Gay Summer Vacation Spots Along the East Coast
More and more people are switching gears this year from save to spend. This means that not only can you go out of town for your vacation, you can go much further afield.
Might we suggest the beautiful Northeast and its Atlantic coast? Below I’ve profiled four communities that are not only well-known for catering to gay travelers, but they are well-skilled in throwing sexy parties underneath the warm summer sun.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
If you can believe it, Rehoboth Beach’s history started in the 19th century as a meeting and prayer camp for vacationing Methodists! It wasn’t until the 1940s that Rehoboth Beach became a haven for gay tourists flocking to the coast from Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. If you can believe the story, it was Tallulah Bankhead who brought her gay entourage to the small town. They liked it so much that the destination became a gay vacation mecca just by word of mouth! Now the small town explodes from a population of 1,300 every winter to 50,000 every summer, and a large percentage of those tourists are part of the LGBT community.
The Delaware beaches were ranked #1 nationwide in ocean water quality recently, so it is no surprise why people love to frolic in the sand and go swimming in the beautiful Atlantic waters here. If you’re sold on wanting to visit this gay paradise, we recommend the gay-owned and clothing-optional Shore Inn (302-227-8487) and the boutique offering Hotel Rehoboth (302-227-4300). If you want to rent a summer house or condo, call Jack Lingo Rentals (302-227-3883).
If you’re ready to party, try on these bars for size: Double L Bar (302-227-0818), the only leather and bear bar in the state of Delaware; Big Sissies (302-226-7600), a cozy bar and grill that welcomes tourists and is billed as "hetero-friendly"; Aqua Grill (302-226-9001), a beach bar and restaurant that serves up tea dances and drag shows with their food and drinks; and Blue Moon (302-227-6515), a converted Victorian house serving up libations and fabulous live entertainment.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
This ocean town has always been known for its resorts, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that Asbury Park became well-known as a gay summer destination, particularly for well-heeled men from New York City. Many of them purchased Victorian homes and cleaned them up, helping the town gentrify and leading to its resurgence. Today, the city is still welcoming for gay tourists, due in part to DJ and music producer Shep Pettibone buying The Empress Hotel (732-774-0100) and turning it into New Jersey’s premier gay resort.
Apart from The Empress Hotel, other hot accommodations in Asbury Park include Hotel Tides (732-897-7744), a boutique hotel that includes a pool, a spa, and even an art gallery; the Asbury Ocean Beach Inn (732-539-8440), a renovated 1890s-era Victorian just three blocks from the Boardwalk; and the large-scale and luxurious Berkeley Ocean Front Hotel (732-776-6700), which was recently renovated and is ready to welcome tourists for another 100 years.
You must go to these places in Asbury Park to get your party on: Paradise (732-988-6663), the poolside bar at The Empress Hotel, which draws a mixed crowd with its fun shows and live music; Georgies (732-988-1220), which boasts a relaxing "neighborhood" vibe and a mostly male crowd; Watermark (732-455-3447), a bar and tapas restaurant geared toward a younger set; and Cameo (732-775-6666), the newest place in town, and definitely a place for hot guys to be seen.
Fire Island, New York
Fire Island, just off the coast of southern Long Island, has boasted gay vacation crowds for over a century. In fact, the community of Cherry Grove calls itself the nation’s first LGBT community. Cherry Grove, along with Fire Island Pines, have a combined population of just 27 during the winter months, but as spring turns into summer, the population explodes to over 5,000, with many more tourists traveling to "The Grove" and "The Pines" for a fun vacation. Summer events include the Fourth of July "Invasion of the Pines," where hundreds of drag queens cross over to the Pines on the Fire Island Water Taxi; the Pines Party (July 25-27 this year), a long-running party weekend benefiting community public works/facilities and local charities; and Ascension (August 15-17 in 2014), a large circuit party that spans three days, skews younger and attracts internationally-known DJs and entertainment.
Accommodations on Fire Island include the Belvedere (631-597-6448), a glamorous all-male resort with an unforgettable Venetian façade; the Dune Point Guesthouse (631-597-6261), just what the doctor ordered if you want an apartment rental with kitchen and living room, all the while located right on the water; the Grove Hotel (631-597-6600), Fire Island’s largest hotel, located smack dab in the middle of fun gay events day and night; and the extremely popular Botel (631-597-6500), re-opening for the summer after an extensive and breathtaking renovation. Book a suite and I’m sure you will agree!
Bars and clubs on Fire Island include the Ice Palace (631-597-6600), located on the pool deck of the Grove Hotel, which is place famous for its tea dances, its dance floor, and its first-rate people-watching; Pavilion (631-597-6500 ext. 27), which has come back with a vengeance and is looking sleek with its great atmosphere, greater views and even greater entertainment; Cherry’s (631-597-6820), a great place to have a drink with friends and watch the ferry come in; and Sip N’ Twirl (631-597-3599), where you are encouraged to do just that, sip and twirl, on the massive dance floor underneath the shimmering disco ball.
Provincetown proved its worth as a summer tourism destination by the turn of the 20th century. It was in the 1960s when the gay community arrived, and they invested heavily along the main street, called Commercial Street. The Provincetown Business Guild first started in 1978 and has promoted the town as a gay tourism destination ever since. A town of just 3,000 in the off-season, the summer population is over 20 times that size. In addition to Commercial Street, well-known for its relaxing feel and prime art and antiques shopping, the area is also well-known for biking, hiking, swimming and whale-watching.
Let me tell you the best places to stay in Provincetown! First, there’s the Brass Key Guesthouse (800-842-9858). Whether you want to stay for the weekend or you’re looking for the ideal place to get married, the Brass Key offers everything it possibly can for your enjoyment and awe. The various housing options include rooms in a Victorian house, a Queen Anne house, and even a Carriage House. On-site there is also a martini bar, the Shipwreck Lounge. Other options in Provincetown include The Crown & Anchor (508-487-1430), a large accommodations and entertainment complex that includes an inn, a restaurant (the Central House), and many different nightclubs (Paramount, Wave, and the Vault); the Captain’s House B&B (508-487-9353), consisting of twelve rooms, each with a different seaside theme; and the Elephant Walk Inn (508-487-0085), an equally breathtaking inn with antique furnishings and a gorgeous sun room designed for guest mingling.
The first stop on your nightlife calendar in Provincetown should be the Crown & Anchor: after all, it does have three bars, the aforementioned Paramount, Wave and the Vault. The Paramount is a well-known dance bar; the Wave is Provincetown’s first video bar; and the Vault is an establishment geared toward the leather crowd. If you want other dance club options, there’s also the Atlantic House Dance Club (508-487-3169), the city’s first-ever gay dance club; and Purgatory (508-487-8442), which hosts hot dance nights for bears and leathermen. The Porchside Bar (508-487-0688) is a calm date spot, a place to enjoy martinis and other drinks in a relaxing environment with fun conversation.
For more information about these cities, feel free to consult their tourism boards. For Rehoboth Beach, visit rehoboth.com. For Asbury Park, see http://www.visitnj.org/asbury-park. For Fire Island, visit fireisland.com, and for Provincetown, visit provincetowntourismoffice.org