The gays tend to get around a bit, and we don’t mean with the guys we meet at beer bust. Seeing the world, whether for business or pleasure, takes us on the road far and wide. Working away from home can cause a bit of stress, but there is a certain romance in sitting in a nice hotel lounge, procrastinating, enjoying a tasty beverage. And for vacation travel, the hotel bar is the place to unwind after a day of sight-seeing. It’s also a safe spot, no matter our travel purpose, for a in-person drink & meeting with that guy 700 feet away on Grindr.
Sometimes there’s even live music.
To help you get the best out of your travels, or staycations for that matter, here’s list of ten of the coolest hotel bars where is as much fun to enjoy the design and vibe as it is to people watch.
A trip to New Orleans is almost a guarantee for having a good time, and the fun often begins with a stiff drink. At Aloft New Orleans, on the edge of downtown and within walking distance of the bars of The French Quarter, get things started by ordering a Sazerac, the official cocktail of the city. A rotating lineup of musicians perform in the evenings, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch a jazz quartet, another New Orleans classic.
Dark green leather booths pop out of the moody dim of this mahaogany-adorned cocktail lounge, where drinks are served by professionals who create their concoctions with the precision of serving the elixir of life. Simultaneously throw-back and contemporary, Elephant Bar is the perfect New York lounge, exactly right in every way, and you won’t be able to resist the urge to saunter a bit as you take your seat. This place is gorgeous and quite sexy. And speaking of sexy, what exactly are the elephants doing behind the bar?
Another old-school gem, Coq d’Or is so exclusive, there isn’t any signage. (It is just inside the lobby, and the hotel doormen will patiently tell you where to find it.) Coq d’Or is still the favorite amongst loyal Old Chicago patrons, who have been coming for decades to enjoy the “executive level” cocktails, which are 1 1/2 or 2 times the size of a regular drink. This place does not mess around when it comes to beverages. Crooners on the weekend, accompanied by the baby grand piano in the corner, add a bit of romance to the evening, and the location on Michigan Avenue makes it the perfect place to meet up with that handsome executive living in one of the condos nearby.
The W South Beach has multiple bars, including a great pool bar for drinks while you get some sun, but the Living Room Bar is a special spot for lounging endeavors. Popular with locals and tourists, Living Room Bar’s aesthetic is design-forward but relaxed, and the service is surprisingly friendly. Drink prices are not a bargain, and don’t bother trying to walk through the lobby if you aren’t dressed well, but once you are inside the people-watching is a South Beach glamour orgy.
Cocktails in tiki cups. Rainstorms. Live music by bands wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis. And of course the drinks are shades of technicolor. Of course this bar is in The Fairmont, a 4-star hotel in the middle of San Francisco. The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar is kitsch at its finest, where drinks are an event, and not just because they are knock-you-on-your-butt strong. It is the perfect alter ego for The Fairmont, a San Francisco icon of hotel perfection, and if you don’t have fun at this retro tiki-themed bar, just stay home and drink alone.
6. Blue Heron Lounge, Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Tetons National Park
Camping is fun, communing with nature is good for the soul, but sometimes you just want to leave the tents and sleeping bags behind and go have a decent drink. After a day of hiking in the Grand Tetons, put on your good pair of hiking boots and a clean shirt, and stop by this lodge on the northern end of the park. Get a drink at the bar, and then go outside to the terrace and drink in the views. That’s not the high altitude that is making it hard for you to breathe; you may find yourself breathless, because truly, in the literal sense of the word, sitting on the terrace of this bar is spectacular.
Drinks under a Banyan tree, sitting on the edge of the ocean, on Waikiki Beach. Take a moment and imagine the bliss. There is lots of ocean to view anywhere in Hawaii, but at the Moana Surfrider that ocean view comes with spectacular sunsets, bartenders making fabulous beverages, and authentic hula dancers performing as live Hawaiian music floats through the air. It is a feast of the senses. And it is a great stop after a day at Queens Surf Beach, a popular gay beach that is just a half-mile walk south along the sand.
A ride on High Roller, the largest Ferris Wheel on Earth, at the Linq Hotel and Casino takes 30 minutes to go all the way around–and that is plenty of time to get liquored up when you ride in one of the “Happy Half-Hour” open-bar cabins. The cabins (the white sphere in the photo above) are large enough for groups of 20+ people to stand in, and if you pay for a ride in a bar cabin, it includes a little bar and a bartender serving a basic assortment of rather nice brand-name liquors. And it is all free! Or more accurately, it is included in the price of admission. The views from High Roller are best at night when The Strip is aglow, and things will look a lot prettier at the end of the ride after a few drinks. A wine and cheese service is available, but why would you do that? You only have 30 minutes. Drink shots. Hotel guests get $5 off admission. Or if you plan ahead, check the internet for reduced-priced tickets.
In the 1995 film Waiting To Exhale, a despondent and broken-hearted Bernadine (played by the stunning Angela Bassett) sat in a dramatically designed hotel lounge, drinking a scotch and soda, when a stranger, James, (played by the virile Wesley Snipes) introduced himself and wooed her with one of the smoothest and most earnest seductions a man has ever delivered. That lounge, with its angular design and perfect lines that mirrored Angela Bassett’s exquisite cheekbones, was in the Arizona Biltmore Resort. This landmark property, designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is jaw-dropping, with carved stone walls and geometric chandeliers and artistic touches in the finest of details. Go to the Arizona Biltmore, take a seat at the bar, and order a Tequila Sunrise, which was invented here, or perhaps a scotch and soda like Bernadine, and revel in the beauty of your surroundings.
The smaller cities of the Central Time Zone, places like Kansas City, Des Moines, and Oklahoma City, have awoken in recent years with urban renewal projects renewing their urban cores once again with energy and life. A longtime hub of the petroleum industry, Oklahoma City is suddenly hip. Locals especially enjoy going downtown to the Bricktown neighborhood, with a lovely Riverwalk winds along trendy lofts, restaurants and shops. The X WYZ Bar inside this Aloft is a two-story beauty with an outdoor terrace, where locals mix with visitors to enjoy the technicolor decor and lovely city views. Added bonus: Bricktown is a short drive from the bars and clubs of OKC’s gayborhood.
Also, check out the live, complementary, concert series from Aloft Hotels. Artists have included The Lumineers, Ed Sheeran, Green River Ordinance, and Better Than Ezra. For a complete and up-to-date list of all performances, visit LiveAtAloftHotels.com and join the conversation @AloftHotels using#AloftLive.
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