Sail away to nearby par­adises

Va­ca­tion­ing close to home can be just as mem­o­rable

GA Voice - - Summer Travel -

By RYAN LEE

There are many perks to sum­mer­time in At­lanta, from the se­ries of fes­ti­vals that fill the sea­son, to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of shirt­less jog­gers glis­ten­ing un­der the south­ern sun. But there’s also bru­tal heat and hu­mid­ity with­out the re­lief of any wa­ter­front within the metro area.

De­spite its landlocked sta­tus, At­lanta is an af­ter­noon’s drive from sev­eral of Ge­or­gia’s pop­u­lar lakes, and just a lit­tle fur­ther away from two coasts that of­fer nearby get­aways. Whether you’re look­ing to lounge on the ocean­front or hop away for a week­end in a dif­fer­ent city, here are some of the best des­ti­na­tions that don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­quire a plane ticket.

GE­OR­GIA

Travel time from At­lanta: drive from At­lanta.

Drive-by De­tails:

Less than an hour away from the con­crete and con­ges­tion of At­lanta is Lake Lanier, the most pop­u­lar body of water within the Ge­or­gia bor­ders. With al­most 60 square miles of water and 700 miles of shore­line, Lake Lanier at­tracts more than 7 mil­lion vis­i­tors per year for swim­ming, boat­ing, jet ski­ing, wa­ter­front din­ing and more.

It’s close enough to At­lanta for a sin­gle-day trip, but the op­tions for an overnight stay range from the ritzy Lanier Is­lands re­sort, to ho­tels and B&Bs, to ren­tal cab­ins or camp­ing sites.

Any­one who thinks Ge­or­gia’s LGBT life ends at the I-285 perime­ter has never been to Gay Cove at Lake Lanier. For a quar­ter-cen­tury, LGBT beach­go­ers have mi­grated to the mid­dle sec­tion of the west­ern bor­der of the lake, where a fleet of boats flies the rain­bow flag.

LGBT Life:

45-minute

Two-Day Get­away To-Dos:

Whether you’re feel­ing out­doorsy enough to go hik­ing and zip lin­ing, shop along “The Nau­ti­cal Mile” or nearby out­lets, or en­joy a cool breeze on a lake cruise, there are end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties to fill up a week­end itin­er­ary. Sa­van­nah/Ty­bee Is­land

Travel time from At­lanta:

drive.

Drive-by De­tails:

Sa­van­nah com­bines an an­te­bel­lum mys­tique with mil­len­nial hip­ness to of­fer one of the most charm­ing ex­pe­ri­ences for a short get­away. If you’re look­ing for a more “des­ti­na­tion” feel for your week­end, drive an ad­di­tional half hour to neigh­bor­ing Ty­bee Is­land.

As Ge­or­gia’s third largest city, Sa­van­nah is big enough to have a bustling LGBT scene, in­clud­ing night­clubs like Club One, as well as a gay bed-and-break­fast known as the Fo­ley Inn in the heart of Sa­van­nah. The in­flux of tourists to Ty­bee Is­land makes it more wel­com­ing to LGBT vis­i­tors than other parts of Ge­or­gia, and an emerg­ing LGBT pres­ence led one gay lo­cal to re­fer to it as “a smaller Key West.”

Sa­van­nah is rich with his­toric des­ti­na­tions, ghost tours and of course the “Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil” in­dus­try, while the big­gest day of the year in Ty­bee Is­land is its July 3rd In­de­pen­dence Day fes­ti­val.

LGBT Life: Two-Day Get­away To-Dos: SOUTH CAROLINA

3.5 to 4-hour Travel time from At­lanta: 5-hour drive. Drive-by De­tails: Charleston is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to Sa­van­nah in its aura and charm, while be­ing in­fused with unique South Carolinian cul­ture. Charleston is filled with ar­chi­tec­tural, quaint shop­ping and din­ing dis­tricts, and mu­se­ums and galleries.

The LGBT scene in Charleston is small but packs a mighty punch. The nightlife op­tions range from the drag shows at Pan­theon, the dance floor at Deja Vu II, or a dive bar known as The Re­cov­ery Room, and Charleston is also home to the Low­county Highrollers, a les­bian roller derby league.

Get a glimpse into Charleston’s one-of-a-kind in­flu­ence on Amer­i­can cul­ture with a tour of Fort Sumter or the Gul­lah cul­ture.

LGBT Life: Two-Day Get­away To-Dos:

Mi­ami hosts Aqua Girl week for les­bians each May. (Photo via Face­book)

FLORIDA

Travel time from At­lanta: 5-hour drive. Drive-by De­tails: Af­fec­tion­ately known as the “Red­neck Riviera,” the Florida pan­han­dle of­fers all of the leisure of coastal life with­out any of the pre­tense. Pen­sacola has long been one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions in this re­gion, at­tract­ing col­lege stu­dents, con­ser­va­tive fam­i­lies and plenty of LGBT beach­go­ers.

A bucket list event for any south­ern queer is Me­mo­rial Day week­end in Pen­sacola, when the city turns into a seaside strip of LGBT par­ties, peo­ple-watch­ing and Spring Break-es­que de­bauch­ery.

LGBT Life: Two-Day Get­away To-Dos:

Whether you go dur­ing Me­mo­rial Day or any other sum­mer week­end, Pen­sacola is loaded with tourism at­trac­tions, from snor­kel­ing or pad­dle­board­ing in Pen­sacola Bay, to en­joy­ing the cozy chic­ness of the down­town re­tail district. Travel time from At­lanta: hour drive; 2-hour flight For a more tra­di­tional

Drive-by De­tails:

9.5 to 10- taste of par­adise, noth­ing beats the pul­sat­ing en­ergy of Mi­ami and Key West. The most di­verse des­ti­na­tion in the south, the tip of Florida has fla­vors to sat­isfy ev­ery taste.

Aside from the LGBT night­clubs that pep­per South Beach, Mi­ami also hosts Aqua Girl week for les­bians each May and a Me­mo­rial Day gath­er­ing for black and Latino gay men known as Siz­zle, while the Key West sum­mer calendar in­cludes Key West Pride in June, and Key West Trop­i­cal Heat in Au­gust.

LGBT Life: Two-Day Get­away To-Dos:

You likely won’t need any help find­ing ways to fill 48 hours in south­ern Florida, but be sure to in­dulge in the city’s eth­nic cui­sine and unique cul­ture.

NO-GO ZONES

As you’re plan­ning your sum­mer travel, it’s worth a re­minder that sev­eral south­ern states have re­cently shown that they’re not the most hos­pitable to LGBT res­i­dents and vis­i­tors. You might want to re­con­sider any va­ca­tions to states like North Carolina and Mis­sis­sippi, es­pe­cially since other des­ti­na­tions truly work to earn the LGBT tourism dol­lar.

May 13, 2016

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