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The Perfect South East Coast Road Trip

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Road trips are the most iconic way to travel and with so much diversity, the east coast is the perfect place to start. This guide focuses on Delaware down to Georgia, but you can do the drive any way you like. So what are you waiting for? Get the keys!

Delaware:

After Rhode Island, Delaware is the smallest state. It was also the first to become a state and there’s a lot of pride in that. In fact, one of the first things you see as you enter is the sign saying “Welcome to Delaware, it’s good to be first.” The state has an active LGBT community and Delaware Pride often holds events throughout the year including an annual festival and pageant.

Delaware has several smaller cities, like Wilmington and Dover, but its iconic beaches are what draw travelers to the state. Rehoboth is a great town which prides itself on being LGBT friendly. There are plenty of bars, hotels, and restaurants that are either operated by people in the LGBT community or advertise themselves as being openly supportive. CAMP Rehoboth is a local resource center that helps guide LGBT travelers and provide in-depth information. With no sales tax, the state is also great for shoppers.

Maryland:

Baltimore and Ocean City are fan favorites for good reason: both cities are thriving and progressive communities with plenty of attractions ranging from the boardwalk to the aquarium.

The state’s capital city, Annapolis, is also a progressive haven. Despite its military roots, Annapolis is less conservative than one might think. With a thriving LGBT community, the city comes to life through a combination of nightlife, restaurants, and places to stay. Annapolis is also just a short drive away from Washington DC. Check out Purple Roofs for a list of LGBT-owned and operated accommodations in the state.

Virginia:

Virginia is for lovers so surely, it’s for all lovers. The state hosts a tourism website on which they feature businesses that are self designated as LGBT owned or friendly. There are several larger cities like Richmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk that have plenty of beautiful sights to enjoy.

Nature and wildlife fans would enjoy a visit to Assateague Island. The island and nature reserve are split by Virginia and Maryland and it features herds of wild ponies that wander unrestricted throughout the marshland. Shenandoah National Park, which features gorgeous views of the layered Blue Ridge Mountain Range, is also located in Virginia.

North Carolina:

By the time you reach North Carolina you’re definitely getting into the south, which means warm weather and great barbeque. North Carolina is still undoubtedly conservative but like many other locations it is moving towards a more liberal mindset. Asheville and Raleigh are both progressive havens, especially the former which thrives as a college town. Unfortunately, the state’s legislation has turned away LGBT travelers but the controversial “Bathroom Law” was repealed in early 2017.

For outdoorsy folk, the Smoky Mountains seep into the state in the west and feature amazing hikes, forested paths, and beautiful vistas. The plentiful beaches along the state’s coast attract plenty of travelers during the summer and a trip to the Biltmore Estate is a year-round favorite.

South Carolina:

If you’re looking for southern hospitality, South Carolina is the place to be. With 47 state parks, numerous vibrant cities, and miles of coastline, the state is definitely worth visiting for more than just the tea. Hilton Head Island is a gay-friendly community which offers golf and beach relaxation.

Columbia, the state’s capital, holds South Carolina’s biggest pride festival. Hosted in September, it brings people of all backgrounds together and out on the streets. Meanwhile, Charleston offers a more laid back and historic vibe where you can visit forts and stroll down cobblestone streets. The city’s rustic appeal comes with a special charm and it attracts visitors from all over the country year-round. 

Georgia:

Georgia might have a bad rap for its conservatism but it’s largest city, Atlanta, is commonly referred to as the “gay capital” of the south. There, a liberal and progressive mentality thrives and its openness has attracted millions of visitors over the years. There’s even an official gay travel guide. The city is also filled with important markers for civil liberties.

Outside of Atlanta, Georgia is full of things to do. Stone Mountain, the state’s most popular destination, promises stellar views and is home to a multitude of festivals throughout the year. If you’re looking for a more rural experience, head to The Rock Ranch where you can partake in zip lining, seasonal activities, and even camp in a wagon.

Florida:

Florida as a whole is a favorite travel location. With plenty of cities like Tampa, Orlando , and Miami, there are tons of things to do and whether you’re looking for a wild night out or a trip with the kids, you’re sure to find it here. Further south, the Everglades constantly intrigue travelers with hiking trails, camping, and the occasional warning to watch out for gators. While in major tourist destinations a liberal mindset definitely prevails, although the LGBT community is unfortunately still looked down upon especially in more rural areas.

Other than the obvious major cities, Florida is also home to less popular destinations that all still have open LGBT communities. For a posh, relaxing vacation, head to the Keys. Key West has been regarded as one of the “gayest” destinations by Lonely Planet and St Augustine is another historical city which boasts a great outdoor market and ritzy views.

 

Do you have an awesome east coast travel story or know of any cool places along the way? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-23 14:11:48.

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Ann Arbor: Liberal Oasis

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While I may have grown up in Louisiana, Ann Arbor has always been my home. The people, the culture, the food (nothing beats Michigan blueberries) have always made me feel warm and fuzzy. Here are my top picks of what to do, where to eat, and where to shop in A².

Eat Here:

Zingerman’s Roadhouse

One can’t visit Ann Arbor and not eat at Zingerman’s. This sit down restaurant houses a humongous salt-and-pepper shaker collection, covering the walls in sealed off shelving, like precious Ming vases. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, though I always suggest considering what’s local, the special, and what’s in season. If the Roadhouse isn’t your style, you could always stop by the Deli, though the line often goes around the block. In the mood for just some pastries? Head to the Bakehouse!

While Zingerman’s is pricey, it is definitely part of the Ann Arbor experience.

Shop Here:

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair

Every summer, downtown Ann Arbor is blocked off for about a week and a ginormous street art fair takes over! True, getting around can be much more difficult, it’s nearly impossible to find parking, and the locals just want to get their groceries and go home to watch GoT reruns so this puts a damper in their style. But I am one of the few Michiganders that adore the art fair! Not only does it give me a chance to support local artists (and buy some amazing art), the local businesses also have sales out the wazoo that week! Last year I bought a beautiful ring from Abracadabra Jewelry/Gem Gallery and it was a steal!

Do This:

See a movie at Michigan Theatre

My sister is a huge movie buff and whenever she and I meet up we’ll often see something together. The Michigan shows indie films as well as classics. It also has an organ in one of their theaters, which would be played during silent movies. I had the pleasure to see it in use one summer – while the movie wasn’t my favorite, the organ player was talented, and it was truly a unique experience. I’ve seen contemporary indie movies there such as “Jackie” and “The Way Way Back,”  and my family adores the the “Sound of Music” and “White Christmas” sing-alongs. Be sure you try the specials at the snack bar, like garlic butter on your popcorn!

Don’t miss out on Garlic Butter Wednesday!

Ann Arbor is not only a special place to me, but also to the state of Michigan. I call it a liberal oasis for a reason – it’s very different than the rest of the state. For starters, it’s a huge university town (go Wolverines!). It’s also not touching a lake, and the cost of living is higher in Ann Arbor than other areas. It’s easy to get lost in Ann Arbor and to think that it represents the entire state, but after driving 5 minutes out of the city limits you’ll see otherwise. I adore all of Michigan, but if I had to list one place to go visit it would be my liberal oasis: Ann Arbor.

Originally posted 2017-09-14 13:40:25.


Also published on Medium.

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Love It, Leave It: The Prague Edition

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Let’s take this culinary love affair abroad. (Cue: “Feels Like the First Time” by Foreigner.) On my recent trip to Prague — so recent that I still faintly smell of pilsner and potato dumplings — I traversed the city from day to night. I sauntered across the famed Charles Bridge, leapt up the innumerable steps to the Prague Castle, ambled down winding cobblestone streets and even headed up north to Bohemian Switzerland on a breathtaking 10-mile hike. (Side note: if you’re an outdoorsy gay, it’s a must, and Northern Hikes really knows what they’re doing.)

But, the one thing you can’t leave Prague without doing is consuming an inordinate amount of beer — the Czech Republic has literally been #1 on the list of beer consumption per capita for 23 years — and pairing it with traditional (and often hearty) Czech dishes. I Pragueably gained a few lbs. on this trip and I still regret nothing.

Love It: Lokal. Kantýna. Supertramp Coffee.

Lokal: A quintessential, casual Czech pub. Here, the pilsner is ridiculously fresh and unpasteurized — they drive it straight from the brewery to Lokal every day. Something you’ll notice at nearly every pub in Prague (including this spot) is a white card resembling a bookmark, with dozens of adorable beer emojis (as I like to call them) printed on the back. By the time your empty mug is about to hit the table, a waiter is sliding a new, icy cold one into your hands and putting a tick down on that card. To complement its amazing brews, Lokal has a specific menu that’s filled with ‘beer snacks’ (available even after the kitchen closes) like pickled camembert and beef tongue (which really tastes like corned beef). The full menu has even more Czech favorites like chicken schnitzel, Prague ham with horseradish and too many sausages to count. I’d advise ordering a few plates to help soak up the suds.

Kantýna: What a beautiful, recently opened marble-filled meat palace. The front of the restaurant showcases an exquisite butchery. From local sausages to filet mignon, the butcher up front will help you pick out your favorite meaty selections and grill them precisely to your liking. Or, if you’re really feeling fancy and free, there’s a station in the back where you can select from plenty of prepared meats and meat accompaniments (potato pancakes, potato salad, anything with potatoes really). The t-bone steak and steak tartar gave me the meat sweats, in all the right ways. There’s also a dedicated drinks counter where you should grab your obligatory pilsner, then go snag a trendy leather seat at one of the communal tables. You’ll probably be there a while.

Super Tramp Coffee: In a city full of adorable cafes churning out expertly-crafted cappuccinos and lattes, it’s tough to pinpoint just one. Super Tramp (true story, real name) is hidden at the end one of those aforementioned, winding cobblestone streets, inside of a defunct printing factory. Hello, hipster hotspot. I basically buckled at the knees as I walked into the garden, complete with long picnic benches and tiny bulbs strung from one side of the courtyard to the other. Lorde played on vinyl inside as I ordered my muffin and cappuccino that came in a dark, striated ceramic cup. There might not be any Wi-Fi here, but this cafe is still a hotspot.

Leave It: Field.

On the last night of our trip, we decided to try out some particularly refined Czech cooking (read: Michelin-starred restaurant) that might actually showcase a vegetable or two. Since, as delicious as Czech food is, it’s really a meat-and-potatoes scene, void of virtually any leafy greens. Every plate and drink (they all came with snacks, which is a trend I want to start here) were painstakingly curated, from the plate down to the strategic sauce pouring. Even the space itself was minimalist chic, with various agricultural tools (like scythes and rakes) strategically placed in the windows and on the walls. There were plenty of unique dishes we ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ at, and a few we didn’t. My main dish, rabbit three ways, showcased three stacks of rabbit belly (which probably took the entire cast of Watership Down to create) with various organs on top, including the brain. Guys, remember when I said I regretted nothing? I’d like to amend that statement. But, while some of the dishes were a bit of a stretch in their pairings and ingredients, we were most let down by the service. Feeling rushed and constantly bombarded is no way to feel at a restaurant of this caliber. While Field came with some glowing recommendations, perhaps its Michelin-starred rival La Degustation would be a wiser selection.

Originally posted 2017-09-13 16:53:20.

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Daily Travel Kit: The Solution to Hanger and Boredom

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I do my very best to never leave my home without my daily travel kit. In it are things to help my day go smoothly, and can be utilized anywhere from a walk around your neighborhood, to a train ride to Boston, to an all-day trip with a connecting flight in Dallas to your hometown in central Louisiana.

My three rule minimum is to always bring something to drink, something to eat, and something to do. Believe me, if when your train is stuck due to due a sick passenger at the upcoming station, and you’re hangry and bored, you’ll thank me. I keep a water bottle and granola bar in my bag whenever I leave my home for more than 5 minutes.

Some folks are entertained by their smart phone alone, and don’t need anything else for backup. To those individuals, I salute you. I do not have that skill set, which means I can sometimes be guilty of over-packing. That’s why I have a size limit on the bags I carry – if it’s too big I will just continue to fill it until near capacity, and that will be a pain and a half to carry around all day.

While the following aren’t mandatory for your daily travel kit, here are some few extra things I include:

  • Headphones – Even if my phone is dead, or I’m not listening to music it shows those around me that I’m not interested in talking (though that often doesn’t stop them).
  • Sunglasses – I adore my sunglasses because of their opaque lenses; no one can see me roll my eyes! I feel safer when I wear my sunglasses, too. No one is able to make eye contact with me, and I can check on that creepy dude sitting across from me without him knowing.
  • Pen – Face it, you never have one when you need it!
  • Notebook – A pen isn’t much use unless there’s something to write on. I am a tactile person, and a huge doodler and list maker, so I always travel with something to write on and with.
  • Hairbands – At least 2 so I have options between a ponytail and a bun.
  • Jacket/Sweater – I am always cold, so having another layer on hand helps me stay comfortable no matter where I am.
  • Magazine – If I have room I try to include some reading material. Magazines are great because they can be rolled up and folded, making them easier to pack.

The wonderful thing about carrying a daily travel kit is that it is fully customizable to meet your needs! I challenge you to create your own and try it out for a week. What was the experience like? What does your daily travel kit include? Share in the comments below!

Originally posted 2017-09-12 12:35:42.


Also published on Medium.

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