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The Garden State Blooms With LGBTQ+ Pride


New Jersey is proud of its nickname "The Garden State" because it represents a vast collection of people, places, and things that epitomize diversity and culture. The LGBTQ+ community has its own colorful symbol, the rainbow, that signifies the same things. Together, these two communities share a common goal: To allow people to be themselves and have a good time doing it.

If you are indecisive about where to go on your next gaycation, it might set your mind at ease to know there are places like New Jersey, where LGBTQ+ travelers can relax, feel safe, and have a good time. There are queer-friendly spaces that celebrate diversity and inclusiveness; it is a part of their hospitality.

Just across from New York City, over the Hudson River, is Jersey City. This eclectic and vibrant town is filled with energy and loads of history. If you plan on traveling to the East Coast, be sure to make time to walk around Jersey City and discover some of its art and landmarks. Make plans to stay overnight at the Canopy by Hilton in the Powerhouse Arts District. It's a beautiful hotel that can also serve as a hub for local sightseeing and outdoor activities.

There is also the LGBTQ+-owned Joia Restaurant in Harrison, serving authentic Portuguese cuisine. Then, let your Pride Flag fly at Six26, where, day or night, there is always something fun going on. Not only is it a cool place to unwind and have a cocktail and a snack, but they also have a dance floor and drag shows. If mixed drinks aren't refreshing enough head over to the historic Pint for a craft beer. Or for a more down-tempo experience, have a tasting at Corgi Spirits, an LGBTQ+-owned distillery.

About an hour Northwest of Jersey is one of the state's hidden gems, the Township of Montclair. It sits beneath the beautiful First Watchung Mountain. When you get there, book your stay at the LGBTQ+-friendly MC Hotel, Autograph Collection – you won't believe the views. Then, get your empanada fix at the LGBTQ+-owned Miti Miti Latin Street Food, a restaurant specializing in South American cuisine. After lunch, get some rest at your hotel before heading out to the legendary Club Feathers for some after-hours action.

New Jersey is also home to one of the most famous college towns in the world, Princeton. This Ivy League establishment isn't just for future scholars, but the intrepid traveler, too. Visiting here, you will want to stay in nearby Trenton. When you arrive, book a room at the Inn at Glencairn, a renovated 1736 Georgian manor. This is a perfect gay getaway to celebrate something special. Or maybe a contemporary vibe is more your thing – if so, book a stay at the gorgeous Nassau Inn instead. Then after a good night's rest, head over to the LGBTQ+-owned Lady and the Shallot for some farm-to-table food.

The East Coast has some of the best antique shops in the country. In New Jersey, you might find that one vintage piece everyone else passes over. To help with your search, find your way to Lambertville, approximately 30 minutes west of Princeton. With antique shops, eateries, and art galleries, this little town of about 5,000 people is a romantic hamlet perfect for taking a relaxing sabbatical, either solo or with that special person in your life. Just look at the beauty of The Inn at Lambertville Station or the elegant Lambertville House. There's even a bed and breakfast nestled in the countryside called Woolverton Inn.

Support the LGBTQ+ small business Union Coffee and listen to some live music while "finding love and friendship, relief and escape, productivity and creativity," as their website says. The Wine Cellar at Lambertville Station offers fine dining and over 50 unique wines.

Entertainment is a bit more relaxed in Lambertville. The Music Mountain Theatre is a modest 250-seat theatre where a resident company brings classic plays and musicals to life.

Closer to the big city lies the little town of Hoboken. At only a square mile, this little town might have the best views of Manhattan west of the Hudson River. To get those views, book a room at the W Hoboken, which stands tall over the waterfront and the NY Waterway. You are going to want to try something from the LGBTQ+-owned Uncle Milton's Café in the heart of uptown Hoboken. Another LGBTQ+-owned small business called Sw3at is dedicated to the community through holistic health of body, mind, and spirit. If a spa day isn't what you're in the mood for, how about making unique fashions? The Tipsy Tie Dye is a great date night activity where, you guessed it, you make your own tie-dyed clothing.

The West may have Haight-Ashbury, but the East Coast has Asbury Park. This lively community is filled with small LGBTQ+-owned businesses. It is also famous for its music scene and Premiere Theatre Company. Feeling nostalgic for midcentury design? Then stay at The Empress and have a Mai Tai at the tiki bar. Or, head to the 21-and-over St. Laurent Social Club: It is women-owned and LGBTQ+-friendly.

The queer community has a big presence in Asbury Park, especially went it comes to restaurants. The food ranges from quick service to fine dining. Moonstruck is an American-Mediterranean Grill whose whole intention is to have its guests fall in love. Pasta Volo serves affordable build-your-own pasta dishes, while Chat and Nibble is inspired by classic American breakfasts, brunches, and lunches.

Grab a drink and some delicious bar food at Georgie's Bar, a historic LGBTQ+ establishment for nearly 30 years. The owners are dedicated to the community and donate to various charities. For a more energetic nightlife experience, head over to Paradise and dance to live DJ music, drag performances, and guests from "Ru Paul's Drag Race" alumni.

Atlantic City is legendary for its round-the-clock entertainment. It's also an LGBTQ+ destination and hotspot. Beneath all of its bright lights and resorts, there are nightclubs and casinos to explore. Drag shows and live music are a staple. For instance, Atlantic City is also the spot where the annual Miss'd America Pageant takes place.

Visitors love staying at the world-famous Borgata Casino and Spa. But really, any of the other casinos along the Atlantic City Boardwalk are also going to put you in the middle of the action. Still, if the energy is making you lose sleep, book a night in Ventnor City at the Victorian-era-inspired Carisbrooke Inn.

Taking your boyfriend or girlfriend out for a special night of dining in Atlantic City is like a Food Network celebrity chef fantasy. You've got Amada, Angeline by Michael Symon, Distrito, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Gordon Ramsay Steak, Guy Fieri's Chophouse, and Izakaya by Michael Schulson.

The nightclub scene has to be seen to be believed, too. Kiss Kiss Nightclub asks you to "take a trip down the rabbit hole," with live DJ's and a huge dancefloor. The Tropicana Atlantic City offers its guests everything they need to have a great time under one roof. On Friday and Saturday nights, they celebrate the music and vibe of the '70s and '80s with the theme party Boogie Nights.

The Pool After Dark party inside Harrah's Resort claims they are the largest indoor pool party. That is not hard to believe, with a 3,500 sq. foot, 86,000 gallon pool for guests to dance around. If you are making a wish list of things to do in your lifetime, Atlantic City should be on it.

New Jersey is embracing LGBTQ+ folks, not only its residents but its visitors. At about 170 miles long and 70 miles wide, it is a state loaded with plenty of great things to do. There is also good news If you are a beachcomber; there are about 130 miles of beaches, from the top of Sandy Hook to the tip of Cape May Point. Much like its nickname implies, The Garden State is filled with an array of diverse beauty, which also defines the LGBTQ+ community.

by Timothy Rawles

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