Sunday, December 30, 2012


The Access guides claim to “make the world your neighborhood,” and their Gay USA travel guide is no exception, except that you’ll just be making major US cities into your neighborhood in this guide.

While nowhere near a comprehensive guide to gay life and activities throughout the country, Gay USA does a good job focusing on 23 cities and destinations in the United States that are arguably some of the most popular destinations for the Gay and Lesbian community. 

The cities and places covered include: Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Fire Island; Ft. Lauderdale; Honolulu; Houston; Key West; Los Angeles; Miami Beach and Miami; New Orleans; New York City; Palm Springs; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Provincetown; San Diego; San Francisco; San Juan; Seattle; and Washington DC. 

The Guide’s Layout 

Each city in Gay USA gets a chapter that follows a simple and basic format to provide the most information about that location in a fairly concise and easy to read way. Each chapter starts with a fairly detailed map (you’ll still need to pick up a map) that gives a general overview of the city and highlights the various locations identified in the text, or identifies where close-up maps are available further into the chapter. 

Then you’ll get an introduction to that city that hits on the history and highlights, especially for Gay and Lesbian travelers. It’s not required reading if you’re trying to figure out what is in a city, but it does give some nice background and helps you appreciate wherever you are visiting. 

Beyond the introduction you’ll find out how to get to the city, by plane, by bus, and by train, along with information on how to get around once you’re there. 

Still more basic information on the city is given, with quick highlights of all the important topics such as accommodations, personal safety, eating, smoking, street plans, taxes, festivals and more. 

The actual descriptions are broken down by the neighborhoods (or different regions) of each location. Gay USA provides basic information on services, dining, and attractions that are of interest to gay men. 

Each entry is color-coded (red – restaurants/clubs; blue – hotels; green – shops/outdoors; and black – sights/culture). There are several other symbols used in the descriptions, but all are fairly self-explanatory. They include the male and female symbols (alone one means that a location caters to gay men or lesbians, together it means they cater to both), a small wheelchair to represent accessibility; dollar signs to designate how expensive a restaurant, along with 1 to 4 stars rating the various restaurants. 

Each neighborhood’s (or region’s) description begins with a small close-up map of that neighborhood and highlights all of the places described in the text. The sites (accommodations, restaurants, clubs, etc) are numbered in the text and you’ll find the numbers on the map to help you figure out your vacation. 

Descriptions for all of the various locations (the accommodations, clubs, etc) are all quick descriptions. Generally there’s a short paragraph on the destination, maybe if it’s a restaurant it’ll be on a good dish, or for clubs, a description of the various theme nights they offer. After the quick description, you’ll find information on when the destination is open, its address and its phone number. 

You’ll also find quick little bites of information scattered throughout the destination descritiptions and a few more in-depth stories. For example in Atlanta, there’s a section on “Draglanta,” and you learn that in the 1980s Atlanta was the place to be for the world’s highest profile cross-dressers. There’s information on drag hotspots, along with some history. All in all, it’s a welcome addition to the fairly bland “here’s this and here’s that,” that makes up most travel guides and gives you a better understanding of the city. 


Several sub-areas are included in Gay USA but aren’t evident from the original listing of various cities covered. For example the Boston section covers Northampton, MA and Ogunquit, ME, while Chicago also includes Saugatuck and Douglas. Other areas included are: Fort Worth; Aspen; Galveston Island; Laguna Beach; New Hope; Sedona; Jerome; Tijuana, Mexico; Russian River; and Rehoboth Beach. 


Call it my altruistic nature, but I seem to have collected an inordinate amount of gay stuff. I mean, I’ve never really been one who likes guidebooks, or needed a guide to gay destinations, but somehow Gay USA, along with several other guides have appeared on my bookshelves. I think my boyfriend must be putting it in my stack of books at Barnes and Noble (or the discount book warehouse) when I’m not looking, but either way, once I’ve gotten them, they have been useful, including Gay USA. 

I even managed to find out a thing or two about Boston while I was reading the book, including the fact that Boston’s Gay Pride Day is the single largest annual event in Boston. No wonder it seems like such a party every June! 

The information in the pages of Gay USA is extensive, but focused on the various cities that are covered. For Gay and Lesbian travel information outside of these major destinations, you’ll be left lacking and need to look elsewhere, like Damron’s guidebooks. 

Unlike some other guidebooks, Gay USA has left out the sex clubs and various cruisy places for gay men. Thus I guess for the more timid amongst us, you won’t have to blush when flipping through the pages of this book. 

While I know that there have been plenty of trips where my boyfriend and I never end up visiting a single place mentioned in the book, it’s a great start when you’re considering traveling and want to know what’s available to you if you are planning on being in the locations that are profiled. 

The book is also a great reference for people living in these cities, especially if you are new. Simply put, you’re never going to know every single place out there and the guidebook can help you discover a wonder that was just under your nose that you never noticed. 


I found this book in the discount bookstore for about $7 a year ago and I haven’t seen a newer edition than the 2000 edition that I have. While I’m not sure if there are newer editions available, Gay USA still proves to be a useful reference guide. While businesses may come and go, even an older guide like this one gives you a good idea of what is around and you should always be calling ahead anyway – and then you’ll find out if it’s still there. However, in a few years a good part of the information will be quite out of date, especially room rates and restaurant prices. 

Final Thoughts 

While not as indispensable as some other gay guidebooks, Access Gay USA does do a good job highlighting what’s available for Gay and Lesbian travelers in the various cities that are highlighted by the book. Though with time, if newer editions aren’t published, the information in this book will become more and more out of date and less useful. 

For now though, Gay USA is still a helpful guide.

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