Seven sensational destinations worth the visit

Mon. December 6, 2021 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

As leisure traveling continues to increase, more and more people are calling United, American and Delta Airlines, looking to leave town. No doubt Southwest and Spirit Airlines also are packed with Chicagoans looking to escape the city – be it for a long weekend, or longer, maybe a week or so away from the Windy City.

And yes, there are plenty of options.  Here are seven sensations, destinations worth the visit:


It's time to get your flight and hotel reservations NOW. The 2-day Pride Fort Lauderdale was Nov. 20-21 on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Pride Fort Lauderdale is the oldest Pride celebration in the state of Florida, dating back to 1977, born from protests following a successful public referendum to overturn a landmark Miami-Dade County gay rights ordinance.

For more information about Pride Fort Lauderdale, go to: https://pridefortlauderdale.org/

** Must Visit:   World AIDS Museum and Educational Center.

Opened in 2014, the museum and educational center offers guided docent tours, with a history of HIV and AIDS. There is a small art gallery, multimedia, and artifacts that offer thought-provoking and heartwarming art experiences. World AIDS Day is Wednesday, Dec. 1. Go to: worldaidsmuseum.org.

** Stay Here: Pineapple Point, with its South Florida charm and unmatched service for its gay male clientele.  Owners and founders Judd Chapman and Phil Quattrone, and their staff, have the perfect small, safe (and of course, fun) hideaway. Luxury everywhere. Go to: www.pineapplepoint.com.


After a near-9 hour nonstop flight from Chicago to Honolulu, you can relax on the world-renowned Waikiki Beach about an hour after the plane arrives. But, there likely will be traffic delays into Waikiki. Always are!

A beautiful, sun-drenched beach awaits. Surf options are plentiful. Same for a catamaran ride, or two.

Bring plenty of sunscreen for the intense sun.

Stop by Queen's Beach … naturally, the gay area of Waikiki Beach.

Great snorkeling, especially in the morning, with an abundance of fish. Nice waves for body surfing.

** Must Visit: Hula's Bar & Lei Stand: hulas.com.

Known worldwide as simply Hula's, this popular bar has more than 45 years of history and is now located inside the Waikiki Grand Hotel. Award-winning food is served with handcrafted cocktails, with brilliant views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and the daily picturesque sunsets. Hula's offers live music and a terrific staff, led by owner Jack Law and general manager Brian Navarrete. Hula's is a 100 percent Vaccinated Establishment – All guests must provide proof of being fully vaccinated (photo copy / digital photo / digital record accepted).


So much to see, so much to do … so much sun!

The area is a relaxing oasis in California, filled with history and surrounded by four beautiful mountain ranges. Greater Palm Springs is Southern California's most storied resort oasis, encompassing nine cities — Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella — each offering its own wide-ranging experiences.

The 35th annual Greater Palm Springs Pride was held in early November, a multi-day free festival that was strong on celebrating strength, equality and self-determination of the LGBTQ community.

** Must Visit:   Drag Bingo is held every Thursday at AMP Sports Lounge, from 7-9 p.m.

** Facts First: Palm Springs is the home to the first all-LGBT city council in the U.S., and the local lesbian community is particularly well-represented. Major events geared for the L in the LGBT tag, including the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend and White Party.


Orlando just continues to grow, particularly its LGBT community, which is in the top 5 in the country – and the biggest in Florida. The city is known for such major LGBT events as Disney's Gay Days and Come Out with Pride.

Disney's Gay Days is a week-long celebration that takes place every August at the Magic Kingdom. Come Out With Pride is driven to make an impact in Orlando's LGBTQ+ community with its annual October event.

** Must Visit: Pulse Nightclub National Memorial. President Biden this past June announced Pulse Nightclub as a National Memorial. In 2016, 49 people were killed in a shooting at the gay bar.


Key Largo is located about an hour south of Miami, perfect for some sunny, water-filled adventures. Or maybe just relaxing on the beach.

Key Largo has two state parks, a national park, a national marine sanctuary, and some of the most fascinating botanical scenery in the state.

Scuba divers lover Key Largo.

Same for those who enjoy kayaking, bird-watching and more.

Key Largo also has a strong art scene.

** Must Visit: Playa Largo Resort & Spais a go-to destination for LGBT travelers marked by its laid-back beach house vibe and curated service. The “Bubbles and Bliss” Spa package is a perfect deal for duos looking to pamper themselves. Couples will receive a 50-minute treatment each day of their stay, along with a glass of champagne and 20 percent off additional spa services during their stay. Go to: www.playalargoresort.com and use code ZJ1 when booking.


PV is a must-visit for its relaxing, super gay-friendly atmosphere – and a beach steps away.

Several popular LGBT bars in the Zona Romantica section, plus restaurants, shopping, sight-seeing and more.

PV has an abundance of art galleries and statues, from local and foreign artists. Enjoy the walk at the Open-Air Art Gallery, aka, the Malecon, which was remodeled in 2011 and is now exclusive for pedestrians and a bike path area.  Check out the multitude of sculptures in bronze, stone, and other materials.

** Must Visit: The Almar Resort: almarresort.com.

The Almar Resort is the only LGBT luxury beachfront resort in Puerto Vallarta, with its 78 guest rooms featuring pure luxury. Lavish all the way! Be sure to hit Mantamar Beach Club, the hotel's in-house leisure center. Swim, chill or simply sip a frozen cocktail, or two.

** Also Consider: Marriott Puerto Vallarta has a new infinity pool and swim-up bar. The Marriott has complimentary tequila tasting with the resort's own tequila sommelier.  The Marriott Puerto Vallarta caters to the LGBT community with its Pride & Joy and Pridefully Ever After packages. Go to: www.puertovallartamarriott.com.


Not every adventure needs sun, sand and beaches.  Well, they should, but some prefer chilly weather. The name says it all, Iceland.

But Iceland has a warm heart for the LGBT community.

Iceland is, without question, one of the most gay-friendly places on earth. It was one of the first European countries to recognize same-sex partnerships, dating back to 1996. In 2012, the needs of the trans and genderqueer community were met with sweeping legislation that formalized the name and identity changing processes. In 2015, the Church of Iceland declared that they would welcome same-sex partners to marry within their institutions.

** Must Vist: Hotel Rangá https://hotelranga.is/ - Travel to Iceland via nonstop flights from Chicago O'Hare International Airport, bound for the land of Fire & Ice, where fall marks the start of the Northern Lights season. In South Iceland, Hotel Ranga is a secluded countryside location providing darker skies and Northern Lights wake-up calls. This luxury lodge also is home to an advanced observatory with a roll-off roof and high-quality astronomical telescopes perfect for nights when the Aurora may not pay a visit. Hotel Rangá offers 52 cozy rooms, including fun, continent-themed suites, featuring décor from Africa to Australia, as well as the acclaimed Restaurant Rangá, serving seasonally inspired Nordic cuisine alongside river views and geo-thermal outdoor hot tubs for starlit soaking after a day of exploring.

GoPride.com Features and Travel Editor Ross Forman also checks in from Key West, particularly the ever-popular Island House, a hotel long dubbed The Best Gay Resort In The World. Click here for Ross' story from and about Key West.