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Yes, Kalamazoo is a real place! I personally never questioned its realness, however, I did see a ton of souvenirs with that slogan so I guess that may be a question on some of your minds. Kalamazoo is located in southwest Michigan, not too far from Grand Rapids and Saugatuck, two destinations I reported on a few years ago.
Kalamazoo is one of those cities that you may not know a lot about, which is actually really exciting for me. I love to travel to those type of destinations, so I have absolutely zero expectations going into the trip. I really didn’t know what to expect. This may make some people nervous, but I love going on new adventures.
My guest Devin and I drove to the city from Indianapolis. We were running a bit early, so we decided to swing by the Lillian Anderson Arboretum for a quick hike and to see the beautiful fall foliage. The 140-acre property is a private facility, owned by Kalamazoo College and can easily be passed if you aren’t paying attention, but once you enter the property, guests are drawn in by its natural beauty. We were lucky enough to have visited at the perfect time of year to get those Instagram-friendly photos of the beautiful fall colors.
The goal of this trip was a fall getaway, so Devin and I wanted to indulge in all the fall activities humanly possible in two days. We stopped by Kalamazoo Candle Company located in the heart of downtown. Here you can either purchase the perfect fall-themed candle, or if you are brave enough, you can make your own. The homemade candles, which are very affordable, take about an hour to make. While you wait for your candle to settle, you can visit the dozens of quaint boutiques along Kalamazoo Mall – it’s a street, not an indoor mall. My candle was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I’m not sure what I put in it and will certainly not be able to recreate the scent, but I love it.
Conveniently located a block from the mall is Radisson Plaza Hotel, a modern property complete with tons of amenities including multiple dining options as well as a Starbucks. Check into the Upjohn Suite, a magnificent room consisting of a full living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom and two bathrooms. This suite was larger than my loft in Indy. The property offers a huge pool, fitness center and sauna and really is in the heart of downtown. Almost every activity we had planned was a quick 5-10 minute walk from the hotel.
Kalamazoo loves its beer and Bell’s Brewery is one of the local favorites. Although not gay-owned, the brewery is a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community as well as the local pride events. If you visit, make sure you check out the gift shop and ask for one of their rainbow beer sweat shirts.
You can either grab a quick bite at Bell’s or head back over to the Mall where you will find an Italian restaurant called Rustica. Devin began his meal with an incredible Wedge Salad while I opted for the Braised Heirloom Beet salad with currant, hazelnut, ricotta and port glacé. My salad was so large I decided not to finish it as I wanted to save room for the main entrée, Bouillabaisse, a seafood stew made with shrimp, scallops, mussels, salmon, and potatoes in a delicious saffron broth. This is one of the items I always look for on a menu when I travel and is wonderful on a cool fall evening. It’s the perfect sharable entrée and this time was no different. We had to order extra bread to soak up the broth.
We didn’t mind consuming that many carbs at dinner because we were booked on the Haunted History of Kalamazoo walking tour organized by Paranormal Michigan. The nearly two-hour tour snakes you around downtown to some of the city’s most haunted locations and buildings. You don’t get to go inside the buildings unfortunately, but the knowledgeable tour guide recants stories of paranormal activity that has taken place throughout history, in some cases dating back to the 1800s.
After a wonderful night’s rest back at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, head to Air Zoo, one of the most unique attractions in the Mid-West. The Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum containing over 100 air and space artifacts. The experience begins with some of the earliest forms of flight including a Curtis Pusher from 1911. Guests journey on a chronological history of aviation, up until the modern age and space era. Some personal favorites included the Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird, McDonnell F-4E Phantom 2 and the Grumman Cougar. This is the perfect place for LGBTQ families as well. The staff and volunteers at Air Zoo have undergone extensive diversity training and are welcoming to all!
After Air Zoo, head to Henderson Castle, a magnificent mansion completed in 1895 by Frank Henderson, a successful Kalamazoo businessman. The Queen Anne style house was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and constructed for $72,000, a lofty sum for the time. The castle is known as the Jewel of Kalamazoo and was voted one of the top historic inns in America. Guests can stay at the inn or visit for one of their popular murder mystery dinners. Henderson Castle also offers Sunday Brunch, Afternoon Tea and is available for private events.
Before heading out on the town, grab dinner at Theo & Stacy’s, a family-owned Greek restaurant originally established in my hometown of Flushing, New York, before relocating to Kalamazoo in the 1970s. The menu contains traditional Greek favorites including Mousaka, Grape Leaves and Gyro’s but if you want to sample a bit of everything, try the Greek Combo Plate.
No trip would be complete without visiting the local LGBTQ establishment. Club Vortex is technically located in Blue Dolphin restaurant, but on Saturday evenings, the restaurant converts into the hottest spot in KZOO. Devin and I arrived a bit early to get the lay of the land and meet some of the locals. The owner of the club introduced himself to us and asked us if we wanted to be the spotlight dancers of the night. The evening’s theme was wigs & heels and even though we had neither, the locals still made us feel welcome. It was an unexpected memory that made this trip so much fun.
To book your Kalamazoo gaycation, visit www.Orbitz.com/Pride
Legal recreational cannabis use is on the rise, with more and more states getting on board. This has created an increased interest in “cannabis tourism”; that is tourism that is focused on including cannabis consumption into the travel plans! After all, people travel widely to explore different “wine country” locations. The same trend is starting to grow in states that have legalized marijuana.
One obvious issue is that recreational use is not legal at the federal level, so it’s not an option to travel from state to state, whether by land, sea or air, enjoying a tour of cannabis related attractions and businesses and bringing samples with you. Similarly, it’s not an option to go to a national park—even one located in a state that has legalized marijuana—and smoke as federal land falls under federal jurisdiction.
Even among states where recreational cannabis is legal, the rules differ widely from state to state as to where and how much you can consume or have on your person. The interesting ways in which different states have embraced cannabis tourism, however, speaks to the growing interest of some of the public for precisely this kind of activity.
Alaska, for example, legalized consumption of cannabis on-site at dispensaries in 2019, in addition to the already legal personal use in private residences. This opens the door to the possibility of Amsterdam like “cannabis cafés” or other similar business add ons for dispensaries.
On the flip side, states like California have long been in the game when it comes to connecting tourists with a toke. From yoga on a high to cannabis infused cocktails on the dinner menu, there has been a real effort to integrate cannabis and tourism, to welcome people who are interested in partaking.
Colorado boasts tours of pot farms, specialized lounges for having a weed infused drink and even a church that includes cannabis in its services. You can even learn to roll sushi and joints, at a Denver location. And in the great state of Maine, the crossover from café to dispensary is already in the works with places like Higher Grounds, a café where you can order your latté with a side of weed.
Just as smoking lounges developed in response to a public stance against smoking cigars in public, private pot smoking lounges are becoming more and more prevalent. By using private clubs, the rules that prohibit public consumption in various states can be avoided. Massachusetts, for example, has the Summit Lounge, which allows members to enjoy their buds in an elegant and welcoming environment, complete with fine dining and infused cocktails. Other states like Oregon have gotten on board with the private club setup, for a welcoming and social way to enjoy pot. A variation of this is the high end supper club, which invites guests to enjoy an amazing meal, fine wines, all paired with cannabis, such as the Cannabis Supper Club, in LA.
Along with gambling and other vices, Nevada has plenty of pot-friendly tourism options, including a painting class with cannabis called Puff, Pass and Paint! They also offer a cooking class, to round out the experience. You can’t smoke in the casinos, but there are definitely plenty of other options
And let’s not forget the many hotels and B&Bs, adorably named “Bud and Breakfast” locations, that cater to the cannabis crowd. These are particularly prevalent in places like Massachusetts and Oregon.
As legalization continues to spread to other states, and with federal legalization on the horizon, the normalization of cannabis tourism is only a matter of time.
About the author
Serge Chistov is a cannabis industry expert and Chief Financial Partner with Honest Marijuana Co (https://honestmarijuana.com/) eco conscious cannabis growery. Honest Marijuana has been a leader in cannabis innovation since it’s inception with an organic approach to the growth, production and packaging of cannabis, the launch of the first-ever organic hemp wrapped machine rolled blunts, an the invention of the now patented Nanobidiol Technology which powers the company’s just released line of with the Insta Fizzy, Insta Gummies and Insta Mints as well as their Hemp Theory product line.
Tulsa is the next stop for our intrepid travel vlogger Ravi Roth in The Gaycation Travel Show. If you have been watching our weekly YouTube series then you’re familiar with Ravi and his adventures.
This week Ravi goes solo and explores the Midwest; Tulsa, Oklahoma specifically.
If you have any judgment about traveling to a “flyover country” as it’s affectionately called, then read on. You might be surprised at how culturally underrated and LGBTQ-friendly this region of the U.S. actually is.
Gaycation Magazine: Hi Ravi, how are you? Were you excited to visit Tulsa?
Ravi Roth: I am doing fantastic!
I was excited to travel somewhere as I have been cooped up because of the pandemic. Tulsa was never on my bucket list, but I was excited to learn about a smaller city in the Midwest.
Ravi Roth: What is one misconception about Tulsa that you think most people might have?
People assume Tulsa is a drive-by city. I implore folks to take time and really sink their teeth into what this city has to offer. It is the smallest US city to host all 3 major fine arts with Tulsa Ballet, opera, and Symphony Orchestra. It has one of the largest collections of Art Deco in the USA. The museums are constantly evolving for change and the local LGBTQ+ community radiates Midwest charm.
What kind of food can you expect to have when you visit Tulsa?
As a vegetarian, I was blown away by the culinary scene of Tulsa. As farm-to-table originated in the Midwest, this city does not play when it comes to food. From high-end dining to vegan brunch to delicious Mexican, you will not be disappointed! My favorite restaurant is Farm Bar which is Lesbian-owned and has a tasting menu that they pair with wine.
How should you dress when visiting Tulsa?
Day one, I rocked a tank top and shorts. Later that night, a tornado hit down 20 miles away and I got drenched. The next day, I wore pants and a light jacket. My final day I was back in shorts and a tank top. The weather is quite unpredictable so bring options.
What are the COVID safety rules in place there?
Tulsa was amongst the top cities in the USA to get the most amount of vaccines in arms. Like any destination, it follows local guidelines.
What is the best time of year to visit?
Summer or fall is great to be able to do the most amount of activities, but Tulsa really is a year-round destination.
What’s Pride like?
Small but mighty! Pride this year is June 25-26 with a heavy focus on uniting communities. This year’s theme is “Pride on the Mother Road” which is a tribute to Route 66.
Is there a Gayborhood?
No gayborhood. There are two queer bars which are Tulsa Eagle and Club Majestic, but I felt so comfortable to be my authentic self anywhere in the city. I highly recommend staying at Tulsa Club, which is a Hilton Curio Collection located a few blocks from Club Majestic and a mile from The Eagle. Tulsa Club is filled with Art Deco and is a fabulous place to stay.
What is the closest airport?
Tulsa International Airport.
What’s one activity that maybe no one knows about that a visitor should definitely do?
If you are traveling with your family or want to let your inner child out, visit the Gathering Place which was named best city park in the USA by Time Magazine and USA Today. For folks interested in architecture, I highly recommend going on an Art Deco tour of Downtown. It is absolutely breathtaking!
To learn more, go to visittulsa.com
You can catch up with The Gaycation Travel Show on YouTube HERE. We have new episodes every Friday.