Keep your travel dollars in the family and take a trip around the good ol’ U.S. of A. From luxe hotels to vegan dining to nightlife, Boston and the Big Island of Hawaii offer unique experiences for the savvy Sapphist.
Back in the day—we’re talking 1775—Paul Revere alerted the countryside that British troops were invading Lexington, Mass., and the rest, they say, is history.
A little more recently, Massachusetts made history again: in 2004, it became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then, record numbers of out-of-town lesbian and gay couples have invaded Boston to tie the knot.
Today, getting your nups on is only a train ride away. Since Boston is just a hop-skip-and-jump by train, plane or bus from New York City, Newark, Philly and other East Coast points, Boston is an affordable destination to get hitched and honeymoon all in the same place.
Stay informed about the gay scene with LGBT Massachusetts’ iPhone app, the first LGBT travel application launched for a U.S. domestic destination by a state tourism organization. The application was developed by Gay Consultants, Inc., and is available on massvacation.com/rainbow or on iTunes. Explore a directory of accommodations, nightlife, restaurants, events and attractions to find—and get to—wherever you might want to go.
Linda DeMarco, president of Boston Pride (bostonpride.org), tells GO that thousands of people, from Florida to Portland, Ore., come to the city's Pride festivities to tie the knot legally.
“I’ve been doing Boston Pride since 1998 and I still take heart in watching the faces of people during Pride. Their expressions always tell their story. The youth show their amazement, the elderly show their gratification and everyone shows their pride,” says DeMarco. “It’s corny but true.”
This year’s Boston Pride takes place June 3-12 and features a week jammed with activities, including the Pride Festival, block parties, club nights, family activities and a fabulous parade.
Last year, Boston Pride celebrated its 40th anniversary with a record 200 groups and 15,000 individuals in the parade, plus another 500,000 watching along the parade route. The organization’s Deputy Director, Keri Aulita, estimates that one million people take part in Pride events throughout the week. “It really is an amazing thing to see everyone come together to celebrate. For me it’s like a family reunion,” she says. “It’s also important to me that Pride Week continues to serve as a reminder of our struggle and ongoing fight for equality.”
Book a romantic summer weekend getaway at the cozy Hotel Veritas (1 Remington St., 617-520-5000, thehotelveritas.com) in Cambridge. The hotel rooms are European-style: small, but well appointed and affordable. With stunning hand-hewn marble bathrooms (where the floors are warmed by radiant heating) and firm, comfortable beds covered with Egyptian cotton linens, you and your honey may never want to leave—except for nourishment from the Simple Truth Lounge downstairs. The warm and relaxing hangout serves a tiny selection of drinks, poured by the multi-purpose staffers who also cover the front desk.
Grab a bite a few blocks away at Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers (1246 Massachusetts Ave., 617-354-6559, mrbartley.com). The vintage burger stand serves handmade onion rings and “The People’s Republic of Cambridge” gourmet hamburger, causing lines to snake around the corner. The wait staff takes orders outside so they can get customers served and fed and then clear their table with clockwork precision.
Lesbian-owned La Cappella Suites (290 North St., 617-523-9020, lacappellasuites.com) is an adorable, down-to-earth home away from home. Proprietor and host Tricia Muse will personally welcome you to the B&B in the city’s North End, just steps from the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church and other historical sites.
Choose a room at the swanky Langham Hotel (250 Franklin St., 617-451-1900, boston.langhamhotels.com) and indulge in the “all-you-can-enjoy” Saturday morning Chocolate Bar. Brunch—chocolate-covered brunch—never tasted so sinful! Spin pretzel logs, strawberries and pineapple pieces in the chocolate fountain or nibble the exotic baked treats, like smoked chocolate cupcakes and chili-laced brownies. And, to top it off, bartender Mirsada Stranjina mixes clever chocolate flavored cocktails.
Pamper her (and yourself) at The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (776 Boylston St., 617-535-8888, mandarinoriental.com). Book the Mandarin Suite, a room built for side-by-side treatments for two. The suite boasts a private dressing room and bath replete with its own soaking pool. Try the New England Retreat, a 90-minute multi-level treatment. Simply put, The Spa at the Mandarin is heavenly!
Begin an inspiring day at the newly opened Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300, mfa.org), which houses the most comprehensive display of American art in the world. Paintings, furniture, drawings, textiles and decorative arts from prehistory to the 21st century fill the halls and galleries.
If your interests turn toward retail, check out Faneuil Hall Marketplace (downtown, faneuilhallmarketplace.com) a shopping and dining destination close to Boston City Hall and many historical sites. It’s a little touristy, but there’s great people-watching at the outdoor tables belonging to one of the market’s 17 pubs, cafes and restaurants.
A one-of-a-kind Cambridge institution, the Garment District (200 Broadway, 617-876-5230, garmentdistrict.com)—an “alternative department store”—is a vintage fashionista’s dream come true. Every morning, the store unwraps an 850-pound bale of mixed clothing and accessories and lets the public paw through it—shoppers take home their finds for just $1.50 per pound ($1 on Fridays). There are also organized departments dedicated to different retro eras, new and designer threads, shoes, costumes and much more.
Urban adventures abound in Boston, but lesbian travelers should plan to party at one of Dyke Night Productions' mega-events (dykenight.com) at least once. Promoter Kristen Porter orchestrates Second Saturdays, New England’s largest women’s dance party, at Machine (1254 Boylston St., 617-536-1950, machine-boston.com) and Fourth Fridays at The Milky Way (284 Amory St., 617-524-6060, milky
“Dyke Night’s Second Saturday is unique because there are so few places you can go to be with more than a thousand lesbians, an all-queer staff, four bars, four pool tables, two DJs and amazing pole dancers,” Porter says. “You don’t need to be a Sapphic sister to get your dance on—the event hosts women, gay boys, transfolk, cross dressers, drag queens and the whole LGBT community.”
On April 22, Fourth Fridays offers Latin dance lessons to start the evening (no partners needed!) followed by a DJ spinning soca, reggae, pop and hip hop. The following month, on May 14, Second Saturday hosts the official after-party for Boston’s LGBT film festival with a meet n’ greet with movie VIPs and festival organizers. Don’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see lesbian faves Faith Soloway, Melissa Ferrick and Catie Curtis perform together.
For queer eats with your drinks, jump into a cab and direct your driver to Dorchester, a mere 10 minutes outside Boston proper. Have him drop you at d bar (1236 Dorchester Ave., 617-265-4490, dbarboston.com) where executive chef Christopher Coomb preps epicurean delights from hefty steaks, seafood and burgers to vegetarian fare. At midnight, the sconces decorating the restaurant dim, the laser lights switch on and the space becomes a rollicking LGBT bar.
Diesel café (257 Elm St., Somerville, 617-629-8717, diesel-café.com) is a family (you know what I mean) neighborhood hangout with inexpensive sandwiches and snacks, but most come for the pool tables and gallery openings. Remember your trip with a shot from the vintage photo booth.
Catch a cabaret show, drink or dance at the ultra-gay Club Café (209 Columbus Ave., 617-536-0966, clubcafe.com), a swank lounge with a weekly roster including drag acts, showtunes and parties with resident DJs. The club recently hosted The Femme Show’s “Prove It All Night: Queers Do The Boss” (thefemmeshow.com).
Don’t pass up the vegan pizza (trust us) at Veggie Planet (47 Palmer St., 617-661-1513, veg
gieplanet.net), a vegetarian diner/vegan bakery in Harvard Square that shares space with Club Passim (clubpassim.org). Come for the grub, stay for the eclectic folk, acoustic rock and jazz shows at the 53-year-old arts institution.
A visit to the city is never complete without a pilgrimage to the privately owned Harvard Bookstore (1256 Massachusetts Ave., 617-661-1515, harvard.com), established in 1932 in Cambridge. Pick up a few lesbionic reads for the trip home.
THE KONA COAST, HAWAII
The Pacific paradise with a more relaxed feel than its touristy neighbors, Oahu and Maui, the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island offers unparalleled natural scenery and elegant lodging options. A girl could plan a day of snorkeling, diving or touring the island by helicopter—or simply lounge on the famously powdery white-sand beaches.
Hawaii’s massive hospitality industry welcomes LGBT travelers, and its government is doing the same. After nearly two decades of legislative and legal wrangling, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation in March legalizing civil unions in the state of Hawaii—falling short of authorizing same-sex marriage, but still offering a significant measure of legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Getting to Hawaii's Big Island isn't difficult. Flights on gay-friendly American Airlines (aa.com/rainbow) arrive at Kona International Airport in Keahole, serving Kailua-Kona, the largest city on the Big Island's west coast. Charge your iPod and bring a good book, because the flight time from New York, wth a brief layover at LAX, is roughly 12 hours; directly from L.A., about six hours.
Whether you’re going to the Aloha State to get hitched or simply want vacation planners who understand the specific needs of lesbian visitors, check out Hawaii Commitment Ceremonies LLC (hawaiicommitmentceremon ies.com). Owned by life partners, this wedding planning and travel booking company can design a celebration of your love and commitment or the getaway of a lifetime.
Ali'i Drive, the main drag in Kailua-Kona, boasts hotels, shops, restaurants and waterfront bars that appeal to locals and visitors. Both the King Kamehameha Hotel (75-5660 Palani Rd., 808-329-2911, konabeachhotel.com) and the Royal Kona Resort (75-5852 Ali’i Dr., 800-222-5642, royalkona.com) have recently undergone major renovations and are known among the locals as being very gay-friendly.
Vacation condos are common in Hawaii. For lesbian friendly accommodations on the Big Island, there are a few different vacation rental outfits, such as Falling Waters Vacation Home Estate in Kailua-Kona (77-6493 Akai St., 800-989-3300, vacationhomekona.com). Realtor Barrie Rose and her partner Johanna own homes that are available as rental properties, mainly in the northern Big Island around the Kamuela district (vrbo.com/my/5622).
Recommended lesbian friendly hotel accommodations include the Four Seasons (72-100 Ka'upulehu Dr., 808-325-8000, fourseasons. com/hualalai) and its neighbor, Hualalai at Ka'upulehu (hualalairesort.com). These side-by-side, five-diamond resorts skirt the dazzling ocean near Kailua-Kona. In the resort town of Waikoloa, about 40 miles north of downtown Kailua-Kona, visitors will find the upscale Hilton Waikoloa (69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr., 808-886-1234, hiltonwaikoloavillage.com), an amazing public beach and some of the best retail stores like Tommy Bahama (in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, 808-886-8865, tommyba hama.com) and Honolua Surf Co. (250 Waikoloa Beach Dr. #E4, 808-886-6422, honoluasurf.com).
Dining in Hawaii is strictly casual at all but the ritziest resorts. Splashers Grill (75-5663 Palani Rd., 808-326-2212, splashersgrillkona.com), across from the ocean on Ali'i Drive, has the day’s freshest catch. Splashers is reasonably priced and caters to visitors and locals. Have the restaurant’s signature mai tai, then revel in the world-famous sunset.
Fujimamas (75-5719 Ali’i Dr., 808-327-2125, fujimamas.com) maintains its top billing among the island’s fine restaurants by consistently developing Pacific Rim cuisine that’s anything but predictable. Sushi and sashimi are so fresh they’re practically still swimming, while innovative mains—like grilled local grass-fed tenderloin of beef with kimchee mashed potatoes and shiitake ginger salsa—bring Asian fusion to a new level.
You probably won't go to Hawaiian Style Café (65-1290 Kawaihae Rd., 808-885-4295) in Kamuela for the atmosphere or decor, but the hearty and lip-smackin' good grub will coax you in the door. This cafe serves more than 200 people a day with monstrous meals like the “mocosauras”—a supersized version of the Hawaiian specialty loco moco (a breakfast dish with rice, multiple meats, eggs and gravy). Hawaiian Style has the best pancakes on the island according to several local publications.
Coral reefs and palm-strewn beaches, clear turquoise seas and active volcanoes, and a 24-hour travel industry make Hawaii a calm and serene spot to relax. Water sports like snorkeling and diving, hiking on rainforest trails past hundred-foot waterfalls, or scenic driving in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (nps.gov/havo) are also a big draw.
The Kona Coast is dotted with ancient Hawaiian religious sites called heiau, or places of refuge. Ahu'ena Heiau, the site where King Kamehameha held his council in the early 19th century; and Pu'uhomua o Homaumau National Historical Park, just south of Kailua-Kona, feature reconstructed Hawaiian temples and carved totems along the shore.
You can smell the java-scented air well before entering the tiny town of Holualoa in Kona coffee country. Set on mountain slopes, the cooler elevation is perfect for growing the addictive bean, and local plantations offer free tasting tours most days of the week. You could spend an entire afternoon browsing the cluster of artist’s galleries showing native Hawaiian crafts and fine arts amidst streets lined with retro island-style homes. Savor this hamlet’s laid-back pace.
Don’t miss a tour to the Mauna Kea Observatory (ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis), operated by the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, atop the Hawaiian Islands' tallest (dormant) volcano. At the popular Saturday-evening events, cultural ambassadors speak about Hawaiian culture, or the University's hula halau (hula school) performs the iconic dance. At an altitude of more than 9,000 feet, participants can view stars, planets, meteors and even galaxies with incredible clarity.
For more ideas, check out the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s ultra-comprehensive website, gohawaii.com.