year in review

10 stories that gave us total wanderlust in 2023

The Nomadic Boys enjoy a fun time in the sand. (Photo: The Nomadic Boys)
The Nomadic Boys enjoy a fun time in the sand. (Photo: The Nomadic Boys)

GayCities wants to help LGBTQ+ travelers discover different cultures, explore new frontiers, and connect with our vibrant community, at home and abroad. We bridge the gap between people and places, making it easy to find safe spaces no matter where the road may lead.

In 2023, millions of readers across the globe enjoyed GayCities‘ collection of unbeatable gay travel guides, inspirational stories, interviews, and event photography. Just in case you missed them, here are the ten most wanderlust-inducing stories from this past year…

10. Uncovering San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ history in the city’s most popular ‘hoods

By Daniel Bello

Snapshot from San Francisco Pride 2023 (photo by Gooch)
Snapshot from San Francisco Pride 2023 (photo by Gooch)

San Francisco has long been a beacon of inclusivity, inviting travelers from across the globe with the promise of freedom and liberation, not to mention perfect climate and natural beauty. 

As a result, multiple landmarks define San Francisco’s queer history and now stand as a testament to the city’s enduring spirit of acceptance and resilience. Travelers can walk in the footsteps of Harvey Milk under the Castro’s huge rainbow flag, explore thriving community hubs in SoMa, and pay a visit to the cultural institutions of Golden Gate Park. On this journey through the city’s hippest neighborhoods, you’ll uncover a complex web of history and culture.

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9. This storied town’s rich gay past sees a renaissance after ‘White Lotus’

By Robert Landon

Photo courtesy of HBO
Photo courtesy of HBO

When I visited Taormina a few years ago, it seemed so tailored to my tastes that I was miffed no one had let me in on the secret. I was in Sicily on a business trip at the time and decided to play hooky one afternoon. I asked the receptionist at my hotel in Palermo what she suggested.

“Taormina,” she said decisively, and off I went.

Set on a bluff hundreds of feet from Sicily’s eastern coast, Taormina encompasses nearly everything the gay aesthete could wish for. An ancient Greek amphitheater. Idyllic walks through citrus groves and terraced hillsides. Italian men in all directions. Beaches washed by azure waters, one of which discourages bathing suits. And topping it all, Mount Etna, the smoking-hot volcano just to the south seems to hover in some other, more Olympian dimension.

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8. Drag legend Randy Roberts on the allure of Key West

By Matthew Wexler

 Randy Roberts on Duval Street in Key West. Photo by Nick Doll Photography for GayCities.
 Randy Roberts on Duval Street in Key West. Photo by Nick Doll Photography for GayCities.

A stroll down Duval Street reveals the living embodiment of Key West’s motto: One Human Family. The small island at the United States’ southernmost tip has long attracted artists, writers, travelers, and free-spirited individuals seeking escape from the daily grind. Drag legend Randy Roberts first visited more than 35 years ago — and it was love at first sight.

Roberts first visited Key West during a six-week stint of the touring drag show Masquerade a la Cage. “I met all these great people and made all of these wonderful friends — many of whom I’m still friends with today,” Roberts tells GayCities. The tour left the sun-drenched island for the chilly streets of Chicago (“I went from shorts and tank tops to ski parkas,” Roberts recalls). When the show closed in January, a friend offered a spare room, so Roberts returned…

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7. A taste of luxury: 5 Michelin-starred restaurants with LGBTQ+ chefs

By Matthew Wexler

“Acorn,” from chef Dominique Crenn. Photo by John Troxell
“Acorn,” from chef Dominique Crenn. Photo by John Troxell

Beyoncé or the perfect béchamel? Luxury means different things to different people. For those who prefer world-class dining over a world concert tour (or why not do both?), the Michelin Guide’s coveted stars provide a culinary road map.

Those who make the legendary guide’s cut signify the best of the best: high-end ingredients, innovative cooking techniques, meticulously designed dining rooms, and unparalleled service. In recent years, queer chefs have been rewriting the recipe for success. LGBTQ+ chefs in the restaurant world have become more prominent, causing a seismic shift in how those kitchens are run, making room for more diverse staffing and working environments that prefer mentorship over male toxicity.

Here’s a look at five queer chefs who have made their mark with Michelin-starred restaurants. With more than 30,000 establishments rated over 30 territories worldwide, they rank among the top, proving that queer visibility and fine dining make the perfect pairing.

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6. Nightlife experts debate the best gay nightclub in the world

By Mike Ciriaco

New York-based DJ Joey with the Mustache
New York-based DJ Joey with the Mustache

What’s the best nightclub in the world? Many attribute the moniker to Berghain, Berlin‘s uber-exclusive techno institution notorious for its draconian door policy. Yet, while writing a recent article exploring effective strategies to gain entrance past the club’s iron-clad velvet rope, every interviewee acknowledged the stature of Berghain but disputed the claim that it was the best club in the world. So which nightclub, if any, holds this distinction?

Obviously, the metric for “best” is highly subjective, factoring in variables such as aesthetics, ambiance, music, sexuality, and even cultural relevance. To explore these nuances, we’ve kiki-ed with a diverse cross-section of nightlife professionals to discuss their favorite clubs, and what elements contribute to their opinions.

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5. 10 most unique LGBTQ+ bookstores in the United States

By Coe Colette

Image: The Ripped Bodice website
Image: The Ripped Bodice website

Among the warm, oaky scent of books, the satisfying smell of espresso in the air, and the hum of intelligent conversations, LGBTQ+ bookstores have been the preferred haunt for queer bookworms since the beginning. These literary sanctuaries draw those of us still smitten with the written word, offering safe spaces filled with the works of our cherished authors, poets, and friends.

Incredibly, although the United States is notorious for banning books, there remains a surprising number of exceptional bookstores. However, what sets our favorites apart is that they are owned and operated by LGBTQ+ people or are powerful allies to our queer community…

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4. How to get into Berghain according to party professionals

By Mike Ciriaco

source: Getty Images
source: Getty Images

Over the past twenty years, Daniel Nardicio has carved a niche within queer nightlife. Dubbed the “Sleaze Impresario,” by New York Magazine, the salacious party producer earned his moniker with such debaucherous events as Tigerbeat at the Slide and the D-World underwear parties in Fire Island. He’s collaborated with such icons as Liza Minelli, Carol Channing, Chita Rivera, John Waters, and Alan Cumming, the latter with whom he opened Club Cumming in the East Village.

In the realm of nightlife, Daniel Nardicio is an expert. However, even the most seasoned party professionals have a hard time getting into Berghain on the first attempt. “The first time I went wasn’t the first time I got in,” said Nardicio of the notoriously exclusive Berlin nightclub. “I think I didn’t get in, if I’m not mistaken, two times…They make you wait for a long time, it builds anticipation. Most clubs beg you to get in, and this one, you’re begging to get it.”

Housed in an abandoned soviet-era power plant, Berghain is infamous for its strict, often opaque door policy. Presided over by head bouncer/photographer Sven Marquardt, the criteria for admittance may appear Byzantine to neophytes of Berlin nightlife. Some potential patrons queue up for hours only to be arbitrarily turned away at the door.

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3. Clothing-optional hot springs where you’ll get in touch with your wild side

By Andrew Sieving

Credit: Breitenbush Hot Springs
Credit: Breitenbush Hot Springs

The Pacific Northwest’s snowy winters and rainy climate make taking a dip in a steaming thermal bath an enticing choice throughout the year. We’ve listed some of our favorite clothing-optional hot springs resorts and off-the-beaten path spots nestled under the region’s dense forests or next mountain streams. To get the full relaxation experience, where you’ll be able to soak up all the vitamin-rich minerals and not stain your white swimwear, we suggest going in the buff…

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2. If you want to experience real gay sauna culture, you have to leave the US

By Andrew Sieving

Photo: Na Dam Spa
Photo: Na Dam Spa

Aimed at reducing HIV transmission in the 1980s, sweeping reforms decimated San Francisco and New York City‘s once-thriving bathhouse scene. Only recently has San Francisco’s legislation been repealed, and slowly a younger culture is only beginning to blossom in the US’s surviving gay saunas.

Yet, if you look outside this country, you’ll see a thriving culture of bathhouses that cater to gay men, and even the trans community, in jaw-dropping locales, from renovated imperial palaces to historic stately homes…

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1. This gay-friendly remote island is the Caribbean’s best-kept secret

By Michelle Hair

Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) in Vieques. (photo: Discover Puerto Rico)
Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) in Vieques. (photo: Discover Puerto Rico)

There’s a remote island off the coast of Puerto Rico that beckons travelers seeking an authentic “boricua” experience. With its pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and unique blend of history and culture, Vieques is a hidden gem just waiting to be uncovered.

When you set foot on Vieques, you’ll feel like you’ve found a secret treasure only shared among those lucky enough to stumble upon it. Forget about crowded beaches and the mainstream monotone of other tropical hotspots – Vieques is for those who crave adventure off the beaten path and the thrill of discovery…

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