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Few cities have grown faster and more dramatically in the past half-century than Phoenix, which in 2005 overtook Philadelphia to become the fifth most populous city in the nation.
It’s also larger in area than Los Angeles and the hub of a metro region that includes several other fast-growing metropolises, including Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, and Glendale. But the “Valley of the Sun” is much more than a popular place to live—tourism here has taken off thanks to the bounty of lavish resorts, a cultural renaissance in downtown Phoenix, and some of the best shopping, dining, and recreational opportunities in the West. More recently, the region’s office of tourism has begun enthusiastically wooing LGBT travelers.
A highly contemporary metropolis surrounded by mountains and high desert, Phoenix is in many ways the last stronghold of the western frontier. The region is dogged by certain challenges prevalent in the West, such as rampant sprawl and sometimes oppressive smog. It’s also bone-dry here - only the Sahara is less humid than Phoenix’s Sonoran Desert. Most of the year, the weather is ideal for outdoor recreation, with winter highs in the mid-60s and spring and fall highs in the mid-80s. About the only period with blistering heat is summer, when daytime temperatures routinely climb into the low 100s (and many accommodations drop their rates precipitously).
In terms of gay-friendliness, Phoenix defies labels. This somewhat conservative capital city has long maintained strong Republican leanings, but some of the region’s most famous right-of-center politicians - including Sen. John McCain and the late Sen. Barry Goldwater - have expressed relatively accepting attitudes toward gays and lesbians. And somewhat surprisingly in 2006, this traditionally “red” state became the first in the nation to vote down a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. Phoenix has a highly visible GLBT community, and a huge number of queer bars, social organizations, and “family”-friendly eateries.
Visitors to this area have traditionally made a beeline for swanky Scottsdale, with its chichi hotels, lush golf courses, haute galleries, and sumptuous spas. However, Phoenix proper - which is home to most of the region’s GLBT bars and other businesses - has enjoyed a notable comeback of late, especially the once soulless downtown commercial center.
The action centers on Copper Square and its massively expanded convention center, plus dozens of trendy restaurants, high-end hotels, and fine performance venues. There are also a 24-screen cinema, several museums, and sports stadiums that host baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and basketball’s Phoenix Suns. A cultural must is the outstanding Phoenix Art Museum, a dramatic green-quartz structure containing 19th-century European paintings, delightful artworks of the American West, and Abstract Expressionist masterworks. Two blocks north is the Heard Museum, a 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival hacienda containing the nation’s top collection of Native American art and artifacts.
Several peripheral residential neighborhoods have become gentrified of late, such as the Willo and Garfield Place historic districts. Of particular note is Roosevelt Row, a burgeoning mixed-use residential district that supports several excellent galleries as well as a wonderful bakery, Tammie Coe Cakes (stop in for a latte and a sweet treat or two). Speaking of baked goods, ardent pizza connoisseurs have been known to travel thousands of miles for a meal at Pizzeria Bianco, inside a historic building in the heart of the bustling Heritage Square section of downtown. Chef-owner Chris Bianco has been dubbed a pizza-making genius for his simply sensational wood-fired pies, including the Wiseguy (topped with roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage). Just beware the long lines.
Vinophiles have taken a shine to Cheuvront Wine & Cheese Cafe, the brainchild of the city’s openly gay state senator, Ken Cheuvront. This happening place near the Phoenix Art Museum serves countless vintages by the glass and bottle as well as a long menu of stellar cheeses, salads, pizzas, and snacks. It’s a short walk down Central Avenue from here to reach the city’s premier gay bar, Amsterdam, an elegant lounge that’s part of a larger complex that includes Club Miami and Malibu Beach Bar. Other gay night spots within a short drive include the lesbian-favored Club Vibe, which replaced long-running Ain’t Nobody’s Biz and offers dancing, darts, and pool; the leather-and-Levi’s-oriented Phoenix Eagle; and the high-energy Karamba Nightclub. Gay two-steppers and country-western fans gather at Charlie’s, while fans of drag and karaoke get their fix at Burger Betty’s, an Aussie-themed gay restaurant and bar.
With all the snazzy new resorts that have opened in Scottsdale and other outlying cities, it’s easy to forget that Phoenix itself is home to a pair of aces: the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Arizona Biltmore, and the intimate, old-world Royal Palms, both of which opened in the late ‘20s. The 40-acre Biltmore, with its gray, low-slung, angular buildings containing 738 guest rooms, lies in the shadows of Phoenix Mountain Reserve. There’s also fine golfing and an acclaimed spa. Set aside an evening to dine at Wright’s at the Biltmore, where such inventive regional American fare as milk-poached pork tenderloin with foie gras sauce draws fawning accolades. Many a diva whiles away a Saturday afternoon at the nearby Biltmore Fashion Park, strolling through high-end boutiques and snacking at trendy restaurants.
The genteel and cozier Royal Palms Resort and Spa could pass for a splendid private villa in Spain, with its fanciful stone paths meandering past fragrant gardens and citrus-tree-shrouded casitas decked in old-world antiques and tiles. The weekend brunch at T. Cook’s - best enjoyed on the sunny patio - is a Phoenix tradition, and the resort’s tranquil Alvadora Spa provides some of the most supremely relaxing treatments you can imagine, from Watsu water therapy to crystal-stone facials. Die-hard massage junkies should book one of the seven state-of-the-art spa suites.
In downtown Phoenix, the upscale Hyatt Regency Phoenix and the eight-story, moderately priced Best Western Central Phoenix Inn are solid options, all within a short drive or walk of area bars, restaurants, shops, and museums. A less obvious pick is the funky, gay-friendly Hotel San Carlos, a grand if faded 121-room Italian Renaissance-style lodging that’s allegedly haunted (by friendly ghosts). It’s definitely seen better days, but for the price, it’s a good bet with a convenient, central location - especially if you prefer quirky over glamorous.
Nearby Scottsdale abounds with more recently built resorts, from the supremely cushy Sanctuary Camelback Mountain resort and swish Four Seasons Scottsdale, to the sexy and hip Scottsdale Mondrian and retro-chic Hotel Valley Ho. In Chandler, consider the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass (which is expected to become a Starwood Luxury Collection property later in 2007), an attractive spread on the Gila River Indian Reservation, 20 miles southeast of downtown. The vibe here is low-keyed and unpretentious, thanks in part to the consistently genial employees. The much-lauded Kai restaurant and the transcendent Aji Spa remind you, however, that you’re staying at a truly splendid desert hideaway. An equestrian center offering trail rides and a campy ersatz frontier town called Rawhide (think stagecoach rides, goofy gift shops, and gunfightin’ reenactments) may help you to channel your inner cowgirl or -boy.
Greater Phoenix also has a handful of gay-oriented accommodations, which range from homey B&Bs to saucy clothing-optional retreats. Downtown’s gay-owned but mainstream Yum Yum Tree Guest House, in the hip and historic Willo neighborhood, occupies a 1920s school building with soaring ceilings and Mexican-tile floors. Shaded patios and gurgling fountains surround the Spanish Mission-style building, which also adjoins a relaxing pool area. A racier option is the Arizona Royal Villa, a nudity-permitted men’s compound with an impressively enticing pool, hot tub, and sunning area and rooms and suites in a variety of configurations. For $10, non-overnight guests can spend the day here swimming, tanning, and mingling with fellow sun-bunnies. It may lack the pizzazz of the Biltmore, but this frisky compound is the closest you’ll find in these parts to a Palm Springs-style gay resort.
Royal Palms Resort & Spa youtu.be
Arizona Biltmore www.arizonabiltmore.com
Arizona Royal Villa www.royalvilla.com
Best Western Central Phoenix Inn www.bestwesterncentralphoenix.com
Burger Betty's www.burgerbettys.com
Club Vibe www.clubvibe602.com
Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale
Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau www.phoenixcvb.com
Hotel San Carlos www.hotelsancarlos.com
Hotel Valley Ho www.hotelvalleyho.com
Hyatt Regency Phoenix www.phoenix.hyatt.com
Karamba Nightclub www.karambanightclub.com
Phoenix Eagle www.phxeagle.com
Pizzeria Bianco www.pizzeriabianco.com
Roosevelt Row www.rooseveltrow.org
Royal Palms Resort and Spa www.royalpalmshotel.com
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com
Scottsdale Mondrian www.mondrianscottsdale.com
Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa www.wildhorsepassresort.com
Tammie Coe Cakes www.tammiecoecakes.com
Yum Yum Tree Guest House www.yytguesthouse.com
Now that the UK-US travel ban will lift, there are some rules and regulations drivers on both sides of the Atlantic need to know. And let's face it: From Ireland to Idaho, many of the sights on either side of the pond need a car to access them.
From driving on the right hand side to gaining a motoring permit at 14 years old, road laws in America and the UK may shock drivers who are not used to them when travelling abroad.
The car rental experts at StressFreeCarRental.com are offering insights into some of the many differences there are between the UK and US regulations. With many American driving laws set at state level, the country’s road laws differ greatly depending on what state you are in.
This insight could be especially useful for motorists hoping to visit the US with news the 18 month travel ban for arrivals to America from the UK and EU is set to be lifted early next month. The new rules mean fully vaccinated British people will be able to on holiday in America once more.
A spokesperson from StressFreeCarRental.com said: “Coming to grips with the rules of the road in different countries can be difficult for many motorists universally.
“However, once drivers have got to grips with the driving laws in their own country, it can be fascinating to learn about how these laws differ to other countries.
“The driving laws highlight differences in allowances for handheld devices, seatbelts and the age that motorists can gain access to a driver’s license.”
Side of the road
Potentially the most well known difference between UK and US road rules is the side of the road people drive on, with the UK designated to the left side and Americans on the right. The rule for UK motorists to drive on the left side of the road has origins in the Middle Ages and was once linked to those travelling on horseback. Whilst in the US, drivers have been restricted to the right side of the road since 1804, when New York became the first state to regulate right hand travel on all roads.
Use of a handheld device
UK laws deem it illegal to use a handheld device whilst driving a car or motorcycle. Instead, drivers must utilise hands free devices, with any windshield or dashboard mounts in no way obstructing the driver’s view of the road.
In America however, the rules of the road regarding handheld devices are different depending on the state. In most states, it is illegal to use a handheld device to text while driving. Other places utilizing this law include Washington DC, the US Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.
However, take a trip over to Arizona and South Carolina and you must be using a hands free device. Montana is the only state that doesn’t have a statewide law restricting the use of cell phones while driving in some manner.
Members of the public travelling without seatbelts is a huge concern for public safety in the UK. Motorists are urged to understand the severity of the seat belt law. A recent survey by the West Yorkshire Police showed that Brits aged between 17-34 have the lowest compliance rate combined with the highest accident rate. UK legislation states that any person in a car over 12 years old or over 135cm tall must be wearing a seat belt at all times. Repercussions for motorists and passengers not following this rule is a fine of up to £500.
The difference between America’s approach to seatbelt laws has been split into primary enforcement or secondary enforcement laws. Primary enforcement states that a police officer may pull a driver over because they can see the seat belt is not in use. Secondary enforcement states the driver must first be pulled over for a different offence before the officer is able to cite the driver or passenger for their seat belt use. Motorists are urged to understand the law in any new states they may be driving in to ensure they are not breaking any state laws.
California, Mississippi and New Mexico are among 20 states which apply primary enforcement rules for all occupants in all seats of the vehicle. On the other hand, New Hampshire is the only state that does not require any adults to wear seat belts at all as they do not have legislation in place.
Minimum driving age
In the UK, prospective motorists can apply for a provisional license at 15 years and nine months old. They can then go onto obtaining a full license and driving a car at 17 years old. Once motorists have a provisional license and meet the minimum age limit of 17 they are able to drive with L-plates on all roads except for motorways. With 18 being the minimum age for 78% of countries setting their driving laws, the UK is slightly below the majority.
The American minimum driving age, however, is not quite as generalised across the country. Americans experience minimum age laws set at state level, with some states allowing motorists to get their permit as young as 14 years old. The state of South Dakota is the most relaxed when it comes to issuing motorists with restricted licenses. There, teenagers can become permit holders at 14, receive their restricted license at 14 years and six months old and then go onto receive a full license by just 16.
Dallas restauranteurs Trey Stewart and his father Tyler are heading to Colorado for a very special opening. The duo is trying to replicate the success of their LGBTQ+ Dallas bar called Mr. Misster by opening what they're calling a "big brother" site in Denver.
Named Sir, the bar is scheduled to open in October of 2021. Located in one of Denver's downtown historic districts, at 1822 Blake St., Sir will move into a space formerly occupied by a two-decade-old restaurant called Vesta.
The father and son duo were frequent travelers to Denver and fell in love with its charm. So much so, that admiration led to a rental home nearby.
They bonded with the city and realized, according to The Denver Post, they wanted to "plant roots" there. Those roots included LGBTQ inclusion; something Trey is a part of.
“We spent the last year studying the area and the people and figuring out what the Denver LGBTQ community is missing that I can provide,” Trey Stewart said. “There are lots of other great bars there. But there isn’t an LGBTQ bar downtown, and there’s a great community looking for a home here.”
Often going on filming excursions with "The Real Housewives of Dallas" as cast member Stephanie Hollman's assistant, Trey noticed that some restaurants would refuse to let them film. He suddenly came up with the idea to open his own. And with his new love of Denver, the visionary thought it would be a perfect spot.
“My dad owned some restaurants when I was growing up, so we know how fun food can be and how much Denver loves food,” Trey said. “It’s also important to me to have some good food with the previous tenant being such an iconic space for a really good restaurant. So, I definitely didn’t want to flop on that aspect.”
Initially, Sir will have a schedule on weekdays from 4 pm to 2 am, and open at 11 am on Saturdays. Its 4,500 square footage will get design help from designer David Schaich.
The bar will have plenty of cocktails to choose from and a yet-to-be-determined brunch and dinner menu. There is a DJ booth with plans to have drag entertainment for brunch.
Trey says he works well with his dad Tyler; they both have their strengths. Trey's is in the libations department while his dad does the finances, "it’s fun to work with my dad because he’s my best friend.”
That camaraderie has helped the Dallas bar succeed. Tyler often brings in his girlfriend to show support and has even become a sort of father figure to some of the regulars.
Sir is geared mostly to the LGBTQ+ community, but Trey is hoping that its reach will extend beyond that.
“I can build a bar as much as I want, but the community makes it what it is,” he told The Denver Post. “I’m excited to see what Sir turns into and how the Denver community embraces that.”
Header photo courtesy of Trey Stewart: Facebook
The United Kingdom is changing its Covid-19 travel requirements. As of October 4, fully vaccinated Americans traveling to the UK will not have to get tested before arrival. Welcome news since the UK is a top destination for Arizona residents.
According to an InsureMyTrip report, the United Kingdom is the 6th most popular international destination for those living in Arizona.
Covid-19 travel restrictions and warnings can change quickly. And a trip to the United Kingdom is not cheap.
On average, it will set you back $4,218. For this reason, InsureMyTrip recommends travelers protect that investment with a travel insurance policy.
Getting Covid coverage
InsureMyTrip can help you find coverage for Covid-19 concerns. We have a Covid-19 recommendation tool that has been added to our quote process. Once your travel insurance recommendations pop up, you can click on the button that says, “Top picks for Covid-19” and find all the plans that address your pandemic-related travel concerns.
Getting CFAR coverage
Most traditional travel insurance policies do not allow travelers to cancel a because of Covid-19 fears. The Cancel for Any Reason add-on is really the only way for a traveler to recoup some of their pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs if they decide not to travel because of a spike in cases.
However, not all trips are eligible for this add-on. There are some requirements that need to be met. InsureMyTrip has a new tool that is making it easier for travelers to find out if they are eligible for CFAR.
Cancel for Any Reason Coverage:
Cancel For Any Reason (also known as: CFAR) is and optional upgrade. CFAR offers the most trip cancellation flexibility and is the only option available to cover Covid-19 travel fear. Full terms of coverage will be listed in state-specific policy. If eligibility requirements are met, reimbursement is typically 50% - 75% of the insured prepaid non-refundable trip cost if all eligibility requirements are met (available in most states).
Note: coverages are governed by the specific plan certificate. Traditional travel insurance does not offer cancellation coverage for fear of travel, whether related to COVID-19 or not. Cancel For Any Reason is required.
It's simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. We are committed to empowering travelers to make the best possible insurance decisions by leveraging our technology, data intelligence, and expertise. InsureMyTrip is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau.