While the country struggles with the issue of same-sex marriage, hotels in Boston, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco are proclaiming themselves both gay and family-friendly.
Same-sex couples traveling with children will find a variety of offerings – gay, lesbian and straight – in most North American urban centers. “When we travel with our girls,” say a New York father and his partner, “we pick gay-friendly destinations, like a city where we can at least go visit the gay areas, but we don`t necessarily stay in gay-operated establishments.” Here’s a selection of the types of hotels where GLBT adults will be comfortable socially — and kids will be treated to amenities and special facilities — that gay and lesbian couples with children will discover more and more, over time.
Across the US
Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants (415/397-5572), originally from San Francisco, has turned its gay-friendly formula into a very successful boutique hotel concept welcoming all types of style-conscious travelers. Kimpton has taken many of their fresh ideas, such as providing goldfish to guests who miss their pets back home, to small, hip, upscale hotels around the country. With 14 of their 39 properties in and around San Francisco alone, families will enjoy perusing their website to select one with the glamour, wild fabrics, lavish mirrors, sleekly modern fixtures or a combination of looks for which the chain has become known.
Best yet, families will now find Kimpton Hotels in Silicon Valley; Portland, Oregon; Vanouver, BC; Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; Chicago, Illinois; Denver and Aspen, Colorado; New York City; New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington DC; Boston, Massachusetts; and the funky South Beach suburb of Coconut Grove, Florida. Many have seasonal packages in which tickets to local attractions, or other family perks, are bundled with room rates.
New to 2008, the gay-owned and operated Attitude Hotels boasts Premier, Comfort, and Value hotels along with a selection of Inns and B&B’s. Currently, Attitude can only be found in the United States in New York, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Springs. But their brand has already spread throughout Europe, Thailand, the Caribbean and plans for worldwide expansion. A twist on the norm, Attitude calls themselves “straight-friendly” with a focus on offering a welcoming environment to the gay and lesbian traveler.
Boston has a wide variety of LGBT-welcoming lodges, ranging from the Wyndham Boston (877/999-3223) where family packages include late check-out and an in-room pizza party, to six other Wyndham hotels, including two of their Summerfield Suites’ all-suite hotels.
There are seven Hilton-managed properties (800/HILTONS) in Boston, including four of the all-suite Doubletree hotels as well as the high-tech Hotel@MIT in Cambridge. For families interested in sightseeing, we recommend the Hilton Boston Back Bay (pool pictured at left), within walking distance of most attractions, or the Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, which is further away but on the shores of the scenic Charles River near Cambridge. This hotel of one-bedroom suites, with spacious living rooms with sofabeds and privacy for the kids, has free shuttle service to Harvard Yard, Faneuil Hall and Copley Square.
Dallas, with its strong theatre base, art galleries, fine museums and the popular Oaklawn neighborhood for nightlife, has long been a gay stronghold. The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau is quick to remind an inquiring audience that Dallas has the sixth largest gay population in the United States, Texas’ largest gay nightclub and, in this conservative state, the largest LGBT church in the world. The ongoing Main Street Initiative, a downtown revitalization project aimed at boosting downtown shopping and dining, and the forthcoming Trinity River Project, a recreation oasis with two lakes, hike and bike trails, an 8,000-acre park and three bridges (including a 40-story suspension bridge designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava) are sure to increase the city’s appeal as a cultural destination.
The Adam’s Mark Dallas (214/922-8000; 800/444) represents a small chain of 13 city hotels that is gay and family-welcoming. Other popular hotels, each with business facilities, large swimming pools, fitness centers and a central location, include the Crowne Plaza Market Center, Hilton Lincoln Center, the Stoneleigh, the Westins of Dallas and the Wyndham Anatole, a property, like other Wyndhams, that goes out of its way to appeal to kids. The Kimpton Groups’ Hotel Palomar (214/520-7969) is a magnet for style-conscious travelers and cool kids.
New York, New York
In bustling New York City, the ideal neighborhood for same-sex couples and their kids might well be Chelsea, a casually fashionable quarter north of Greenwich Village, south of Times Square, on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s a lively walkable district of low-rise historic buildings and townhouses interspersed with the Flower Market, Garment District and galleries, not far from Macy’s or Madison Square Garden. The 20-story Hampton Inn Chelsea (212/414-1000) has 144 simple, clean and comfortable rooms, offering a coffeemaker, iron and ironing board, data port and WiFi Internet access, and free in-room movie channel. Families are entitled to free local calls and a free breakfast bar, as well as a complimentary newspaper.
Philadelphia is one of our favorite family destinations, a small, civilized and eminently walkable place filled with history, fascinating neighborhoods and gracious residents. The city’s tourism office claims the City of Brotherly Love (and location for the gay rights film, “Philadlephia”) as the “site of some of the nation’s earliest gay rights protests in the mid-1960s.” Gay-friendly, family-friendly, whatever. This is a terrific destination any time of year.
The Best Western Independence Park (215/922-4443) is in its own landmark building near the new Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Penn’s Landing and other historic attractions. It features a glass-enclosed courtyard where complimentary breakfast (including a “make your own waffle bar”) and afternoon Tea & Cookies are served, spacious rooms with VCRs, a guest laundry room, and a pets-welcome policy.
The Loews Philadelphia (215/627-1200) is located right on Market Street, near the Convention Center and City Hall, in the former PSFS bank dating from 1932. A National Historic Landmark, this luxurious 583-room hotel (including 37 suites) offers families Loews Loves Kids, Teens and Grandparents packages, plus rooms with business equipment and work desks, 3 phone lines (teens will love this!), coffee maker, ironing board and iron. Overall, there are a stylish lobby and public spaces marked by historic marble flooring, with classic Cartier clocks that used to adorn the bank. Facilities include a heated indoor pool, fitness center, good business facilities, and a pet-welcoming policy typical of al the Loews Hotels.
Alexander Inn (877/ALEX-.INN, 215/923-3535) is located near Rittenhouse Square in the city’s most walkable district. It’s gay-owned but welcomes everyone with its fairly-priced stylish rooms, artwork, complimentary food service including a breakfast buffet, fruit and snacks; in-room TVs with several movie channels. Some spacious corner rooms have two double beds.
Phoenix, a city by any measure, has such a warm desert climate year-round that business is often conducted at the golf course, tennis club, or around the pool. Given their outstanding recreation facilities, most of the city’s top hotels would be considered resorts elsewhere. Imagine an urban getaway that promises a waterslide outside your room, a fascinating museum of Native American arts nearby, and terrific Mexican and Southwest cuisine at every corner.
We turned to Passport magazine for their pick of the top hotels for same-sex couples, and they came up with the Arizona Biltmore (800/950-0086), Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey Ranch (800/633-7313), Phoenician (800/888-8234), and the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort (800/947-9784), all top family choices. However, all but the Pointe Hilton are quite pricey, especially in the winter high season. Savings of up to 50% can be found in the broiling summer months. The heat is just bearable if you remember to spend the middle part of each day indoors — easy to do when you realize each of these properties has an excellent children’s program for the kids and a top-notch spa for adults.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco, the nation’s largest gay community, is one of its major family destinations. “Every hotel in San Francisco is gay-friendly,” notes a San Francisco C&VB spokesperson. “During the open period for same-sex unions, several hotels just refocused honeymoon packages and added family elements for the newlyweds who came with children.”
From dozens of excellent hotels, one local chain deserves special mention. Joie de Vivre Hospitality (800/738-7477) is a collection of boutique hotels that successfully markets to the LGBT crowd. Their 25 small properties in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Marin County welcome all travelers to “innovative and idiosyncratic niche hospitality products.” The elegant motel-style Hotel de Sol in the Marina district, the landmark Maxwell House on Union Square and the small studios at the Laurel Inn in Pacific Heights especially welcome gays with children and/or pets. In fact, their formula has proven so successful that they are consultants to The Indigo Hotels, a new brand of mid-priced, style-savvy hotels started in 2004 by the huge InterContinental Hotels corporation.
On a much smaller scale, the eight-room Inn on Castro (415/861-0321) sums up what the entire tourism industry should be aspiring to. This B&B welcomes singles, families – gay and straight – as well as grandparents, to its two-bedded rooms and three-person apartment. Muses innkeeper Frederick Schermer, “Though it is not always easy to predict how ‘gay’ and ‘sexual’ the inn in going to be, in general, there is not too much going on… but friendly people staying at our small B&B.”
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