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Book your D.C. staycation at one of these LGBTQ-friendly hotels

Spend a weekend at one of these four stylish spots

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Eaton Hotel

When the staycation is the best vacation: a year after Hot Vax Summer, we’re dealing with Hot Gas Prices Summer. Stick around the city at one of these four LGBTQ-friendly spots.

LYLE

In the heart of Dupont Circle and a mere half-block to 17th Street, Lyle finds itself in a prime location for a D.C. staycation. Opened just last spring, Lyle has found its footing during the pandemic. Like its tree-lined street, Lyle has a cozy feel in a historic Art Deco apartment building. London-based Lore Group, an international hotel brand, spearheaded the sophisticated design of the hotel (they also did the luxe Riggs Hotel in Penn Quarter). 

The calming, neutral-colored rooms are homey, but the Art Deco style still provides plenty of energy. Its spacious, 24-hour gym also has a Peloton bike and yoga space. The star of the hotel is the ground-floor bar and restaurant, also designed by Lore. Dozens of striking red-and-black abstract paintings cover the walls of this contemporary American eatery. Brunch comes with a fun twist: the restaurant has a special that includes a bucket of chicken, biscuits, a selection of sauces, plus a choice of bubbles or brews — and that’s on top of its bottomless bubbles or bloody Mary options that pair well with the live DJ set.

LGBTQ-friendliness: During June, Lyle leaned into its location and had several Pride-related offers. In celebration of its first Capital Pride, it put together a “Love at Lyle” package with welcome cocktails and a contribution to Capital Pride Alliance. It also hosted a drag brunch before the Pride parade. It also supports the neighborhood year-round: it focuses on buying locally when possible, and supporting local charitable initiatives.

EATON

A “global, mission-driven hospitality company,” the Eaton Hotel on K Street is a unique destination for staycationers with a purpose. The hotel’s art-filled design references nostalgia and modernity, recalling the history of its building as a bus terminal and printing press. Among its innumerable amenities, the Eaton DC offers a cinema, radio, wellness center, workspace, music venue, rooftop bar, library, speakeasy, exhibition space, a “creators’ room,” event spaces, a coffee shop, and free coffee and tea in the mornings. Rooms, meanwhile, have colorful touches and come equipped with a bluetooth record player (and a curated vinyl library), rare books, and a built-in desk. It’s also pet-friendly. The lobby-level fine-dining restaurant, Michele’s, run by Michelin-starred chef Matt Baker, serves fine French-American cuisine and a highly regarded brunch. 

LGBTQ-friendliness: The Eaton Hotel’s Head of Purpose, Sheldon Scott, reported that the Eaton has “worked with the D.C. office of LGBTQ Affairs for years and their Empowerment Programs to ensure that trans-identified workers have a safe and affirming workplace at Eaton DC. We also developed an EDIT (Equity Diversity Inclusion & Thriving ) curriculum with monthly and quarterly training for all staff, developing fluency in communities closest to injustice in an effort to expand our hospitality.” The hotel is known for its inclusivity, and received a 100% on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

KIMPTON BANNEKER

While there are three Kimpton properties in the city, the location closest to gay destinations is the Kimpton Banneker in Dupont Circle. After a recent refresh (formerly called the Rouge), it reopened as the Banneker. Rooms are minimalistic yet warm, a place to recharge away from the bustle of the area. Pieces from local artists also grace the walls. This, like other Kimptons, doesn’t shy from the amenities. These include nightly wine happy hours, morning coffee, bicycles, downloadable heritage walking tours, a board game library, and a gym; plus, it’s pet-friendly. As for dining, the Le Sel restaurant is a classic French bistro. Head to the rooftop bar, Lady Bird, an indoor/outdoor perch with stunning views, roaring fire pits, and a pretty centerpiece U-shaped bar.

LGBTQ-friendliness: The Kimpton brand, which was founded in San Francisco, is the Trevor Project’s “Premier National Hotel Partner.” A portion of nightly stays are donated to the Trevor Project. The Kimpton George, in Capitol Hill, was lit up in a brilliant rainbow for Pride in June, and many other Kimpton properties held Pride celebrations. It also scored a 100% on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

MAYFLOWER

The Mayflower Hotel, part of Marriott’s high-end Autograph Collection, is a D.C. original, overflowing with as much history as the city itself. Established in 1925, the Mayflower has played host to inaugural balls, plenty of intrigue, and famous guests. Its more than 500 rooms means there’s plenty of space for the staycation, and its Connecticut Avenue location near Dupont Circle means it’s close to all the places to play. Listed in the Historic Hotels of America, The Mayflower Hotel is known for its elegance and furnishings of refined wood, stone, glass and upholstery in jewel tones. Its flagship restaurant, Edgar Kitchen & Bar, pays homage to Washington’s power players – including its namesake FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (rumored to be gay). Edgar Kitchen, a “traditional American brasserie” is still considered to be a power spot to dine.

LGBTQ-friendliness: Marriott Bonvoy has been known to be as friendly to LGBTQ customers as any other hotel group. It has developed a suite of LGBTQ-related travel guides, including guides to Chicago, Wilton Manors, and New York. The Human Rights Campaign also gave Marriott a perfect score on its Corporate Equality Index.

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LGBTQ Trip from Washington to Auckland

Organising a dream LGBTQ trip to New Zealand has never been as easy as it is now

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The popularity of LGBTQ is booming in Washington: its representatives tend to form communities and speak widely about themselves. New Zealand is another destination where minorities can feel freedom and a lack of prejudice. LGBTQ traveling is the latest trend in 2024. 

More and more countries globally are increasing minorities’ acceptance, giving them the possibility of exploring varied places where they can openly express themselves without the fear of discrimination. New Zealand welcomes everyone and is tolerant of all worldviews. 

Auckland is the largest city in the country, so it’s not surprising that it’s the first to attract tourists. What do LGBTQ representatives must explore when visiting it?

LGBTQ Landmarks and Tours

Are you in the mood to explore the Kiwis’ history and culture? Auckland is the top location in this case! The city is LGBTQ-friendly, boasting a massive community of like-minded people. Special tours are available to travellers so that they can discover the beauty of this famous New Zealand destination with maximum fun and pleasure. 

Those desiring to discover the cultural significance of this city should consider local museums and art galleries. It’s possible to book a special LGBTQ guided tour in advance or explore sights independently – but make sure you have a detailed plan. Sky Tower is the most recognizable place in Auckland, so don’t forget to visit it once you arrive in this amazing city. 

The observation space of the 51st floor impresses guests as they can see every little detail from the bird’s-eye view. Of course, Kiwis won’t allow you to stay hungry: a high-class roof restaurant with the best service is perfect for a romantic dinner or a quick lunch with your LGBTQ friends. 

Hobbiton movie set is another place LGBTQ visitors should miss when visiting the largest NZ city. Fans of Lord of the Rings already know this location that tops the must-visit list in Auckland. The entertaining experience of appearing inside one of the best films in world history will diversify the trip and bring tons of fun.

Gambling Venues, Nightlife Entertainment and Online Casinos

LGBTQ communities are known for their passion for nightlife and entertainment – and here, Auckland will also not disappoint them. Gay-friendly bars are a common option in the city, so visitors can find plenty of places to enjoy a tasty drink with like-minded individuals. 

Don’t pass by amazing The Eagle Bar or Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret for tons of unforgettable emotions. Parties never end in this New Zealand city: visitors can attend dozens of nightclubs friendly to LGBTQ representatives. 

Gambling is another nationwide entertainment in the country, and Auckland offers everything casino lovers need to have fun. First, risk seekers have round-the-clock access to leading New Zealand casino brands with thousands of thrilling gaming solutions and exclusive promotions. 

Online gambling is popular and accessible for both locals and tourists. LGBTQ travellers can easily spin the reel during the sightseeing tour or wine testing somewhere in the middle of a national park. 

In addition, Auckland offers players over 20 to visit authentic brick-and-mortar casinos with luxury interiors and fantastic game choices. Gambling resorts are the trend now, so don’t hesitate to include them in your must-visit list when exploring New Zealand.

Wineries and Picturesque Excursions

The country is renowned for its picturesque nature – you won’t find anything similar in the world. Majestic national parks not touched by the human hand is the top thing every visitor must see. Abel Tasman National Park, Huka Falls, Lake Tekapo, and Pancake Rocks are only some locations near Auckland that LGBTQ visitors mustn’t miss. 

While some people can endlessly admire picturesque landscapes, others are quickly bored with this activity. However, not discovering the beauty of NZ nature will be a real crime, so LGBTQ communities often prefer to diversify their pastimes by visiting wineries. The latter are common in Auckland, so finding a suitable tour won’t be challenging. 

Wine tastings are among the main attractions Kiwis are really proud of; local drinks are of exceptional quality and are sold worldwide. LGBTQ travellers shouldn’t miss the chance to try the best options in their homeland. Luckily, no special actions are necessary since tourists just need to find a suitable tour to explore the hidden tastes of New Zealand and enjoy the pastime uniting with the picturesque nature.

Final Thoughts

Organising a dream LGBTQ trip to New Zealand has never been as easy as it is now – the broad acceptance of minorities in the country and lots of attractions, even for the pickiest travellers are a perfect combo. Tourists shouldn’t pass by the amazing nature that Kiwis are really proud of and visit majestic waterfalls, national parks with unique flora and fauna representatives, and lakes with crystal water. 

Complement the excursion with a wine tasting, and you will definitely capture the most unforgettable moments. Many LGBTQ communities are inspired to combine sightseeing with vibrant nightlife, and the choice of bars and clubs won’t leave anyone indifferent. 

Casinos are the guilty pleasure for many people – and Auckland offers multiple gambling opportunities for adrenaline hunters. For those seeking relaxation, Auckland offers top beach hotels and resorts providing the perfect seaside escape. Book your flight from Washington and enjoy a trip full of adventure and excitement.

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Pride journey: Las Vegas

Start planning now for the October celebrations

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Las Vegas (Photo courtesy of Joey Amato)

Las Vegas, known for its vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, embraces LGBTQ culture with open arms, making it a thriving hub for the community. Iconic events like the annual Las Vegas Pride Parade and Festival bring together people from all walks of life to celebrate diversity and unity. The 2024 Las Vegas Pride festival is scheduled for Oct. 12, so start planning now.

The city’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in the diverse range of LGBTQ-friendly accommodations, ensuring that visitors feel welcome and respected. Beyond the nightlife, Las Vegas hosts a variety of LGBTQ-focused community organizations, support groups, and cultural events that contribute to the rich tapestry of the city’s inclusive ethos. Whether exploring the famous entertainment offerings or participating in community-driven initiatives, LGBTQ individuals and allies alike find a warm and accepting home in the vibrant tapestry of LGBTQ culture in Las Vegas.

Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to stay at Bellagio. Its iconic foundations have fascinated me for decades. The hotel stands as an epitome of luxury and sophistication, offering an unparalleled experience that seamlessly blends opulence, entertainment, and fine dining. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, it’s evident that Bellagio is committed to providing a world-class stay, especially when you glance at the ceiling adorned with Chihuly glass sculptures.

I stayed in a recently renovated room in the Spa Tower with an unobstructed view of the Vegas Strip and the fountains. The attention to detail is evident in the tasteful decor, plush furnishings, and modern amenities. Beginning at 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends, the choreographed water show set against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip is a mesmerizing display of artistry, combining music, light, and water in perfect harmony. It sets the tone for the exquisite experiences that await within Bellagio.

Bellagio is also home to the famous Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis that undergoes seasonal transformations, displaying stunning floral displays and thematic installations. This botanical escape provides a serene contrast to the lively atmosphere of the casino and the bustling Strip. During our stay, the staff were completing the new springtime exhibition, which gave us Alice in Wonderland vibes. 

For those seeking entertainment, Bellagio offers the spectacular “O” by Cirque du Soleil, a water-themed extravaganza that complements the hotel’s overall theme. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is another cultural gem within the hotel, featuring rotating exhibitions that display masterpieces from around the world.

Although it is possible to never leave the hotel, we wanted to experience other MGM Resorts properties, so we headed to LPM at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for dinner. LPM offers an exquisite dining experience that effortlessly marries Mediterranean charm with the vibrant energy of the Strip. From the moment you step through the entrance, you are greeted by an ambiance that strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and conviviality.

LPM’s interior is a visual feast, adorned with chic decor, warm lighting, and an intimate atmosphere. The combination of contemporary design elements and classic French accents creates a welcoming space that feels both elegant and comfortable. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or seeking a romantic dinner, LPM’s ambiance sets the stage for an unforgettable dining experience.

LPM’s menu is a culinary triumph, highlighting the rich and diverse flavors of the French Riviera. The emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients is evident in every dish. We began our meal with a variety of appetizers, including the Yellowtail Carpaccio, Escargots, and their signature Burrata prepared with heritage tomatoes and basil and topped with white truffles. For our main courses, we decided to focus on seafood entrees, so we tried the Lobster Risotto and grilled Chilean Bass. Both were prepared to perfection and paired very well together if you are looking to share entrees.

Of course, one of the biggest attractions of Las Vegas is the Strip itself. Spend a few hours meandering through each hotel and taking in the Vegas vibe. There is no other place in the world quite like it.

If you are in the mood for a little adventure, head to Area15, located about 10 minutes from the strip. Area15 is an immersive entertainment complex that blends art, technology, and entertainment in a unique and captivating way. Boasting an otherworldly exterior and a dynamic interior, Area15 is home to a variety of innovative experiences, including interactive art installations and virtual reality adventures. Its anchor tenant, the Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, is a surreal supermarket-like environment filled with mind-bending art and hidden mysteries. The venue also hosts concerts and live events including Beyond Brunch, a variety show hosted by drag queen extraordinaire Andrew Ryan. The two-hour spectacle includes a wonderful buffet and performances by talented acts ranging from hoop dancers to Cirque-style entertainers. The show is well worth the price of admission; it is not your typical drag brunch.

Spend the afternoon touring Area15 or head to The Sphere, Las Vegas’s newest concert venue. Rock icons U2 opened the venue with a 40-night run, but guests can purchase tickets to Darren Aronofsky’s multi-sensory film “Postcard from Earth.”

For a trip down memory lane, especially if you are in you were born in the ‘70s or ‘80s, check out Retro by Voltaggio at Mandalay Bay. The restaurant owned by Top Chef stars, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, takes diners on a nostalgic journey through time, blending modern culinary techniques with comforting flavors reminiscent of classic American dishes set in a retro-chic environment. The space is adorned with quirky memorabilia, neon accents, and a colorful palette that captures a sense of nostalgia without feeling overly kitschy, creating a welcoming environment for diners to unwind and enjoy the culinary adventure.

Retro by Voltaggio’s menu is a playful exploration of classic American favorites. We started our dinner with the deviled eggs with smoked trout roe along with the beet steak tartare, which was incredible. Next came the bluefin tuna ceviche served over coconut crushed ice. For our entrees we tried the trout meuniere, which was served in a lemon and caper sauce, as well as the lobster thermidor with lobster waffles — yes, you read that correctly. It was as delicious as it sounds.

Save room for the dessert cart, which contains innovative creations that satisfy the sweet tooth. Whether you’re a fan of nostalgic flavors or simply seeking a unique and enjoyable meal, Retro by Voltaggio is worth the visit.

After dinner, catch a performance of Michael Jackson “ONE” by Cirque du Soleil also at Mandalay Bay. The show is a captivating tribute to the King of Pop that seamlessly blends the magic of Cirque du Soleil with the timeless music and iconic choreography of Michael Jackson. From the moment the lights dim to the final bow, the show is a high-energy, emotionally charged celebration of the legendary entertainer’s life and legacy. This isn’t your typical Cirque du Soleil show and is more like a concert featuring all of Michael’s greatest hits, memorable dance moves, and state-of-the-art production. I felt like “ONE” is the type of concert Michael would have wanted to perform if he were still with us.

The thing I like most about Vegas is it is always evolving. Every time you visit, there is something new to see or do. Viva Las Vegas!

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Hot fun in the desert sun: Your Palm Springs guide

Hiking, dining, bar hopping, and more await

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There are plenty of hiking options for visitors to Palm Springs. (Photo by Bill Malcolm)

Palm Springs is a favorite destination of mine. I have lots of friends there and there is always something new to do. This trip was no exception. Hiking in two new natural areas. A cabaret shows at Oscar’s. Swimming with the USMS Masters at the Palm Springs Swim Center. A bagel at Townie Bagels and a baguette at Peninsula Pastries. And a cocktail at PSP Air Bar were among the highlights.

WHAT TO DO

Enjoy the Villagefest Thursday night downtown. They block off the street, and it becomes a huge farmers market and art show.

Hit the PS Air Bar for an airline themed evening. They have piano bar Sunday nights in the front. Shop at the Revivals store in the same complex.

Hike in the new Prescott Preserve, formerly a golf course.

Take a hike at the South Lykken Trailhead in Oswit Canyon. Enjoy the cacti and wildflowers. We saw 3 big horn sheep in the meadow. Check out the Oswit Land Trust website for more information.

Go shopping on Sunny Dunes just off South Palm Canyon drive where you will find vintage stores, the Tool Shed leather bar, the new Club 541, antique stores, and a cactus and succulent gift shop (as well as Townie Bagels). Then walk or bike along the new trail along the river just south of Sunny Dunes Road. They even have the plants marked. All are steps from the Motel 6 Downtown.

NIGHTLIFE

Catch a show or go to the Sunday T Dance at Oscar’s. They also have a drag brunch both Saturday and Sunday called “The Bitchiest Brunch.” I saw the fabulous trio, Brandon, and James with Effie, on a Thursday night.

Toucans Tiki Lounge has a popular drag show Monday night. Pick up some new underwear or adult novelty items at the Not So Innocent store next door, 200 N. Palm Canyon.

The Tool Shed at 600 E. Sunny Dunes has a Sunday beer bust and BBQ. They also have an underwear night on Thursdays.

Hunters Palm Springs on Arenas Road has a fun happy hour. (This is the same owner as the one in Wilton Manors, Fla.) You will find 10 other bars nearby.

Fasten your seat belts for the Karaoke Thursday night at PSP Air Bar. The airline themed speakeasy is inside Bouschet. Sit in an old first class American Airlines seat (or an old coach Southwest Airlines seat) while the captain pours you a drink at the PS Air Bar. Then enjoy a show at the Revolution Stage Company next door.

WHERE TO EAT

Grab your morning bagel and coffee at Townie Bagels at 650 East Sunny Dunes. Get there early or expect a line. They open at 6:30 a.m. They are at 650 E. Sunny Dunes Road and have a cult following.

Enjoy a café Americano and pastry at Ristretto For Coffee Lovers (500 S. Palm Canyon Drive).

Enjoy a French baguette or pastry at Peninsula Pastries, 611 S. Palm Canyon in the Sun Plaza. They are only open Thursday to Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. Get there early to avoid the line. All baked goods use French flour. Like Townie Bagels, they are quite popular. Next door is the Palm Greens Café for a healthy lunch.

Nature’s Health Food and Café (555 Sunrise Way) has fresh juices like carrot juice and vegetarian items like the eggplant wrap. You can sit outside on their patio with your to-go food.

Pick up fruit, yogurt or a pre-made sandwich at Grocery Outlet, Bargain Market in downtown Palm Springs.

GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND

I took United through Denver on the way out and through their Houston hub on the way back. United had the best fare and best departure times so I chose them despite my disdain for their policy charging for carry on for basic economy passengers. I had Economy Plus so I got a no charge carry on.

Palm Springs has a cute, small airport with a huge outdoor area. It’s the nicest airport I have ever been to. However, pack something to eat as they have few food options at the moment.

Hop on the #2 SunLine Bus across the street from the airport to go downtown. It’s a two block walk and costs $1. Rental car not needed if you stay downtown. (The lines for the rental cars can be long and they are packed with fees and surcharges.) I used Uber when not taking the SunLine. (SunLine.org)

Leave your bike helmet at home. The city does not have a shared bike system and is not pedestrian friendly outside of the downtown area despite being flat and having a warm climate.

WHERE TO (AND NOT TO) STAY

I stayed at the very handy and very affordable Motel 6 Downtown, 600 S. Palm Canyon. It is across the street from the Sun Plaza, which consists of many shops and restaurant, is a short walk to the bars on Arenas Road, is around the corner from Townie Bagels and the Tool Shed Bar, and more. Rooms are cleaned daily without asking – unheard of with most motels and hotels. The internet is good. No annoying resort fees. Free coffee every morning at 6 a.m. Get a quiet room on the third floor facing east.

Beware of junk fees like resort fees at other Palm Springs hotels. Most hotels in Palm Springs now have them and they are only disclosed on third party booking sites at the end of the reservation process making the room rate look lower than it actually is.

Often, they are lumped under “taxes and fees” to make you think the government requires them. My favorite (not) was the mandatory “community impact fee” at the Hotel Zoso. It is for a mandatory contribution to a charity.

Happily, I have yet to see hotels add a “pillow fee” or “key fee.”

Palm Springs has many lodging options including VRBO and specialty resorts. Men will like the new Twin Palms Resort as well as their sister property, The Descanso Resort. Both are excellent. Service is top notch. Lunch catered everyday. And more.

MORE INFORMATION

GED is the local magazine. RAGE Monthly out of San Diego also covers PS as does the Los Angeles Blade.

The weekly is the Coachella Valley Independent, which covers upcoming events, restaurants, hikes, local politics and more.

Palm Springs also has a gay radio station. Pick up a copy of their KGay desert Guide or view them at kgaypalmsprings.com (106.5 on the FM dial).

You won’t run out of fun things to do in Palm Springs and summer is their value season.

There is nowhere else where you can enjoy the desert sun surrounded to the west and north by snow capped mountains. And you won’t find a gayer city anywhere.

Bill Malcolm is an award-winning travel writer. His syndicated travel column in run by select LGBTQ publications throughout North America. You can find him on Facebook and read his columns at the travel blog section of the IGLTA website. He received no compensation of any kind for this column.

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