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We’ll have a gay ‘ole time

LGBT-specific travel options abound throughout 2016



gay travel, gay news, Washington Blade
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.


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


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.


Real Estate

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights



The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space



Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit

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Real Estate

Looking for vacation homes during Memorial Day weekend

A busy, strategic time in the housing market



As summer arrives, more tourists begin thinking of buying in resort towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, also marks the unofficial start of summer. Beyond its significance as a day of remembrance, it has become a prime period for the real estate market. The long weekend provides a unique opportunity for home buyers and sellers, making it one of the busiest and most strategic times in the housing market.

Memorial Day weekend is often a time when people head to the beach, the country, or the mountains for relaxation and to join in the local festivities. This long weekend offers a break from routine, a chance to honor those who have served, and an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather. 

For real estate agents, however, Memorial Day weekend can be a blend of work and leisure, especially in resort communities where the real estate market is particularly active during this time. 

The influx of visitors to these destinations often includes prospective buyers who are considering purchasing vacation homes or investment properties. As a result, real estate agents in these areas might find themselves balancing work commitments with personal downtime.

We are keenly aware that the long weekend brings a surge in potential clients. Agents joke among themselves about business being slow until they make plans to go out of town. Open houses and community home tours are often scheduled to coincide with the holiday, taking advantage of the increased foot traffic.

Due to constantly improving technology, real estate agents can effectively manage their time and resources even during busy holiday weekends. Virtual tours, online listings, and digital marketing campaigns enable agents to reach a broad audience without always being physically present. Technology also allows agents to stay connected with clients and respond to inquiries promptly, ensuring that the clients do not miss out on potential sales opportunities. 

Often, agents licensed in the DMV are expanding their territories by becoming licensed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Writing offers while on vacation has become the norm. Social media accounts can highlight special listings and open house events, and agents can also post pictures and descriptions of amenities in the towns they are visiting, attracting interested buyers who are in the area for the weekend.

The vibrant atmosphere of vacation getaway towns during Memorial Day weekend also provides a unique opportunity for networking and relationship-building. Agents can meet potential clients in a casual setting, forging connections that might lead to new business opportunities. They can also form relationships with other agents and create partnerships to help current and future clients find leisure homes.

The appeal of owning a place by the water, for example, is often strongest during the summer months, when the weather is inviting and the potential for rental income is high. Real estate agents who serve beach towns such as Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., or Rehoboth Beach, Del., often mix business with pleasure as they seek out new clients.

Alternatively, if the relaxed life in the country is more to your liking, places such as The Amish area of Lancaster County, Pa. may be for you. Charles Town, W.Va., and Ashland, Va. have a robust military history and may be what you’re looking to enjoy. If mountains and lakes are more your style, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians of West Virginia, or Deep Creek Lake, Md., may fit the bill, so let’s look at a few properties on the market today.

In Ocean City, you can find an oceanfront, one-bedroom condominium with beach and sunset views in a short-term rental building for $439,900. As you can imagine, it already has four weeks booked for the summer.

The historic district of Charles Town, W.Va., offers a 3,000-square-foot Victorian home built in 1890. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, 10’ high ceilings, original pocket doors, inlaid floors, and central air conditioning for $159,900. What’s the catch? It requires a complete renovation, but what a wonderful project it could be for weekend warriors.

Stretch your budget a bit more and you can own a 4,000-square-foot chalet with mountain views on both sides in Front Royal, Va. For less than $700,000, you will get four bedrooms and three baths, nearly two acres of land, and low-maintenance siding.

While many people flock to nearby vacation spots purely for relaxation, real estate agents often find themselves working diligently to learn about different areas and capitalize on the increased interest in local properties. By doing so, they can help clients find their dream homes, whether for retirement, short getaways, or investment potential.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed associate broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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