Out & About Today Nashville Channel 5
Latest On Outvoices
Trending around OUTvoices
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
The only way to describe Iceland is...magical. It truly is. Iceland is like no other place I’ve visited in the world. It’s topography, climate, people, culture, history, and nightlife blended together make Iceland a surreal adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. In my case, this is my second visit to the country, and probably not my last.
The first time I set foot on the island, I was on a mission to see the elusive northern lights. While they evaded me during that visit, this time was different. I didn’t see Aurora dancing through the sky, but I did see a hint of the lights, enough to make me stop and stare in awe of their beauty.
One of Iceland’s many strengths is its people. I met an incredible group of people who helped make this visit extremely memorable, including openly gay Icelandic pop star Friðrik Ómar, who invited me to his Christmas concert. Although most of the concert was in sung in Icelandic, many of the songs were recognizable, including a fabulous version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”. Friðrik was a former contestant on Eurovision, and it was easy to see why. His vocals and stage presence were extraordinary, reminiscent of George Michael.
Check In & Check Out Reykjavik youtu.be
Book your stay at the Reykjavik Konsulat hotel located in the heart of the downtown Reykjavik, just a short walk from all of the city’s main attractions including Harpa concert hall, Sun Voyager and the iconic Hallgrimskirkja cathedral, the largest church in the country which and towers over the center of Reykjavik. Its 240-foot-high tower provides a wonderful 360° view of the city. Visitors can either walk up the stairs to the top or pay a small fee to use the elevator.
Our spacious room at Reykjavik Konsulat included a walk-in shower, king bed with ultra-luxurious linens as well as a seating area. Every day the hotel offers a complimentary happy hour as well a delicious breakfast buffet, featuring a variety of local specialties including smoked salmon. The hotel also offers a nice fitness center as well as bath house complete with sauna and hot tub. Don’t get too excited, bath house means something completely different in Iceland than it does in the United States.
Going to Iceland in the winter is an adventure. It definitely isn’t a relaxing trip; more like a journey to the most extraordinary ends of the earth you will ever discover. With that in mind, book a full day private excursion to the South Coast with Friend In Iceland. Our wonderful guide Gunnar picked us up from our hotel in a Mercedes mini-bus and we were off to explore a part of the country I hadn’t been to on my prior visit.
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland in 4K (Ultra HD) youtu.be
The nearly 9-hour tour took us to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls where we had the opportunity to stand at the base and feel the power of these natural wonders. Next, we journeyed up to the top of a cliff which provided views of the ocean as well as a rock formation jutting out into the sea which connects to Reynisfjara black sand beach. Words can’t describe how beautiful this moment was. I’m almost in tears again just thinking about it. The waves crashing on the beach coupled with a clear sky and mesmerizing sunrise made for an absolutely majestic view.
Gunnar then brought us to a cute restaurant where we had lunch which consisted of pizza and a sandwich, not typical Icelandic cuisine, but it was delicious non the less.
Reykjavik is home to one gay bar, called Kiki. Although it was closed during this visit due to COVID-19 restrictions, we did happen to meet the owner who invited us back to the country this summer for their pride celebration. 2022 marks the 23rd annual Reykjavik Pride, which is held in early August. The festival attracts over 100,000 people to the city for a week-long celebration including a festival, parade, and numerous parties.
Wake up early the next morning and get ready for your next Icelandic adventure in the Golden Circle. Although this region is easily drivable from Reykjavik in the summer, I wouldn’t recommend venturing on your own during the winter months as many of the roads are icy and the weather can be quite spontaneous. One moment it will be sunny and then 30-minutes later you can find yourself in a winter storm with 40-mile per hour wind gusts.
Begin your Golden Circle tour with a trip to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO heritage site and home to Gullfoss, also known as the 'Golden Waterfall', one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland. I recommend descended the stairs to the lower viewing area to really comprehend the size and scope of this natural treasure. Not too far away is Geysir, Iceland’s version of Old Faithful. The geyser erupts about every 7 minutes, so keep your camera ready.
Finally, end your tour with a snowmobile ride on the Langjökull glacier. This is also something I didn’t experience on my first visit, and I can honestly say it was one of the coolest (literally) experiences of my life. We had to jump off our luxurious tour bus and board a souped-up monster truck looking bus which transports you to the glacier where a team is ready to outfit you with protective gear and teach you how to use the snowmobiles. The hour tour of the glacier will make you feel like you were on another planet. There are points where the sky and the glacier meet, and you can’t tell them apart. I was fooled by a few optical illusions a few times.
Iceland can be inexpensive to get to, but then very expensive while you are there, so please plan accordingly. Food and alcohol can add up really quickly, so pace yourself when visiting the bars. One of my favorite restaurants we visited in Reykjavik was Noodle Station. Guests can order soup three ways: with chicken, beef, or just vegetables. It is the perfect way to end a long day spent playing in the ice and snow and quite affordable. Do your research before visiting to find some of the city’s hidden gems and cheap eats.
Icelandair offers direct flights to Reykjavik for relatively low prices from Boston, New York, Chicago, Raleigh-Durham, and a few other U.S. cities, so check their website regularly to catch a great deal.
Enjoy the Journey!
I am a huge lover of history and usually jump at the chance to visit any historic sites when I travel. What I didn’t realize about Charleston, South Carolina is that I would be walking into a history book. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t do much research before traveling to Charleston. Sometimes I like to visit a destination without any expectations.
One of the first things I did when I arrived was jump on a walking tour. Bulldog Tours organizes a variety of tours including haunted history, culinary and LGBTQ history tours, so of course that is the one I chose. My knowledgeable guide Zach and I spent two hours strolling around downtown Charleston visiting many of the historic sites of the city while he recanted tales of the city’s harsh past. He also included some LGBTQ historical facts, and we visited some significant sites along the way.
Charleston, South Carolina - Pride Journeys youtu.be
Charleston was one of only three walled cities in North America and the historic society has imposed some of strictest rules and regulations in the country to ensure that the city remains well-preserved. Charleston sits on a peninsula surrounded by two rivers which lead to the Atlantic Ocean, so it became one of the earliest port cities in the country due to its geography. It is also extremely walkable, giving it a European feel. I was able to walk almost everywhere I visited with the exception of a few off-the-beaten path restaurants.
A person can’t visit Charleston without learning about its controversial past. Given its location as I described earlier, the city was a key port that was responsible for the sale and transport of enslaved Africans. Numerous plantations still exist throughout the region including McLeod Plantation, a former slave plantation located on James Island. The plantation is considered an important Gullah heritage site, preserved in recognition of its cultural and historical significance to African-American and European-American cultures. The plantation grounds include slave cabins, a gin house, and gardens. The property has served in many capacities over the years including a Confederacy Hospital, a burial ground for slaves and Union soldiers, and a headquarters office for the Freedmen's Bureau.
Touring a plantation can be emotionally draining, so after grabbing a quick bite at Leon’s Oyster Shop, head to the South Carolina Aquarium to lighten the mood. My main reason for visiting this aquarium was to tour its renowned sea turtle hospital and rehabilitation center. Guests are given the chance to learn about all of the turtles at the center including how they were injured as well as their path the recovery and ultimate release back into the ocean. The aquarium also features a wonderful stingray touch pool where guests can feed the rays. I’ve done this activity many times in the past, but I can’t remember the last time the rays were so excited and friendly.
After a long day of touring the city, head to The Loutrel, a brand-new boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Charleston. The elegantly appointed property is conveniently located to almost every attraction in the city and just a block away from the City Market. The 50-room property has a 24-hour fitness center, mezzanine level where friends can gather and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages as well as a rooftop patio boasting panoramic views of the city. My corner room contained a living area, large bedroom with king-size bed and a bathroom complete with a walk-in shower. The property is so new, I am pretty confident that I may have been the first guest to stay in that particular room. After a quick wardrobe change, grab a signature cocktail at Veranda Lounge before heading out for the evening.
For dinner, check out The Grocery, about a 25-minute walk from the hotel. Begin your meal with the Marinated Beet, served with Granny Smith apple, walnut, feta, and herb-tahini yogurt. The restaurant prides itself of its fresh produce and this dish was a testament to their vision. If you visit with family or friends, I recommend sharing the Lowcountry Seafood Pilau, basically Charleston’s version of paella, served with shrimp, clams and fried fish over a bed of rice.
Charleston is home to one LGBTQ bar, so after dinner at The Grocery, head over to Dudley’s on Ann, the oldest gay bar in the city. The space hosts drag performances throughout the week as well as a small dance floor.
Even though there is only technically one LGBTQ nightlife venue in the city, the people of Charleston are pretty laid back and non-judgmental. It has an East Coast sophistication and many of the locals told me they feel comfortable expressing affection in non-LGBTQ specific establishments as well.
I had the opportunity to speak with Harlen Greene, a local historian and archivist who most recently began a project to collect materials and documentation about Charleston’s LGBTQ history. “Charleston prides itself in its history but sells various versions of its history to people,” Green mentioned. “History is an elite club, so finally LGBTQ people came and started telling me about their history.”
In 2018, an initiative called The Real Rainbow Row was launched, to collect photographs, diaries, memoirs, religious and institutional records, as well as Pride, bar, and other items related to Charleston’s LGBTQ history. Input and suggestions from individuals regarding archival materials and oral histories are eagerly sought and tax-deductible financial contributions are necessary to keep the project active.
Wake up early the next morning and enjoy the complimentary breakfast as The Loutrel before setting out to explore the city. I suggest heading south from the hotel as that is where many of the stately mansions are located. As you get closer to the tip of the peninsula, the houses become grander in stature. Swing by Rainbow Row, a collection of 13 colorfully painted homes along East Bay Street. It isn’t a gayborhood unfortunately, but it does make for some wonderful Instagram photos. End your tour at Riley Waterfront Park, home of the city’s iconic Pineapple Fountain.
Before you depart Charleston, stop by Rodney Scott’s BBQ for a taste of true South Carolina BBQ. The award-winning establishment is home to delicious melt-in-your-mouth BBQ and is famous for their pulled pork. I decided to try a little of everything, but given how much I walked on this trip, I decided to treat myself.
To book your Charleston gaycation, visit www.Orbitz.com/Pride
As the seasons change ushering fall into Bourbon City, visitors can take in the beauty of the changing leaves while enjoying a variety of festivals and events around Louisville’s outdoor parks, venues, and historic neighborhoods. As summer fades to fall, October brings the return of some familiar festivals as well as some unique newcomers. If you are looking for a nice, local weekend getaway, Louisville has something to offer everyone, from its Pride festival to spooky season wonders.
Even better, Louisville Tourism is also currently running a sweepstakes offering a free weekend getaway to Louisville! Enter here for this amazing opportunity!
- Louisville: "right up I-65 and well worth the drive"
- Ravi Roth Named Host of Gaycation Travel Show
- Chattanooga: "a family friendly getaway on the Tennessee River"
LOUISVILLE TOURISM'S CURATED LIST OF OCTOBER EVENTS
Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular | September 30 - October 31
Returning as a walk-thru event for 2021, visitors can traverse a ⅓-mile path through Iroquois Park featuring over 5,000 professionally carved jack-o-lanterns grouped in themed scenes and set to music. This year’s theme is “Changing the Channel: A Timeline of Television History,” and will feature favorite shows from the 1950’s to what we stream today on our devices and everything in between. Tickets are now on sale.
St. James Court Art Show | October 1-3
Recently capturing two top honors by Sunshine Magazine, the 65th annual art show will be held in historic Old Louisville among the nation’s largest collection of preserved Victorian architecture. Over 600 artists from around the U.S. participate in this three-day juried fine art and contemporary craft show, where guests can discover unique works of art in 17 artistic mediums, from clay to wood, and everything in between. Admission is free and the art show is a rain or shine event.
Boo at the Zoo | Thursday-Sundays October 1–30
Experience the Louisville Zoo magically transformed into a living storybook with costumed characters and trick-or-treating for kids 11 and under. A reduced nightly capacity will help with social distancing and parking is free for party guests.
Louisville Taco & Margarita Festival | October 2
New for 2021, this flavorful fiesta is taking over Lynn Family Stadium complete with margaritas, tequila tacos and live music from 11am-6pm. Tickets start at just $10 (plus fees), and kids under 12 are free.
This event offers the opportunity to savor a variety of food and drinks, as the home of Louisville City FC and Racing Louisville FC transforms for this first-of-its-kind event. Concession stands that normally specialize in burgers and hot dogs will roll out speciality tacos, while the bourbon bars across the concourse focus on a variety of margaritas.
Kentuckiana Pride Festival and Parade | October 8-9
Originally scheduled during national Pride month, this two-day event will be held on the Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park with performances by Todrick Hall, Neon Trees, DJ Spinderella and more. The festival kicks off with the annual Pride Parade on October 8 at 7:00 pm. This year’s parade will begin in the NuLu neighborhood at Campbell and Market Streets and end at the Big Four Lawn.
Garvin Gate Blues Festival | October 9
Held in Old Louisville on Oak Street at Garvin Place, this 26-year-tradition features music, arts and an array of food and drink vendors. The free street festival kicks off at 2pm.
This event is the largest free neighborhood street music festival in Louisville, and one of the largest and most recognized free blues music festivals in the U.S. Countless legendary blues musicians have performed at the Garvin Gate Blues Festival throughout the years, they help to keep Louisville's blues heritage alive.
Tailspin Ale Fest | October 30
Usually held in late winter, “Louisville’s winter warmer” is becoming ‘Louisville’s scary good beer fest’ in 2021 with over 250 craft beers on tap at Bowman Field, the city’s treasured 101-year-old public airfield. Guests are encouraged to dress up in costume to celebrate the Halloween season. Tailspin comes on the tail end of Louisville Craft Beer Week which celebrates the city’s local love of the sud, October 19-29.
When planning a trip to Louisville, guests can download a copy of the Louisville Tourism’s annual Visitor Guide to help plan a tour around Louisville to see the city's top attractions and bourbon distilleries. Visitors also can get additional city attraction, lodging and dining assistance at gotolouisville.com along with information on the state’s current covid-mitigation guidelines.