January 29, 2016 at 3:52 pm EST | by Adrienne Jordan
We’ll have a gay ‘ole time
gay travel, gay news, Washington Blade

Winter Party Miami, in early March, promises endless gay parties in a balmy Florida setting. (Photo courtesy the event)

As winter starts packing on the snow, trade the shovel for skis at some of the best gay ski weeks.

Had enough of the powder? Then head to Louisiana for a gay Mardi Gras experience, try wine tasting in Napa or even a multi-island cruise for lesbians.

Pride comes early this year in Philly, and Miami’s Winter Party is a short flight away from the Washington area. Winter blues shouldn’t keep you in the house — get out and explore some of these upcoming LGBT-centric events.

Napa Valley, Calif. 

What warms the body more than a little wine? The Napa Valley Wine Train hosts its inaugural Pride Ride on March 19. This LGBT event offers guests a chance to enjoy a special dinner featuring some of the Bay Area’s most prominent LGBT wine experts, each on hand to lend their expertise and assist guests in selecting wines to specially pair with their four-course gourmet meal created by Napa Valley Wine Train Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald.

Telluride, Colo.

Hit the powder at Telluride Gay Ski Week, in its first year as a locally produced event, taking place Feb. 20-27. This year presents an impressive list of special guests, including Olympian Gus Kenworthy, musician Shawn Colvin, comedian Sandra Bernhard and the infamous DJ Ruckus, among others. The week will be packed with events like a dance party at Gorrono Beach on the Telluride Ski Resort, opening cocktail party at Arroyo Gallery and wine bar/pop-up night club at La Marmotte, White Party and the Après Ski Pool Party at Madeline Sky Terrace, where DJ Soul Atomic will spin.

New Orleans

Famous for their huge Carnival celebrations, rowdy Bourbon Street crowds, and French, Spanish, and Native American influences, Mardi Gras is one of the most anticipated annual celebrations in America. The 67th annual Gay Mardi Gras kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 30th with the Krewe of Amon-Ra 51st annual Mardi Gras Ball. The celebrations continue on into early February with the Friday Night Before Mardi Gras Extravaganza XVII on Friday, Feb. 5. There are back-to-back masked balls on Saturday, Feb. 6 (8 p.m., Krewe of Armeinius Bal Masque XLVIII, Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center, Chalmette, La.) and on Sunday, Feb. 7th (8 p.m., Lords of Leather Bal Masque XXXIII, John A. Alario, Sr. Event Center, Westwego, La.). Everyone is welcome, gay and straight during the Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) event on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Palm Springs, Calif. 

For the fur-loving community, head to the desert for the International Bear Convergence Feb. 4-8 at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs for the premier winter event for bears and admirers. This desert oasis opens its arms and welcomes you to the hip Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs to thousands of frisky, furry bears, their friends and fans. The four-day event will come to life with DJs, live entertainment and thousands of bears from around the globe. The last two years were hugely successful and more of the same is expected in 2016.

Philadelphia

To get a head start on your yearly Pride rotations, head to Philly for the Philadelphia Black Gay Pride festvities. The spring event will take place April 28-May 1. The mission is to transform the living and social environments of LGBT people of color. Over five days, Philadelphia Black Gay Pride entertains and inspires with open-mic spoken word, awards, parties and much more happening at venues all over the city. More details to come.

Winter Party Miami

Surround yourself with miles of white sandy beaches, thousands of men in speedos and weekend fiestas at Winter Party in Miami March 2-7. The event starts with mega party Ignite, and on Friday, the Pulse party goes all night and all morning to finally end at 7 a.m. Saturday brings the Under One Sun pool party, followed by the Beach Party on Sunday. There will be a dance floor, pavilions, DJ booth, tents for relaxing, drinking and chatting sprawl along South Beach’s Lummus Park.

Caribbean Escape

Olivia’s Caribbean Escape Cruise starts this weekend and runs Jan. 30-Feb. 6. The cruise will give women the opportunity to join 1,900 lesbians on the Holland America’s MS Westerdam. The itinerary is jam packed with snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and kayaking excursions. Soak up the sunshine on four different islands, including Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and the Bahamas. From relaxing and lounging on beautiful Caribbean beaches, to a visit to a Bacardi Distillery, there is something for everyone. Olivia has several cruises planned throughout the year including Lisbon to Dublin (June 26-July 4), Dublin to Edinburgh (July 4-12), Tahiti (Aug. 20-27), Pacific Coast (Sept. 25-Oct. 2), Windward Islands (Dec. 2-9) and more into 2017.

Manchester, UK

Looking to travel to Europe this winter? Check out Manchester, UK, home to a thriving arts and culture scene and the renowned Manchester International Festival. During LGBT History Month in February, Manchester hosts the eighth annual Queer Contact Festival, an art “explosion” that runs from Feb. 4-14 and features a 10-day lineup of theater, music, dance, cabaret, comedy, spoken word and visual art performances. Expect international artists like Erasure’s Andy Bell, U.S. transgender performers and activists Kate Bornstein, Our Lady J, poet Jackie Kay and visual artists AL and AL.

Cuba welcomes gays despite embargo

By MICHAEL K. LAVERS

The restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba has sparked renewed interest in LGBT travel to the Communist island.

Congress has yet to lift the embargo that prevents U.S. citizens for traveling to Cuba for tourism-specific activities. Yet there are several attractions in Havana for the LGBT traveler who may find themselves on the island.

Humboldt 52, a gay bar near the iconic Hotel Nacional, is popular with Cubans and foreigners alike. The nearby Cabaret Las Vegas features drag shows and other performances.

La Guarida, the restaurant in the 1993 film “Fresa y Chocolate” that features a student and a gay artist who is dissatisfied with then-Cuban President Fidel Castro’s government, is located near Havana’s Chinatown.

A portion of the Cuban capital’s oceanfront promenade near the Hotel Nacional is a popular late-night gathering place for LGBT Cubans. Mi Cayito is a gay beach located east of Havana capital.

Supporters of Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, who directs Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education that is known by the Spanish acronym CENESEX, have credited her with advancing LGBT issues on the island.

A member of Cuban Parliament, she supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

CENESEX each May organizes a series of events in Havana and across the country that commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Transgender people have been able to obtain free sex-reassignment surgery under the island’s national health care system since 2008. Mariela Castro in 2013 voted against a proposal that banned anti-gay discrimination in the workplace because it did not include gender identity.

Fidel Castro told a Mexican newspaper in 2010 that sending gay men to work camps in the years after the Cuban Revolution was a “great injustice.” Independent LGBT rights advocates say they continue to face discrimination and harassment from the island’s government.

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