Category Archives: Travel & Leisure

The Bubbles No Longer Tickle My Nose: Being Gay & Half-Native on Thanksgiving

By Hellen Back

Ms. Back is a performer, originally from Santa Cruz, who now makes their home in Portland. She has kindly agreed to share recollections from her life, in and out of drag.

My dad’s family didn’t approve that my mother wasn’t white: so I never met them, never celebrated holidays, never met my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the whole lot. Instead I was raised by my Mom’s family, who are Native-American.

Thanksgiving was always kind of a joke in our family.

During these dinners, a maternal relative would inevitably shout out, and cause everyone to laugh, “Why the hell are we celebrating this again?” You bet, Thanksgiving was always kind of a joke in our family.

Thanksgiving was alway a mindless eating binge, with very little thought given to the supposed history behind the holiday. A time to gather with family to eat, laugh, eat, nap, eat, repeat. Then watch old movies and football and then of course eat some more. 

My nana’s green bean casserole with the crunchy God-knows-what on the top, the standard dry and overcooked bird, the forgotten rolls burning away in the oven, lumps in the gravy and years, the standard shit some families insist on repeating less than 30 days later on Christmas. Of course, years ago, when various pain-in-the ass uncles were still alive, the political arguments. This was often followed by squealing tires as someone left in a rage. As dad once put it, “They drove up in a Mercedes, but left in a huff!”

Dad had married into my big crazy Native American family when he met mom. She was petite and gorgeous and the love of his life. He was great, a big, good look’n guy. A bit actor in “motion pictures” and TV shows, mostly Westerns. 

He was great on a horse so he was often a stuntman, and made his career doubling actors like Errol Flynn and John Barrymore. He really was a dead ringer for Barrymore and cut quite the figure and profile. As a kid I remember dad always being impeccably dressed and people inevitably used the word dapper when describing him. He was also the most liberal, loving person you’d ever meet with a huge heart that was definitely in the right place.

…roped-off heirloom chairs in their houses and roped-off heirloom minds in their heads.

He had been born into a well-to-do, Protestant Bostonian family of polite WASPs–the kind with roped-off heirloom chairs in their houses and roped-off heirloom minds in their heads. Scandalously, his mother had been French-Catholic and had made sure he was christened in the Roman Catholic Church just before she passed away from complications caused by his birth.

That’s all it took, a few drops of holy water and the unintelligible mutterings of some musty old priest and his life was changed forever. His father’s family from that day forward treated him like a servant, even worse than a servant. He slept on the porch, even in the dead of winter. He stole bagels and milk off of the neighborhood porches and did his best to get by.

Hellen as a Youngster, at Roughly the Same Age His Father was Abandoned by His Own Father…

One day his father took him down to the train station when he was about five-years old or so, handed him a couple dollars and then stepped aboard a departing train as it pulled away from the station, never to be seen or heard from again. After that, dad was on his own. Luckily for him he was taken in by a Black family in Boston who fed and clothed him. He never forgot that kindness and he lived his life completely devoid of any racism. His first wife was latino with whom he had eight very good look’n kids.

“Would you like to be in motion pictures?”

Later in life, in his late forties, he met my mom. Mom was dark and beautiful with a dazzling smile and a killer figure. She told me that dad’s first words out of his mouth to her had been, “Would you like to be in motion pictures?”

Yeah, She Was in Pictures…No Joke.

She laughed and told him what a line and then, they were together for the next thirty or more years. I remember people staring at us and yelling things when we’d go out. Restaurants were particularly uncomfortable. I was born in 1957 so-mixed race couples were few and far between. Kids at school would say “Your mom’s a n****r.”

So, dad would come down to the principal’s office to raise hell.

Both mom and dad’s best-friends were black. When they’d visit, I’d be in the front yard playing with their kids, and every other house on the block in our lily white neighborhood of Downey, California was studded with angry faces peeking through curtains watching us disapprovingly. A few years later when I was to come out as gay the residents of Downey had something else to hate me for and–hate me they did. Daily verbal and physical assaults which lasted until the day I escaped that awful little city.  

Portrait of the Artist as a Fey Lad

When I came out to my parents…dad wasn’t in the least bit fazed and never had an issue with it. Mom had wanted grandchildren badly, but soon got past that and our family, mom’s family, they didn’t blink an eye, they loved me unconditionally, the entire family.

After knowing the “good Christian” white people of Downey I realized that I wasn’t missing a thing by not knowing my dad’s family, the only good thing they ever produced was him, a good guy that never saw the color of a person’s skin or judged someone by whom they loved. 

…the only family I’ve ever known.

Today I think of family, my Mom’s Family…the only family I’ve ever known. Today they are scattered around the country and many have passed, but they are all in my thoughts and my heart. Just a bunch of fun, loving, crazy Indians (we still call ourselves Indians by the way, because we can call ourselves whatever we damn well please) and at some point today someone in each household will pause and ask, 

“Why the Hell are we celebrating today again?” 

Pride Journey: Columbus, Ohio

By Joey Amato

This was my fourth visit to Columbus, Ohio and every time I visit, I discover something new. What a lot of people don’t realize about this thriving mid-west city is that its LGBTQ community is one of the largest in the United States and growing every day.


Just a short stroll down High Street and you’ll run in to Union and Axis, two of the city’s many gay nightlife venues. On previous visits, there used to be a few more gay bars located on High Street, but they have since closed and others have sprouted up throughout the city.

Within minutes of arriving, I got a chance to visit Stonewall Columbus, their LGBTQ community center, located in the Short North neighborhood. The building, which recently went through a major renovation, offers a number of health and wellness services in addition to hosting numerous events throughout the year. Stonewall also houses an art gallery dedicated to local LGBTQ artists.

Never one to shy away from the camera, Joey Amato in Columbus.

Art enthusiasts will love the Columbus Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition Art After Stonewall which opens in March 2020. The exhibition, which previously visited Miami and New York was actually curated by the Columbus Museum of Art. The entire process of curating an exhibition of this size, which includes about 250 works of art by LGBTQ artists, took around 7 years to complete. The collection includes a combination of well-known artists as well as some lesser known names.

The Columbus Museum of Art.

After exploring the museum, head to North Market for lunch. Dozens of food vendors are located under one roof which features a culinary explosion for the senses including foods from Somalia, Greece, India among others. Also located in North Market is Jeni’s Ice Cream, a homegrown shop which now has locations in other cities around the country. Try the Brown Butter Almond Brittle, it’s to die for!

A few doors down is Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph. Developed by The Pizzuti Companies, the boutique hotel boasts a vast art collection of works acquired by Ron Pizzuti, one of the largest collectors of fine art in the world. Pizzuti’s collection is so extensive that he had to open a building to house it all. Guests of The Joseph get to explore The Pizzuti Collection free of charge. The property is also located in the Short North neighborhood, so it’s a great place to stay if you want to partake in LGBTQ nightlife.

For dinner, check out a gay-owned restaurant in German Village called Barcelona. The tapas-style restaurant offers a large indoor dining room as well as a lovely patio that makes you feel as if you are in Spain. I tried a variety of tapas in addition to a delicious charcuterie board which nicely completed the white sangria. Barcelona also offers four types of paella to choose from including a vegetarian option.

A few blocks away from the restaurant are some of the city’s neighborhood gay bars including Club DiversityBoscoe’s and Tremont Lounge. Club Diversity is located in a converted house and really does welcome the most diverse crowd I have seen at a gay bar in recent memory. The establishment makes everyone feel comfortable regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Boscoe’s is also quite unique. On the evening I visited, the bar had a drag show and male strippers alternating performances throughout the night. The concept was actually a great idea, however I felt like the crowd was more excited about the queens. Other Columbus gay bars worth noting include AwolSouthbend Tavern, and Cavan Irish Pub. The city also boasts many retail establishments dedicated to the LGBTQ community.

Columbus Pride is one of the largest pride festivals in the country, drawing over 800,000 revelers every year and according to local sources, their pride parade is larger than Chicago’s. Not a bad accomplishment for a city much smaller than Chi-Town. Plan on attending the next festival which is scheduled for June 19-21, 2020.

History buffs will love the newly opened National Veterans Memorial and Museum. It is the only museum in the country that honors all Veterans – from all branches of service, and from all eras of our nation’s history of military service from the Revolutionary War to present. I was moved to tears watching videos of veterans telling their stories about the trials of war and the pressure it puts on their families. It really is an emotional experience that I wasn’t ready for to be honest. I have been to many museums of this nature, but for some reason, this one struck a chord.

Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus, Ohio.

End your day with a meal at The Guild House, a restaurant developed by local celebrity chef and restauranteur Cameron Mitchell. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by warm notes of color with a modern twist. I almost felt as if I was dining at a culinary version of West Elm. For starters try the Tuna Ribbons and Steak Tartare. Both presentations are elegant and artful, just like the restaurant itself. My favorite entrée on the menu was the Sea Bass served in a lobster broth accompanied by carrots, leeks, radish and chili oil. Finish off your meal with the Carrot Cake and savour Chef Mitchell’s twist on the traditional favorite.

An interesting fact about the city is that it is home to the 3rd largest number of fashion designers in the United States, behind New York and Los Angeles, due to the fact that L Brands is headquartered in Columbus. Local businessman Les Wexner founded the company in 1963 and has grown the fashion empire to include brands like Victoria’s Secret, Express, The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch and Bath & Body Works. Although some of the brands have been spun off or sold, they have all called Columbus home. And where there are fashion designers, there are also models. Lot and lots of models. The eye candy is one of the city’s strong points.

If you are looking for an easy, affordable and fun city to visit, check out Columbus. You may be surprised at what this city has to offer, and you may keep coming back to experience its warmth and hospitality.

Enjoy the Journey!

Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. Joey has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. He can be reached at joey@pridejourneys.com 

Pride on the Mountain: Central Oregon Hosts Second Annual Winter PrideFest

“This event is a reminder of the strength and diversity of our mountain community and that the mountains truly are for everyone to enjoy.” — Drew Jackson, Mt. Bachelor’s Director of Marketing and Communications

By Jen Roberton

LGBTQ Pride is thriving year round–in festivals and events that don’t only happen in June! This is especially apparent in the Oregon resort town of Bend and at Mt. Bachelor. For the second year in a row, folks in the LGBTQ community packed up their snow gear–and most extravagant wigs–to come out to Winter PrideFest, hosted by Out Central Oregon (OCO) and the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. In a statement from Mt. Bachelor’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Drew Jackson said,

“Mt. Bachelor is thrilled to partner with Out Central Oregon and provide one of the many venues to celebrate Winter PrideFest.”

DJ Jen Roberton – Photo Credit: Rachel Puma


The producer of the event was also pleased with the success of the fest, “Turnout for all events throughout Winter PrideFest weekend was well-beyond our expectations.” reported Jamie Nesbitt of
OCO. “We are so appreciative of the enthusiasm expressed by the participants and our local business partners that together made the events fun and memorable for everyone.

There were several events sure to inspire memories at PrideFest. Events were planned over the course of four days beginning with the Welcoming Snocial, which was an early evening meet and greet at Box Factory in Downtown Bend. Wigs–literally–an Ice Breaker, where attendees ice skated on an outdoor rink at the Inn at Seventh Mountain. That Saturday was the Apres Ski main celebration at Mt. Bachelor, sponsored by 10 Barrell, with a live DJ all day at the lodge. Including myself, DJ Jen Roberton! A highlight of the day was Drag Tubing, where queens and kings donned their finest snow drag outfits. That event, hosted by D’Auntie Carol, attracted local media coverage.

D’Auntie Carol – Photo credit: Rachel Puma

For those snowsports fans, there were organized nordic and alpine ski outings. To make it more festive, the music from the lodge was playing on the slopes. After that, the pride weekend continued with a cocktail hour at Dogwood and an evening Apres Ski queer party filled with house music, spun by DJs Chelly Bean and Jason Godfrey. Then, like any pride weekend should, the event closed with a Sunday brunch buffet at Hola.

PrideFest was a community effort. Jackson gave special thanks to the Bend Cultural Tourism Fund, who awarded a grant to OCO to support Winter PrideFest 2019. And looks forward to welcoming past and new participants in 2020. In addition he said, “This event is a reminder of the strength and diversity of our mountain community and that the mountains truly are for everyone to enjoy. Participation more than doubled this year, and we look forward to working with the local LGBTQ+ community to grow this event and welcome everyone to Winter PrideFest in the coming years.”

ProudTimes thanks our colleague Jen Roberton, aka DJ Jen Roberton for taking part in this event. We are looking forward to next year to celebrate Pride in our Pacific Wonderland. You can reach Jen at jen.roberton@proudtimes.com with any stories or events you may have.

Pride Journey: Oklahoma City

By Joey Amato

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.

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.

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 into 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 gayborhood 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.

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 Barrio’s Mexican Kitchen in Midtown, then enjoyed some dessert at Roxy’s Ice Cream in the Plaza District, a cute neighborhood with dozens of murals. Yet another Instagram-friendly adventure.

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 Finish Line 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 Hi-Lo 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 Journey: Indianapolis

By Joey Amato

Indianapolis has always felt like a second home to me. I used to publish a gay magazine there called UNITE a few years ago, so I was frequently visiting the city. This time, I wanted to experience things that I may not have had the chance to see on previous visits.

One event of major interest was the Lambda Legal Indiana Benefit gala which took place at the Indy Public Library, a stunning building located in the heart of the city. The Indiana Benefit was conceived in 1999 by a group of visionary individuals seeking to advance the civil rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV, in Indiana. That vision and dedication to Lambda Legal’s mission and work in Indiana have yielded some of the most important and strategic legal victories our community has experienced in the past decade, including the freedom to marry.

In 2017, it was an Indiana case that won a federal court victory affirming that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law. This year, the benefit honored philanthropists Neil Bagadiong and Kevin Warren, the Indy power couple who was instrumental in the Pence Must Go campaign that was enacted during Mike Pence’s final term as Governor of the state. They also host a weekly pool party for the community at their home during the summer.

After the benefit, the party continued at Tini on Massachusetts Avenue, a gay-owned martini bar which has become the city’s hotspot for the see-and-be-seen gay crowd. Mass Ave., as it is called by the locals, is a vibrant street lined with restaurants, boutiques and nightlife establishments catering to both a gay and straight audience.

A few blocks away is Forty-Five Degrees, a beautiful gay-owned restaurant and sushi bar, which hosts numerous drag shows and LGBT benefits throughout the year including a fashion show leading up to Indianapolis Pride.

After a night of partying, I headed back to my hotel, the newly renovated Hyatt Regency. The centerpiece of the property is their open-air atrium but also worth visiting is their swanky rooftop restaurant offering unobstructed views of Indianapolis. The rooms at the Hyatt were spacious and comfortable, with some rooms offering separate sleeping and living areas in addition to huge bathrooms.

The next morning, I woke up early to head to The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields for an LGBTQ photography exhibition of renowned, American photographer George Platt Lynes. The collection of photographs is on loan from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Lynes’ visionary work catapulted him to notoriety as a New York-based commercial fashion and ballet photographer but resulted in his drift from the spotlight when it was revealed that he photographed male nudes as well. Lynes also turned his lens on his social circle—the artistic and literary minds of the mid-20th century—who accepted him as a gay man during a period of harsh anti-LGBT laws in America. The provocative photographs, include nude works, are a must see and are on exhibition through February.

If you’re in the mood for a quick bite, I would suggest visiting Broad Ripple, a cute neighborhood north of downtown consisting of cafes, lively brewpubs, vintage clothing stores and a live music venue called The Vogue. Broad Ripple Park is located along the White River and is part of the Monon Rail Trail, popular with joggers and cyclists.

After lunch head to the Indianapolis City Market for a guided tour of the Catacombs, a Roman-looking expanse of brick arches located beneath the market. The Catacombs qualify as both a ruin and a redevelopment opportunity. They’re what remains of Tomlinson Hall, an imposing building whose main hall seated 3,500 people. Dietrich Bohlen designed the hall in 1886 to complement his earlier work at City Market. Tomlinson Hall burned in January 1958, but the Catacombs contain scores of brick barrel-vaulted arches that remain from what was the basement of Tomlinson Hall.
If you have time after visiting City Market, head to the Indianapolis Zoo for a once-in-a-lifetime experience creating art with a rhinoceros. Before meeting the rhino, guests are asked to select a color scheme for their painting and as the zookeeper tells you about the beautiful animals, the rhino begins to create a unique masterpiece with its horn over the course of about 10-15 minutes. This unforgettable experience is also available with penguins, walrus and dolphins.

What many people don’t know about the zoo is that is one of the leading zoos in animal conservation in the country, awarding the prestigious Indianapolis Prize. Through a monetary award of $250,000, the Prize recognizes the accomplishments of one heroic individual who has made significant strides to save a species from extinction. The Indianapolis Prize was created by the Indianapolis Zoological Society as part of its mission to empower people and communities, locally and globally, to advance the cause of animal conservation. Past Indianapolis Prize Winners include Dr.  George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, and Iain Douglas Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants.

For dinner, I headed to Tony’s, a new restaurant located across the street from the Hyatt Regency which will make you feel as if you are dining in an upscale New York steakhouse. Instead of ordering an entrée, I decided to opt for two appetizers instead, since I was attending the Taylor Swift concert at Lucas Oil Stadium later that evening. The Calamari with pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, and garlic aioli were light and flavorful and the Prince Edward Island Mussels in a lobster tomato saffron broth with garlic and chorizo were plump and delicious. At first glance, the prices looked a bit steep, but once the selections arrived, I realized I could have invited a few friends to share the over-sized portions. I was even greeted by Tony himself during my visit.

In recent years a few of Indy’s LGBT nightlife venues have shuttered but the city still offers a nice variety of establishments including Greg’s, English Ivy’s and Metro Nightclub. Greg’s offers a dance room and patio with decently priced drinks and friendly crowd, while English Ivy’s features a full menu and separate bar area for mingling.

Indianapolis is home to many LGBT organizations, most notably, Indiana Youth Group (IYG) a drop-in center for youth ages 12-20 that identify as LGBTQ+. Youth who are allies to LGBTQ+ folks are also welcome to the facility which provides services, activities, affinity programs, referrals, and serves as a safe space for the community. The city also boasts a division of PFLAG and the Indy Rainbow Chamber, a bi-partisan group for LGBTQ business owners, employees and allies.

A little secret about Indianapolis that I find extremely intriguing is the city’s Masonic influence. Indy was designed by the same city planner as Washington D.C. and features many architectural structures worth visiting included the Scottish Rite Cathedral, Indiana Freemasons’ Hall, a giant obelisk

fountain and the Indiana War Memorial. I highly recommend taking a free tour of the Scottish Rite Cathedral led by a Freemason himself who will tell you stories about the secret society and its influence in Indianapolis.

Before leaving Indy, go to brunch at Milktooth, a wonderful restaurant in the Fountain Square neighborhood, which was recently named to Conde Nast Traveler’s “World’s Best Restaurant” list. The restaurant was opened in 2014 by Jonathan Brooks, and features locally sourced produce to create its delectable creations.

Enjoy the journey!

Pride Journey: Milan & Turin, Italy

By Joey Amato

In the past decade, I have traveled around the world, visiting 3 continents in the past five years alone. The one destination that always seemed to elude me for one reason or another was my motherland, Italy. For the past decade, I have attempted to organize a visit, but life, or in this case, other destinations, got in the way.

When I received an email in September from the Italian tourism bureau asking me if I wanted to spend a few days in Milan and Turin, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The two cities wanted to invite LGBT journalists and travel professionals to experience the destinations. It was probably the most spontaneous international trip I had ever been on. Usually, I have a few months to prepare, both physically and mentally, but this time, I had about three weeks.

I decided to travel with only a carry-on and backpack, which is a bit atypical for me but given the short duration of the trip, I thought it would be easiest. Plus, it saves time at the airport. 

Flying in to Milan is actually quite simple. There are many non-stop flights from the U.S., however, the airport itself is located about 45 minutes outside the city, so plan accordingly.

Duomo di Milano is the focal point of Milan, an absolutely enormous Gothic structure located in the heart of the city, surrounded by classic roman and baroque-style buildings. As my taxi driver snaked through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. Luggage in tow, I was determined to check in to my hotel and freshen up before venturing out, but as I turned the corner, I found myself in the center of the piazza surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen.

I literally didn’t know which way to look. Every building was more beautiful than the next. The piazza was bustling with energy. Ironically, a group of young musicians were performing U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, but in this case, I found it. It was around noon and locals were chatting with each other while sipping cappuccinos, loving life and making memories along the way.

Luckily for me, I was staying at STRAFhotel which was located less than a block off the piazza. The property was modern and minimalist, with much attention given to the sleek lines and use of space.

Milan is a shopper’s paradise. Home to arguably the most important fashion week in the world, designer names are as common as Starbucks is here in the states. Versace, Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Cavalli…the list goes on and on. Aside from its fashion, Milan is also known for interior design in addition to being pioneers in the automotive industry. Alfa Romeo was founded in Milan in 1910 and is still headquartered in the city. Alfa Romeo is part of what locals call the Big 6 which also includes Ferrari, Fiat, Lamborghini, Lancia, and Maserati. All have a presence in Milan.

Art enthusiasts will be interested in visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Tickets sell out months in advance, so be sure to purchase yours ahead of time. History buffs will also take interest in a tour called “The Footsteps of Leonardo,” which highlights destinations influenced by the great artist. 

Foodies should note that the cuisine featured in this region is not what most expect when they think of Italian food. Whereas Southern Italy is known for its olive oil and tomato-based cuisine, Northern Italian faire is rooted in cream sauces and risotto. Even the risotto varies from region to region.

The next morning, my group departed for Turin, which is a little under two hours from Milan. We were greeted by our wonderful hosts at Visit Turin who led us through the city pointing out architectural wonders along the way. Being so far north, you can notice influences of France, Germany and Austria in its architecture, as well as the culture.

Our first stop was the Mole Antonelliana, the city’s most iconic structure and home to the National Cinema Museum, an interactive experience showcasing Italy’s rich heritage in cinematography. Guests can journey to the top of the spire in a glass elevator for an unobstructed panoramic view of the city.

The following morning, we took part in an LGBT history tour called Tuttaltra Storia (The Whole Story), a walking tour which shines light on historical figures with an LGBT past including Julius Caesar, Christina of Sweden, Princess Marie Louise of Savoy, Michelangelo and of course, Leonardo Da Vinci. We stopped at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (home of the Holy Shroud), Porte Palatine, the Royal Library and Armoury as well as The Royal Residences, which are considered a “World Heritage Sites” by UNESCO.

Turin is home to Museo Egizio, the Egyptian Museum, which houses the largest number of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. Archeological wonders include numerous hieroglyphs, sarcophagi, stone statues, tablets and the oldest mummy ever discovered in the world. Guests can spend hours in the museum but it was time for the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most, wine country!

The Langhe region is Northwest Italy’s answer to Tuscany, known for the Nebbiolo grape which is used to produce Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara and Ghemme wines. The region is surrounded by rolling hills and medieval castles. We were fortunate enough to visit Castello di Guarene, the 18th century home of Count Carlo Giacinto, a member of Piedmontese aristocracy. Guests will admire the fine antique furniture, ranging from 17th-century carved wooden chests to exquisite examples of Louis XVI design, in addition to the family portraits and other artistic attributes.

My favorite part of the castle is the spa level, an underground cavern of stone so beautiful it is really difficult to put into words. A long stone hallway, which the Count would use if he needed to escape his palace unnoticed, leads to the pool which is carved into the hill and lit in a blue and green hue. The restaurant is led by 32-year-old Davide Odore and gives guests the opportunity to dine like royalty. As we gathered around a large round table, sipped fine Italian wine and savored the flavors of the region, we recanted the tales of our quick, but memorable trip.

And so it goes, all good things must come to an end. We arrived at the Golden Palace hotel in Turin in time to pack and catch a few hours of rest before boarding my flight back to the U.S. I feel like I got a small taste of Italy on this voyage. Not enough to fully satisfy my desire, but just enough to make me want to return and discover a different region of the country. There’s always next year.

Ciao!

Joey Amato is a seasoned travel journalist and publisher of Pride Journeys, a travel site dedicated to LGBT travel news and destination reviews. For more information, please visit www.PrideJourneys.com

PrideJourney: Rochester, New York

By Jesse Walker

Rochester Pride Festival 2017 – Courtesy of 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.

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.

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.

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.

Rochester has a buzzing art and culture scene. I’ve been to traditional galleries before, and ArtisanWorks 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.

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, Jine’s, 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.

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 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 Journey: Seattle

By Joey Amato

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.

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 Capital Hill or even at a new hotspot called Lumber Yard, a sports bar located in the White Center neighborhood, about 15 minutes from downtown.

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 Rainer 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.

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.

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.

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.

After a quick wardrobe change, I was ready for a night out on the town. Capital Hill is Seattle’s gayborhood, consisting of dozens of LGBT restaurants, bars, retail shops and professional businesses. Capital 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 Capital Hill, check out Queer Bar, Cuff, R-Place, Madison Pub, and Pony. They are all within blocks of each other and each offer a different vibe and crowd.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 Journey: Kansas City

By Joey Amato

The only things I knew about Kansas City, Missouri 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Other local gay bars worth visiting include Woody’s, Sidestreets, Sidekicks and Buddies. Hamburger Mary’s is another great option if you’re looking for a nice meal before heading out on the town.

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.

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.

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.

Hotel Ruby & Sapphire Lounge

By Kurt Schmierer – Where Can We Go From Here?

Exterior Hotel Ruby 2013While arranging this interview about Hotel Ruby, we learned that the management and staff are very LGBT-friendly and they are not afraid to let the public know. The hotel has a modern look, colorfully decorated rooms, and a superior location in downtown Spokane. It makes one wonder, why would anyone want to stay anywhere else?

Hotel General Manager Anny Gold tells us more.

What can you tell us about the history of Hotel Ruby and your choice of location?

Our parent company, GVD Commercial Properties, Inc., purchased the hotel in January of 2010. At that time it was a Rodeway Inn. We had immediate plans to remodel and become an independent hotel. We definitely chose it because it was located downtown and also because it was a small property.

What amenities do you offer?

We have a complimentary breakfast (including self-made waffles & hard-boiled eggs), complimentary WiFi, refrigerators and microwaves in every room, as well as irons/ironing boards and complimentary bicycles.

Do you offer discounted rates for LGBT interest groups?

Yes, we have discounted rates for the Spokane Imperial Court. We have not been approached by any other groups.

Have you had requests for same-sex ceremonies?

We haven’t had a request for a same-sex ceremony—possibly, because we don’t have the space. However, we will have a space at the Bing (across the street) that will be rentable for intimate events. It will be a very classy space. It is almost finished.

Please describe your available suites for couples.

We have a Deluxe King suite that has a king size bed, sofa, 72″ television and kitchenette. It is very modern and has lovely design features.

What are your long-term plans for the hotel?

We are continuing to update the bathrooms in the rooms. The rooms have been remodeled with new beds, carpets and TVs. But, not all of the bathrooms have been completely remodeled. They all have new sinks, countertops and mirrors. But, now we are taking the old bathtubs out and replacing them with glass showers and all tile on the walls and floors.

The hotel is very event driven and arts-friendly. We do many co-promotions with the Knitting Factory and the Bing.

Have you partnered in any way with the Bing Crosby Theater? If so, do you offer a special package of any sort?

We do partner with Bing. We do room packages with Bing event tickets; we promote Sapphire Lounge and Hotel Ruby at Bing events; and we are a box office for the Bing.

I’m sure Dempsey’s Brass Rail brought a colorful crowd to the area. Did the bar’s closing impact business?

I’m sure that it had an immediate effect, but there were so many changes going on at the hotel at that time that it would be hard to measure. We miss our Dempsey’s neighbors.

What would you like to see done with Dempsey’s should they not re-open?

Maybe another bar or restaurant?

 


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