KEY WEST, FLORIDA
It’s no surprise Miami and Fort Lauderdale are top destinations for same- sex weddings. They are some of the gay-friendliest cities in Florida, the two coastal havens lure the LGBT communities with luxury hotels, sprawling beaches, excellent restaurants, and exciting gay nightlife. But Key West, the southernmost city in the United States, is equally appeal- ing, especially for those who want to escape the crowds. Gay couples that prefer a more laid-back environment completely immerse in the bohemian-minded, carefree culture that’s blessed Key West in the Florida Keys for decades. The low-key gay mecca (since the 1970s) is home to gay-owned B&Bs, hilarious drag shows, and unforgettable sunsets the entire town comes out to celebrate. It’s a tropical gay paradise where couples are exchanging vows on sandy beaches, in the courtyard of guesthouses, and community churches, including Key West’s Metropolitan Community Church, a gay-oriented nondenominational church where pastors have been performing same-sex commitment ceremonies since 1984. Travelers to the 5.9-square-mile island also participate in excursions like gay charters to the Dry Tortugas and gay sunset cruises with gay-owned and gay-crewed Blu Q Key West, two popular activities that are perfect for wed- ding activities. A visit to Key West isn’t complete without seeing a drag show (a decades-long tradition), and most visitors make a beeline to Aqua in the heart of Duval Street where local drag queens perform virtually every night of the week. Get hitched at Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort that offers gorgeous rooms, one of the largest beaches in Key West, and a fantastic beachside spa for the ultimate wedding vacation. The historic hotel opened in 1920 and is steps from all of Key West’s top highlights like Duval Street, historic Old Town, and Hemmingway House, and most guests rent the in-house cruiser bikes to explore it all.
BORA BORA, TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA
For decades, couples have been flinging far to the middle of the Pacific for romantic hideaways and destination weddings alike. The weather is perfect year round, the hotels are top notch, and you couldn’t ask for better tropical landscape. While Hawaii dominates the destination-wedding marketplace, the islands of Tahiti attract gay couples who seek a more exclusive experience when exchanging vows. A favorite getaway for the LGBT community, Tahiti was ahead of the curb and legalized same-sex marriage in May 2013, seven months before Hawaii, and Bora Bora is unarguably a dream destination. Thanks to the ever-famous lagoons with calm, crystal-clear waters and decadent, over-water bungalows, Bora Bora’s romance factor is unparalleled. The five-star resorts here, each on their own atoll, arrange unforgettable weddings and even exciting excursions like snorkeling with vibrant marine life and scuba diving or feeding nurse sharks and manta rays—a trademark island adventure. Four Seasons Bora Bora, regarded as one of the best places in the world to get married, offers more than 100 overwater bungalows, several private beaches, and an intimate chapel. The luxury resort also arranges traditional Tahitian weddings with outrigger canoe arrival, local musicians, and even fire dances in its exotic paradise.
Scandinavia has been pro-gay marriage from the get-go, and all the countries have legalized same-sex weddings. But Norway was the original supporter. The country was the first in Scandinavia and the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. While heavily explored countries like Denmark and Sweden serve as incredible Nordic getaways with myriad attractions, Norway is just as memorable. In fact, now that the US dollar has strengthened, the country is almost 40 percent cheaper than in years past, and the country has been making great strides to become more progressive. This is obvious in Oslo, the capital city, where flourishing new neighborhoods like Thief Island and Barcode offer excellent restaurants, nightlife and boutiques. The recently opened The Thief Hotel now stands as the city’s most progressive hotel with swanky rooms, views of the harbor, and original artwork by Warhol. Plenty of gay-friendly attractions like the Munch Museum and the exciting Opera House (in a new location that houses opera and ballet) ensure culture is a priority here. No trip to Norway, however, is complete without visiting the fjords on a cruise or heading north to check out the Northern Lights, a natural phenomenon particularly strong in Norway. Outside the historic town of Narvik, animal-loving gay couples can visit Polar Park, the only place in the world visitors can kiss socialized wolves and stay overnight in the wilderness in the Wolf Lodge. For seamless travel, Off The Map Travel tour operator specializes in the Northern Lights and arranges unforgettable trips that include the Wolf Lodge and other activities.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
The state of California is a hotbed for great wedding destinations. From Napa Valley to San Diego, plenty of exciting, gay-friendly cities are popular for tying the knot, but Palm Springs is a rare desert gem that offers history, mid-century modern architecture, a resort-town feel, nightlife, and a thriving gay population. With more than 60 percent of residents identifying as LGBT, it’s a gay mecca where same-sex weddings occur regularly. The desert landscapes here provide a stunning backdrop for wedding ceremonies, and the retro vibe makes the laid-back city very unique. Palm Springs is brimming with luxury hotels, modern restaurants, and commanding attractions like the newly renovated Palm Springs Art Museum, which features exceptional exhibitions. Take your nuptials to great heights (quite literally, at 8,513 feet!) with the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the desert landscape, one of the best spots in the desert for weddings and receptions. For those who want to stay grounded, say “I do” at the excellent luxury resorts that provide expansive and intimate outdoor reception areas. Avalon Palm Springs is a magnet for the LGBT community thanks to bites by Tara Lazar (one of the desert’s most famous chefs), three pools, and vil- las designed by Kelly Wearstler. It’s just steps away from famed institution Melvyn’s where locals and visitors alike cut a rug when the sun goes down, and Mr. Lyons, a recently reopened steakhouse where the Brat Pack used to party and play. Just outside of Palm Springs, Two Bunch Palms Resort in Desert Hot Springs is a haven for same-sex, nature-loving couples. With its commitment to sustainability, the perfectly landscaped, 56-acre property is the first in North America to be completely carbon neutral. It’s also home to natural mineral springs in an outdoor grotto, perfect for a therapeutic soak with your loved one.