Richmond rolls out the rainbow carpet
The Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau — like those of many mid-size cities — has put a lot of effort into enticing the lavender dollar. Virginia may be one of the most anti-gay states legislatively, but Richmond is rolling out the rainbow carpet and has much to offer the discerning gay traveler.
For starters, it’s only two hours from Washington. And taking a comfortable round-trip Amtrak ride from Union Station runs about $50.
LGBT travelers are especially welcome at the Linden Row Inn as well as Maury Place at Monument bed and breakfast.
The Linden Row Inn offers spacious rooms filled with ornate antiques from the mid-to-late 1800s. The fully restored Greek revival hotel is conveniently located in the center of historic downtown Richmond. Prices range from around $110 per night for a sprawling, well-decorated two-bedroom to around $240 per night for a gracious parlor room. For more information or to reserve a room, go to lindenrowinn.com.
The gay-owned Maury Place at Monument bed and breakfast offers an intimate setting with meticulous attention to design. The luxury guesthouse boasts a seasonal swimming pool, four suites with sumptuous decor, heated tile floors in the bathrooms and a welcoming-yet-unobtrusive staff. Prices range from around $190 to $290 per night. Go to mauryplace.com to book a room.
There are many great restaurants in Richmond, but Chez Fouchee and the Empress stand out.
Chez Fouchee, a gay-owned restaurant nestled between downtown and the Broad Street arts district, has an affordable-yet-satisfying lunch menu seven days a week and a fine dining dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. For lunch, try an artisan baguette sandwich, the quiche du jour or one of the original salads. Prices range from $7.50 for a baguette or salad to $13.50 for a lunch steak. For the more formal dinner, be prepared to spend more than $20 per entrée. Save room for dessert; the rich lemon butter cake is worth the extra trip to the gym. For menus, reservations and more information, go to chezfoushee.com.
The Empress serves elegant cuisine that any foodie will love. The cozy lesbian-owned restaurant offers scintillating and innovative dishes ranging from bison lasagna to pistachio crusted duck breast. Vegetarian options round out the menu. Prices for entrées range from $10 to $15 and market price for seafood. The Empress serves breakfast and lunch Mondays through Fridays and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays with a brunch on Sundays. Go to theempressrva.com for more information.
There are many things to do in Richmond, and plenty to perk the interest of the LGBT traveler looking for art, history and nightlife.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a major attraction for travelers and Richmond residents alike. The glass and stone museum holds 23,000 works of art in its permanent collection and is host to world-class special exhibitions. Go to vmfa.museum for information on exhibits, food, events and more.
The River City is home to several theater companies with shows ranging from the classics to the avant garde. Of special interest to a gay audience is Richmond Triangle Players, an LGBT theater company. James Edwin Parker’s gay-themed “2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night” is having its Virginia premiere on Thursday and will run through Feb. 4. Go to rtriangle.org for tickets, show times and more information on the company.
To unwind after a long day of exploring, there are many LGBT nightlife destinations. For an action-packed nightlife experience, go to Nations on West Broad Street. The club has two bars, a large dance floor and a drag cabaret. For a more laid back experience, Barcode on East Grace Street offers a friendly atmosphere complete with lunch and dinner specials. The best place to meet women is Babes of Carytown located on West Cary Street. Babes is welcoming to everyone and features live music and a drag show. Godfrey’s Restaurant and Nightclub on East Grace Street transforms from a lively dance club at night to a fun drag brunch on Sunday mornings. Reservations are required for the drag brunch.
There’s an LGBT section at visitrichmondva.com that’s a must-visit site if you plan to go.
Flowers, photos and more in Philly
As one of the country’s largest metro areas, Philadelphia is always bustling with gay energy but two spring attractions are especially worth noting — lesbian photographer Zoe Strauss has a major exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that runs through April 22. And time your visit right and you can also catch the Philadelphia International Flower Show slated for March 4-11.
The latter, a tradition since 1829 that now draws about 250,000 visitors each year, is “a fantastic show for anybody interested in flowers, plants and greening but anybody can enjoy it,” says Alan Jaffe, PR manager for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which stages the event each year.
This year’s theme is “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha” so expect the usual eye-popping displays built around an exotic theme. LGBT Night Out is March 5 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and the event always draws plenty of gays including exhibitors, designers, landscape architects and more.
The event is at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (12th and Arch Streets). Visit theflowershow.com for details.
Strauss is an unlikely success story. The former babysitter with no formal training in photography launched a 10-year project to display her work for one day each year underneath Interstate 95 in South Philadelphia (she’s a Philly native). Critical acclaim came in time and now she’s the subject of a major exhibition that launched two weeks ago and features several special events as well as 39 donated billboard displays featuring her photos through the spring.
The 41-year-old Strauss, who lives with her wife Lynn Bloom in South Philly, says her lesbian identity is endlessly informing of her work even in non-obvious ways.
“It’s extremely central to it because I’m a lesbian and my work is very personal so it’s central to everything I make whether it’s presented in that moment or not,” she says. “I’m very interested in gender and the fluidity of it, so it’s of great importance to my overall body of work,” she says. “And even if (a particular image) is not directly related to the LGBT community, it still kind of always is because I’m the one making it.”
The Museum is on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. Visit philamuseum.org for details.
Rehoboth’s off-season appeal
Before the summer rush, there are loads of activities that Washington’s LGBT community will find enticing in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
You can see men in skimpy swim trunks or elaborate costumes plunge into the cold Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 5 in a benefit for Special Olympics Delaware, and a week later, on Feb. 11, you can shop at the Convention Center at the state’s largest indoor garage sale, Merchant’s Attic I. Merchant’s Attic II is scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Blue Moon reopens Feb. 9, and judging by the dumpsters outside the Moon this winter, there are many upgrades awaiting inside.
Washington’s own Gay Men’s Chorus will join with the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus in concert on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.
The President’s Day weekend traditionally has CAMP Rehoboth co-sponsor a mini film festival called “Another Take” with the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. This year, the films are the award-winning “Beginners” (Feb. 18), and the Chely Wright documentary, “Wish Me Away” (Feb. 19). Both begin at 2 p.m. and are shown upstairs at the Movies at Midway.
March 3 brings another Rehoboth tradition, as the Convention Center will be filled with the smell of chocolate at the annual Chocolate Festival. March will end with another Convention Center tradition, now in its 15th year, the Resorts Home Expo, showcasing the top home service companies, developers, Realtors and mortgage firms (March 31-April 1).
Camp Rehoboth holds a Women’s Fest each April, this year from April 12-15, and will feature Col. Grethe Cammermeyer and Suzanne Westenhoefer among others.
If you have a summer residence at the beach or are thinking of owning a place, you’ll want to want to check out the Designer Show House (10 Fourth Street) on Fridays through Sundays April 20-May 6. For the odds and ends that you must have, the very popular annual Spring Sidewalk Sale will be held May 18-20. And do not forget that the second Saturday of each month throughout the year the arts community holds the Mosaic Art Walk.
If you are looking for pure entertainment, most of the bars and restaurants continue to offer specials during the winter and spring and there are theater options at both Clear Space in Rehoboth and Possum Point in Georgetown, or you might want to check out the expanded Proud! Bookstore, which has moved directly across from its former location at Village by the Sea, on the Baltimore Avenue side.
Big change in Lost River
If you’re more into mountains than beaches, then consider visiting Lost River, W.Va. Curl up with a good book by the fire, enjoy a robust cabernet with friends at the Guesthouse, or go for a brisk winter hike.
After 30 years in business, the gay-owned Guesthouse at Lost River changed ownership earlier this month. New owners Michael Cooley and Gary Robinson promise to continue the gay-friendly traditions of the Guesthouse. They are currently featuring a winter craft beer selection from Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery in the lounge. The Guesthouse also offers wedding packages and can supply couples with photographers, DJs and everything to make the celebration of your wedding or commitment ceremony memorable. Visit guesthouselostriver.com for more information.