Now is the time to start planning your vacation, whether you’re going to take it in June, July, August, or even further out than that. We already live where people vacation, so perhaps you might want to look north to the gay meccas of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. I’ve profiled four different cities that have a lot going on during the summertime. Maybe one of these cities will be where you take your vacation this year!
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
The lowdown on Rehoboth Beach is that it started out as far from being a gay mecca as possible. In the 1870s, the town was founded as a vacation point and prayer camp for Methodists from all across the country. Fast-forward 140 years and you have a vibrant gay community that especially shines during the summer months. Gay men and women from D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and South Jersey all take vacations here, and if you haven’t seen this town, you will be pleasantly surprised with how open and warm it feels. After all, if this place was good enough for the late silver screen star and gay icon Tallulah Bankhead, it’s surely good enough for you!
Everyone loves Delaware beaches. In fact, last year they were ranked #1 nationwide in terms of ocean water quality. If you’d like to stay on the beach, we recommend a few places that you would definitely enjoy. There’s the Shore Inn (302-227-8487), which has a very high rating on TripAdvisor, and is also gay-owned and clothing-optional. If you’d like to stay in luxury, there is the boutique hotel located in downtown, called Hotel Rehoboth (302-227-4300). Say you want to stay a while in a nice house or condo. Jack Lingo Realty (302-227-3883) can help you with a temporary rental.
The club scene in Rehoboth Beach has changed in the past year so be aware that some of your favorite places may no longer be open. The ones that people recommend most are Iguana Grill (302-727-5273), a place to chill out and have a frozen margarita; and The Pond (302-227-2234), a bar and grill with a fun, inviting atmosphere and an expansive dance floor.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park has been known as a getaway for gay travelers ever since the 1950s, when gay men from New York would escape the pressures of the city and relax by the ocean. Many of these people stayed, purchased property, and helped Asbury Park bloom into a second home for gays the world over. It didn’t hurt that The Empress Hotel (732-774-0100), once a hotel that catered to straight families, was transformed into the state’s premier gay resort by music producer Shep Pettibone. Asbury Park is as welcoming as you can get; all that’s missing from this picture is you!
If you’re looking for accommodation, there’s a wide variety here. In addition to The Empress Hotel, there’s the Asbury Park Inn (732-539-8440), a Victorian turned bed-and-breakfast with a beach cottage theme that has a perfect rating on TripAdvisor (after nearly 100 reviews!). There’s also the chic Hotel Tides (732-897-7744), which includes a pool, spa, and a bar and lounge.
If you’re a fan of nightlife, Asbury Park does not disappoint, offering four distinct options. There’s Paradise (732-988-6663), the poolside bar at The Empress Hotel, which combines a club atmosphere (complete with live music) with a relaxing area like the pool; Georgies (732-988-1220), which, from what I hear, is very friendly and laid-back; Watermark (732-455-3447), an upscale bar with many cute men; and Cameo (732-775-6666), a place where you can be yourself — even if you’re feeling naughty.
Fire Island, New York
What’s there to say about Fire Island? It’s full of history, for starters. Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines both bill themselves as the nation’s first LGBT community. The gay vacation crowd from New York City made this area their own a very long time ago, and now people from all over the world party here. There have been some changes at Fire Island recently, but this summer is expected to bring out the crowds like never before. This is a place that you visit once and come back again and again.
Some noteworthy summer events include the “Fire Island Invasion,” in which hundreds of drag queens converge on Fire Island on July 4 weekend via the ferry; the Pines Party (July 24-26), a weekend filled with DJs, dancing, and fun, all for a good cause (proceeds are divided amongst 11 New York City LGBT service organizations); and Ascension, a weekend of circuit parties that will be celebrating their tenth anniversary this year (September 4-6).
Accommodations on Fire Island include the Belvedere (631-597-6448), described as a Venetian palace right there on the beach (and it’s all-male too…talk about heavenly!); the Dune Point Guesthouse (631-597-6261), if you want to stay in a place that’s more cozy and intimate, with mini-apartment style rooms, complete with kitchens; the Grove Hotel (631-597-6600), the largest hotel on Fire Island, and it’s a favorite with locals and tourists; and then there’s botel (631-597-6500), which underwent a massive renovation last year, to the delight of thousands of well-heeled tourists.
Bars and clubs on Fire Island include the Ice Palace (631-597-6600), located on the pool deck of the Grove Hotel, which is a place you must experience, if only to see and be seen; Pavilion (631-597-6500 ext. 27), a hot and happening nightclub which has a legendary reputation on Fire Island; Cherry’s (631-597-6820), a place that’s great for people-watching, with optimal views of the ferry route; and Sip N’ Twirl (631-597-3599), a place that you don’t just go to once…it’s a place that locals and tourists recommend you go to every single night of the week.
Then there’s Provincetown, one of the most popular gay summer resort destinations in North America. The gay community has been welcomed here for nearly 50 years: just take a look down Commercial Street and you will see gay pride flags flying year-round. The town has been promoted as a gay tourist destination for decades; the Provincetown Business Guild was a trailblazer in LGBT marketing, having first launched an advertising campaign for the pink dollar all the way back in 1978. If you can believe it, this sleepy village of 3,000 explodes to nearly 70,000 during the summer months.
One thing that you will notice about Provincetown immediately is the number of full-service resorts. You don’t have to leave your hotel if you don’t want to, because there are a number of bars and nightclubs built right into the hotel properties here. Let’s start with The Crown & Anchor (508-487-1430). This entertainment complex includes bars such as Paramount, Wave, and the Vault (a dance club, a leather bar, and a video bar, respectively). Then there’s the Brass Key Guesthouse (800-842-9858), which includes various housing options overlooking pool areas, courtyards, and a gazebo. You can choose rooms from the Victorian house, the Queen Anne house, and the Carriage house, among others. Don’t forget the Shipwreck Lounge on the property where people love to have a drink in peace. There’s also the White Porch Inn (508-364-2549), a brand new addition to Provincetown’s East End, and the Boatslip Resort (508-487-1669), a place that bills itself as the “home of the T-dance.” Those are big words to live up to, and I hear this place is a hit. (The Boatslip Resort also has a companion bar, named Buoy.)
As I said before, you don’t have to leave your hotel if you don’t want to, but what fun would that be? There are a lot of bars out there that are packed every night of the week during summer, and it only makes sense that you should go and show everyone how to party Florida-style! The Atlantic House Dance Club (508-487-3821) was the very first dance club in Provincetown and it’s still far and away the most popular. Go upstairs and visit the Macho Bar if you’re looking for an unexpected thrill. Then of course there’s Monkey Bar (508-487-2879), a place not only to enjoy great drinks with your fabulous friends, but also to enjoy some of the best Thai food in the area.
For more information about these cities, feel free to consult their tourism boards. For Rehoboth Beach, visit rehoboth.com. For Asbury Park, see visitnj.org/asbury-park. For Fire Island, visit fireisland.com, and for Provincetown, visit provincetowntourismoffice.org.