Showing posts with label Joey Amato. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joey Amato. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Pride Journey: Palm Beach

 

By Joey Amato

On my recent visit to The Palm Beaches, I wanted to explore parts of the region I hadn’t had the chance to visit when I lived in the area a little of a decade ago. Palm Beach County encompassed dozens of cities and towns, each with its own unique charm and attractions. While most people think of Florida’s beaches as the main attraction in the Sunshine State, Palm Beach County stretches all the way to the Everglades in the west and has developed into one of the top agri-tourism destinations in the country.

I began my trip in Delray Beach, the town I used to live in. One of Delray Beach’s hidden gems is Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Guests get to experience authentic Japanese culture and stroll through acres of lush trails transporting them to a different land. I didn’t even feel as if I was in Florida as I spent time at the reflection pond, the bamboo forest, or the old museum. While in Delray Beach, head to the Pineapple Grove arts district, a stretch of downtown devoted to art galleries, cafes, and boutiques. Swing by City Oyster on Atlantic Avenue for lunch and try order the Lobster Roll. You will not be disappointed.

From Delray Beach, head north on I-95 – or jump on the Tri-Rail to West Palm Beach and visit the Norton Museum of Art. During my visit, the museum was exhibiting Origin Stories: Photography of Africa and Its Diaspora, a collection that confronts the intertwined relationship between identity and colonialism in communities across the African continent. The museum also contains a permanent collection of Asian and European artwork.

After the museum, take a walk along Clamatis street, the dining and entertainment hub of West Palm Beach or journey over to Palm Beach Island, where the world’s wealthiest people go to play during the winter months. Mansions and sprawling estates surround the island which includes many historic properties including the Flagler Museum, The Breakers and Mar-a-Lago, which was originally built for cereal company heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.

There are many hotels located on Palm Beach, but they can get a bit pricey depending on the time of year you visit. A great option is the Hilton West Palm Beach, located across the street from Rosemary Square and within walking distance to many of the area’s main attractions. The luxurious property features a grand lobby, large fitness center and massive outdoor pool, perfect for a nice relaxing dip after a long day of sightseeing.

Grab dinner at Table 26, one of West Palm Beach’s most popular LGBTQ-owned restaurants. My guest and I began our meal with the Squash Blossoms and Burrata & Tomato salad, a simple yet delicious selection that is always a favorite of mine. For dinner, we wanted to order something a little on the lighter side, so we opted for the Zucchini pasta prepared with roasted heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, basil pesto and shaved parmesan. If you are in the mood to grab some cocktails, head to The Mad Hatter lounge located in Lake Worth, a town known for its thriving LGBTQ culture. Lake Worth is also home to Compass, the area’s LGBTQ community center.

After grabbing a morning coffee, head to Jupiter, about a 20-minute drive north from the hotel to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. The free attraction relies on donations to help maintain the property and support its animals. Last year alone, the sanctuary cared for over 6,000 animals who arrived to the facility, which was established to care for sick, injured and orphaned wild animals, while promoting wildlife and habitat conservation. All of the animals at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary are native to Florida.

While in Jupiter, head to Lucky Shuck for lunch and grab a table with a view of the intracoastal waterway. The restaurant offers wonderful service, fresh and simple food, and a relaxed island time environment. I decided to try the Ceviche Trio, prepared three different ways and was so surprised at the differences between each of the preparations. For dessert – yes, I had dessert for lunch – try the Key Lime pie served with a coconut meringue and passion fruit glaze. It was one of the most delicious items I had on my entire visit. After lunch, jump on the Love Street Outdoor Center PonTiki Cruise a few steps from the restaurant, for a 30-minute or hour-long cruise around Jupiter inlet before heading back to the Hilton for some R&R before dinner.

Although it is easy to navigate West Palm Beach via public transportation, I would recommend renting a car if you really want to explore the destination and some of its most popular attractions including McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary. The guided tours are so informative, and guests learn the stories of each animal and how they arrived at the Sanctuary. Whereas Busch Sanctuary only cares for animals local to the region, McCarthy’s is home to a variety of animals from all corners of the globe including Amur leopards, Bengal Tigers, lions and even a snow leopard. Many of these animals were illegally owned and taken in by the sanctuary as they can’t be allowed into the wild.

All of the animals are well cared for and were quite friendly and playful. The jaguar was purring during our entire visit and the beautiful white tiger was rubbing up against the encloser seeking some attention from us. In addition to big cats, the sanctuary also houses exotic birds, lemurs, and a feisty fox.

No trip to Palm Beach would be complete without a shopping spree or stroll along Worth Avenue. High-end boutiques such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Akris line the street. Even if you don’t want to shop, it is still a fun experience to window shop and watch the parade of exotic cars that drive up and down the avenue.

It takes a good week to explore the destination, especially if you want to visit numerous cities and attractions. One of my favorite times to visit Florida in general is the spring and fall, as the weather is divine.

To book your West Palm Beach gaycation, visit www.Orbitz.com/pride

Enjoy the Journey!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Pride Journey: Palm Springs, California


By Joey Amato

Palm Springs is my happy place. The city and the surrounding area provide me with the perfect mix of relaxation and entertainment. Having been to Palm Springs numerous times prior to this visit, I wanted to partake in things that I have never tried before, most notably a full body massage at El Morocco Inn & Spa, but we will get to that later.

After checking in to Triangle Inn (pictured above), a lovely mid-century modern gay guesthouse located just one mile from the Arenas Road district, I decided to unwind from my flight and take it easy by the pool. I struck up a wonderful conversation with another guest from Los Angeles who was in town for the weekend. Apparently, Palm Springs is his happy place as well. Everyone I encountered at the clothing-optional resort was very friendly and eager to give advice on the hottest spots to visit during my stay.

I decided to head to Cathedral City for happy hour. Before Palm Springs became the gay mecca of today, Cathedral City was the epicenter of LGBTQ culture in the desert. The area is home to an array of nightlife establishments including The Barracks, AMP Sports Lounge and One Eleven Bar, a beautifully decorated space which on the evening of my visit was celebrating female voices of the 80s. I sipped a delicious Espresso Rum-tini while grooving to music from Whitney, Madonna and Tina.

The time change was hitting me hard, so I decided to retire early to my room at Triangle Inn and when I say room, I mean something closer to a 1-bedroom apartment. The suite contained a full living room, dining room and kitchen, in addition to a king size bed and large walk-in shower.

Triangle Inn usually offers a continental breakfast to guests but current COVID restrictions didn’t allow them to provide that during my stay, so I grabbed breakfast the next morning at a cute LGBTQ-owned restaurant called Sunshine CafĂ©. I don’t normally eat a heavy breakfast but when I saw the Banana Nut Pancakes on the menu, I knew I had to at least give them a try. The extra calories were definitely worth it.

Today was my Zen day in the desert and I heard about this wonderful shop creating organic skin care products called The Body Deli. The business uses raw and organic superfoods to create their products which range from facial moisturizers and scrubs to hair shampoo and conditioner. I sampled a few products while there and you can actually smell the freshness of the foods they use to create the products. The store offers a variety of travel-size skincare kits that are perfect for those out-of-towners looking to bring home some product.

My next destination was El Morocco Inn & Spa, located in the town of Desert Hot Springs, known for the mineral properties in its water. I decided to indulge myself with a two-hour Moroccan Mystical Ritual, which begins with dry brushing to stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory system and provide exfoliation. My body was then covered in organic Rhassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains. As I lay on the massage table, the clay began to harden, and I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon. At times it was a bit uncomfortable, but I knew the end result would be wonderful. I was then asked to jump in the shower to rinse the clay off my body before the Moroccan Rain massage began. This is a process of using a raindrop technique to apply seven different essential oils along the spine, which all aid in detoxification.

Feeling refreshed, I was ready to enjoy a night on the town. I met up with my friend Brad Fuhr who publishes the Gay Desert Guide, a one-stop-spot for everything you need to know about LGBTQ culture and nightlife in the Palm Springs area. We
enjoyed dinner at Trio, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I began my meal with the Roasted Beat Salad and then ordered the fish special, while Brad went for the Pesto Crusted King Salmon served over squash and angel hair pasta. Consistency is key and you can never go wrong with a meal at Trio.

No visit to Palm Springs would be complete without partying on Arenas Road, the LGBTQ cultural and nightlife hub of the city. Coincidentally, the owner of Hunter’s was in town (there is also a Hunter’s in Wilton Manors, Florida). Mark Hunter and I had met briefly in Florida many years ago and spent the evening reconnecting. We had such a good time chatting that before I knew it, midnight had rolled around, and it was time for bed. I know what you’re thinking, midnight is early, but I was still suffering from jet lag and had a full schedule of activities to get to the following day.

I woke up early to visit multiple public art exhibitions around the downtown area. The days were really starting to heat up and it topped 100 degrees the day prior, so I wanted to get to the art before the heat became unbearable. There are many art displays and murals around the Palm Springs Art Museum that are worth checking out.

If you happen to be in town on a Sunday evening, there is no better place to be than Oscar’s for their world-famous T-Dance. The iconic party takes place every Sunday from 4-8pm and recently began again after almost a year-long hiatus. I was told people from around the world visit Palm Springs specifically to attend T-Dance at Oscar’s.

Of course, dancing will make you hungry, so for your final meal in the desert, head to Roly China Fusion, a multi-level space which also hosts a weekly Drag Brunch on Sunday. While there, you must try the Lobster Dumplings, which are served in a delicious truffle butter broth with shitake mushrooms and napa cabbage. It was one of the best dishes I’ve had in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs Pride Festival is scheduled to take place this year on November 6-7. After a year off, I’m sure it will be a very festive occasion. Start making plans early as reservations at Palm Springs’ numerous guest houses tend to sell out during this time. If you have never been to Palm Springs, I’m sure you’ll find it to be your happy place too. To learn more, visit www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com and to book your Palm Springs gaycation, visit www.Orbitz.com/pride.

Enjoy the Journey!