For most of the country, Labor Day signifies the unofficial end of summer. For those of us lucky enough to live with endless summer, it’s just another three-day weekend and that’s reason enough to get away from the height of South Florida’s heat. Here are a few mini-vacation ideas to fill up that weekend in style.
The largest gay event in New Orleans is now celebrating its 46th year and features all the hedonism you’d expect from a gay event in the Big Easy. What began as a small gathering of friends has transformed into a Labor Day weekend tradition, attracting nearly 200,000 LGBT tourists each year. It all starts on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and doesn’t stop until Monday, Sept. 4. Most of the events are in the French Quarter, near the host hotel The Bourbon Orleans.
A weekend pass is $70 and includes admission to all events Friday and Saturday. The VIP pass ($110) is good for all events Thursday through Monday, expedited admission (bypassing lines), and a cocktail party on Saturday. Passes are available for purchase at southerndecadence.net. There are also social media groups for the event on Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter.
Convergence Vegas 2017
The original bear, cub, and chub (and their hunters) event holds its annual gathering at the trés gay Luxor Hotel & Casino where room rates start at only $39 per night (if booked through Convergence’s web site), making it an excellent deal. The Luxor’s Temptation Sunday is already the largest gay pool party in Vegas, so the Labor Day weekend event will be a blast. Convergence packages begin at $209 and run up to $529. For more information, go to bgmoconvergence.org.
Black Gay Pride Atlanta
Celebrations rock the streets of Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. Explore the marketplace, attend a workshop or let loose at one of the parties hosted by top Atlanta clubs and bars. A number of organizations are planning events for this weekend. Among the women’s events scheduled is a Pride Skate Party on Wednesday, Aug. 30, followed by the official VIP welcome reception on Thursday. Other women’s events include dance parties, a comedy show, and “Strip Her,” a women’s party at a strip club. For the guys, there are dance parties, a trip to an Atlanta Dream’s game, karaoke, a booze cruise, and a jazz brunch. A variety of passes at all levels are available from the two main groups organizing the events. Check out atlantaprideweekend.com and rockstarsproduction.com.
Splash Days Austin
Texas’ best city holds Splash Days to celebrate the beginning and the end of summer. “First Splash” is during Memorial Day weekend and “Last Splash” is held the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The main event is at Lake Travis, better known as Hippie Hollow, where nudists bask amidst limestone cliffs. Lake entrance is open to all for a nominal fee ($8 per person or $15 for a vehicle - cash or check only, no credit/debit cards), with a variety of hosted events taking place at the lake on party barges. Plan to get to Hippie Hollow early, as it generally reaches capacity on holiday weekends. It’s a long hike from the parking lot to the gay section at Hippie Hollow; keep that in mind if you plan to haul in a ton of stuff.
There is also a number of pre and post-parties. Embassy Suites Austin, the host hotel, is located downtown within walking distance of all the city-based events. The fun kicks off on Friday, Sept. 1 with a poolside Meet and Greet at The Belmont starting at 10 p.m. On Saturday, pick up your wristband for the Sunday barge parties on the lake from either Rain or Oil Can Harry’s, then head over to the dance party at The North Door. On Sunday, after a day at the lake, everyone heads back to The North Door. On Monday, the fun winds up with Tea Dance at The Belmont, beginning at 1.
Passes ($100 regular, $120 VIP), include admittance to all events (you still have to pay for admittance to the park). All events are also available via individual tickets, priced $15-$40. For more information, go to splashdays.com.
Celebrate Sunny Florida
Theme Park Pointers
Of course, you don’t have to go far to celebrate. Labor Day weekend is one of the best times to visit the theme parks in Orlando. The crowds at Disney World and Universal Studios tend to be smaller because kids have just returned to school. Friday of Labor Day weekend is one of the slowest days, Saturday and Monday are a little busier, and Sunday is the busiest of the weekend. Be certain to visit the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival running Aug. 31 through Nov. 13. The festival features more than 25 international marketplace kiosks, which offer tapas-sized portions of regional specialties as well as recommended wine and beer pairings.
You can make your visit more productive by downloading apps for either park. The apps offer preset and customized park plans, show wait times, and feature maps to navigate each park easily. Staying in hotels on site also offers advantages. For example, Universal’s official hotels (Loew’s Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort) offer unlimited skip-the-line access for most rides.
If you just can’t wait for Labor Day, check out “Tropical Heat” in Key West, Aug. 16-20. The all-male celebration features theme parties, pool parties, and adult-oriented entertainment. Although the website hadn’t been updated as of our press deadline, organizers say that VIP passes typically run between $90-$130 and include express admission to most parties, a special T-shirt, and discounts at some retailers.
For more information, go to tropicalheatkw.com. Just after Labor Day, “Womenfest Key West” kicks off, running from Sept. 6-10. The largest gathering of lesbians and friends in North America brings thousands of ladies for a wide range of activities and events. Check out womenfest.com or call 305-294-4603.