Summer is the perfect time to get away, but sometimes it is difficult to travel out of state, especially if you or your partner have a busy work schedule.SFGN has decided to highlight three local destinations, all unique and ideal for a weekend getaway. From gay guest houses to Five-Diamond resorts, South Florida offers something for every taste and budget.
Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach
Palm Beach may not be the first destination people think of when choosing a gay- friendly vacation. However, let me as- sure you that not only is Palm Beach gay-friendly, it provides LGBT couples the opportunity to experience other facets of life not offered in more well- known locales.
The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach is one of the crown jewels of the island.The spectacular resort recently under- went a $130 million renovation and is the pinnacle of everything Palm Beach. From its oceanfront property to its luxurious spa, the Ritz-Carlton can offer you and your partner a priceless one-of-a- kind experience.
From the moment Daniel and I pulled up to the valet, we knew we were in for a treat. Checking in to the resort took less than five minutes and before long we were in our corner suite overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Our stunning room featured a private sitting- area, two bathrooms, a luxurious master bedroom with oversized tub and walk-in shower, and a spacious balcony ideal for watching the sunrise.
It had been a while since my partner and I had a chance to relax and unwind from the daily grind of gay life in Fort Lauderdale, so we decided to head straight to the spa. Eau Spa at the Ritz-Carlton offers guests an abundance of splendid treatments and amenities. Unlike most other spas, guests or locals not interested in partaking in a treatment can still enjoy the glorious facil- ity by purchasing a one-day pass.
At 42,000 square-feet, the glamorous Eau Spa offers a sublime retreat with a distinct setting for adults to engage in a magical experience.The centerpiece of the spa is the Self-Centered Garden, an open-air sanctuary where guests can swing on chairs while trailing their feet in a pool of shallow water.
Guests can utilize the Scrub and Polish Bar where you can create a personalized blend of aromatic herbs, soothing oils, and gritty sea salts. In addition, the spa offers three opulent Couple’s Villas providing an intimate experience, complete with lavish garden enclaves, oversized tubs and outdoor rainfall showers for an open-air spa experience.
After our spa experience, Daniel and I prepared to dine alfresco at Temple Orange, the resorts all-day dining establishment, which touches on the flavors of the Mediterranean.
For starters, we decided to try the Panzanel- la e Gamberi, a simple dish of chilled jumbo shrimp; and Zuppa Di Pesce, a delightful bowl of soup prepared with shrimp, scallops, and mussels. I would highly recom- mend the soup, even though summer is around the corner.
Next we decided to try a chef rec- ommendation, La Burrata, a creamy slice of burrata cheese served with roasted bell peppers and basil.The cheese, reminiscent of mozzarella, was rich and delicious, a perfect pre- lude to our next course.
For our entrees, Daniel decided on the Fettuccine Alla Bolognese, a hearty serving of pasta topped with a tasty meat sauce. I chose the Osso Bucco Al Barolo, a dish I haven’t had in about 10 years. A large veal shank is simmered for hours and is fall-off-the-bone tender.The dish was accompanied by a wonderful veal reduction and a side of polenta.
After dinner, we decided to enjoy a lei- surely stroll on the beach before returning to the resort for cocktails by the outdoor fire pit. Dozens of guests were engaged in casual conversation as they sipped wine under the stars. I guess you can call this the Ritz-Carlton’s version of camping.
Sunday morning began with an invigo- rating session of beachfront yoga. Our wonderful instructor led us through a series of posses and stretches, which helped jump start our day.After breakfast, we decided to enjoy the fabulous pool, complete with private cabanas, which can be rented for the day.
Adjacent to the pool is Breeze, a lovely café featuring a small selection of light fare with a Caribbean influence, custom cocktails, and delicious frozen drinks.The café also offers a tempting burger bar, which I plan to taste on my next visit to the resort.
In all, the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach is an ideal way to spend a weekend without traveling very far.Although a room at the Ritz may cost a little more than some of the less luxurious hotels in the area, the experience is worth it.
For more information, visit RitzCarlton.com.
Villa Venice Fort Lauderdale
For our second staycation, we visit Villa Venice, a quaint guesthouse just blocks away from Fort Lauderdale beach. Upon entry into the resort, we were greeted by our gracious host and owner of the resort,Terry Hochmuth, who made check in a breeze and then proceeded to give us a tour of the property.
Although small,Villa Venice offers many of the same amenities of a larger, more expensive oceanfront property, including a large pool, spa, business center, and massage services.After settling into our large room, complete with all the necessities needed for a romantic retreat, my partner and I headed to the pool for a little relaxation.
The clothing-optional resort offers plenty of fun. From the complimentary happy-hour MaiTais to the nonstop dance music, Villa Venice is a great getaway, whether for a weekend or just a day.The resort comes alive in the afternoon, with a dozen or so men enjoy- ing conversation or frolicking in the pool, complete with plenty of pool toys, including a volleyball net, floats and beach balls.
If you have never been to a clothing-op- tional resort, don’t be scared.This was my first visit to a guesthouse ever. I was very curious and a little anxious, but the people and staff at Villa Venice make their guests feel at home, referring to them by their first name and giving them reign over the property throughout their stay.
Each morning guests are greeted to freshly baked muffins, hot coffee, and an assortment of fruits and cereals in the resorts common area. On the morning of our stay, the staff at Villa Venice prepared freshly baked zucchini bread, which was absolutely delicious.
Although there isn’t a restaurant on prop- erty,Villa Venice is just walking distance away from numerous dining establishments and nightlife offered along Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Villa Venice was purchased by the current owner in December 2001 and underwent a $1.2 million renovation in July 2002. For the past four years, the resort has been named the top-rated luxury gay guesthouse in Fort Lau- derdale by the members of PinkChoice.com.
“When a guest makes a return visit, they are always welcomed home—not merely welcomed back,” says Hochmuth.“As fre- quent cruisers aboard the ships of Crystal Cruises, my late partner and I learned this from them and the way that they value their repeat- visiting guests.”
The resort takes pride in providing supe- rior luxury amenities and accommodations, at reasonable prices, in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.Villa Venice is also a completely gay-owned and gay-operated resort; not all guesthouses in the area are, to my surprise.
Visitors to the property can expect to be treated like family.After staycationing atVilla Venice, I understand the company motto: “Stay with us once, you’ll stay again.”
2900 Terramar Street,
Fort Lauderdale Beach (954) 564-7855
The Angler's Boutique Resort
Our final staycation brings us to South Beach, the entertainment mecca of South Florida. In a city dotted with small hotels and mega-resorts, we decided to stay at the Angler’s. I had never seen nor heard of this resort, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
Ideally located on Washington Avenue between 6th and 7th street, the Angler’s Boutique Resort was impressive from the very start. Valet parking is available and check-in is a breeze. In fact, the hotel offers rare in-room check-in.
A brief walk through the courtyard and pool area leads us to our room, a spectacular three-story Pool House Villa, with a private roof-top deck. The suite offers two full baths, flat screen TVs, an iPod docking station, a state-of-the-art audio/video system, mini-bar, wireless internet and fine Egyptian cotton linens.
At 700 square-feet, the villa contains everything one would expect in a luxurious South Beach resort. After a quick tour of our room, my boyfriend and I decided to relax with a cocktail in one of the resort’s poolside cabanas. Although not a gay resort, the property, staff and guests are exceptionally gay-friendly. They made us feel comfortable and welcomed throughout our entire stay.
Built in the 1930s by architect Henry Maloney, the Angler's holds a special place in Miami Beach history. The grand Mediterranean-revival buildings stand out in a neighborhood surrounded by Art Deco masterpieces. In addition, the property that was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway now hosts numerous professional athletes and celebrities.
After a leisurely stroll along Ocean Drive, we took in some rays on our semi-private rooftop terrace, which even features an outdoor shower. At some points we even forgot we were in Miami.
Every evening from 6-8 p.m., the Angler’s bar hosts a happy hour, offering a complimentary glass of wine to all of their guests. It was a great prelude to the delightful dinner that was to follow at 660 at the Angler’s.
The intimate restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Those looking to dine alfresco need not worry about rain; the outdoor dining area is covered. We began our meal with a lovely assortment of starters. Although I am not usually a fan of fried fish, the Frito Mistowith lemon aioli was a light and flavorful delight. Presented in a large paper cone, the dish containedcalamari, shrimp, scallops, asparagus, and other vegetables. The aioli works well with all components of the selection.
Next, we sampled the Bulgogi Tacos, a delicious blend of hanger steak, pickled cucumber, quick kimchee and Korean BBQ sauce. It’s definitely a wonderful twist on a taco that should not be missed. For our entrees, we selected the highly recommended Twelve Hour Braised Short Ribs, made with porcini and truffle risotto and accompanied by a port wine reduction. The meat was fork-tender and the risotto absorbed all the delicious flavor and aroma of the port wine.
Finally, we sampled the Organic Chicken “Milanesa” withheirloom tomato salad, local greens and lemon. Although I wasn’t impressed with my first bite, the dish quickly grew on me when I tasted the chicken, tomato, and greens together. We both enjoyed this dish tremendously. Even though we opted not to order dessert, I was intrigued by the restaurant’s Croissant and Bailey’s Bread Pudding,made with dark chocolate, salted caramel, and caramelized banana ice cream. I wished we hadn’t ordered so much food!
After dinner, the bar at the Anglers comes alive, with a DJ spinning dance music and dozens of gorgeous South Beach locals and guests mingling and sipping cocktails. The ambient music is even heard by the pool, making it a perfect place to unwind with a martini.
The resort, located minutes away from Twist or just a short cab ride away from Lincoln Road hotspots Score and MOVA, makes clubbing a breeze. Late night partygoers should take note: the Angler’s weekend brunch begins at 11 a.m. but lasts until 5 p.m., so sleeping in is definitely an option. Serving everything from traditional brunch favorites—from Eggs Benedict with red bliss potato hash to the famous 660 Cobb containing grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, and gorgonzola—the choices are endless.
Overall, the lush landscaping, first-class service and serene atmosphere of the Angler’s Boutique Resort provides a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Ocean Drive, but it’s still only steps away, making it a perfect choice for a memorable South Beach staycation.
The Angler's Boutique Resort
660 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach