Unenthused by your non-existent travel budget? Sometimes the most exotic weekend getaways are right in our own backyard. Itís time to ditch another hot and humid summer in the city and catch the boat out of town.
THE NORTH FORK
A quieter alternative to the bustling, celebrity-packed Hamptons, The North Fork of Long Island continues to be a popular summer destination for cultured queers everywhere. Action-packed days spent biking, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding along the beach complement evenings of fine dining and wine tasting.
Speaking of wine, if you happen to appreciate a cold glass of Chardonnay, you’ve come to the right place. The North Fork is almost synonymous with wine, and with more than 30 wineries and 3,000 acres of vineyard, a tour through the North Fork Wine Trail (liwines.com) is almost a necessity for travelers passing though the region.
Pindar Vineyards (37645 Route 25, Peconic, 631-734-6200, pindar.net) offers daily complimentary guided wine tours at 2pm, weather permitting. It’s a good crash course into the art of winemaking and of course, drinking the wine yourself is our preferred teaching tool. As the island’s largest vineyard, Pindar hosts live music on weekends from 1-5pm so pack a picnic on-the-GO and pop open a bottle of vino.
For more fun in the sun, head to Wickham’s Fruit Farm (28700 Route 25, Cutchogue, 631-734-6441, wickhamsfruitfarm.com) for some good old berry picking. The farm has 200 acres of pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches and the occasional pumpkin—you can’t get more locavore than that. They are closed on Sundays so make sure to plan accordingly.
Speaking of farm-to-table food, splurge on the local cuisine at LaPlage Restaurant (131 Creek Road, Wading River, 631-744-9200, laplagerestaurant.net) and Amarelle (2028 North Country Road, Wading River, 631-886-2242, amarelle.net), two five-star restaurants along the vineyard trail in Wading River.
To eat handpicked ingredients from the local area, visit The Fifth Season (45 Front St, Port Jefferson, 631-477-8500, thefifth-season.com), a popular Slow-Food concept restaurant serving organic and seasonal new American cuisine.
The nightlife scene mainly takes place at Greenport, where you can find a slew of bars and clubs, a few of them gay-owned. What originated as a small fishing town by day has evolved into a gay haven by night. Try The Frisky Oyster (27 Front St, Greenport, 631-477-4265, thefriskyoyster.com) for a more laid-back and local dining experience with Family. Both the East End Gay Organization (631-324-3699, eego.org) and the North Fork Women for Women Fund (631-477-8464, nfwfwf.org) continue host a full slate of events throughout the year.
For a home away from home, Luxury Beachfront Getaway (631-445-6765, luxurybeachfrontgetaway.com) specializes in private, family-owned beach houses. The owners Ginnie and Debbie are offering a 25 percent discount to GO readers. And don’t forget the dog! Houses are pet-friendly, beautifully appointed with contemporary furnishings and even come with a boat for guests’ use.
Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast (54300 Country Rd 48, Southold, 631-765-1570, shorecrestbedandbreakfast.com) is a gay-friendly Victorian mansion with a stellar view of the water. Harborfront Inn at Greenport (209 Front St, 631-477-0707, theharborfrontinn.com) is a more luxurious housing option with modern décor and grand suites.
It’s no secret that we love Fire Island, and considering how queer-friendly it is, there’s hardly room for debate. There are no cars allowed on the island, so the typical summer season feels like an alternate New York City minus the traffic jams and dirty sidewalks. Sail to the island in style by catching the ferry from Sayville, Long Island.
The gay segment of the island is broken down into two enclaves—the Pines and Cherry Grove. We recommend spending the majority of your time in Cherry Grove, as it’s the more female-friendly of the two, but don’t skip the Pines completely. Otherwise you’ll miss out on beautiful landscapes, city-style weekend parties and excellent people-watching. Though a massive fire in the Pines destroyed two beloved discos and a handful of restaurants last November, rebuilding efforts are underway.
Don’t forget to get your exercise in before boozing your night away. The winding paved trail linking Cherry Grove and Sailors Haven snakes through dunes and scrubby vegetation that provides a habitat for migrating birds. Trek the boardwalk through the Sunken Forest (nps.gov/fiis) for a glimpse into a prehistoric maritime forest. While it’s tempting to pet the local semi-wild deer, they aren’t quite as friendly as Bambi, not to mention you’ll run the risk of getting ticks.
Hit happy hour at Cherry’s On the Bay (158 Bayview Walk, 631-597-7859, cherrysonthebay.com), a cocktail bar, restaurant and lounge all rolled into one. The bay-front view makes for a romantic evening with your partner and if you’re single, it serves as the perfect lookout point for new arrivals to the island. Come nightfall, Cherry’s transforms into a nightclub blasting dance tunes until 4am.
After an eventful day in the great outdoors, take the water taxi to Ocean Beach for an upscale dinner at The Island Mermaid (Ocean Beach, 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com). It’s a bit pricier than other restaurants but the water view makes it worth every penny.
Fire Island’s most notorious summer party, Invasion of the Pines (fireislandinvasion.com) should definitely be on your bucket list. The July 4 tradition dates back to 1976, when a local drag queen was not allowed to dine at a posh Pines restaurant. Thus, the drag queen “invasion” was born; every year a ferryload of female illusionists rolls into the Pines harbor for a raucous day of partying and people-watching. Anyone can join in the daylong festivities.
Don’t fret if you missed out on a share at a swank Grove bungalow. We are once again recommending the Cherry Grove Beach Hotel (631-597-6600, grovehotel.com) for weekend visitors—it’s one of the best places to stay in Fire Island due to recent renovations and relatively affordable prices. Don’t leave without seeing their massive outdoor deck, otherwise known as the Ice Palace, where muscle boys frolic in the pool and bronzed beach babes sip drinks by the open-air bar.
While hotels are ideal for weekend getaways, it’s worth considering a seasonal rental for longer stays on the island. Horizon Beach House (56 Lewis Walk, 631-597-6278, horizonbeachhouse.com) offers vacation rentals, which is a good option to consider for a longer stay on the Island, as are properties managed by Luxury Beachfront Getaway.
Alternatively, Evelyn at A Summer Place Realty (212-752-8074, asummerplacerealty.com) and Prudential Douglas Elliman (1-800-Elliman, elliman.com) are good resources to help you find the perfect rental for your singular style.
If you assumed the Hamptons were just a summer escape for Manhattan’s (and Hollywood’s) rich and powerful, think again. Whether you’re looking for a lively nightlife scene or simply hoping to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation amid splendid scenery, the Hamptons is the place to go.
The Hamptons has a little bit of everything. Shopping ranges from high-end designer boutiques to quirky vintage and antique shops. Taking a boat tour is one way to get an introduction to the different Hamptons ‘hoods. There are 10 different towns, the most popular being East Hampton, Southampton and Montauk.
Count on Duckwalk Vineyards (231 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, 631-726-7555, duckwalk.com) to help ring in your weekend getaway. Wine tastings are $8 per person for up to five wines with live performances every weekend from 1-5 pm. Stick around on Fridays when the vineyards stay open until 8 pm.
Deep Hollow Ranch (Route 27, Montauk, 631-668-2744, deephollowranch.com) is the oldest working cattle ranch in the country (!), and for $75 you can sign up for their beach and trail ride. For a more intimate setting, couples can book private tours.
The Hamptons is never short on entertainment, and this summer is shaping up to be a busy season. TheEmpire State Pride Agenda’s annual Hamptons Tea Dance (The Ark Project, 60 Millstone Rd, Water Mill, prideagenda.org) is a must, as it’s the largest LGBT event in the Hamptons. Plus, who can resist and afternoon of food and dancing with a thousand Power Gays at an eye-popping sculpture park? This year’s event is slated for Saturday, July 14 from 4-8 pm.
Watching the sunset in the Hamptons is best done at East Hampton Point (295 Three Mile Harbor Rd, East Hampton, 631-329-2800, easthamptonpoint.com), a dockside restaurant serving food to rival the front-row view. Listen to live music, dance and experience local nightlife at Southampton’s 75 Main (631-283-7575, 75main.com), the local celeb-attracting nightclub.
After a night on the town, head to John Papas Café (18 Park Pl, East Hampton, 631-324-5400, johnpapascafe.com) for breakfast all day long and an endless supply of coffee. For a healthier option, try Babette’s (66 Newton Ln, East Hampton, 631-329-5377, babetteseasthampton.com), which never disappoints our hungry stomachs.
The East Hampton Village B&B (172 Newton Ln, East Hampton, 631-324-1858, easthamptonvillagebandb.com) immediately transports guests to the Victorian era, with lush green gardens and antique décor. As it’s just a short walk from a string of restaurants, bike rentals, shops and the beach, you will be in the center of all the island action.
The Hamptons is a popular summer destination, so if you want something more than a weekend away from home, Luxury Beachfront Getaway’s houses are all ten minutes from Cooper’s Beach and Shelter Island Ferry. A short drive takes you the Long Island Skydive and the farm stands. Many of the homes have pools and Jacuzzis for days when you want a little more private time.
THE HUDSON VALLEY
All gay eyes turned to the Hudson Valley back in 2004, when then-Mayor Jason West of New Paltz gained national attention by wedding gay couples in defiance of New York law. (Since the unions were technically illegal at the time, all marriages were invalidated—but that hardly put a damper on the valley’s gay appeal.)
Fast forward to 2012 and the gay and lesbian scene is very much alive in the Hudson Valley. With great shopping, unrivaled farmstand produce, outdoor eats, recreation, cruises, a public art walkway and tips from the well-known LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston (300 Wall St, 845-331-5300, lgbtqcenter.org), there’s something for every queer here.
Like a few of our other featured destinations, the Hudson Valley has two major wine trails, one in Dutchess County and the other in Ulster County. Between the two, there are more than a dozen wineries to explore, so pickings are definitely not slim. Book your spot on an organized tour, or split the cost of a private driver with your friends and enjoy the vineyards at your own pace.
River cruises are easy accessible and a great way to mix and mingle with fellow weekend warriors. Catch the dinner cruise on the M/V Mystere from Empire Cruise Lines (29 North Water St, Poughkeepsie, 866-797-9024 empirecruiselines.com) on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights through October. The scenic jaunt up the mighty Hudson from Poughkeepsie marries sightseeing with fine wines and cuisine. About 80 percent of their clientele is gay, so it’s a great way to meet the Family!
While the Hudson Valley is a relatively laidback getaway, don’t underestimate the extent of its happening nightlife. The Out Bar (206 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, (845) 485-9999, silastudio.com/out) opened last November and has been entertaining locals and visitors with professional events and drag shows.
In Rosendale, Twisted Foods, Pretzel Roll Factory (466 Main Street, 845-658-9121) is a lesbian-owned restaurant that manages to incorporate homemade pretzels into each dish served on the menu. The Would Restaurant (120 North Road, Highland, 834-691-9883, thewould.com), another lesbian-owned summer hotspot, regularly hosts events and cocktail parties for the local and visiting community.
The Madalin Hotel (53 Broadway, Tivoli, 845-757-2100, madalinhotel.com/hotel) is a gay-owned beautifully decorated hotel and restored historic landmark. Build in 1909, the renovated Victorian has 11 period-themed rooms with unfussy antique bedsteads and a relaxing neutral color scheme. The Roxbury (2258 County Hwy 41, Roxbury, 607-326-7200, theroxburymotel.com) is a vintage motor lodge with a whole lot of personality inside—sleek renovations include zippy graphic wallpapers, frothy chandeliers and wild theme rooms with perfectly designed accent décor. (We’re in love with The Partridge Nest, inspired by the singing TV family!)
For more info on upcoming local events, Big Gay Hudson Valley (biggayhudsonvalley.com) is an excellent online resource. June marks the release of their Beacon, Hudson and Poughkeepsie city guides, making it nearly impossible not to know the ins and outs of the region.
Megan Eileen McDonough is a freelance travel writer based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails (bohemiantrails.com), an online magazine designed for the avant-garde traveler looking to go off-the-beaten-path.