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Pride Journeys: Philadelphia

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The Liberty Bell's home on Independence Mall is as powerful and dramatic as the bell itself. Throughout the expansive, light-filled center, larger-than-life historic documents and graphic images explore the facts and the myths surrounding the bell. Photo credit: photo credit: J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia®

The first time I visited Philadelphia was for last year’s NLGJA conference and to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t think much of the city. The main reason for my feeling was mostly because I was stuck in a hotel conference room most of my stay. Apart from brief visits to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and The ‘Rocky Stairs’, aka, the Philadelphia Art Museum, I really didn’t have the opportunity to explore the city.

Independence Hall, in Philadelphia’s Historic District, is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Photo credit: J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia®

Fast forward almost 1 year later and I found myself in the City of Brotherly Love once again. This time was for pleasure, not work, so I knew my experience would be drastically different than my last. And I was right!

I stayed at the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown Center City, which is located pretty much in the heart of the city. What I like most about the city is its walkability. The property is brand new, and the amenities are very nice. Most rooms offer great views of the city, but its biggest asset is the location.

The exterior of the newly opened Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown Center City. Photo credit: Cambria Hotels / Facebook

I began my stay in Philly with a trip to the Liberty One Observation Deck. Not only is it atop one of the city’s most iconic buildings, but it will also give you the chance to get yourself oriented and familiar with the city. I always like to view a city from an observation tower when I first arrive as it tends to help me navigate easier.

From high atop the 57th floor of Liberty Place, visitors will be gobsmacked by the 360° landscapes that stretch for miles while also hearing tidbits of Philadelphia’s past and its evolution into a major American city. Photo credit: D. Cruz / Visit Philadelphia®

I recommend visiting Maison 208 for dinner. The gorgeous, two-floor restaurant from Top Chef contestant Sylva Senat stands out in Midtown Village’s dining scene—and not just because of its spacious design and retractable roof, the only one in the city. Maison’s New American menu offers cleverly chic updates on American dishes. The cocktail list includes delicious concoctions such as the “black rose,” made with vermouth-and-blackberry and dressed with rosemary.

After dinner, head to the Gayborhood. Yes, that’s the actual name of their gay neighborhood. There are dozens of gay nightlife venues in this part of town so and it’s almost impossible to visit them all. Usually I like to highlight a few venues that I enjoyed, but Philadelphia’s Gayborhood really offers so many nightlife options that it’s hard to focus on just one or two. There really is something for everyone.

The Gayborhood 13th street and Locust rainbow sign. Photo credit: J. Smith / Visit Philadelphia®

If you aren’t hungover the following morning, I suggest waking up early, grabbing a nice breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant Social Circle and then walking up Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the famed Rocky Stairs. You will see dozens of folks reenacting the Rocky scene, so don’t be embarrassed if you want to run up the stairs as well. The top of the stairs also offers a great view of the city.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a world-class art museum located at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Photo credit: J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia®

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third-largest art museum in the country and houses an extraordinary collection that spans 2,000 years of artistic achievement. A one-acre garden features an ever-changing selection of sculpture. During my visit, the museum was exhibiting Keith Smith at Home, the first major monographic exhibition in 50 years of the work of Keith Smith, an LGBT American bookmaker, photographer and craft-centered artist. Smith’s highly personal pieces deal with his home, coming out and change. The museum library’s accompanying exhibition explores Smith’s bookmaking process.

Along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, swing by the Rodin Museum, home to the largest Rodin collection outside of Paris. Masterpieces that can be found here include The Thinker, Eternal Springtime and The Gates of Hell, plus a beautiful formal garden.

Rodin Museum. Photo credit: Joey Amato / Pride Journey

For a unique cultural experience, head to Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, site of the continent’s first Japanese garden. Created for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Shofuso includes a traditional 17th-century-style house—a 1953 postwar gift from Japan to the U.S.—and a stunning, 1.2-acre Japanese pond and garden by landscape designer Tansai Sano. We had the opportunity to feed the beautiful koi and explore the house and tearoom.

Explore Shofuso Japanese House and Garden featuring full of landscaped gardens alongside a ceremonial tea house and koi pond. Photo credit: J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia®

After a long day of sightseeing, head to Serpico. I had the opportunity to dine with the Scott Conant, LGBTQ editor at Comcast. It was love at first bite. He even invited us to a private dance party, but I wasn’t feeling that well, so decided to call it a night. We still had another jam-packed day ahead of us.

After breakfast, I left for The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Open to the public free of charge, the ICA has been instrumental in showcasing the work of emerging and under-recognized artists for more than 50 years. The ICA led the way with the first-ever museum shows of Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Robert Indiana and other influential artists. Tag: Proposals on Queer Play and the Ways Forward, on display during my visit, explores how the expanding influence of digital and online technologies, fandom subcultures and artistic discourse has created new possibilities for queer identification, changing how personal roles and forms of expressions are defined in contemporary society. I wasn’t a huge fan of this exhibition. Although I am a huge fan of fine art, this particular exhibit was a bit too abstract for my taste.

Ever since Andy Warhol and his entourage caused a near-riot here in 1965, the ICA has been shaking up the city with shows revealing the hottest and coolest trends in contemporary art. Photo credit: J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia®

It’s always 5:00 somewhere, so I decided to head to Philadelphia Distilling, which is housed in an old, 15,000 square-foot Fishtown factory. Philly’s first post-Prohibition distillery uses hand-hammered copper stills and Hall-Woodford wooden fermentation vessels to create batches of Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Blue Coat Barrel Finished Gin, Vieux Carré Absinthe, Penn 1681 Vodka and THE BAY Seasoned Vodka. The distillery offers a full bar and restaurant with an outdoor patio and a tasting room. I really enjoyed most every spirit we sampled. The absinthe however carries quite a punch.

If you’re in town on a Sunday, go to Bud & Marilyn’s for brunch. Located in the heart of the Gayborhood, Bud & Marilyn’s is a retro-inspired restaurant-bar owned and operated by business and life partners chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. Inspired by Turney’s restaurateur grandparents, the restaurant serves new takes on American classics like meatloaf, wedge salad and chop suey, paired with cocktails like the Blinker, a whiskey sour made with rye, and Marilyn’s O-F, a brandy old-fashioned.

Bud & Marilyn’s in Philly’s Gayborhood. Photo credit: Bud & Marilyn’s / Facebook

It is safe to say this visit to Philadelphia was extremely different than my last experience. I really felt like I had a chance to explore the city and get a feel for some of its neighborhoods. I enjoyed it so much that I am eager to visit again in the near future.

Pride Journeys is an LGBT travel website dedicated to sharing travel reviews and news of interest to the LGBT community. For more info, visit www.PrideJourneys.com.

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Pride Journeys: Seattle

Pride Journey’s Joey Amato travels to Seattle in the Pacific Northwest to discover what the Emerald City has to offer for the LGBTQ+ traveler.

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Seattle skyline from Kerry Park / photo credit: CommunistSquared / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A journey to the Pacific Northwest is something I always look forward to. I love the natural beauty of Seattle and of course the abundance of fresh seafood the city has to offer. Its proximity to both Portland and Vancouver are also benefits and the three cities are connected via Amtrak, so visitors can easily turn a trip to the Emerald City into a multi-destination vacation.

Amtrak’s King Street Station is conveniently location just south of downtown in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood / photo credit: Amtrak / website

Whenever I travel to a city, I like to search for the local LGBT publications. In this case, pick up a copy of Unite Seattle and Seattle Gay News for an overview of local happenings. On many occasions, I discovered wonderful events taking place in a city that I would not have known about had I not read a local gay publication. Plus, it’s a great way to meet the community. You can easily find the publications at any one of the gay bars and restaurants in Capitol Hill or even at a new hotspot called Lumber Yard, a sports bar located in the White Center neighborhood, about 15 minutes from downtown.

The Lumber Yard in Seattle’s White Center neighborhood / photo credit: The Lumber Yard Bar / Facebook

I began my experience in Seattle with a VIP Food Tour of Pike Place Market organized through Savor Seattle Food Tours. I usually can’t function in the morning if I don’t have breakfast, but guests should come hungry to this tour. Our intimate group met at Indi Chocolate, a very nice shop that produces delicious chocolate in addition to cacao-based products including teas, spice rubs, and body care products all made from cocoa butter. Over the next two hours, we journeyed through the market tasting homemade biscuits, fresh Rainier cherries, maple bacon doughnuts and sipping on specialty teas. In total, we visited 8 different vendors including the famous flying fish stand…yes, those guys who throw the fish. You’ll be glad you woke up early to experience the market before the other 30,000 people who visit each day.

Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market / photo credit: Pike Place Market / Facebook

Directly across the street from Pike Place Market is the original Starbucks Coffee. I was misled by travel sites and was told to visit a different shop around the corner but was later informed that the location on 1st Avenue is truly the first. This was evident by the dozens of tourists posing for photos outside the store.

Starbucks original store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market / photo credit: Starbucks / website

The last visited Seattle, a little company called Amazon was just getting started. Fast forward a decade later, the tech behemoth has penetrated almost every part of the city. Some may say they have grown too much, but there are some advantages, most notably, Amazon Go. My friend Jared took me there and it was a fun experience. You need to download the Amazon Go app on your phone to enter. It’s linked to your bank account and you literally just pick up any items you’d like from sandwiches to wine – and walk out the door. Your account will be charged within an hour. It’s quite remarkable. In the same part of town are the Amazon Spheres, which took over 2 years to construct and are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.

Amazon’s Seattle Spheres bring a direct link to nature in an urban landscape / photo credit: Biodin / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Not too far from Amazon’s headquarters is the Mayflower Park Hotel. Built in 1927 the property earned the distinction of being a Historic Hotel of America. Both the lobby as well as the rooms are elegantly appointed with rich fabrics, dark woods and showcase the hotel’s history as one of the finest privately-owned hotels in the region.

The entrance to the historic Mayflower Park Hotel is conveniently located near Pike Place Market / photo credit: Mayflower Park Hotel / Facebook

After a quick wardrobe change, I was ready for a night out on the town. Capitol Hill is Seattle’s gayborhood, consisting of dozens of LGBT restaurants, bars, retail shops and professional businesses. Capitol Hill is a nice walk from the hotel, so if weather permits, I’d suggest taking a leisurely stroll.

Once there, head to Union, a brand-new gay hotspot with a full menu, outdoor patio and some of the hottest bartenders in town. While in Capitol Hill, check out Queer Bar, The Cuff, R Place, Madison Pub, and Pony. They are all within blocks of each other and each offer a different vibe and crowd.

Rainbow crosswalk in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the city’s LGBTQ hub / photo credit: Michael Hinsch / Visit Seattle

Begin your next day with a trip to Seattle Center, home of the iconic Space Needle. I suggest fighting the hangover and arriving at opening, otherwise you’ll be waiting in line for at least an hour to journey to the top of the structure. Built in 1962, the Space Needle stands 605 feet tall and offers 360-degree views from its three main viewing areas. The observation level features the world’s first-ever revolving glass floor, known as The Loupe. It took me about 10 minutes to build up enough courage to even step foot onto The Loupe. Those afraid of heights will be hesitant to even come close to newest attraction.

The Loupe – the world’s first revolving glass floor – at the newly renovated Space Needle / photo credit: John Lok / Space Needle LLC

I’d head to the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) immediately after the Space Needle as it seems to get crowded early on and is definitely loved among families, especially since their latest exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes opened. The collection features more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic and sought-after pages, costumes and props, many of which have never-before been seen by the public. The exhibition tells the Marvel story through comics, film and other media, ahead of the 80th anniversary of the company in 2019.

The Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, is dedicated to contemporary popular culture / photo credit: Museum of Pop Culture / Facebook

I found the Nirvana exhibit to be the most fascinating part of MoPOP. Growing up, I wasn’t really a huge fan of the band nor the Grunge scene, but after visiting, I really learned how that era of music shaped pop culture. It was one of the last genres of music to influence a fashion and lifestyle. I left the exhibition with a deeper understand and appreciation of not only the band’s music but the genre as a whole.

Complete your tour of Seattle Center with a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass dedicated to the works of local glass artisan Dale Chihuly. The Exhibition Hall contains eight galleries offering a comprehensive look at Chihuly’s most significant works including: Glass Forest, Northwest Room, Sealife Room and Chandeliers. The gift shop also gives guests a chance to purchase a one-of-a-kind work of art by the legendary artist, if you have a few thousand dollars to spare.

Chihuly Garden and Glass, a must-see during your visit to Seattle, is located next to the Sky Needle / photo credit: Chihuly Garden and Glass / website

If you’re hungry, head to Mamnoon, a delicious gay-owned Middle Eastern restaurant. I highly recommend trying the Mamnoon Falafel consisting of Palouse farm’s chickpeas, cabbage, tomato, pickles, yogurt, tarator and herbs or their famous Za’atar, which is commonly known as the king of Lebanese street food. Since you did a lot of walking earlier in the morning, it’s ok to reward yourself with an order of the Harra Spiced Frites with cilantro and house made harra ketchup. You’ll thank me later!

Mamnoon Falafel with Harra Spiced Frites / photo credit: Mamnoon / Facebook

Seattle is definitely all it’s cracked up to be. I love the cultural diversity especially when it comes to the variety of cuisine. I did find 3 days a bit short to really appreciate the city and the surrounding regions, most notably Washington’s wine country located in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley. I’ll have to visit again to focus on that region of the state to get my wine fix.

Pride Journeys is an LGBT travel website dedicated to sharing travel reviews and news of interest to the LGBT community. For more info, visit www.PrideJourneys.com.

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Pride Journeys: Kansas City

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Union Station in Kansas City with they skyline of downtown in the background. Photo credit: Linanster / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The only things I knew about Kansas City prior to visiting, were the tales of legendary BBQ and the Chiefs. I went with an open mind and little expectations. The city has been generating a lot of positive buzz as of late, so I thought I’d see what all the talk was about. I found the city to be on the cusp of a breakthrough so to speak. A sleeping dragon ready for its day in the sun. The next “It City” – Nashville being the current “It City” and where I reside.

For starters, Kansas City airport is literally the smallest international airport I’ve ever been to. But that will all change in the next few years as it undergoes a major transformation. Icelandair just began flying direct routes to its capital city of Reykjavik and other routes are being added regularly.

The 21c Museum Hotel served as my home for the weekend. The small chain is known for embracing the LGBT community and is located in cities that aren’t always known for being LGBT-friendly destinations (Des Moines, Lexington, Fayetteville, among others), so staying here is always a safe and comfortable option. This particular property is located in the historic Savoy Hotel in downtown Kansas City. The hotel opened this summer and is led by a welcoming, knowledgeable, and quite attractive staff. The one downside of the property is the fitness center, which is has serious acoustic problems. Furthermore, the free weights are located in a dark corner of the gym, a problem that can easily be fixed but is a bit uncomfortable currently.

The historic Savoy Hotel and Grill building has been transformed into 21c Kansas City — museum, boutique hotel, and chef-driven restaurant, nestled between the Power & Light district and River Market in downtown Kansas City. Photo credit: 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City / Facebook

Having arrived a bit later in the day, I decided to stay on property for dinner. The hotel’s restaurant, The Savoy, doesn’t serve your standard hotel fare. I began my meal with a delicious steak tartare, followed by the fish of the day, which was cooked to perfection. The most exciting part of the meal however, was the Baked Alaska. I have not seen that item on a menu outside of a cruise ship and even though I tend to skip dessert, I felt the need to give it a try. I’m glad I did. It was absolutely delicious. I even convinced the table adjacent to me to order some. The only thing it was missing was the tableside flambé.

Once the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi, The Savoy at 21c new contemporary and light-filled dining room is adjacent to the historic bar and lounge. Photo credit: 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City / Facebook

The next morning, I began my tour of Kansas City with a brief visit to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. As I was approaching the building, I thought to myself how similar it looked to the Sydney Opera House, and sure enough, it was designed by the same architect. The Kauffman Center is one of the most technically advanced performing arts centers in the nation, with each of its two major concert halls designed to be acoustically perfect. The halls share a common area which the designer hoped would serve as a space where people attend different shows can comingle.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, an architectural icon and home for the performing arts in Kansas City. Photo credit: Hayden Gascoigne / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

A short drive away is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which houses more than 35,000 works of art. The building itself is quite impressive and architecturally, it reminded me of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Recently, the Nelson opened the American Indian galleries, which are the largest collection devoted to this category of art in the world. Another wonderful component of the museum is the outdoor Sculpture Park which contains more than 30 sculptures. Watch out for the sprinklers though. My guide and I received a complimentary shower while walking through the park, but it was welcomed given the intense heat of the summer.

The Nelson-Atkins is a comprehensive art museum with works of art dating from ancient to contemporary. Photo credit: Americasroof / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

All of this culture got me hungry, so I heard about a fairly new establishment that served up great BBQ called Char Bar. The majority of the meal didn’t blow me away; I found it on par with BBQ I can find locally in Nashville, but the one standout, and something that Kansas City is known for are burnt ends. I almost didn’t order them, but my dining companion convinced me to order a side potion. I still salivate when I think of them. Burnt ends may be the best BBQ item I’ve ever had…ever. Yes, they are that good. If you ever visit Kansas City, burnt ends are a must!

Char Bar serves up Kansas City-style BBQ in a southern-inspired smokehouse that serves as playground where carnivores, herbivores and locavores can co-mingle peacefully. Photo credit: Char Bar / Facebook

Spend some time in the Crossroads Arts District, consisting of fine art galleries, cute clothing boutiques and old historic buildings before heading out to Bistro 303, the gay bar where Kansas City’s LGBT community “begins” their evening. I don’t party as much as I used to, so I decided to begin and end my evening at 303. The laid-back establishment offers a nice cross-section of the city’s community and serves inexpensive, but well-poured cocktails. Within minutes of sitting at the bar, I was involved in a friendly conversation with some of the locals, who told me about Missie B’s, the popular drag bar in the city. Apparently, it’s the place everyone goes to after Bistro 303. I’ll have to find out for myself next time I visit.

Bistro 303 is a gay little bistro and bar featuring a French-bistro-inspired menu, accompanied by craft cocktails and relaxing wine in a fun and comfortable atmosphere. Photo credit: Bistro 303

If partying isn’t your cup of whiskey, wake up early the next morning and head to River Market for breakfast. In operation since 1857, the market is the largest farmers’ market in the region and consists of over 140 vendors. It was nice to grab a cup of coffee and freshly baked muffin and watch the bustling crowd begin their day.

Kansas City is home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The moving memorial provides a first-hand look into the war. I would suggest jumping on a guided tour of the museum as the volunteers are extremely knowledgeable about not only the war, but the museum itself. Soon after the war ended, Kansas City leaders formed the Liberty Memorial Association to create the memorial in honor of the men and women who had served in the war. If you have the chance, journey to the top of the 217-foot tower for unobstructed views of the city but be prepared to wait in line for a while.

Aerial photo of the National WWI Museum and Memorial with the Kansas City skyline. Photo credit: National WWI Museum / Wikimedia

Those looking for a unique experience should head to SD Strong Distilling. Located in Parkville, Missouri, it is the world’s only known distillery in a cave. I was lucky enough to get a tour and tasting of the distillery located 65-feet underground.

For dinner, head over to Café Trio, an upscale, gay-owned restaurant which offers killer martini’s, a tasty menu and live entertainment on their grand piano. Begin your meal with the Trio Caprese consisting of fresh heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, basil oil, cracked pepper and sea salt. It is the perfect appetizer to share with a partner. Follow that with the Diver Scallops with a charred corn risotto and lobster jus. I love a good scallop dish and Café Trio didn’t disappoint.

Scallops are a favorite at gay-owned Cafe Trio. Photo credit: Café Trio / Facebook

Overall, Kansas City was a pleasant surprise even though I didn’t have a chance to catch a Chiefs game. If you’re looking for relaxed, friendly, inexpensive city to visit, I would definitely add KC to your list.

Pride Journeys is an LGBT travel website dedicated to sharing travel reviews and news of interest to the LGBT community. For more info, visit www.PrideJourneys.com.

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Pride Journeys: Rochester

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The Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge crossing the Genesee River with Downtown Rochester in the background. Photo credit: Visit Rochester

Nestled 90 minutes from Niagara Falls and just off of the southern shore of Lake Ontario in the Finger Lakes region of New York, you’ll find the truly limitless city of Rochester. Known for numerous festivals and events throughout the year, immense history, world class museums, and its inclusive hospitality, New York State’s third largest city has something for everyone. I recently explored the city for myself and my expectations were consistently exceeded. My visit coincided with Rochester’s Pride Fest. The inclusiveness of the city is apparent, and I felt welcome from the start. “Roc Pride,” as it’s known, is one of the largest Pride festivals in the state outside of NYC. Complete with events, music, and a parade, there’s plenty to experience during this week-long celebration.

When you ask how far something is from the city center, locals will say “about 15 minutes or so.” That’s because, well, it’s true. The greater Rochester region has a population of about 1 million people, so getting from place-to-place is quite stress-free. With nonstop flights from Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) to Charlotte, New York City, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, and more, the city is as accessible as ever. For a central location, stay at the East Avenue Inn & Suites. The staff is friendly, the rooms are spacious, and the entire property was recently renovated. Better yet, the location is superb as you can walk to numerous shops and restaurants all within a few short blocks.

East Avenue Inn & Suites in the East End, the heart of Rochester’s Arts and Entertainment District. Photo credit: East Avenue Inn & Suites / Facebook

Upon arriving, the bar for the trip was set high after a visit to The Strong National Museum of Play. This interactive museum has a surprise around every corner, and something for absolutely everyone. Learn about the history of toys, why playtime is so important, and check out the Toy Hall of Fame to see your favorite childhood toys. There’s even a mini Wegman’s where kids can play ‘customer’ or ‘cashier’ at the beloved supermarket chain.

The Strong museum engages kids of all ages with hands-on exhibits and the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, games, and video games. Photo credit: The Strong Museum / Facebook

After a full day of travel, it was time for dinner. I visited The Playhouse / Swillburger, which is an arcade/restaurant housed in an old church. The burgers and beer are great, but the tater tots are an absolutely must. Check out what the special is for the day, and enjoy. After eating, take a few steps over into the arcade area to enjoy classic games, like Pac-Man and pinball, or immersive and modern thrills like the Jurassic Park game.

Your time in Rochester wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the home of one of its most famous residents, George Eastman. Now a world-class museum, gallery, theater, and film/photograph archive, the beautiful home and gardens at The George Eastman Museum will tell the Kodak founder’s story from behind the lens. Tour the mansion to get a glimpse of his lavish lifestyle, see the famous elephant in his living room, and learn why he literally cut his house in half. The archives house over one million pieces of film, photographs, and other cinematic artifacts or technologies of importance to the industry. With many rotating exhibitions, there will always be new artwork and exhibits to explore, along with summer events such as their concert series held outdoors on the lawn.

World’s foremost museum of photography and cinema located on the historic estate of George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Photo credit: George Eastman Museum / Facebook

Anywhere I go, I look to try the local beers. One of the oldest and continually operating breweries in America just happens to be in Rochester – The Genesee Brewery. Named after the Genesee River which flows through the city, the Genesee Brew House is located in the heart of the city overlooking a stunning view of High Falls. When it’s nice out, sit on the balcony or the rooftop for full appreciation of the view. Plus, order the pretzel appetizer.

Genesee Brew House features a roof-top deck and beer garden in the heart of Rochester. Photo credit: The Genesee Brewery / Facebook

Rochester has a buzzing art and culture scene. I’ve been to traditional galleries before, and Artisan Works is everything but a traditional gallery. This non-profit creative community space supports local artists by purchasing their art for display in their 40,000 square foot facility, containing over 500,000 unique pieces. Each turn brings you into a new theme, era, style, or collection. Everywhere you look, you’ll see something new and extraordinary. After, head over to the Memorial Art Gallery (the “MAG”) for an art experience spanning across 5,000 years. With pieces from around the world, the 14-acre campus features an outdoor sculpture garden with unique pieces open year-round. The MAG features several LGBT artists in the collection and hosts events as part of Roc Pride.

Argentum: Double-Positive, a light sculpture by Jim Sanborn, is on exhibit outside University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery. Photo credit: Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester / Facebook

On my final day, I enjoyed an iced coffee at Equal Grounds Coffee House, located in the trendy South Wedge neighborhood. It was then time to learn some history. I stopped by the Frederick Douglass Statue in Highland Park, before visiting the gravesites of Douglass and Susan B. Anthony at Mount Hope Cemetery. Both activists were friends and worked alongside each other for their movements. The Susan B. Anthony National House & Museum showcases Anthony’s actual home where she lived, organized her community, and was arrested for voting illegally due to being a woman. The home is exceptionally preserved and educational about the incredible work she did.

Up next, the Park Avenue Food Tour by Flower City Food Tours. Pro tip: Don’t eat breakfast on this day! This 3-hour tour brings you to 8 unique locations along Park Avenue ranging from a local staple, Jines, to Baker Street Bakery, and Magnolia’s Deli and Cafe, where President Obama dined in 2013 for lunch while passing through Rochester. (Check out the pictures on the wall from his visit!) This tour was not only delicious, but I learned a lot about the neighborhood and its history. Some of the restaurant owners were even present to greet the group and provide additional information about the food or drink options.

Be sure to stop by Living Roots, an urban winery that makes wines based on the two hometowns of its owners – Rochester, NY, and Adelaide, South Australia. They source grapes from both the Finger Lakes region as well as Adelaide Hills to provide a tasty balance of flavor.

One must-see is Radio Social. This state-of-the-art restaurant, bar, event space, and bowling alley features some of the best food I had on the entire trip. I strongly suggest the Kubaneh ‘Pull Apart’ Bread and the Chicken Kebab Pita. My drink of choice here was the “Up the Bracket” Have some fun with a few games of bowling before taking a few pictures around the totally ‘Instagrammable’ interior.

A state-of-the-art bowling alley, restaurant, bar, music venue, and social club located in Rochester’s historical Stromberg-Carlson warehouse. Photo credit: Radio Social / Facebook

As part of Roc Pride, Rochester Pedal Tours provided a fun way to get from bar-to-bar. Check out the numerous LGBT bars, each with its own flair. Enjoy the great drinks, fun atmosphere, and meet new friends at places like The Avenue Pub and Lux Lounge. For a late-night snack, check out Swan Dive, a new restaurant that mixes a classic diner with a modern and upscale aura.

Rochester is a welcoming destination for all types, and I highly recommend adding it to your travel list. You’ll discover new events and festivals throughout the year, and will experience the seasonal beauty from the region.

Pride Journeys is an LGBT travel website dedicated to sharing travel reviews and news of interest to the LGBT community. For more info, visit www.PrideJourneys.com.

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