Atlanta On My Mind
Atlanta prides itself on being the business and cultural center of the South. Home to Coca-Cola, CNN and Turner Networks, as well as Home Depot, Rubbermaid and Arby’s, the city thrives on commerce. But don’t let the pounding pulse of Atlanta’s commercial sector fool you. Atlanta has a relaxed, Southern take on life. The city may bill itself as “too busy to hate,” but not too busy to welcome visitors with open arms.
Atlanta is filled with friendly little neighborhoods such as Little Five Points, Buckhead and Midtown. If you want to take a break and watch the city go by, Piedmont Park is the place to be. This huge, beautiful space at the edge of Midtown houses the fabulous Botanical Gardens as well as picnic facilities and miles of walking, jogging and biking trails.
Outdoor dining is one of the bonuses of Atlanta’s mild climate. If you’re looking for Southern food with haute flair, JCT Kitchen (1198 Howell Mill Road, www.jctkitchen.com) should be your destination. The menu here features trusty standbys like shrimp and grits and fried chicken, but also a local cheese plate and truffle-parmesan fries. All the locals swarm to Ria’s Bluebird (421 Memorial Drive, riasbluebird.com) for pancakes named “best in the world” by The New York Times. Mary Mac’s Tea Room (224 Ponce de Leon Ave., marymacs.com) offers more traditional Southern fare. For real retro flair, The Varsity (61 North Ave.) is the world’s largest drive-in. The local dining scene is hopping, and there are dozens more neighborhood bistros and cafés waiting to be discovered around every corner.
The neighborhood of Little Five Points is the center of Atlanta’s bohemian scene; it’s where the Indigo Girls got their start. Shop for vintage finds at Stefan’s (1160 Euclid Ave.), and shoes at Abbadabba’s (421 Moreland Ave.) Stop off for a bite at Savage Pizza (484 Moreland Ave., savagepizza.com), a local favorite featuring both traditional and funky pizzas, friendly service and an entertaining superhero-themed décor. Charis Books and More (1189 Euclid Ave., charis.book
sense.com) is the South’s oldest and largest feminist bookstore. It’s also the host for the famous Cliterati No-Mic show for “feisty, fiery, fierce spoken word” every third Thursday of the month, where sharp-tongued ladies of every type and genre have been sharing their work for almost ten years now.
But lesbian life in Atlanta really begins to pulse after the sun goes down. There’s a club for every type of lady. The new girl on the block is The Krash Project, every Saturday at Club Rain (448 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.). DJ Mary Mac spins hip hop, house, krunk, and other music genres “krashed” together for a sexy, high-energy atmosphere. Other happening clubs include the classy, R&B-flavored Foreplay Fridays at Vita (2110 Peachtree Rd. NW). Also on Fridays is Club Miami at the multi-level Traxx (3011 Buford Highway NE).
Get your gay drink on at Mary’s (1287 Glenwood Avenue, marysatlanta.com). LOGO called Mary’s the “Best Gay Bar in America” and Out magazine named it one of the Top 50 Gay Bars In The World. Atlanta’s full-time lesbian bar and club is My Sister’s Room, aka MSR (1271 Glenwood Ave., mysistersroom.com). Recently relocated from Decatur to the East Atlanta Village neighborhood, MSR hosts regular club nights Thursday through Saturday plus special events and benefits. During the day, the club transforms into Calavino’s Soul Food Kitchen, a great place to brunch on the weekends.
If you’re a live music fan, take a little detour to the nearby town of Decatur for Eddie’s Attic (515B North McDonough St., eddiesattic.com), considered one of the top live performance venues in the country. Both local and touring acts love to play here to enthusiastic audiences. The list of luminaries that has graced this space is long, from dyke faves such as Doria Roberts, Ani DiFranco, and Michelle Malone to India. Arie, Sheryl Crow, and Sugarland. Decatur itself is another slice of southern lesbian charm, considered dyke central for the Atlanta metro area.
Other sights to see in Atlanta include the Georgia Aquarium (225 Baker St. NW, georgiaaquarium.com), the world’s largest. Atlanta is also the birthplace (and grave site) of Martin Luther King Jr. and the location of the Martin Luther King National Historic Site (450 Auburn Ave. NE). If you’re a sports fan, why not catch a home game of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream? They play their home games at Philip Arena (1 Philips Dr., philipsarena.com) in downtown Atlanta.
As a base of operations, you can’t do better than friendly, dyke-owned Stonehurst Place Bed and Breakfast (from $199; 923 Piedmont Avenue N.E., stonehurstplace.com). The setting is friendly and top of the line, with a special commitment to eco-friendly practices. The Ellis Hotel (from $99; 176 Peachtree St. NW; ellishotel.com) is a boutique-style hotel with both modern luxuries and historic charm. Hotel Indigo (from $119; 683 Peachtree St. NE, midtownatlantahotel.com) prides itself on precise, balanced design that awakens the senses and relaxes the soul. The grand Georgian Terrace (from $170; 659 Peachtree St. NE, thegeorgianterrace.com), across from the historic Fox Theater, is a sumptuous hotel from the old school.
Fiesta In Tuscon
Tucson is often overshadowed by its larger urban neighbor to the north, Phoenix. But if you’re looking for a more intimate vacation experience, Arizona’s little sister might be the perfect place to be, combining a small-town feel with an arty, cosmopolitan vibe (thanks in part to the nearby university).
Start the day at dyke-friendly Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea (1730 E. Speedway Rd., bentleyscoffeehouse.com). If you dare, try one of their “ashtray shakes,” with espresso grounds mixed in for added oomph. Bentley’s has late-night hours, too. Every Friday evening, the café hosts an open mic for local acoustic musicians to show their stuff.
Tucson nightlife is intimate and friendly. The hot spot of choice is Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness, aka “The Biz” (2900 E. Broadway Blvd., thebiztuc.com). It has everything you could desire in an old-fashioned dyke bar, including pool tables and dart games. The music on the dance floor is completely modern, however, and the DJ keeps the energy high. Plus, one of the bartenders offers newcomers the chance to do shots off her body, if you’re not too shy to ask.
Other nightlife hot spots include IBT’s (616 N. 4th Ave.), a popular (and crowded) mixed gay and lesbian night club with a lovely patio space, and Howl at the Moon (915 W Prince Rd., howlatthemoon.com), which features country line dancing on Friday nights.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, a sampling of southwestern cuisine is a must. El Charro (311 N. Court Ave.) is the oldest restaurant in town, and serves classic Mexican fare. Café Poca Cosa (88 E. Broadway Blvd., cafepocacosatucson.com) , run by owner Susana Davila, has won awards for its innovative take on regional Mexican flavors. Don’t miss brunch at Little Mexico (698 West Irvington #3, littlemexico-tucson.com). The ultra-traditional chorizo and eggs will cure any hangover. If you’re ready for another round later, Little Mexico has a second steakhouse-style location at 2851 West Valencia Road.
Should you feel like branching out a little, Enoteca Pizzeria and Wine Bar (58 W Congress St.), is a sophisticated downtown Italian joint. For a real treat, splurge at Janos (3770 E. Sunrise Dr., janos.com), run by famed chef Janos Wilder. The menu changes seasonally and features a wide-range of cuisine with Southwestern touches. The space also offers a more casual venue, J Bar, next door, that offers what might disputably be the best nachos in town. At the other end of the scale from Janos is Bumsted’s (500 N 4th Ave.), serving superb sweet potato fries and huge sandwiches with risqué names like the MILF, the Hot Pink, and the 3-Way. If you’re on a nostalgia kick, it’s right across the street from a Dairy Queen.
Lay your hat down at the gay-run Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast (from $185; 204 South Scott Ave., royalelizabeth.com). Housed in a historic landmark home, “The Liz” is a friendly and welcoming downtown enclave. A fun budget alternative is the Hotel Congress (from $79; 311 East Congress St., hotelcongress.com), a beautifully restored historic hotel stuffed with vintage charm. The hotel also houses Club Congress, a hipster club; don’t miss “Punk Rock Happy Hour” every Tuesday.
Spring might be the best time to visit Tucson, especially if you’re feeling sporty. Spring training for the Rockies and Diamondbacks happens February through April. Also happening in February is the Tucson Rodeo (aka the Fiesta de los Vaqueros), a must for all cowgirl fans. If you happen to be planning a trip in the fall, don’t miss the All Souls Procession. Every year on All Souls Day (the day after Halloween), thousands of Tucson residents parade through the historic Fourth District and then to downtown in various colorful and morbid costumes to mourn and honor the dead.
Cruise The Strip In LA
It’s true that Los Angeles is filled to the brim with beautiful people. It’s also filled with smart, creative types who run the best clubs, cafés and cultural attractions in the nation. L.A. is so big, there’s sure to be something for everyone within the sprawling city limits.
West Hollywood is the center of gay and lesbian life in the City of Angels; you could easily spend all of your vacation in this tiny neighborhood. WeHo is also home to the heady nightlife on the Sunset Strip and the trendy boutiques of Melrose Avenue. After dark is when WeHo really begins to shine. There are dozens of clubs for the ladies to choose from. On Thursday nights, you can try the sophisticated crowd at Platinum at East/West (8851 Santa Monica Blvd., eastwestlounge.com). Friday night in West Hollywood features the legendary and ultra-chic Girl Bar at Ultra Suede (661 N. Robertson Blvd.) and 80’s-flavored Truck Stop at here (696 N. Robertson Blvd., herelounge.com). For a more laid-back vibe any night of the week, try The Palms (8572 Santa Monica Blvd., thepalmsbar.com); their Sunday afternoon beer busts are rightly famous, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a Sapphic celebrity or two. If you’re looking for the classic bar experience, try The Normandie Room (8737 Santa Monica Blvd., thenormandieroom.com) , whose motto is “no homophobes, no heterophobes, no assholes.” They have a great selection of beers, the requisite pool table and a well-stocked jukebox.
If you’re a fan of golden-era Hollywood, you’ll want to take a walk along Hollywood Boulevard, where the Hollywood Walk of Fame leads you to the Kodak Theatre (6801 Hollywood Blvd., kodaktheatre.com), where the Academy Awards are held each year. You’ll also want to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (6924 Hollywood Blvd.) and its display of the hand and footprints of the stars. Two other flamboyant historic theatres in the area worth visiting are the El Capitan (6838 Hollywood Blvd.) and the Egyptian (6712 Hollywood Blvd.)
Los Angeles’ dining scene is almost as varied as its nightlife. At the top end in WeHo is Lucques (8474 Melrose Ave., lucques.com), where Chef Suzanne Goin offers expertly executed California cuisine. M Café de Chaya (7119 Melrose Ave., mcafedechaya.com) serves contemporary macrobiotic cuisine – think fresh, nutritious and vegan. On the other end of the scale foodwise is Hamburger Mary’s (8288 Santa Monica Blvd., hamburgermarys.net), a gay-friendly burger and pizza joint. For something a little fancier but still fun, try heading downtown to Ciudad (445 South Figueroa, ciudad-la.com), the restaurant home of the Food Network’s Two Hot Tamales gals. Try to get a seat on the patio if you can, and taste the chefs’ innovative takes on Latin American and Spanish classics. Another fascinating food option is the Los Angeles Farmers Market (6333 West 3rd St., farmersmarketla.com). It’s open every day of the week; the stalls are permanent. Sample any one of dozens of restaurants serving American, Asian, Mexican and Middle Eastern fare. It’s also a great place to shop for housewares, gifts, and gourmet treats.
If, after all that feasting and partying, you feel like getting some fresh air, try heading out toward the ocean. First stop: the Santa Monica Pier. It’s famous for its solar-powered Ferris wheel and vintage carousel. Other alternatives for the beach-inclined include the sandy stretches of Malibu’s Surfrider Beach, and the infamous Venice Boardwalk, filled with tattoo parlors, muscle men and all sorts of other human oddities.
The landmark Chateau Marmont (from $370; 8221 West Sunset Blvd., chateaumarmont.com) is where you want to be if you want to live like a star–or at least rub shoulders with them. Everyone from Greta Garbo to Bono has stayed in its famous (and pricey) rooms. For something a little more grounded, there’s the sleek Grafton on Sunset (from $160; 8462 West Sunset Blvd., graftononsunset.com), a great place if you like hanging by the pool. The Farmer’s Daughter (from $150; 115 South Fairfax Ave., farmersdaughterhotel.com) boasts a quirky faux-country-style theme, with gingham curtains, denim bedspreads and the like.
Should you be visiting Los Angeles because of your love of the cinema, you might want to consider scheduling your visit to coincide with OutFest (outfest.org), the oldest film festival in Southern California. It happens every July and screens hundreds of queer-themed programs over a two-week span. You’ll be able to catch new queer stars in the making. However, don’t miss the fascinating and moving presentations by the Outfest Legacy Project, which works to preserve historic gay and lesbian films. It’s a film fan’s dream come true.