy hour on Tuesday. Number One has a DJ on Sunday afternoons. You can dance on the patio. The Loft is a fun neighborhood bar.

WHERE TO STAY

This was my second stay at the Sheraton Hotel and Suites on the marina near the airport on Harbor Island. It’s a quick Uber to Hillcrest or take the 922 MTS Bus downtown, Union Station, and the attractions. Get a room in the main tower facing downtown and the bay. Check Trip Advisor for other hotel ideas. However, there are few lodging options in the Hillcrest. 

GETTING THERE 

I took the Southwest nonstop from Indianapolis. You don’t need a rental car as San Diego has great transit. MTS runs the trolley system (aka light rail). Plus you can walk everywhere in this fairly compact city if you stay around Hillcrest, Downton, Old Town, and the Gas light District. 

USEFUL TRAVEL TIPS

Visit San Diego listed all the new attractions, hotels, and happenings for summer in San Diego. As for Hillcrest, San Diego will be celebrating with the San Diego Pride Parade, one of the largest in the country, with over 300,000 attendees July 8-16.

OTHER INFORMATION

San Diego has a bad homeless problem, and many are mentally ill. I was attacked at 8th Avenue and Hillcrest while walking down the sidewalk at 5 p.m. on a Sunday. The psychotic looking shirtless man tried to steal my day pack and then pulled me. Fortunately, Mayor Todd Garcia pushed through a new ordinance banning public camping by the homeless to deal with the problem. 

San Diego has prohibitive costs including hotel rates. Book your hotel before you book your air. You may want to avoid the peak summer season where folks from Phoenix flee here to escape the summer heat. And beware of annoying resort fees. 

Although you are close to Tijuana, Mexico, it is unsafe to visit at this time. 

There are four publications you can find at the bars or online to help you plan your trip:

• LGBTQ San Diego County News (LGBTQSD.news) is a newspaper covering the community.

• RAGE Monthly covers all of San Diego. (rage.lgbtq)

• GedMag.com (GED Magazine) is a Palm Springs magazine distributed in San Diego.

• Metro Magazine is a New York publication that publishes a Los Angeles edition.

You cannot beat a trip to San Diego, with a perfect climate and set on mesas above canyons. There is always something new to do. And it has something for everyone. 

Bill Malcolm is a syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist. His column is now carried in LGBTQ publications in Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.

Continue Reading

Travel

This Zurich bar was once a meeting place for a secret gay society

Barfüsser is now Kweer and attracting a new generation of diverse patrons

Published

on

Kweer in Zurich has a long history as a gay-friendly bar. (Photo courtesy of Dan Renzi)

In 1942, as the Nazis were bombing their way around Europe, a quiet revolution was forming in Switzerland. The Swiss government decriminalized homosexuality that year, and the legal victory emboldened a group of gay men who had been secretly publishing a magazine. Der Kreis, a.k.a. The Circle, featured news, sexy stories and artwork, all about gay life in Switzerland, and most importantly there were details for upcoming parties at a nightclub in Zurich. With pages published in German, French, and English, The Circle was a lifeline for its subscribers, perhaps serving as their only glimpse of life beyond their oppressive reality. 

With the absence of anti-gay laws in Switzerland, and the social scene created by The Circle’s publishing team, Zurich became one of the gay capitals of the mid-20th century, where bands played for raucous parties and attendees dressed as their gender of choice. Just to the north in Germany, the Nazi regime arrested suspected homosexuals and imprisoned them in concentration camps, but gay Germans could take trains to Zurich and spend the weekend, dancing and drinking and engaging in taboo activities of the night.

Zurich’s police tolerated the publishers of The Circle, on the condition that members had to be at least 20 years old. But social attitudes in Switzerland were still predictably conservative, and any public exposure of a homosexual lifestyle was grounds for immediately losing your job and eviction from your home. The Circle’s parties were cloaked in secrecy. Attendance was restricted to registered members, and those registration lists were stored in a member’s home, in an oven filled with wood, ready to ignite should the police invade looking for evidence for blackmail. 

Those blackmail attempts began in the 1960s. Several gay men in Zurich were murdered by male prostitutes, but the killers claimed the “gay panic” defense, as if they had been coerced into being paid for sex by predatory older men, and the Swiss courts set them free. Mainstream press jumped on the story, also portraying the killers as the victims, and painted an image of Zurich as a pit of debauchery, which riled up the public. The police, embarrassed by the city’s distasteful image, interrogated The Circle’s publishers and threatened them with exposure if they did not disclose the names of their members. The publishers never caved to the threats, but the harassment led to the demise of The Circle, which ceased production in 1967, and those legendary parties disappeared.

All is not lost to history, however. In the 1950s, a bar opened in Zurich’s Old Town historic district; called Barfüsser, it was owned by a liberal-minded husband and wife couple who defiantly hired a waiter who had been fired from his previous job for being gay. That bit of gossip spread quickly, mostly among the waiter’s gay friends, and business flooded in, leading to Barfüsser quickly becoming one of Zurich’s first gay bars. Women sat in the front, and men congregated in the back room, and it was in that back room where The Circle held meetings, amid the antics of dancing boys and drag queens and other shenanigans occurring around them. 

Barfüsser soldiered on for decades and eventually closed in the early 2000s after the owners retired. The space was leased to a new business, a sushi restaurant, but in 2022 the restaurant moved out, and two local nightlife impresarios claimed the historic building. Marco Uhlig, who owns the nearby nightclub Heaven, a hotspot for Zurich’s twink scene, and Sam Rensing, who owns restaurants outside of the city, worried that “the space might be occupied by a big gastro-chain,” as explained by Rensing, and they wanted to return to its roots in European gay history. So they opened a bar there once again, now with the new name in the German spelling, Kweer.

The new Kweer is a beautiful lounge, with long serpentine couches and a small stage for shows, and the space opens early in the day as a coffeeshop, then changes to a posh cocktail bar in the evening. As progressive as it was in the 1950s when they hired their first gay employee, the bar is just as progressive now: instead of the self-imposed split of women in one room, men in the other, the crowd is entirely gender-friendly, with young patrons embracing their chosen pronouns and giving the place some fresh energy.

“We made sure to pivot the place as a queer space,” said Rensing. “We really thought that it was imperative, that this place became a thriving queer space again, as it had been in the second half of the last century.”

Kweer exterior (Photo courtesy of Dan Renzi)
Continue Reading

Travel

Southwest Air scrubs all SoCal departures, DOT investigating

Departing flights from LA area airports cancelled until Dec. 31. It was unclear if arriving Southern California flights were also affected

Published

on

Southwest jet on the ramp at Hollywood Burbank Airport *undated* (Photo credit: Southwest Airlines/Facebook)

BURBANK – The travel delays and cancellations created by the epic winter storm that gripped the nation over the Christmas holiday period forced Southwest Airlines yesterday to have canceled more than 2,600 flights, roughly 66% of its schedule, according to FlightAware.com. Another 18% were delayed.

Today the airline abruptly canceled all departing flights from Los Angeles area airports until Dec. 31, also included are departures from San Diego. It was unclear if arriving Southern California flights were also affected.

The airline’s website lists all departures out of LAX, Hollywood Burbank Airport, Ontario International Airport and the John Wayne Airport as “unavailable” until New Year’s Eve.

Adding to the company’s woes customer service has apparently imploded leaving travelers with no information and in some cases no options. ABC News affiliate in Indianapolis WRTV-6’s Investigative Reporter Kara Kenney noted on Monday: “Southwest Airlines has canceled thousands of flights across the country including mine. I spent more than 2 hours on hold and can’t get through. I’m assuming it’s a staffing issue and/or pilot hours impact from the winter storm. Regardless, I’m not a happy camper.

If an airline cancels your flight, or if there’s a “significant delay,” you’re entitled to a refund if you choose not to travel, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Whether you are entitled to a refund for a delay depends on many factors – including the length of the delay, the length of the flight, and your particular circumstances, according to the DOT.

Tuesday morning CNN reported more than 2,845 flights within, into or out of the US have already been canceled for Tuesday as of 6:15 a.m. ET, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Of those canceled flights, 2,509 are operated by Southwest.

Tuesday’s cancellations follow a full day of post-Christmas travel chaos, with 3,989 flights canceled on Monday — 2,909 of those being Southwest flights.

Dallas Love Field Tuesday was packed with stranded Southwest passengers according to Dallas ABC News affiliate WFAA-8’s reporter Malini Basu:

The United States Department of Transportation is now investigating Southwest Airlines for this major travel fiasco. USDOT said it will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan. Currently, 70% of flight cancelations today are from Southwest Airlines.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also said he was monitoring the situation closely.

Southwest cancels most departing SoCal flights:

Continue Reading

Travel

Christmas storm continues to disrupt travel, 45+ deaths reported

Flight Aware reported flight delays as of noon Eastern were around 13,711 with cancelled flights reported at 4,405

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

LOS ANGELES – The winter storm, labeled as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ weather event estimated to be 2,000 miles wide, that produced driving snow and plummeting temperatures, and was responsible for knocking out power from Texas to Maine continues to disrupt the nation’s holiday travel.

Flight Aware reported flight delays as of noon Eastern were around 13,711 with cancelled flights reported at 4,405. International travel was disrupted with total delays within, into, or out of the United States Monday at 4,679 and cancellations at 2,708.

The Associated Press reported the storm that produced blizzard conditions that paralyzed the Buffalo, New York area and much of the country left a death toll so far of 27 in western New York authorities said Monday as the region dug out from one of the worst weather-related disasters in its history.

The dead have been found in their cars, homes and in snowbanks. Some died while shoveling snow. The storm is now blamed for at least 48 deaths nationwide, with rescue and recovery efforts continuing Monday.

Temperatures across the United States continue to be life-threatening cold.

Continue Reading

Travel

Over 2K flights cancelled & travel disruptions as major storm hits

Forecasters are warning that this ‘Once In A Generation’ Winter Storm For Christmas’ will create record delays and cancellations

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

CHICAGO – As flights out of  are canceled Thursday out of Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports along with other major hubs including Denver International, forecasters are warning that this ‘Once In A Generation’ Winter Storm For Christmas’ will create record delays and cancellations.

The National Weather Service has issued an alert for a “a multitude of weather hazards through early this weekend, as heavy snowfall, strong winds, and dangerously cold temperatures.”

More than 1,250 flights have been canceled on Thursday and another 700 nixed on Friday, according to data from FlightAware, an app that provides real-time, historical, and predictive flight tracking data Forbes reported Thursday morning.

Prior to attending a briefing on the winter storm impacting the U.S., President Joe Biden said in remarks made in the Oval Office Thursday:

“Okay, this is going to be brief, folks. 
 
The storm — extreme cold weather — you can see it on the map the estimated areas where they’re at the — you know, as low as 50 degrees; where it’s that dark red, it’s below zero.  You know, it’s dangerous and threatening.  This is really a very serious weather alert here.  And it goes from Oklahoma all the way to Wyoming, and Wyoming to Maine.  And it’s of real consequence.
 
So I encourage everyone — everyone, please heed the local warnings.  We’ve contacted — we’ve tried to contact 26 governors so far in affected regions. 
 
And — and go to Weather.gov — Weather.gov for more information.
 
And I know this is — you know, it’s like — this is not like a snow day, you know, when you were a kid; this is serious stuff. 
 
And my team is prepared to help communities weather this — no pun intended — this storm, this — this freeze, and — because we need to cope.  They need to be able to cope if it’s necessary. 
 
I’m going to, shortly, be briefed by — by both FEMA and the National Weather Service, and we’re going to start that briefing.
 
And — but in the meantime, please take this storm extremely seriously.  And I don’t know whether your bosses will let you, but if you all have travel plans, leave now.  Not — not a joke.  I’m tell- — sending my staff — my staff, if they have plans to leave on — tomorrow — late tonight or tomorrow, I’m telling them to leave now.  They can talk to me on the phone.  It’s not life and death.  But it will be if they don’t — if they don’t get out, they may not get out.
 
So, any rate, thank you all for coming in, and I’m going to do the briefing now.  Thank you.”

More than 100 million Americans are under a winter weather alert as an arctic blast brings life-threatening cold to parts of the country, causing travel chaos just days before Christmas.

Graphic via The Weather Channel

The National Weather Service reported that temperatures across the central High Plains plummeted 50 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours. In much of the country, the Christmas weekend could be the coldest in decades.

The frigid air will move through the central United States to the east, with windchill advisories affecting about 135 million people over the coming days, weather service meteorologist Ashton Robinson Cook told the Associated Press Thursday.

Forecasters are expecting a bomb cyclone — when atmospheric pressure drops very quickly in a strong storm — to develop near the Great Lakes, which will increase winds and create blizzard conditions, Cook said.

NBC News’ Julia Jester breaks down how airlines are helping passengers with flight delays and cancellations and what travelers can expect on the roads ahead of the holidays:

Continue Reading

Travel

Sydney WorldPride just 3 months away – & the time to book is now

The massive LGBTQ+ gathering will mark multiple important firsts and anniversaries, including the first WorldPride in the Southern Hemisphere

Published

on

Sydneysiders created a human Progress Flag on the steps of the Sydney Opera House (WorldPride/Getty Images)

The global Pride extravaganza known as WorldPride is heading down under to Sydney, Australia in less than three months, and the scramble is on to secure the best flights, accommodations, and tickets to the enormous 17-day celebration. More than three hundred events will take place over the full WorldPride calendar, which spans February 17 to March 5 and includes a star-studded Live and Proud opening concert set for February 24, headlined by iconic native Aussie pop darling Kylie Minogue and British superstar Charli XCX.

The massive LGBTQ+ gathering will mark multiple important firsts and anniversaries, including the first WorldPride in the Southern Hemisphere, the 50th anniversary of the first Pride Week in Australia, the 45th anniversary of Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, and the 5th year anniversary of Australian marriage equality.

With travel demand already high for this once-in-a-lifetime event, Sydney WorldPride organizers are urging international visitors to book their voyages as soon as possible, ideally through an official approved travel provider to ensure access to genuine WorldPride event tickets. For a limited time, these travel agents will have access to an exclusive allotment of tickets to sold-out events, which they can bundle with flight and accommodation packages to make for a more streamlined and less expensive WorldPride experience.

Approved providers for American travelers include Down Under Answers, which has two complete travel packages on offer, a Sensational Sydney bundle that includes seven hotel nights in Sydney, and an Absolutely Fabulous WorldPride Sydney package that expands to ten nights. Both include round trip airfare from Los Angeles.

Out of Office is offering a variety of WorldPride packages with Australian travel add-ons to places like Hunter Valley in New South Wales’s wine country and to the legendary natural wonder Uluru (also called Ayers Rock) in Central Australia. 

For those who may want to book their Sydney flights and accommodations on their own, Planetdwellers has a package that includes tickets to the four most coveted WorldPride events (the Live and Proud opening concert, the 10,000-person circuit event Domain Dance Party, the 12,000-human Bondi Beach Party, and the seven-hour closing concert Rainbow Republic), plus two days tours to the Blue Mountains, the South Coast, or Hunter Valley.

Goway is offering separate packages for the first and second weeks of WorldPride events, as well as an extended 12-day trip that includes special roundtrip Pride flights from San Francisco to Sydney and an additional visit to the Great Barrier Reef. 

StudentUniverse has a booking portal on its website for a variety of flights combinations and Sydney hotels. After booking those by November 30, travelers will have access to purchase exclusive tickets to WorldPride’s main events, some of which are already sold out.

Los Angeles travelers will have the unique chance to get their Sydney WorldPride party started even before boarding the plane. Australian air carrier Qantas is offering a special Pride is in the Air flight from Los Angeles to Sydney on February 22, which includes pre-flight entertainment for all passengers in the Qantas First Lounge, queer-themed inflight fun and entertainment, special edition “Rainbow Roo” pajamas, curated LGBTQ+ inflight movies and music, an exclusive menu designed by Australian chef Neil Perry, and a general admission ticket to the Live and Proud opening concert.

Beyond the myriad parties and concerts that will be taking place during Sydney WorldPride, a dizzyingly diverse lineup of other happenings is also in store, including a WorldPride Arts program with nearly 70 events (some 50 of which will be world premieres), a WorldPride Sports program with 17 different sports, and the largest LGBTQIA+ human rights conference ever held in the Asia-Pacific region.

Sydney WorldPride will mark the eighth incarnation of the international event, and the first since the pandemic-challenged WorldPride 2021, which was jointly hosted by Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden.

Continue Reading

Travel

Triple A: Survey indicates travel will be popular beyond Labor Day

Auto Club research shows some people saved money this summer & many plan trips this Fall as gas prices continue to trend downward

Published

on

Photo Credit: Auto Club of Southern California

LOS ANGELES – Labor Day marks the end of summer road trips and vacations, however, a new Auto Club survey shows many people will continue to travel during the autumn months. The online survey, which was conducted across the United States in early August, showed gas prices and inflation did have an impact on some travelers’ plans this summer.

According to the survey, 66% said they traveled less this summer than they typically would, and 80% said they made cutbacks to save money, with those between the ages of 18 to 34-years-old cutting back the most.

The top areas where consumers saved included:

  • Non-grocery shopping (clothing, electronics, etc.) – 49%
  • Driving – 44%
  • Going to movies – 36%
  • Flying – 29%
  • Other recreational activities (sporting events, concerts, theater, etc.) – 29%

According to the Auto Club’s late summer survey, about 32% of Americans will travel for Labor Day weekend. Of those who plan to travel, the vast majority (82%) will go by automobile. According to Auto Club travel advisors, the top destinations for hotel, cruise and tour bookings for Southern Californians are:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. San Diego
  3. Orlando
  4. Alaska
  5. Fort Lauderdale
  6. Nashville
  7. Hawaii
  8. Europe

“More international destinations are open to travelers without COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements,” said Heather Felix, the Auto Club’s vice president of travel products & services. “Right now, travelers can find some great deals for future travel, especially on cruises. For those who want to travel in the fall, the best advice is to get those plans in place as soon as possible due to the pent up demand, work with a reputable travel advisor who is aware of the requirements where you want to go, and consider travel insurance that would cover trip interruptions.”

Auto Club To Rescue More Than 58,000 SoCal Drivers This Labor Day

The Auto Club anticipates coming to the roadside rescue of 58,788 stranded drivers from Thursday, September 1 through Monday, September 5. To avoid a breakdown on a road trip, the Auto Club recommends drivers inspect tires, batteries, belts, hoses and fluid levels, or have vehicles inspected by a trusted mechanic, like the ones at a AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility. For those planning road trips, the Auto Club reminds drivers to make traffic safety a priority. Drivers are urged to get at least 7 hours of sleep before a long journey, make sure everyone is buckled up, obey speed limits, and “Don’t Drive Intoxciated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.”

Travelers Planning To Enjoy Cooler Weather And Fall Leaves

The recent Auto Club survey found that most respondents are planning trips this autumn. According to those polled, this fall:

  • 73% plan to take a leisure trip after Labor Day
  • 52% will take a road trip
  • 30% will fly somewhere
  • 7% will take a cruise

According to the survey, the most popular international cruises this fall will be voyages to destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, and Mexico.

Auto Club Offers Tips To Keep The Friendly Skies Friendly

For those who are flying somewhere for the long Labor Day weekend or this fall, the Auto Club recommends travelers:

  • Work with a reputable travel advisor who can be your advocate while you are away
  • Download and use airline apps to get boarding passes, track bags and receive flight updates
  • Travel at least a day before important events, such as weddings, funerals, cruises or international connections
  • Book early morning flights because they are less prone to delays and cancellations
  • Get to the airport extra early and schedule longer layovers – a one hour layover may not be enough time to make a connection these days  
  • If you must sit with friends or family members, consider fares that allow you to choose your seats
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance
  • Pack smart so you don’t holdup the boarding process trying to fit carry-ons into overhead luggage bins
  • Remain kind, patient and courteous with airline and airport staff as well as with other passengers
Continue Reading

Travel

3 LGBTQ-friendly cities to visit this fall

San Francisco, Chicago, and Palm Springs beckon with nightlife, food, charm

Published

on

It’s late July and that means you’re running out of time to plan a summer vacation — but the time is perfect to plan a fall getaway. Here are three LGBTQ-friendly options to consider with abundant nightlife, culinary delights, and cultural attractions.

#1: CHICAGO

Chicago boasts some of the world’s greatest architecture. (Photo by JaySi/Bigstock)

Chicago makes for a perfect fall vacation. Festivals, biking along the lake or walking the Kathy Osterman (Hollywood) Beach (the queer beach) in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood are all great options. The gayborhood, Boystown has been re-christened as “Northalsted” to promote inclusion. You will find most of the bars and gay businesses on Halsted Street.

I always stay at the Hotel Versey (644 W. Diversey Parkway) near the Diversey Brown Line (at the intersection of Clark/Broadway/Diversey) just south of the gayborhood. The rooms are also full of murals featuring local attractions and parking is just $20 for your entire stay at the garage next door (Century Shopping Center), which also features a LA Fitness free to use for hotel guests. Book directly at HotelVersey.com to save. Weekday rates are reasonable and the weekend rates are also better than anything you will find downtown. Plus, you can walk to the bars or just enjoy the many nearby shops and restaurants. There is even a Trader Joe’s across the street and just west of there is the new Dom’s Kitchen and Market (2730 N. Halstead St.).  

Just steps away from the hotel is my favorite Italian restaurant, which will sell you a slice of their amazing pizza, Renaldi’s Pizza (2827 N. Broadway) is a local favorite. Try the Spingione Sausage Pizza.

Farther up Broadway you will find Unabridged Books (3521 N.  Broadway), one of the last remaining independent bookstores that features a wide array of LGBTQ titles. They have been around since 1980 and are still going strong. Broadway features loads of independent shops and restaurants and is a fun way to spend the day. Don’t miss Cram Fashion at 3331 N. Broadway. Grab a salad or enjoy a glass of wine at Mariano’s.

Bring your appetite for the new nearby Dom’s Kitchen and Market (2730 N. Halsted Street) where every kind of food is available freshly prepared. If you need anything, you will find the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 2844 N. Broadway. Next door to the Hotel Versey you will find Stan’s Donuts, a local favorite that also has grilled cheese and cookies. 

Other hotel options in the neighborhood include the Best Western Hawthorn Terrace and The Willows.

All are just steps to the Lakeshore Path, which runs along nearby Lake Michigan. 

Bargain hunters will also love the Heart of Chicago Motel near the Andersonville neighborhood farther north and features free parking.

Hop on the L or the CTA bus for a trip to the Loop to experience the incredible Chicago architecture.

Walk along the new Riverwalk and then head up Michigan Avenue, which features the best shopping in the Midwest.

Enjoy the buildings. My favorite is the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River. Even the new buildings are stunning. Chicago does have the best architecture of any city on the planet.

Millennium Park in the loop is a must. The Shedd Aquarium is also recommended. Navy Pier has a Ferris wheel.

For nightlife, make your first stop to Sidetracks (3349 N. Halsted), America’s biggest and oldest video bar.

The famous Sunday afternoon showtunes now happen on Mondays and Fridays as well. Don’t miss the rooftop bar. There is something going on every night. You can’t beat this mega video bar institution.

Many other LGBTQ bars are nearby. The North End at 3733 N. Halsted is a sports bar. The Lucky Horsehoe features adult entertainment. Charlie’s is a western themed bar. Just north of Andersonville, you will find Touche and Jackhammer on North Clark, which are popular with the leather crowd.

Chicago is a major hub for all transportation types with both O’Hare and Midway Airports as options. Southwest has a hub in Midway Airport. Hop on the Orange Line for a quick ride in.  

For more information, visit GrabChicago.com (or pick up a copy). GRAB Magazine is Chicago’s only remaining in print LGBTQ magazine. Check the maps at the back of the magazine on where to find the bars, restaurants, and other LGBTQ businesses. The Chicago Reader is the biweekly alternative publication.

You will be amazed at everything Chicago has to offer. It is the Paris of the Midwest and arguably one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world. Just ask lesbian Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

#2: PALM SPRINGS

Palm Springs (Photo by photojohn830/Bigstock)

There’s always something new to give you another reason to visit Palm Springs besides the great winter weather. My most recent visit included a stop at the hottest new restaurant in town, Bar Cecil, a stop at the aviation themed speakeasy Air Bar at Bouschet, and a trip up the tram for a hike in the San Jacinto mountains. 

Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto and enjoy a hike (or snow shoeing) in the alpine meadows. The 10-minute trip on the world’s largest rotating tram car takes just 10 minutes to ascend 8,500 feet from the base of Chino Canyon to the top of Mount San Jacinto where breathtaking views and pristine alpine wilderness await. Take a short hike in the Long Valley or visit the Winter Adventure Center. Details at pstramway.com. Other ideas:

• Hike on the North Lykken Trail at the end of Ramon Road.  Bring plenty of sunscreen and water.

• Explore the new Heritage Galleries and Antique District in Uptown.

• Visit the Palm Springs Air Museum to see the world’s largest collection of flyable World War 2 aircraft.

• Check out the new city park downtown and the oversize statute of Marilyn Monroe.

Arenas Road downtown features most of the bars. Enjoy happy hour at Quads. The new speakeasy, AirBar, is a must. Enjoy cocktails while you sit on First Class seats from Northwest Orient or enjoy coach seating on what appears to be old Southwest Airlines seats (complete with seat belts) served by a bartender dressed like a pilot. This aviation themed bar is inside Bouschet. Don’t miss the wine tastings, the Saturday night flight, and the Sunday disco and boozy Bruch. However, unlike airline travel, lunch and dinner are served (or available for purchase). Details at pspairbar.com.

Good choices for lodging include the Hotel Zoso, the Holliday House, and The Rowan by Kimpton. The Margaritaville Resort reportedly has the largest pool. But check the resort fees before you book. They can be $47 a day. Another great option is the Santiago.

Ristretto is great for coffee and breakfast. Lulu’s downtown has great quesadillas. The trout at the Eight4Nine Restaurant is to die for. El Mirasol has great Mexican food. The new Bar Cecil (restaurant) is a must. If you cannot get reservations, arrive early and sit at the bar. Vegetarians and juice lovers will want to try Nature’s Health Food and Café.

As for getting there, beware of the new hassles of traveling. American cancelled my outbound flight (staffing shortage?) so I ended up on Southwest. You don’t need a car if you stay in one of the downtown hotels. Also, save by taking the SunLine Bus to your hotel using the stop just outside the airport. It is just $1.

The Film Festival runs Jan. 6-17 while the Modernism week starts in mid-February.

For more information go to the Visit Palm Springs website, visit GreaterPS.com.

You can also read or pick up a copy of GED Magazine (GEDMag.com), Rage Magazine, or the Coachella Valley Independent for a current list of happenings. The Desert Daily Guide is another great resource.

You won’t run out of new and fun things to do in this desert LGBTQ+ oasis, which is always re-inventing itself and always a delight to visit.

#3: SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco remains a must-see city for any LGBTQ traveler. (Photo by Andy777/Bigstock)

No sooner had I stepped off my Southwest Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) than I was in a LGBTQ history exhibit like no other.

The new Harvey Milk Terminal (aka Terminal One), which has been open less than a year at SFO, showcases the life of former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. Milk was an LGBTQ political trailblazer in so many respects. He was the first openly gay individual elected to office in California (in 1977) and served just 11 months before being murdered by another Supervisor, Dan White who also assassinated Mayor George Moscone. The amazing life of one of the nation’s first openly LGBTQ politicians is showcased in a half mile exhibit as you walk down the new terminal named in his honor. The terminal exhibit alone is worth a visit to the City by the Bay. 

I always stay at Beck’s Motor Lodge near the Castro right on Market Street. Shops and restaurants are nearby and the rates are reasonable. It is also out of the touristy areas and in the heart of the gayborhood. They have free parking but you won’t need a car. Other options nearby include the Parker Guest House and The Willows.

A walk along Castro Street is another history lesson with famous LGBTQ folks embedded in gold sidewalk displays. Learn about the lives of LGBTQ legends, many from the Bay Area. The city was and is a magnet for LGBTQ folks and is still cutting edge today.

San Francisco safe outdoor hiking options abound. From my motel (Becks Motor Lodge) you can hike up to Buena Vista Park for great views of the Bay Area and Twin Peaks.

Then hike over to Corona Heights for more great views of the City by the Bay (with lunch at the Josesphine Café at the Randall Museum). A hike up to Twin Peaks is another option from the Castro.

A bit farther is the amazing Golden Gate Park and the beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

We took BART from 24th/Mission down to the Embarcadero. We stopped at Rincon Center with 1930 era murals of the history of California. Then we headed over to the Ferry Building for lunch and shopping.

Head over to the new rooftop gardens at the Salesforce Tower Transbay Transit Terminal, which features a display in the mile-long garden of the various types of ecosystems that thrive in the Mediterranean climate of this amazing state. Don’t miss the redwood garden.

A walk thought the Financial District up to Union Square is another must.

If you have a car, try Edgewood County Park on the Peninsula just down I-280 south of the City on the world’s most beautiful freeway (really).

The bars are open in the Castro Street neighborhood and include The Lookout (3600 16th St. at Market), which has a great deck overlooking the street scene.

Twin Peaks Tavern at Market and Castro (401 Castro) bills itself as the Gateway to the Castro and features Irish Coffee and drink specials. It also has outdoor seating and great views of the street action. Hi Tops at 2247 Market is another fun sports bar with outdoor seating.

Erics on Church Street (accessible via the J Church Metro Line) has great lunch specials.  It is a Chinese restaurant with tasty home-cooked, healthful ingredients.

In nearby West Portal, enjoy Italian food at the amazing Spiazzo Restaurant. Try the salmon. (Catch the K or L line bus from the Castro.)  West Portal also abounds with other options for dining.

Peet’s Coffee is across the street from Beck’s Motor Lodge is a great breakfast option for to go selections.

I took Southwest to SFO and flew back out of Oakland International Airport (OAK). Both are convenient options served by the BART transit system. Get a Clipper Card and you can also use it on the San Francisco bus system, Muni.

Check out the Bay Area Reporter (ebar.com or pick up a printed copy), which just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Bay Times is the other local LGBTQ publication. Both are great sources for ideas on what to do while visiting and current updates on what is open and what is not.

Bill Malcolm’s syndicated LGBTQ value travel column runs in select LGBTQ publications around America.

Continue Reading

Travel

July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

Published

on

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

Continue Reading

Popular