By: Mikey Rox*/Special to TRT—
Skip Palm Springs, forget Fire Island and put P-Town on hold. This year, you’re headed to a new LGBT-friendly destination for an unexpected getaway with all the perks to which you’re privy. Time to get packin’.
Texas isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think “progressive,” but its traditional shade of Republican red comes with a few tinges of pink. Houston, specifically, embraces its LGBT community, thanks in part to openly gay mayor Annise Parker, who will vacate her office at the end of the year. MyGayHouston.com, a popular source for LGBT-specific news and happenings, will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year, and Pride Houston will be held June 27. The fourth-largest city in the United States – it’s true! – also boasts a budding art scene and culturally diverse cuisine, which was singled out by Community Marketing’s LGBT travel study last year.
Sure, the LGBT community has been flocking to Miami for decades, but now that marriage is legal in Florida, you can have the best of both worlds while hitting the sand to say “I do” this summer. Eden Roc Miami Beach offers an affordable LGBT Wedding Celebration Package with plenty of perks. First, the stunning hotel waives the ceremony fee – freeing up about $1,500 for other activities, like a luxurious spa day on the grounds – along with discounts on food and beverage and complimentary breakfast in bed. And so you can concentrate on enjoying your big day, Eden Roc will have its social media concierge – fancy, huh? – available to capture all your memorable moments. Up until the boom-boom begins, anyway; you’re on your own with that AV.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Like playing the odds? They’re in your favor at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, a stunning island property nestled in the middle of a bustling metropolitan city. From your home base in the heart of the trendy Condado neighborhood filled with shopping, international cuisine and nightlife, embark on adventures like ATV, horseback riding and zip lining at Hacienda Campo Rico by day, then let loose at night in Old San Juan at La Factoria. Santurce and La Placita of Santurce, the arts and culture center, is just a short taxi ride away, as is the El Yunque Rainforest. Seems like a lot to see and do, but there’ll be plenty of lazy beach time with your boo, too.
Although the Caribbean is breathtaking in landscape, some islands have ugly views toward the LGBT community (we’re looking at you, Jamaica!). St. Maarten, however, takes pride in its LGBT community, and several resorts, including Sonesta Ocean Point and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa are now registered with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), the leading global resource in LGBT tourism. Both locations offer same-sex wedding ceremonies – if you want to tie the knot in flip-flops – with a Gay Wedding Institute-certified in-house wedding coordinator. Spend your first few hours as a legally bound couple canoodling in a private gazebo or partying down at an unforgettable reception at Ocean Point’s Azul Rooftop Bar.
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Not to be outdone by some of the flashier Florida cities, sunny St. Pete Beach allows for a different kind of vacay – one void of thumping techno music and throwback boardwalk body builders. The Spanish-influenced Hotel Zamora features a destination restaurant and rooftop lounge serving a locally sourced menu of creative tapas entrees; a marina; fresh-water pool; fitness center; and access to white, sandy beaches. Zamora also will offer a Beachside Pride package this summer in celebration of St. Pete Pride, June 26 to 28.
Step out of the box this summer – and into a boat! – during the country’s only Pride boat parade, in Norfolk, Va. Part of PrideFest, June 26 and 27, the celebration by sea is open to all maritimers with access to a vessel. The Norfolk Waterside Marriott offers a PrideFest Hotel Package for the weekend, which includes a buffet breakfast for two guests daily, a $25 food and beverage credit per night at Shula’s 347, and self-parking. After you drop your bag, head out into Hampton Roads for waterfront activities, a thriving dining scene, and unique arts and culture.
*Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and blogger whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He splits his time between homes in New York City and the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon. Connect with Mikey on Twitter @mikeyrox.