Welcome to Miami
There’s a reason Florida is nicknamed “The Sunshine State,” and Miami is the gem of the East Coast. With its world-famous white sandy beaches and crystal azul waters, you’ll find the perfect spot to relax the day away—and party until the sun comes up again.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami is a luxurious destination hotel, situated in Brickell Keys, one of Miami’s most prestigious commercial and residential areas, just footsteps away from downtown Miami and a short cab ride from South Beach. Upon arriving, guests will find newly renovated guest rooms and suites featuring modern chic decor with simple Asian accents by Atlanta-based designer Jan Clausen and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment—a Bose sound system, flat screen TV, DVD/CD player and iPod docking capabilities. Couple that with rejuvenating bath amenities and a floor-to-ceiling view of Biscayne Bay and the downtown skyline, and you’re set for a truly serene and relaxing experience. Mandarin Oriental, Miami is also one of the few pet-friendly hotels in Miami Beach, with many of the same special treatments for guests tailored for our four-legged friends.
Visit Mandarin’s M Bar for the perfect cocktail, the Lycheetini, made with the delicious Asian fruit, for a flavorful experience that will have your tastebuds ready to start the party. After drinks, make plans to dine at Azul, the hotel’s own signature restaurant, combining Mediterranean and Asian influences and featuring fresh seafood and house-made desserts. Be sure to try the delicious stone crab, a seasonal delicacy, only available October through May.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami also boasts several ways to help you relax. There’s the private Oasis Beach Club featuring chaise lounges, cocoon daybeds, hammocks and private cabanas on the sand of the hotel’s own private beach, or the infinity-edge swimming pool and jacuzzi overlooking Biscayne Bay. Spend an afternoon relaxing in the hotel’s refurbished Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award-winning spa offering innovative treatments from cultures around the world—go for the Thai herbal compress ritual, composed of warm compresses of herbs and essential oils appplied to key muscle groups for a truly bespoke spa experience—and a tree will be planted in Everglades National Park in your honor.
After a relaxing spa treatment, get ready to play. When the lights go down, South Beach will be calling your name—and when you hit the town, be sure to stop off at Score, the gay nightclub and lounge where you’ll hear international beats by some of the world’s top DJs, and develop an international taste in men—Latino, European, muscle boys and cosmopolitan fashionistas.
Then the party continues until the early morning hours at Twist on Friday and Saturday nights, 1-5 a.m., with various rooms playing different genres of music to get you in the mood—house, hip-hop and hot go-go dancers galore. No cover.
Stop to shop at the Lincoln Road Mall, a seven-block pedestrian-only street mall, where you’ll find mainstream and high-end boutique shops, restaurants lining the sidewalks, art galleries and theaters, providing a little something for everyone. At the end of Lincoln Road is the infamous South Beach itself, with enough eye candy to keep you busy all day long.
The Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce recently opened a new LGBT Visitor Center—a one-stop shop for visitors and residents to learn about LGBT and allied businesses where they can stay, shop and dine in Miami Beach. Also, the MDGLCC, along with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Miami Design Preservation League, now offers 90-minute guided gay and lesbian walking tours of South Florida on the fourth Friday of each month at 6 p.m. Tours depart from the LGBT Visitor Center and end at Twist, shedding light on contributions of gays and lesbians to the history of Miami Beach—and how gays and lesbians continue to play a role in shaping the city’s future. You’ll see some architectural gems as well as the hot spots of South Beach. Visit gogaymiami.com for more info. —Aaron Drake
Puerto Vallarta: ¡Viva La Noche!
A popular Mexican travel destination of the LGBT community for decades, Puerto Vallarta has dozens of LGBT-owned-and-operated businesses—everything from hotels and bars to stores and restaurants—not to mention the gay beach at Los Muertos. And with daily nonstop flights from L.A., you can take your pick of when you’d like to escape.
When looking to vacation in Puerto Vallarta, look no further than the exclusive Zona Romantica neighborhood, where the gay community is able to truly enjoy itself, surrounded by restaurants, bars, nightclubs, galleries and the gay beach.
Puerto Vallarta is renowned for its sunset-to-sunrise nightlife options, and the selection of gay bars and nightclubs is staggering—we’re talking just as many as West Hollywood! Check out Club Mañana, Mexico’s largest gay nightclub complex, recently named by Out magazine one of the best gay bars in the world; popular martini bars La Noche and Sama; the famous Paco’s Ranch, featuring drag shows and dancing; find male adult entertainers at the new, upscale Wet Dreams and mainstay Antropology; and over a dozen more LGBT options within the 10-square-block area of Zona Romantica.
For PV resources, visit gogaypuertovallarta.com and gayguidevallarta.com.
San Diego: Extreme Adventure
If you’re looking for more than an escape from L.A. and need an escape from the daily drudgery, look no further than our Cali neighbor to the south. San Diego offers a breadth of high adventure options to get your heart racing and your mind reset.
At San Diego Parasailing Adventures, experience the combined thrills of an offshore powerboat ride, parachuting and gliding all in one action-packed adventure. The company offers winch direct parasailing, which allows you to safely take off and land from a flight deck located on the boat, as opposed to taking off from the beach—ouch! The view while parasailing can’t be beat, and it’s even more fun in a group! goparasailing.com
Just outside of San Diego, nestled between the mountains and the city, Skydive San Diego wants you to see the world from 13,000 feet. Try one of two skydiving options: tandem freefall skydive, where you’re harnessed to a licensed instructor before stepping out into space, and solo freefall skydive, where you undergo a comprehensive course before jumping into the unknown wearing your own parachute. Let the adrenaline pimps at Skydive San Diego hook you up! skydivesandiego.com
Explore Mission Bay from a sea lion’s point of view, both above and below the waterline, with The Adventure Center. Take a self-guided trip atop an ocean kayak, launching from the beach into the bay. Bring along a waterproof camera and head into the bay’s super calm Bonita Cove, a protected snorkel environment protected by large breakwater rocks, providing an ideal habitat for local sea life and referred to some as an underwater zoo. Check out starfish, lobsters, stingrays, eels and maybe even an octopus or two. supercooladventures.com —Stephan Horbelt
Elevate Yourself: Mammoth & Park City
One of the perks of living in L.A. is being able to escape to both the beach and the mountains. Take advantage of the colder climate by hitting the slopes with the boys. This winter, Tom Whitman offers West Coast LGBTs two opportunities to crush fresh powder. Celebrating its ninth incarnation, Elevation: Mammoth Gay Ski Weekend returns with days full of skiing and boarding and nights crammed with flirting and grinding. The event proved to be so popular that it spawned a baby brother in the form of Elevation: Utah. Finally, Utah can revel in something slightly gayer than the Sundance Film Festival or Mormonism, and much more entertaining.
Whitman created the Elevation weekends in order to provide an alternative to the generic party scene. It’s easy to get sucked into the WeHo loop and mindlessly flit from Eleven to Micky’s then Fiesta and back again. Liberate yourself from your rut by rushing down the face of a pristine snow-capped peak. It’ll put those gym-toned muscles to practical use. And, if nothing else, you can tweak off your own natural endorphins.
If this all sounds too vanilla for you, don't worry. Both Elevation weekends provide nightly dance parties, as well as apres-ski events designed for intermingling in a more social, bar-oriented environment. This year, expect to shake your tight ass to the fresh sounds of DJ Josh Peace, DJ Pornstar, DJ Escape and DJ Michael Paul, among others. So plan on spending your days on the slopes, your nights on the dance floor and in-between, why not enjoy a Hot Toddy with a hottie named Todd?
Elevation: Utah, Park City, Utah; Feb. 18-21
Elevation: Mammoth, Mammoth, Calif.; Mar. 16-20.
To purchase tickets, visit tickets.tomwhitmanpresents.com. —Mike Ciriaco
Berlin: Take to the Streets
Each year, Germany’s capital offers a growing list of festivals, parades, celebrations and annual cultural highlights. Boasting over 1,500 events daily, here’s a look at some of Berlin’s exciting 2011 events program:
The 61st Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), Feb. 10-20
For two weeks, art, glamour, parties and business meet at the Berlinale, not only the city’s largest cultural event, but also an important date for the international film industry. Film professionals and journalists from 120 countries show up yearly, as does the largest audience of any film festival in the world. Up to 400 films are shown, many of which are world or European premieres. berlinale.de
Carnival in Berlin, Feb. 27
Three thousand participants. Sixty floats. Numerous marching bands. More than one million spectators and participants. The 10th annual Berlin Carnival Costume Parade gets underway at 11:11 a.m. and moves through the Western center of Berlin. karnevals-zug-berlin.de
Carnival of Cultures, June 10-13
Berlin’ Kreuzberg district will play host to one million enthusiastic patrons celebrating cultural and ethnic diversity. One of the city’s most popular events, the carnival attracts dancers, musicians and singers from 80 different nations. karneval-berlin.de
Lesbian and Gay Street Festival, June 18-19
Berlin’s Rainbow Fund presents its 19th festival, the largest of its kind in Europe. Expecting some 35,000 visitors, the festival takes place around Nollendorf Platz in Schöneberg district, one of Berlin’s traditional gay stomping grounds. gay-stadtfest.de
Christopher Street Day, June 25
Berlin’s Christopher Street Day celebrates its 33rd anniversary in 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people trek to the German capital to celebrate equality and tolerance for gays and lesbians around the world. Expect to party with half a million in the streets between Kurfürstendamm and the Victory Column. csd-berlin.de
Europe: Capitalize on the Fun
For a real escape, there’s no better vacation destination than Europe. A joint initiative of European tourism offices, coolcapitals aims to promote art, architecture, food, fashion and design in five of the coolest cities on the continent—Amsterdam, Antwerp, Valencia, Vienna and Zürich. Each city is a dazzling metropolis bursting with vibrant culture, culinary delights and cutting-edge design and architecture.
Besides its lush ‘greenery,’ Amsterdam is perhaps most famous for its lovely canals that crisscross the city and its reputation for friendliness and tolerance. The city has also made a name for itself in design—everything from 17th-century Dutch masters to 21st-century architecture and accessories are all readily accessible here. Whether you’re an art buff, green-minded or just looking to relax, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Amsterdam.
Antwerp is a refreshingly down-to-earth yet vivacious cosmopolitan habitat blessed with sublime architecture, avant-garde fashion, beer-washed Old World pubs, jazzed-up clubs, inspired art and countless restaurants serving up superb multicultural dishes. The city is full of a youthful creative energy and an appreciation for the finer things in life.
Muslim, Roman and Christian roots intertwine in Valencia, Spain’s best kept secret, creating a unique character all its own. Inspired local cuisine bursts with flavor, aroma and color in the birthplace of paella. The city plays host not only to large-scale sports such as Formula 1 and the America’s Cup, but also events in art, music and theater.
Anyone who thinks Vienna is only about Mozart is in for a pleasant surprise. Trendy clubbers, independent gallery curators, shopping addicts, modern architects and foodies can all cite very good reasons to visit. Though the Austrian capital is a big, bustling city, its inhabitants know how to enjoy the good life—the city’s cafés and jazz scene are as remarkable as the concert halls, blockbuster museums, splendid buildings and nostalgic shops.
The stunning view comes free in this beautiful city. Stroll along Zürich’s world-famous Bahnhofstrasse, with its rows of luxury shops, and the trendy districts of Zürich-West and Aussersihl. Enjoy culinary delights in the picturesque alleyways of the Old Town. Relax beside the lake or at riverside pools, transformed into ‘Badibars’ (pool bars) at dusk. And don’t forget Lake Zürich’s gentle breeze and Alpine panorama.
For more information on these five destinations, visit coolcapitals.com.