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Pride Journeys: Oklahoma City

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To say I fell in love with Oklahoma City would be an understatement. I thoroughly enjoy visiting lesser known cities around the country as you go in with little expectations or preconceived notions. I had visited OKC very briefly a few years ago, but never spent a substantial amount of time there.

I quickly took note of the city’s evolution and progression over the past decade. Modern structures are popping up throughout the city, juxtaposed next to historic buildings that give a nod to the Oklahoma City’s past.

Exterior of the 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City.
Exterior of the 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City. Photo credit: Visit OKC

This trip was actually quite special as it was the first time the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit OKC) organized an LGBT specific media trip. The 21c Museum Hotel served as our host hotel for the stay and it couldn’t have been any more perfect. The rooms featured king-sized beds with two separate seating areas and a shower all 5 of us journalists could have fit in. No, that didn’t happen on this trip.

During our stay, the hotel was exhibiting an extraordinary pop culture series of artwork designed as if they knew the gays were coming to visit. I’m not sure how many Instagram photos we took throughout the hotel, but it’s safe to say, the number is in the dozens.

The interior of Mary Eddy's Kitchen and Lounge in the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City.
The interior of Mary Eddy’s Kitchen and Lounge in the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City. Photo credit: Mary Eddy’s / Facebook

Even the hotel restaurant, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge was incredible. Aside from breakfast, which was inexpensive and delicious, I ordered the Brussel Sprouts from the bar menu for a snack one afternoon and they were the best I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how they made them, but to quote Guy Fieri, they were out of bounds!

We began our Oklahoma City adventure in the Boathouse District at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site for a once-in-a-lifetime experience training and rowing with Olympic hopefuls. Before we jumped into the river, we were given a crash course on rowing. I was so confident going in to this experience. I assumed I was an expert rower as I used the rowing machine at the gym many times. I was quickly proven otherwise. My form was completely off, and I rushed to correct it before heading out to the river.

A team of extremely fit athletes met us at the pier and we jumped into the boat. Rowing is all about timing and it was integral that our strokes were timed perfectly to those of the athletes. Easier said than done. You can feel the sheer force as we propelled down the river at lightning speed. Once you get the hang of it, and everyone is in sync, the feeling is awesome. I should probably start training for Tokyo 2020.

Adjacent to the rowing center is the only urban whitewater rafting course of its kind in the world. Only two of us decided to face this challenge head on. How bad could it be? It wasn’t a real river or real rapids. After about a 20-minute information session on the basics of whitewater rafting, we were given our life preservers, helmets and oars. Our guide led us to our raft along with two other folks and we were off. A giant conveyer belt brings the raft to the top of the course and launches you into the roaring waters below.

With the Oklahoma City skyline in the background, our raft was tossed around in the water as we tried to maneuver through the rapids. The first lap around the course went off without a hitch, but I can’t say the same for the second lap. Let’s just say I ever so gracefully fell out of the raft, floundered around in the raging water like a salmon and prayed for someone to rescue me. Luckily, I am here to talk about it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

All this physical activity got us hungry, so we decided to grab a bite at one of the city’s many Vietnamese restaurants. Yes, you read that right. OKC is home to dozens of incredible authentic Vietnamese restaurants. The city’s Vietnamese population is one of its best kept secrets.

Another thing many people don’t know about until they visit is that OKC has a thriving gayhorhood called 39th St. (The Strip). It is home to about 8 gay bars, a gay resort named the Habana Inn, a clothing store called Pulse and the LGBT community center. Our first stop was Apothecary 39, a wonderful neighborhood bar with inexpensive drinks and an incredibly friendly bartender named Phillip. Within minutes, we struck up a conversation with a group of very attractive local gays who took us under their wing and showed us the rest of the bars. Talk about hospitality.

Our next stop was The Boom, a drag bar that hosts a Sunday Brunch which unfortunately we weren’t able to experience on this trip but heard it’s fabulous. Once again, the drinks were cheap, the people were friendly, and the queens were feisty. Needless to say, we had an incredible time.

We started the next day with a hearty breakfast at Kitchen 324 and continued on to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which stands as a symbol of strength in the wake of the unspeakable violent attack on April 19, 1995. The memorial is a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the bombing and walks visitors through almost every moment of the horrific act. One of the most moving parts of the memorial is the circular room honoring each of the victims with photos and a personal memento donated by their family.

Our next stop was the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, America’s premier institution of Western history, art, and culture. Founded in 1955, the Museum, collects, preserves, and exhibits an internationally renowned collection of Western art including works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, as well as sculptor James Earle Fraser’s magnificent work, The End of the Trail which greets you as you enter the museum to begin your journey back to the old West.

The End of the Trail at the entrance to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Photo credit: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Continue the culture tour at the Oklahoma History Center. The enormous 215,000 square-foot building is a Smithsonian Affiliate and contains five galleries housing a variety of exhibitions. We had the opportunity to go into the archives and explore the hidden gems not on display to the general public including turn of the century gowns, an authentic Native American teepee and antique automobiles.

After a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up, we began our progressive dinner at Vast, a restaurant and bar located atop OKC’s tallest building. I began to notice that Okie’s (Oklahoma locals), know how to make a good cocktail. Almost every specialty drink we ordered throughout the trip was not only unique, but delicious. We continued the meal at Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes in Midtown, then enjoyed some dessert at Roxy’s Ice Cream Social in the Plaza District, a cute neighborhood with dozens of murals. Yet another Instagram-friendly adventure.

The dining room of Vast, on the 49th floor of the Devon Town, over 725 feet above downtown Oklahoma City.
The dining room of Vast, on the 49th floor of the Devon Town, over 725 feet above downtown Oklahoma City. Photo credit: Vast / Facebook.

As exhausted as we were, we found the energy to head back out to ‘The Strip’ but this time began the evening at Phoenix Rising with our new friends from the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund before heading to The Finishline and finally The Copa. I don’t remember the last time I shut down a club, but it happened in OKC.

The city is also home to quite a few lesbian bars and other neighborhood gay bars located off ‘The Strip’ including HiLo Club, Frankie’s OKC, Partners and Alibis. For a city of its size, they sure do offer a nice selection of LGBT nightlife venues.

Waking up early the next morning was rough, but no pain, no gain. And today’s gain was extra special. We had the opportunity to feed Asian elephants and grizzly bears at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Getting that close to these majestic animals is always a treat. Even the grizzly bears seemed cute enough to cuddle with, although they are a lot larger up close than I originally thought.

The elephant encounter is located in Sanctuary Asia, a 6.6-acre, $22 million expansion of the zoo which also houses Indian rhinos, langurs, Komodo dragons, raccoon dogs, cranes and cassowary birds.

For our final meal as a group, we gathered at The Jones Assembly, an absolutely massive two-story restaurant and live music venue. Once again, the cocktails were off the charts. I ordered the Dagwell Dixie, made with roasted pecan infused George Dickel rye, laird’s applejack, and Hella orange bitters. It was similar to an Old Fashioned, but the flavored rye gave it a welcomed twist.

We shared a few appetizers including a selection called Dips + Spreads, a trio of garbanzo hummus, tzatziki, pimento cheese, coupled with wood-fired dough. I had no idea that wood-fired dough tasted so good. The restaurant offers a nice selection of pizzas, salads and main entrees including Steak Frites, Short Ribs and their take on Nashville Hot Chicken. It was a memorable way to end such a memorable trip.

What was most surprising about Oklahoma City was its culture and diversity. The city is welcoming, affordable and offers something for everyone. I feel like Oklahoma City is on the verge of something big; maybe they will become the next “It City”.

Enjoy the journey!

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: Phoenix/Tempe

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Daytime Camelback from Mummy Mountain. Photo credit: Visit Phoenix/D Squared Productions

The last time I was in the Phoenix area was 2005, so when I was offered a chance to visit the city again, I jumped at the opportunity, especially since this trip would coincide with Phoenix Pride. The temperature in the spring and fall is quite tolerable and enjoyable so I would plan your vacation during those seasons, unless you are an avid heat seeker.

I really didn’t recognize any part of the city, so jumping on a pedal cab for a quick tour of downtown was the best way to orient myself. I met up with my friend Josh Rimer aka Mr. Gay Canada, and we were on our way!

Our wonderful tour guide Billy was a hoot. He knew everything about every nook and cranny of the city from the history of buildings to the meaning of some of city’s most iconic murals. He knew we were in town for gay pride, so he included some information about the city’s LGBT history and culture.

Before checking in to our hotel, we stopped for lunch at The Churchill, a locally owned community-driven gathering spot in the heart of the Roosevelt Row neighborhood. Ten small businesses surround an open-air courtyard intended for dining, drinking and socializing. The space hosts a variety of speakers, art events, and fitness classes throughout the year.

If you’re craving a bit of luxury, check in to the magnificent Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. It’s one of the most LGBT-friendly resorts in the region and is set against the picturesque McDowell Mountain range. The sprawling Southwestern-style complex features 750 guest rooms, six heated pools, and a 44,000 square-foot Well & Being Spa.

The longest running AAA Five Diamond resort in Arizona, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has also received accolades for its outstanding culinary program, exceptional guest service, unparalleled meeting facilities and the exquisite Well & Being Spa. Photo credit: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess / AccorHotels

Spa culture is big in Scottsdale, with many properties offering unique treatments highlighting their natural surroundings. The Phoenician offers a wonderful Body & Soul treatment that is not to be missed.

Speaking of spas, we ventured off the beaten path to explore another renowned spa resort called CIVANA. Traveling can be fun, but also stressful, so I chose a relaxing treatment combining 10 different aromatherapy blends. While at CIVANA, take part in a sound bath class, where an instructor creates vibrations using singing bowls made from various healing crystals. All you need to do is relax while the sounds melt your worries away.

Nestled in the Sonoran Desert, just outside Scottsdale, CIVANA is a destination wellness resort that offers a holistic experience to a wider audience of wellness travelers. Photo courtesy: CIVANA

For the adventurous type, try aerial yoga. This is not your run of the mill yoga. In fact, it wasn’t relaxing at all. It was more like a Cirque du Soleil training camp. I tried my hardest to keep myself balanced while suspended in mid air by nothing but cloth. Of course, my fearless instructor made me go upside down and swing from side to side while a flimsy sheet was supposed to support me. After I got over my fear, I enjoyed the class. The entire experience was fun but more of an upper body workout than a yoga class.

While in Phoenix, visit the Desert Botanical Garden, a collection of more than 50,000 arid plants gathered from deserts from around the globe. We recommend visiting when the garden first opens to avoid the scorching heat. The Garden also offers evening tours, which although we didn’t get to experience, we heard were a great way to view the property.

Desert Discovery Trail at Desert Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Visit Phoenix/Adam Rodriguez

Not too far away is the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) which displays a collection of 6,800 instruments from 200 countries and territories. Most of the displays are enhanced by audio and video technologies that allow guests to see the instruments, hear their sounds, and observe them being played. During our visit, the MIM featured a special exhibit on Arizona native and rock legend Alice Cooper.

Musical Instrument Museum Orientation Gallery. Photo credit: Visit Phoenix

All this touring got us thirsty, so it was time for some cocktails. Since we landed in Phoenix, all we kept hearing about was a place called The UnderTow. But after I said I needed to research it, people told me not to, and just go. Guests enter The UnderTow through Sip Coffee & Beer Garage, which happens to be a converted Jiffy Lube. The downstairs area – where mechanics worked on vehicles – has been transformed into a subterranean tiki bar complete with sound and visual effects that made guests feel as if they were stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Not to be outdone by the décor, the bartenders know how to make one hell of a cocktail.  

You enter UnderTow by descending the thatched roof staircase in the center of Sip Coffee and Beer Garage. Photo credit: UnderTow

After drinks, it was time to celebrate gay pride. Phoenix Pride is one of the first festivals to kick off pride season and attracts over 40,000 revelers during the two-day festival and parade. This year’s festival featured headlining performances from Ada Vox, Kim Petras and JoJo.

Phoenix Pride at Steele Indian School Park. Photo credit: James Stewart

The bars came alive after Pride, as in most cities. We didn’t get to experience many that night due to immense crowds, but we did visit Stacy’s @ Melrose, and got to meet Stacy himself. Next time around, I would love to swing by Charlie’s and Kobalt to get a feel for the local LGBT community.

The next day it was time to explore Tempe and the first item on the agenda was a pop-up art experience called The Scene. The Instagramable paradise featured 11 uniquely designed rooms ranging from a disco room, to a bathtub surround by rubber ducks and a glow-in-the-dark slinky room. The owners of the exhibition are from Tempe and plan to bring the exhibition on tour. If it comes to your city, make sure to check it out. It’s a fun place for both kids and adults to explore and work on your selfie taking skills.

While downtown Phoenix has a corporate feel, downtown Tempe definitely has a collegiate vibe, due mostly to the presence of Arizona State University. College students are seen parading around the city on bikes and scooters past rows of rainbow flags and a giant rainbow chair in the heart of downtown which the city installed to celebrate gay pride. The city doesn’t have any gay bars or clubs, but locals are quick to let you know that every bar in Tempe is welcoming to the LGBT community.

In the center of the city is A Mountain…as in the letter A, which is prominently displayed on the side of the mountain. To get the best view of the city, hike to the top in the early morning. For the perfect sunset view, try an evening hike. Bring lots of water as the hike looks deceivingly easy from the street level, but as you begin to ascend, grows extremely challenging especially as you begin to navigate the sharp rock formations towards the top of the mountain.

Hayden Butte, partially located on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, known locally as ‘A Mountain” for the 60-foot tall gold painted letter ‘A’ near the top. Photo credit: Tjnelso1 / Wikimedia

For dinner, head to Culinary Dropout, a trendy gastro-pub in downtown popular among the college crowd, which specializes in craft cocktails and delicious, reasonably priced cuisine. Start off the meal with an order of Soft Pretzels with Provolone Fondue and Prosciutto Deviled Eggs. I would also recommend trying the Ma…the Meatloaf and Rainbow Trout, which is served with green beans, toasted almonds and caramelized shallots. The staff at Culinary Dropout is also very easy on the eyes so I think you’ll enjoy this place.

After dinner, check in to the Moxy, a Marriott branded hotel designed with the millennial traveler in mind. Instead of a stuffy reception desk, guests at the Moxy are greeted by a reception area that also doubles as a bar. The hotel lobby contains an oversized Jenga game, pool table, foos ball table and 2 arcade pinball machines in addition to many cool seating areas where guests can gather. Tempe was the first city in the United States to open a Moxy and it has become a favorite among visitors.  

Welcome Zone & MOXY The Counter at Moxy Phoenix Tempe/ASU Area. Photo credit: Moxy Phoenix Tempe/ASU Area

There is so much to do in both Phoenix and Tempe, I recommend a minimum of a week to explore the cities and maybe even take a day trip to Mesa or Sedona. Whichever season you decide to travel in, you will have a blast.

Enjoy the Journey!

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: Cape Cod & Provincetown

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Commercial Street in Provincetown
Commercial Street in Provincetown. Photo credit: Harvey Barrison / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By now, most of you know I march to the beat of my own drummer, so when I decided to visit a summer time destination in the winter, people weren’t surprised. Cape Cod is known for attracting throngs of LGBTQ beach and party goers to its northmost tip, Provincetown. Having never been to P-Town, the locals found it surprising that I would visit during the winter, when the towns population is a fraction of what it is during the summer.

My first stop on my Cape Cod journey was the town of Hyannis, located about mid-way up the cape. On the suggestion of a friend of mine, I booked a stay at the Sea Street Inn, a lovely 5-bedroom bed and breakfast located just blocks from the ocean and minutes away from the historic Kennedy Compound.

Sea Street Inn in Hyannis on Cape Cod
Sea Street Inn in Hyannis on Cape Cod. Photo credit: Sea Street Inn

The Sea Street Inn is not your typical B&B. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the proprietor Adrian and offered a lobster roll as a ‘welcome to the Cape’ gift. The property was designed by Adrian and his wife Xenia in 2018 and features a beautiful art gallery, sitting area and dining solarium where guests can enjoy breakfast or their morning coffee. Adrian is a classically trained French chef who studied under Jean-Georges Vongerichten, so the Sea Street Inn offers a dinner menu that rivals any 4-star restaurant. I had the opportunity to sample some of the best food in recent memory including a delectable smoked trout and brie dish in addition to a crab BLT.

A short drive from the Sea Street Inn is the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, a multimedia exhibit designed to highlight the days JFK spent on Cape Cod relaxing with family, entertaining world leaders and sailing on the ocean, one of his favorite hobbies.

The entry to the JFK Museum in Hyannis on Cape Cod.
The entry to the JFK Museum in Hyannis on Cape Cod. Photo credit: Joey Amato/Pride Journeys

The Museum’s exhibits feature videos and photographs spanning the years 1934 to 1963. In addition to photography, an orientation video narrated by Walter Cronkite depicts the President’s experiences on the Cape.

I decided to take an afternoon adventure to Nantucket on the high-speed ferry, which whisks you to the oasis in about an hour. Even in the winter, Nantucket is gorgeous. With limited time to explore the island, I wasted no time and headed straight to the Whaling Museum to view their Festival of Trees exhibition which transforms the museum into a festive winter wonderland for the entire month of December. The highlight of the museum is the Whale Hunt Gallery which explores all aspects of the demanding and dangerous trade of 18th century whaling. Although I am against this trade, it was an important part of the area’s history. The centerpiece of the gallery is the skeleton of a 46-foot male sperm whale, which died on Siasconset beach on January 1, 1998.

The centerpiece of the Whale Hunt Gallery in the Nantucket Historical Association's Whaling Museum is the skeleton of a 46-foot male sperm whale.
The centerpiece of the Whale Hunt Gallery in the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum is the skeleton of a 46-foot male sperm whale. Photo credit: Nantucket Historical Association

Nantucket is filled with wonderful boutiques and family-owned restaurants. I asked around and almost everyone on the island recommended I try the Lola Burger at LoLa 41. It was probably the most expensive hamburger I have ever ordered at $22, but the perfectly cooked burger was served with Cabot Cheddar Cheese, a red onion compote, and foie sauce. One of my favorite things to do is pair a burger with a nice glass of Pinot Noir. It was the perfect way to end my journey before heading back to the mainland.

About halfway between Hyannis and P-Town is the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, a small museum which also serves as a nature education center which is worth visiting if you have some time to spare on your way up the cape. The museum offer guests a variety of programs, classes, lectures, panel discussions, and interactive exhibits that reveal the many facets of Cape Cod’s natural wonders.

Driving into Provincetown for the first time was magical. I felt like I was exploring a small island town filled with narrow cobblestone streets, dozens of art galleries, quaint restaurants and of course LGBTQ establishments. The more time I spent in P-Town, the more I began to realize why people are in love with this destination. You feel like you’re in a gay oasis a million miles away from the rest of society and free to do whatever you want, without judgement. Even the straight community that visits the town is accepting of LGBTQ people and everyone is extremely welcoming and friendly.

One of my first stops in P-Town was the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, a collective gallery exhibiting the works of local artists, many of whom identify as LGBTQ. One half of the space is dedicated to museum caliber works while the other half serves as a gallery space where people have the opportunity to purchase local art.

The gallery at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum
The gallery at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Photo credit: Provincetown Art Association and Museum / Facebook

There are many lodging options in P-Town, but I decided to stay at Land’s End Inn for its location at the tip of the peninsula. My room, which was called the Library Room, offered unobstructed views of both the sunrise and sunset and is located just a few minutes from Herring Cove Beach. Antique lovers will be in heaven at Land’s End Inn. Its décor is more traditional than I usually enjoy but lends nicely to the property’s rich history. In addition to complimentary breakfast, the Inn also offers a daily wine reception where you can mingle with other hotel guests.

Winter at Land's End Inn in Provincetown on Cape Cod
Winter at Land’s End Inn in Provincetown on Cape Cod. Photo credit: Land’s End Inn / Facebook

Surprisingly, 2018 was the first time Provincetown held a gay pride festival. I guess when the town is gay all the time, people didn’t find the need for one. This year’s festival is scheduled for May 30 through June 2. Last year’s festival featured a rainbow laser installation, a disco dance party and a pride sashay/stroll.

Bear Week will take place this July and is an annual gathering of…bears. It’s one of the largest and busiest theme weeks in Provincetown, attracting tens of thousands of men and hosting dozens of parties and shows. Another fun event is P-Town’s annual Carnival, which will take place August 15-25 and celebrates the towns LGBTQ culture.

The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown
The Pilgrim Monument has the best views in Provincetown

To get the best view of the town, climb to the top of Pilgrim Monument which was constructed to honor the Pilgrims’ first landing in Provincetown. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907 and the 252-foot tower was completed in 1910.

The only thing I didn’t like about Provincetown was the cost of food. An inexpensive dinner can easily run about $30. I tried finding a few less expensive places to dine and stumbled upon Canteen. Try their homemade clam chowder, you won’t be disappointed. If you want something sweet, head to Purple Feather Café and indulge in one of their special desserts or famous white hot chocolate.

The Canteen on Commercial Street is open seven days a week, serving up hearty and healthy breakfast, lunch and dinners.
The Canteen on Commercial Street is open seven days a week, serving up hearty and healthy breakfast, lunch and dinners. Photo credit: The Canteen / Facebook

During my stay, the gay bars were a bit slow, but this is something that I expected. Visiting in the winter helped me navigate the town easier than during the summer months and when I return, I’ll feel like a local. If you aren’t into crowds but still want to get a feel for the town, I would recommend visiting during shoulder season…May or October. Otherwise, be prepared for one non-stop party if you decide to visit this summer. I know I’ll be back!

Enjoy the Journey!

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: Milwaukee

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I am always up for a big adventure, so I thought visiting Milwaukee right before winter would be a good idea. Little did I know, winter comes early in Wisconsin. I was greeted with a small snow storm and below freezing temperatures, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It was my first time visiting the city and I had lots to see.

The Miller Brewery in Milwaukee (MillerCoors)

Luckily, one of my lifelong friends, Steven Binko, is a Milwaukee resident so I had a permanent tour guide for the duration of my visit. Our first stop was the famous Miller Brewery Tour, where we learned about the ghost of Frederick Miller who haunts the historic Miller caves. Throughout the tour we were forcefully fed samples of Miller beer products. They weren’t stingy on the free samples either. As much as I don’t like snow, it was really cool to see a bit of snow atop the iconic Miller Brewing sign.

The Milwaukee Public Market
The Milwaukee Public Market (Dori/Wikimedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 US])

From there, head to the Milwaukee Public Market, located in city’s Historic Third Ward neighborhood. The two-story market isn’t as massive as Seattle’s Pike Place Market, but it features a nice selection of local fare. I sampled a cup of delicious tomato soup and coupled it with a serving of half a dozen fresh oysters from their oyster bar. The market also sells many regional products including artisan cheeses and creamy frozen custard.

Grab a cup of hot cocoa from Colectivo and explore the Historic Third Ward, which recently underwent a drastic revitalization and now boasts trendy boutiques, art galleries and specialty stores.

Not too far away is the iconic Milwaukee Art Museum, considered Wisconsin’s premier arts institution as well as Milwaukee’s lakefront masterpiece. The museum houses more than 30,000 pieces in its permanent collection which includes works by Monet, Warhol and Picasso, in addition to one of the largest Georgia O’Keeffe collections in the world. The museum’s breathtaking moveable brise soleil “wings” soar against the backdrop of Lake Michigan, spanning the width of a Boeing 747 when extended.

View of Milwaukee Museum from south-west approach
View of Milwaukee Art Museum from south-west approach (PeterSesar/Wikimedia [CC BY-SA 4.0])

Milwaukee has a really great gay scene. It is always voted as one of the best gay cities to visit, so I decided to head out on the town for my first night in the MKE. My first stop was DIX, a trendy bar with some really cute bartenders and strong drinks. Not too far away is This Is It, the oldest gay bar in the city. The narrow space is warm and welcoming, although I heard the current owners are looking to expand. Walker’s Pint is the place for ladies to gather, while Kruz is the ‘daddy’ bar with really cool lighting and a nice patio space. If you’re looking to dance, head to LVL, but be advised there is a cover charge most nights.

Start your next morning by visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum. This spectacular one-of-a-kind museum celebrates the rich history of Harley-Davidson and has become the mecca for Harley riders throughout the world. More than 350 motorcycles are displayed, along with exhibits devoted to engines, racing, customized bikes and the company’s influence on American pop culture. As someone who has never ridden a motorcycle, I still found this museum interesting and one of the most Instagram-able places in the city.

Harley-Davidson Museum
Harley-Davidson Museum

Just a short drive from the Harley-Davidson Museum is the Pabst Mansion, constructed by Captain Frederick Pabst, founder of Pabst Brewing, in 1890. The Gilded Age mansion is located on Grand Avenue, just outside of downtown and was designed by George Bowman Ferry and Alfred Charles Clas. The mansion was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot but after a three-year crusade for its preservation, it was spared demolition and went on to become an award-winning house museum. The Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 21, 1975. 

Pabst Mansion
Pabst Mansion (Sailko/Wikimedia [CC BY 3.0])

If you have some time left, swing by the Milwaukee Public Museum’s butterfly exhibition. The two-story glass-enclosed garden was designed to provide the butterflies with a tropical environment despite Wisconsin’s frigid winter season. Hundreds of butterflies surround you as you walk through the exhibition. At one point, a butterfly landed on my head and made me the subject of many photos.

If you’re hungry, head to Balzac for a delicious assortment of tapas and flatbreads. Some standout items include Lamb Chops with hummus, garam masala aioli and paprika oil, Tuna Tartare with wasabi vinaigrette, fried wonton, sesame seeds and lime faulk salt as well as the Pork & Peach flatbread consisting of pork belly, red potato, manchego and garlic confit dressed with a balsamic peach glaze.

For drinks, I recommend SafeHouse, a downtown speakeasy that is quite fun from the moment you walk in the door. First-time visitors are asked for the password…and yes, most don’t know it. I had to hula-hoop for thirty seconds in order to gain entry. What I didn’t know is that everyone was watching me from inside the bar. It was quite embarrassing once I found out I had an audience, but once I was granted entry, the bar itself is incredible; filled with secret passageways and hidden items throughout.

While in town, try to swing by the Fiserv Forum and catch a Milwaukee Bucks basketball game. The new state-of-the-art arena is worth the price of admission. I got a private tour of the facility and was blown away by the amenities, especially the lounges located throughout the venue. The arena is also proud to have all-gender restrooms for their guests.

If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, Hamburger Mary’s hosts a fabulous buffet brunch complete with bottomless mimosas, and a cast of divine divas. The food was surprisingly good. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a brunch buffet, but there was a nice selection of both breakfast and lunch items to choose from.

One of the coolest activities this visit was taking part in a Milwaukee Food & City Tour. Privately owned by a husband and wife duo, the business idea was inspired while on a walking tour in SoHo 11 years ago. Today, they now run a total of 21 bus, walking, and neighborhood-themed tours that cover everything from Bloody Mary’s to pizza to tapas. For this visit, we participated in the holiday themed Ethnic Bakery Tour. Our guide was a hoot and knew a lot about the city as well as history of the businesses. Each of the six bakeries were privately owned (no chain establishments), so it was really nice to get a look at the hidden gems only the locals know about.

When I asked our tour guide Robert his favorite part of the job, he explained how he really enjoys incorporating Milwaukee history and comedy into the adventures. His knowledge of the city and its activities really put into perspective how much the downtown offers and how far the city has come in a short amount of time.

At one point, we drove by the Henry Maier Festival Park along the lakefront and briefly learned about the inane number of cultural festivals Milwaukee hosts – two in particular that draw people from all over the world.

Summerfest is an annual music festival that lasts for almost two weeks and hosts over 1000 performances on 11 stages. Last year, they had artists from every genre of music ranging from Kesha to Steven Tyler. Then there’s PrideFest which is one of the largest LGBTQ festivals in the Midwest welcoming nearly 50,000 visitors annually.

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, located right in downtown Milwaukee, is Wisconsin’s number one tourist destination. (Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin)

This Summer in Milwaukee is going to be jam packed with events so book your room early at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, located just outside of downtown, before it sells out. While there, try your luck at some slots if you’re so inclined.

Enjoy the Journey!

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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june 2019

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17jun7:00 PM9:00 PMCupcake Bar Trivia7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Rain on 4thCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

17jun(jun 17)10:00 PM18(jun 18)2:00 AMGame Night10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (18) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

17jun(jun 17)10:00 PM18(jun 18)2:00 AMMartinis & KaraokeHosted by Danny Pintauro10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (18) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

18jun8:00 PM11:00 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by Wild West Casino Games8:00 PM - 11:00 PM The Iron BearCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

18jun(jun 18)9:00 PM19(jun 19)2:00 AMShowstopperHosted by Sabel Scities9:00 PM - 2:00 AM (19) Rain on 4thCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:18+

18jun(jun 18)9:00 PM19(jun 19)12:00 AMMagical Muscial Showtune Sing-AlongHosted by Roxy Brooks and Brian Hall9:00 PM - 12:00 AM (19) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:DragAges:21+

19jun6:00 PM8:00 PMSteak Night6:00 PM - 8:00 PM BT2 AustinCategories:Food,NightlifeAges:21+

19jun7:00 PM10:00 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em7:00 PM - 10:00 PM Detour Neighborhood Bar DomainCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

19jun7:00 PM9:00 PMFeatured"All Shades Considered" Panel Discussion7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Austin Public Library - Central LibraryCategories:VisualAges:All Ages

19jun7:30 PM10:30 PMIMMORTAL LONGINGS7:30 PM - 10:30 PM ZACH TheatreCategories:TheatreAges:18+

19jun(jun 19)9:00 PM20(jun 20)2:00 AMWerqHosted by Diamond Dior & Scarlett Kiss 9:00 PM - 2:00 AM (20) Sellers UndergroundCategories:DragAges:21+

19jun(jun 19)9:30 PM20(jun 20)2:00 AMPlanet Fabulous KaraokeHosted by Murrah Noble9:30 PM - 2:00 AM (20) The Iron BearCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

20jun7:00 PM9:00 PMDrag BingoHost by Vegas Van Cartier7:00 PM - 9:00 PM BT2 AustinCategories:DragAges:21+

20jun7:30 PM10:30 PMIMMORTAL LONGINGS7:30 PM - 10:30 PM ZACH TheatreCategories:TheatreAges:18+

20jun(jun 20)8:30 PM21(jun 21)12:00 AMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by Wild West Casino Games8:30 PM - 12:00 AM (21) BT2 AustinCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

20jun9:30 PM11:30 PMDrag Survivor 13Hosted by Kelly Kline9:30 PM - 11:30 PM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:DragAges:18+

20jun(jun 20)10:00 PM21(jun 21)2:00 AMDown & Dirty Thursday ft. DJ ProtégéAll-Male Amateur StripOff ft. Bobby Cook & Sabel Scities10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (21) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:18+

20jun(jun 20)11:00 PM21(jun 21)2:00 AMDivas on 4thHosted by Nadine Hughes11:00 PM - 2:00 AM (21) Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

21jun7:00 PM10:30 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em7:00 PM - 10:30 PM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

21jun7:30 PM10:30 PMIMMORTAL LONGINGS7:30 PM - 10:30 PM ZACH TheatreCategories:TheatreAges:18+

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