Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gay Times in Phoenix

By Ed Salvato

Phoenix is a sprawling city – the nation's fifth largest – a collection of palm tree-studded cities and towns ringed by mountains, where a car is in indispensable necessity. The similarities to Los Angeles are striking, right down to analogous municipalities, including exclusive Paradise Valley, Phoenix's Bel Air, and tony Scottsdale, its Beverly Hills.

Despite the controversial new immigration law scheduled to take effect in July, it's impossible to paint the area with the broad brushstroke of intolerance. Phoenix boasts a thriving community of LGBT residents and remains a warm and welcoming destination for gay and lesbian visitors. The population of Arizona is approximately 30% Hispanic, and the other 70% is incredibly diverse, ranging from bona-fide desert cowboys to Sedona's hippy-dippy energy healers. As one of the last bastions of the U.S. West with these intriguing contradictions, Phoenix is worth a visit.

Gay life
With gays and lesbians living throughout the vast metropolis, there's not a single defined gayborhood, though there are nearly three-dozen bars and clubs catering to queers, with a concentration of businesses along Seventh Ave in central Phoenix. Fez, offering American cuisine with a Moroccan flair, is a popular restaurant near Central Avenue. Amsterdam Bar in downtown Phoenix is the happening weekend club.

The more residential-feeling Scottsdale, home to some of the nicest resorts and hotels in the city, has two dance bars, charming BS West
tucked into Old Town Scottsdale with its fun drag shows and Forbidden also in Old Town, which attracts a younger crowd. Phoenix Gay Pride takes place in April to avoid the much hotter summer weather, and is a terrific time to visit.

See the stunning new Musical Instrument Museum , with its collection of 12,000 instruments from around the world; and Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden , for a better understanding of this sometimes extreme environment. Climb Camelback Mountain , which resembles, not surprisingly, a supine dromedary. Go early to avoid both crowds and heat. A truly magical experience is an evening stargazing Hummer tour with Stellar Adventures . You haven't really experienced the stars till you've seen the rings and moons of Saturn, a billion miles away, with your own eye.

Paradise Valley's InterContinental Montelucia , the brand's only resort property offers excellent service, gorgeous architecture and surroundings, great amenities, and views of Camelback Mountain. In Scottsdale, the Hotel Valley Ho originally opened in 1956 as a motor court-style hotel, re-opened after an $80 million renovation on its anniversary in 2005 as a hip urban hotel that pays homage to its mid-Century Modernist roots.

Phoenix considers itself a foodie city and in that vein offers a range of top-notch restaurants. Prado at the Montelucia offers Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Join the shoppers and local business people at Zinburger , a locally owned burger and shake joint with a contemporary feel in a popular upscale mall. The same owners opened Culinary Dropout , a hip dining and drinking hotspot along Scottsdale's developing canal-front area.

La Petite Maison in Old Town Scottsdale is an authentic French bistro restaurant with a limited menu of beautifully presented traditional French selections. Located in upscale Paradise Valley, El Chorro Lodge (a restaurant, not a hotel) at first blush seems a bit stuffy. However, the atmosphere is quite warm, and the food is consistently good.

Finish your night at Elements at Sanctuary , an outdoor bar/bistro/lounge, for incredible views of Paradise Valley and its surrounding mountains, to engage in some star gazing, or to simply relish the discovery of this city's surprisingly rich offerings.

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