Road trip! Nearby destinations lure LGBT Chicagoans
Looking to escape the Windy City without the hassle of airport security checkpoints and baggage claims? If that’s the case, a weekend road trip might be in order! The Midwest abounds with plenty of fabulous and LGBT-friendly destinations within a few hours by car, so pack your stuff and get a move on to one of EDGE’s top three choices for gay Chicago’s weekend getaway: Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich.; Madison, Wis. and Bloomington, Ind.
Nicknamed by some as "the Provincetown of the Midwest," Saugatuck and Douglas share a population of only 2,000 residents, but the sister cities have been a popular destination for gay travelers for decades. Clocking in at just over a two-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago, it is close, but feels very far removed from bustling city life.
"It’s almost like a whole different world," Mike Jones, co-owner of the Dunes Resort in Douglas, explained.
The resort has grown to be the largest gay and lesbian resort in the Midwest since it opened its doors nearly 30 years ago.
"It’s an escape for gay men and lesbians in the Midwest to be safe and have fun, not deal with the bias that they might feel in their small towns," Jones continued. "It really is a place where you forget all of your issues and you can be anyone you want to be."
The area first came on the radar of gay and artists’ community in 1910 when the Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency, a painting summer school associated with the Art Institute of Chicago, opened its doors. "The art coast of Michigan" has since become an area thriving with galleries, studios and museums, in addition to fantastic shopping and restaurants options. And did we mention Oval Beach? It is consistently ranked among the nation’s best beaches--perfect for scoping out what other attractions the city might offer.
Log on to www.gaysaugatuckdouglas.com for more information.
If you’d rather head north and you’re in the mood for cheese, get thee to I-90 and two-and-a-half hours later you’ll be in Wisconsin’s capital city. With a population estimated at 228,775, Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin and famous for its "work hard, play hard" mentality. With many of the college students out of town for the summer, however, the city is allowed to shine in a different way.
Madison, which is located on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, is also known as the liberal beacon of the state. The lakes offer a spectacular backdrop for Madison’s downtown area, which is largely concentrated around State Street, the pedestrians-and-bikes-only avenue adorned with a myriad of restaurants, shops, small museums and historical concert venues. The street has a laid-back feel and is home to many gay-owned and friendly businesses.
State Street leads directly from the university to the state capitol building, around which an expanding number of more upscale bars, restaurants and nightspots are thriving. They include the refurbished Majestic Theatre and the city’s strip of gay bars on Main Street. The Capitol Square area is also home to a farmer’s market each Saturday morning during the summer that draws hundreds of vendors and their bounty of crops, plants and other creations.delicious crops. The Capitol area is also home to Proud Theater, one of the nation’s most prominent LGBT theater companies.
Log onto www.visitmadison.com for more information.
Finally, there’s Bloomington, Ind., just over a four hour drive southeast of Chicago. OutTraveler.com chose Bloomington, with a population of nearly 70,000, as the "#1 surprisingly gay small town destination" for its progressive politics and "hip" shopping scene.
Bloomington is also a college town. It is home to Indiana University, the well-known Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and the Jacobs School of Music. Due to its heavy academic presence, the city carries a youthful, left-leaning air. It also boasts the nation’s fifth largest per capita population of same-sex couples, two spots above the aforementioned Madison. And Lake Monroe is another attraction.
In addition to a thriving downtown scene loaded with fabulous restaurants, theaters and museums, the city is home to a number of regular LGBT-geared events. These include the PRIDE Film Festival each January and two annual pageants--Miss Gay IU and Miss Gay Bloomington. The city celebrates pride each Fourth of July with a Pride Picnic. And though it is not specifically gay, the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, an internationally-acclaimed music festival held each September, is also worth checking out.
Log onto www.visitgaybloomington.com for more information.