You’re stressed and broke, and these days, who isn’t? Whether it’s layoffs or the lending crisis, the news is harsh, and a martini in Manhattan is $14. It’s time to hit the road. You don’t need to be rich to live richly. Here are some places you can visit with limited funds and still have a fabulous time.
Cheap Travel Tips:
Taking a road trip with a group of friends is one of the cheapest ways to go. Split the gas and hotel costs, the GPS is your mistress. No car? Greyhound might not be glamorous but it gets you where you’re going; just pretend you’re on the set of an indie queer film. Trains are sexy if you pretend to be Dietrich in Shanghai Express but these days Amtrak isn’t much cheaper than flying. If you have the budget, both Southwest and Virgin airlines frequently offer getaway deals to groovy places for $120 or less round-trip. Finding friends and friends of friends wherever you go means less worries about where to stay. There’s even a service that hooks up itinerant travelers with friendly folks who don’t mind putting up visitors (couchsurfing.com). But a tried and true method for finding places to stay is connecting with your friends’ friends on whatever social networking site you love most.
If you’re already in the Northeast, this pretty little town is a perfect place for a road trip. The air is crisp and fresh, the beach is beautiful, albeit cold, and there are many things to entertain you that cost nothing at all. For information about self-guided walking tours of four Portland neighborhoods, hit the visitor information center (245 Commercial Street). The Portland queer scene is exceptionally friendly and everyone seems to know each other. Grab a muffin and coffee at the tasty North Star Music Cafe (225 Congress, northstarmusiccafe.com) where local performers eat organic sandwiches and sing their hearts out. If you meet a nice gal or even if you don’t, later you can head over to Nomia, (24 Exchange Street, nomiaboutique.com) the town’s dyke owned shop dedicated to your more personal needs. If you’ve got enough dough to stay a few days, head to the Parkside Parrot Inn (273 State Street, purpleroofs.com/parksideparrot), a thoroughly charming lesbian-owned bed and breakfast.
Mid-western gals can get some queer culture in the Mile High City with a visit to Dylan Scholinski’s breathtaking Sent(a)mental Studios Project (1644 Platte Street, sentamentalstudios.weebly.com) Scholinski is the author of the memoir The Last Time I Wore a Dress, a gripping account of being diagnosed with gender identity disorder at the tender age of 14 and incarcerated in a mental hospital for his entire adolescence. The artist has turned these experiences into triumphant and positively inspirational art that will make Denver worth the stop. Scholinski also teaches art to Denver-area queer and trans youth, so if you stop by Sent(a)mental Studios, you get to enjoy student work as a bonus. The Denver Zine Library is conveniently housed in the same building as Sent(a)mental Studios, and has everything from queercore to riot grrrl to sweet little personal zines.
For nightlife Rocky Mountain style, go boot scooting at the gay cowboy bar, Charlie’s Denver (900 E Colfax Ave, charliesdenver.com). There’s no cover, cheap drinks, and two dance floors, one for two-stepping, and one for shaking it to the Top 40. The crowd at Charlie’s is incredibly diverse. Ladies are welcome, and you’ll probably find yourself sharing a bathroom mirror with a fierce drag queen.
The Northwest’s temperate, rainy climate grows gorgeous grapes. If you’ve ever felt like just dropping everything to make wine for a living, live vicariously through the ladies behind Hip Chicks Do Wine (4510 SE 23rd Ave, hipchicksdowine.com), an urban lesbian-owned winery in South Portland. Owners Laurie Lewis and Renee Neely have fallen in love with Oregon wines and want to share the grape passion with a younger, hipper and (hopefully) less pretentious crowd. Hip Chicks specializes in homestyle, small-batch winemaking with plenty of love and attention for beautiful Oregon grapes. Their mission is to take good wine out of ritzy restaurants for the too rich and bring it to your appreciative palate. They have two wine tasting rooms smack dab in the city open seven days a week from 11a.m. to 6p.m., and do other tastings linked with events like the First Friday Artwalk, (602B East First street, first Fridays, 5 to 9 p.m.) and Oregon wine festivals and holidays. In August you’ll find them at the Bellybutton Winefest and in October at the Squishfest Harvest Party. These chicks know their wine, but they also know how to have fun with the age-old beverage. Sip on a glass of Drop Dead Red or Wine Bunny Blush as they tell you which wines are best tasted from a belly button.
San Francisco, California
California’s entire coast is famed for roadtrips. Highway 101, which winds from the southern tip of San Diego to the northernmost point in Crescent City, is the setting for hundreds of films. But you can’t stay on the highway forever, so stop to refuel in San Francisco. Like Manhattan, it has a reputation for being pricey but the natives will tell you there’s lots to do on the cheap. Balmy Alley, (Corner of 24th Street and Mission Street) is full of beautiful murals—think of it as a free outdoor art exhibit. While you’re wandering around 24th Street, grab a cup of delicious handmade coffee at Phil’z, where they take 50 cents off your order if you bring your own cup (3101 24th Street, philzcoffee.com). Burritos at Tacqueria Cancun are about $4.00 and make for tasty, cheap after-drinks dinner. For eats from the east—or west, Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant (572 O’Farrell Street, goldeneravegetarian.com) is not only absolutely delicious, it’s also run by a vegan female superiority cult that refers to their leader as their “Supreme Master” and has hilarious literature at the tables that you can read while you eat.
The first Tuesday of the month is free museum night in San Francisco, so every museum in the city from the MOMA to the Exploratorium is free and open to the public. The Dolores Park Movie Night (Dolores Park, doloresparkmovie.org) is also free. Some plucky souls set up a movie screen in the middle of the park, hand out free popcorn and candy and encourage people to snuggle up under the stars and palm trees for movie watching. If you’ve got a little more cash, hit the decadently delicious High Tea for Two at Lovejoy’s Tea Room (1351 Castro Street, lovejoystearoom.com).
If you need a little queer culture within driving distance of New York, Boston’s LGBT community is worth the trip. Jamaica Plain is where many of the queer ladies congregate so stop in to grab a cheap bite at the Diesel Café (257 Elm Street, diesel-cafe.com) or just order a coffee and spend some time girl watching. Then grab an ice cream cone at JP Licks (659 Centre Street, jplicks.com) and spend some more time girl watching (bonus points for suggestive licks.) If you’re visiting in the spring, summer, or fall head on over to Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum (125 Arbor Way, arboretum.harvard.edu). It’s the perfect setting to take a stroll through the rare trees and flowers. To make it special, pack lunch and have a picnic.
Spontaneous Celebrations (45 Danforth Street, spontaneouscelebrations.org) a multi-cultural arts organization, hosts all kinds of shows, from plays to burlesque to spoken word. Speaking of spoken word, if you’re in the mood to do some writing, hit up the Write Here Write Now Wednesday night workshop (writeherewritenow.org) for low-key, drop-in, sliding-scale weekly writing classes. Even if you’ve never written before, you’ll want to check this class out; along with encouragement and direction, teacher Toni Amato serves up homemade cookies. If you’re in the mood for theatrical arts, get yourself to a show by Big Moves Boston (bigmoves.org), a body-positive dance troupe made up of beautiful women of all sizes. For an over-the-top spectacular smorgasbord of talent, check out TraniWreck, a completely inclusive cabaret show featuring folks from all over the community performing music, comedy, dance, burlesque and more.
Famously foggy, your pensive book-wormy side will fall in love with Seattle’s oddly pretty grey skies. This North West city has excellent coffee, tons of used bookstores with hidden treasures and comfy couches, and cute dykes on every corner. Capitol Hill is the somewhat yuppified but appealing gayborhood, complete with restaurants, bars and boutiques. If you’re shopping, be on the lookout for local artisan Cyn Moore’s one-of-a-kind pendants made from old maps and dictionaries, (mudandmetal.com). Stop by Cupcake Royalle (2052 Northwest Market Street, cupcakeroyale.com) for cheap and sweet treats like Salted Caramel and Irish Whiskey Maple Cupcakes or treat your sweetheart to a “Legalize Frostitution” t-shirt.
If you’re looking for a thrifty dinner, check out Wednesdays at the Deluxe Bar & Grill (625 Broadway East, deluxebarandgrill.com) where giant and tasty meat and veggie burgers with sides are $5.00 with a drink purchase. For after-dinner adventures head to the Wild Rose (1021 E Pike Street, thewildrosebar.com) for music and cruising. The Rose has just about every kind of dance night you could think of, and legions of pretty girls dancing up a storm. When you’re tired of the road, treat yourself to a stay at the Bacon Mansion (959 Broadway East, baconmansion.com). It’s quaint, gay-friendly and conveniently located in Capital Hill.