Durham Love Yourself
Venture down South to the Bull City, and you’ll find this saying emblazoned in a heart on bumper stickers and t-shirts all over town. Durham’s been a sleeper of a vacation destination because of its outdated reputation as a blue-collar tobacco town. The natives, however, have a fierce sense of loyalty, and take pride in buying local, supporting the thriving music scene and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Durham is a liberal, bike-friendly, green city that’s been experiencing a considerable amount of growth lately. Even better, you can expect to run into dykes just about wherever you go.
Whether you’re in town for the weekend or a week, your must-do list will be a long one. Start your morning with a cup of coffee and nerdy-girl watching at Bean Traders (714 Ninth St), a queer-owned coffee shop on Ninth Street, one of Durham’s popular shopping and dining strips. After you’ve got your caffeine on, take a walk along Duke’s gorgeous tree-lined East Campus, then stop for lunch at Toast (345 W Main St, toast-fivepoints.com), a great new panini joint. North Carolina is known for its mild winters and sunny weather: while it’s snowing in Brooklyn in March, the cherry trees, Bradford pears and daffodils are already in full bloom in Durham. Meander through Duke Gardens, 55 acres of rolling hills and forest filled with indigenous flora and softball babes. If you’ve got a shopping bug, you’ll love the boutiques peeking out of historic tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham’s Brightleaf Square (905 W Main St, historicbrightleaf.com).
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the queer-friendly Watts Grocery (1116 Broad St, wattsgrocery.com) serves up delicious North Carolina cuisine prepared with local ingredients, washed down with one of the six local beers on tap. Durham wants to entertain you—with plays at the Manbites Dog Theater (703 Foster St, manbitesdogtheater.org), and live queer and women-fronted bands at Duke Coffee House (Crowell Building East Campus, duke.edu/web/coffeehouse) or Bull City Head- quarters (723 N Mangum St, bullcityhq.org).
If you feel like shaking it, the recently opened Steel Blue (1426 S Miami Blvd, clubsteelblue.com) is a huge two-story lesbian club with cocktail specials on Fridays, a dance party every Saturday, and a variety of guest DJs, comedians and musicians. Imagine— enough room to actually play pool or a game of darts without elbowing the player next to you (unless you want to).
Just a short shot outside Durham is The Triangle, home to three universities and a nexus for creativity and talent with ongoing lectures, free film screenings and art shows. Stop in for a PBR in Chapel Hill’s local dive favorite, Hell (157 E Rosemary St, chapelhell. com), sporting pool tables and the best juke box in town. For something a little fancier, try a specialty martini at Lantern (423 W Franklin St, lanternrestaurant.com). Once socially lubricated, head to Cat’s Cradle (300 E Main St, catscradle.com), the Triangle’s favorite music venue. After a night of hot drag and burlesque, the room dissolves into a throbbing gender-queer dance party.
You’ll need a place to cool your heels, and if you feel like splurging, stay at the spacious gay-friendly Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast (from $135, 914 Vickers Ave, moreheadmanor.com). The Marriott (from $119, 201 Foster St) is a great option for those who would like to stay in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of both the Carolina Theatre and Durham ballpark. If you’re feeling adventurous (or broke), then hunt down a room on CouchSurfing Project online (couchsurfing.com), an international non-profit that connects travelers with folks that like to share their Southern hospitality.
Any time of year is the right time to be in Durham. In April, Durham hosts the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (212 W Main St, fullframefest.org) at the historic Carolina Theater downtown. In July, the Festival for the Eno (enoriver.org/festival) draws an incredible diversity of live music. Durham is also home to the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (carolinatheatre.org/ncglff) in August and the North Carolina Pride Parade (ncpride.org) in September/early October, the biggest gay party weekend of the year.
Tea Partying in Boston
Although Boston is one of the oldest American cities, nobody these days would dare call it old-fashioned. Walk down cobblestone streets to the site of the Boston Tea Party, then venture out to the surrounding ‘hoods of Greater Boston for diverse cuisine, music and entertainment .
Fuel up for sightseeing with a healthy, hearty breakfast at Sound Bites Restaurant (708 Broadway, Somerville, soundbitesrestaurant.com). Get there early—they’re open 7am–3pm, and there’s usually a line out the door by noon with folks waiting to sample their famously fluffy challah French toast. After breakfast, stroll through the stacks at the LGBT bookstore Calamus Books (92B South St, calamus-books.com), where you can pick up some light reading (and maybe a date). Relax and escape at the lesbian-owned Inman Oasis (243 Hampshire St, Cambridge, 617-491-0176, inmanoasis.com), where soothing massage therapy and steamy hot tubs will loosen you up.
For a lighter fare and killer coffee, take a quick trip over to Davis Square to check out the local queer favorite, Diesel Café (257 Elm St, Somerville, diesel-café.com) or its sister café, Bloc 11 (11 Bow St, Somerville, 617-623-0000). Davis Square is also home to the historic Somerville Theatre (55 Davis Sq, Somerville, somervilletheatreonline.com), not only a great independent movie theatre, but also home to some amazing live music and alternative performances.
Harvard Square also offers some top notch options for dinner-and-a-show. Club Passim (47 Palmer St, Cambridge, clubpassim.org) is the non-profit live music club where folk gods Bob Dylan and Joan Baez played some of their first shows. The club is known for showcasing some of the best up-and-coming acts in the indie-folk scene, and is adjacent to the delicious vegetarian café, Veggie Planet (47 Palmer St, Cambridge, veggieplanet.net).
L Word fanatics crowd Club Café (209 Columbus Ave, Boston, clubcafe.com) every Wednesday at 8pm while dining on the Latin/Asian-inspired contemporary menu of renowned queer chef Gery Armsby. After the cuisine and “Lez Girls” inspire you, stay to join in on ladies’ night karaoke. When you’re ready for some rough-and-tumble entertainment, check out a fast-paced, down-and-dirty roller derby game with the Boston Derby Dames (bostonderbydames.com) at the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington, just 15 minutes north of Boston.
When the sunset’s over and the moon comes out, so do the ladies, and Boston has a plethora of hot clubs to choose from. On the last Wednesday of the month, check out ladies’ night at Gross Anatomy in the Milky Way Lounge (405 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, milkywayjp.com), and don’t forget to go back on Mondays for free bowling. On Thursday nights, the place to be for drinks and dancing is Spectra at Saint (90 Exeter St, Boston, shinecambridge.com) in the heart of downtown. On Fridays it’s a toss-up between the old mainstay, Toast Lounge (70 Union Sq, Somerville, dykenight.com/toast.html), and the hot newcomers, Pure at Pearl Nightclub (75 Warrenton St, Boston, suttavac.com/pure), and Shine Lounge (One Kendall Sq, bldg 300, Cambridge, shinecambridge.com), queer Wednesday through Sunday, with the biggest crowds at their lesbian party WET on Saturday nights.
The trans crowd and friends hit the trans/queer dance night The Neighborhood at The Midway (3496 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, midwaycafe.com) on the second Saturday of every month. For a more low-key evening, lay down some lyrics at the trans/queer spoken word open mic Gender Crash (gendercrash.com), the second Thursday of every month at the multicultural arts organization, Spontaneous Celebrations (45 Danforth St, Jamaica Plain, spontaneouscelebrations.org). To get really radical, help “reclaim” a straight bar with the pub crawl Boston Guerrilla Queer Bar (bostonguerrilla.com) on the first Friday of every month. Sign up online to find out where the gay contingency will be headed.
When you’re ready to rest your head, get a room at the gay-friendly Hyatt Regency (hyatt.com) in either Cambridge (from $179, 575 Memorial Dr, 617-492-1234) or Downtown Boston (from $279, 1 Ave De Lafayette, 617-912-1234). If you’re in the mood for a boutique hotel experience, check out one of the Kimpton Hotels (kimptonhotels.com), which scored a perfect 100 in the HRC’s 2008 Buying for Equality guide. The Onyx Hotel (from $179, 155 Portland St, 617-557-9955), Nine Zero Hotel (from $209, 90 Tremont St, 617-772-5800), and Hotel Marlowe (from $139, 25 Edwin H. Land Blvd, Cambridge, 617-868-8000) will make you feel right at home.
Houston’s New Heyday
Replace that dusty, down-home image of Houston you’ve got tucked away in your brain with a new and improved one: The city is a cultural and gastronomic mecca of the South due to an economic boom there over the last decade. Don’t worry your pretty little head, your cowboy boots are still welcome, so for your next warm-weather vacation take a trip to sunny Houston.
There are myriad options for art fans in Houston, and the art scene in the city is described as anywhere from funky and raw to downright cosmopolitan. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art (2402 Munger St, 713-926-6368) hosts the annual Art Car Parade (orangeshow.org/artcar.html), one of the city’s most popular events. A wacky show of art-you-can-drive and otherworldly creations will be held this year on May 9 and 10. The Lawndale Art Center (4912 Main St, lawndaleartcenter.org) houses an impressive collection of contemporary art, and the Menil Foundation (1515 Sul Ross, menil.org) is filled with works of art spanning the Byzantine empire to the present day, including works by Warhol and Picasso.
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, stop by the hip café Brasil (2604 Dunlavy St, 713-528-1993), or easygoing Empire Café (1732 Westheimer Rd, empirecafe.net), both buzzing with LGBT clientele. For a hearty brunch, La Strada (322 Westheimer Rd, lastradahouston.com) was described by one local as a “gay mob scene,” and so popular that they set up an overflow tent in the parking lot to dish out their creative cuisine and bellinis.
If you’d rather spend your Sunday mornings getting sacred than soused, there are two churches in Houston that openly accept LGBT members. Bering Methodist (1440 Harold St, beringumc.org) draws a solid lesbian contingent, and sponsors the local HIV/AIDS hospice. If you want a little show with your sacrament, spend your Sunday morning at Metropolitan Community Church (2025 W 11th St, ressurectionmcc.org), where according to a parish member, “Guys go in leather, and the pastor is a very gay pride kind of leader.”
When you’ve seen some of the city and it’s time once again to feed those Texas-sized hunger pangs, find your way to Gravitas (807 Taft St, gravitasrestaurant.com), a gay-friendly bistro that serves up praise-worthy food to an eclectic crowd. Houston is home to a proud pair of sister restaurants, the lesbian-owned Tafia (3701 Travis St, tafia.com), featuring creative Mediterranean cuisine inspired by local ingredients, and BBQ joint/icehouse Beavers (2310 Decatur St, beavershouston.com), both of which are headed by 2007 James Beard Award Nominee chef Monica Pope.
Now before y’all go out for the evening, check yourself into a gay-friendly hotel. The Lovett Inn (from $90, 501 Lovett Blvd, lovettinn.com), a B&B that draws a mostly gay and lesbian clientele, is located on a tree-lined boulevard in the Montrose Museum District near downtown. This upscale inn has a pool, hot tub and library, as well as its own art gallery. Each room in the property has its own décor and personality, from cozy to expansive. For a chic downtown experience, reserve a room at the Hotel Indigo (from $209, 5160 Hidalgo St, houstonluxuryhotel.com) in the midst of The Galleria shopping area. You’ll think you were seaside at this spa-style, luxury hotel where everyone is treated with discreet Southern charm.
After checking in, take a quick shower and put on your party clothes—Houston’s club scene is calling. The new Club Pür on Wednesdays at Pasha Ultra Lounge (2010 McKinney St, 713-344-0305) is a popular spot for successful 20-somethings. The long-time Houston favorite Chances (1102 1/2 Westheimer Rd, chancesbar.com) is four bars in one; one with live music and sports, another upscale martini bar, a hip-hop and house music bar with go-go dancers, and an old-fashioned country bar, complete with a sandy floor for easy sliding while you’re two-stepping.
Texas-sized Houston Pride is proudly the largest in the Southwest, and 2008 is its 30th anniversary. This year’s Pride Parade will be held on June 28 at 8:45pm at the intersection of Dunlavy Street and Westheimer Road. So pull out that plaid shirt, jingle-jangle your spurs and two-step your way to Houston! ES