to get out of town for a few days or maybe just a quick weekend jaunt?
The Carolinas are packed with plenty of travel destinations that offer
a plethora of entertaining opportunities.
In North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains there’s Asheville,
a mountain town that in recent years has become immensely attractive to
gays and lesbians, hip and creative young people and hip and creative retirees.
Asheville has been listed in Rolling Stone and Modern Maturity as an ideal
place to live or visit. A recent story in The Advocate confirmed that Asheville
has the largest gay population per capita in the entire country.
scene is especially active and Asheville has become a mecca for potters,
painters and musicians. It’s home to one of the largest and most
ornate homes in the country — the Biltmore House. Other attractions
include the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum,
Pack Square, Blue Ridge Parkway and the Asheville Urban Trail.
In the central Piedmont region of North Carolina, Charlotte is the largest
city between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Ga. With a metro population
of more than 1.5 million, the city is one of the fastest growing metropolitan
regions in the United States, with an average influx of around 20,000 newcomers
into the region each year over the past decade.
There’s plenty of fun to be had — some of the popular tourist
attractions include the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Carolina Aviation
Museum, Carolina Raptor Center, Charlotte History Museum, Discovery Place,
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Latta Plantation, Rosedale Plantation,
Levine Museum, Mint Museum and Carowinds. In recent years, Charlotte’s
center city business and residential district has grown in leaps and bounds
and has become a destination in itself for locals and tourists for its
many nightclubs and upscale eateries. If you’re there, don’t
miss the chance to ride the restored trolley system, which runs from the
inner city to Southend.
The gay and lesbian community here is active and busy. There are multiple
nightclubs and gay owned businesses, a gay and lesbian community center
and an annual Pride festival. For the past two years the city has served
as home to the annual Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Dinner. It will continue
there next year, as well.
The Research Triangle area boasts Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill — three
distinctly different towns all within close proximity to each other.
Raleigh was founded in 1792 as North Carolina’s capital city. It
was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, who attempted to establish the first
English colony on the shores of the new world in the 1580s. The city’s
founding fathers called Raleigh the “City of Oaks,” and dedicated
themselves to maintaining the area’s wooded tracts and grassy parks.
Some of the attractions you might want to take in include: The grand Victorian
North Carolina Executive Mansion. Built in 1891 from native North Carolina
materials, it has been cited as one of America’s few splendid examples
of Queen Anne cottage-style architecture. The house has 30 rooms, including
six bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.
One of Raleigh’s oldest parks, Pullen Park offers recreational opportunities
for all ages. Highlights include the Andy & Opie Statue, a 1911 Gustave
A. Dentzel Menagerie Carousel, train ride, paddle boats, playground and
If they’re performing while you’re in town, don’t miss
The North Carolina Symphony. This internationally respected symphony orchestra
performs approximately 185 concerts a year. Raleigh is also home of the
N.C. State Fair, North Carolina’s largest event (this year it takes
place Oct. 13-22).
Steeped in history including three State Historic Sites (more than any
other place in N.C.), four National Historic Landmarks and 54 sites on
the National Register of Historic Places, Durham boasts some of the best
architecture in the country: the art deco of Downtown, neo-Romanesque tobacco
warehouses, gothic Duke West Campus, Georgian Duke East Campus, the futuristic
designs in Research Triangle Park and the funkiness of the Ninth Street
Shopping District (a largely gay area). Durham is home to 100 working visual
artists, scores of studios and galleries, two major art museums with unique
collections, 13 performing arts venues, some of the region’s most
successful, indigenous performing groups, countless murals and pieces of
outdoor art and sculpture as well as funereal art, more than 20 major festivals
and events including 11 signature events with national or regional recognition,
and scads of nightclubs and venues offering live entertainment.
Though decidedly smaller, Chapel Hill boasts an undeniable charm that attracts
many individuals to the area. A college town with a population of 50,000,
Chapel Hill offers a quality of life that includes small town friendliness
mixed with liberal sensibilities. The town boasts beautiful neighborhoods,
a healthy downtown, a beautiful natural setting with trees and multiple
green spaces. While you’re visiting don’t forget to take in
the Coker Arboretum and the North Carolina Botanical Garden. No trip to
Chapel Hill would be complete without a trip to Franklin Street in the
heart of Chapel Hill. It features eclectic boutiques, antique shops and
The LGBT community here is thriving and vibrant — the area is home
to the NC Equality Project and Chapel Hill boasts openly gay town councilmember
Mark Kleinschmidt. Of course, there are several area clubs and restaurants
popular with the LGBT community — take a look at www.outtriangle.com
before you visit.
North Carolina’s Triad region is the location of Greensboro, a city
of more than 230,000 that boasts a remarkably entertaining center city
district chock full of funky and upscale clubs and eateries.
The town is home to several universities and colleges, among them The University
of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), North Carolina Agricultural and
Technical State University (NCA&T), Guilford College, Bennett College
and Greensboro College.
Fun touristy sites include the Bog Garden, the Greensboro Arboretum and
the Blandwood Mansion and Gardens. It’s not surprising in a progressive
college town you’d find one of the nation’s oldest gay student
Established in 1974, UNCG Pride is one of the oldest, most continuously
active LGBT student organizations in the nation The organization continues
its strong tradition today of providing a safe and welcoming social atmosphere
for students of all sexual orientations.
Alternative Resources of the Triad, in conjunction with the openly gay
owners of the vintage Biltmore Hotel hold a gay movie night at Warehouse
29, a local gay club. If you’re in town, be sure to check it out.
Settled on the Cape Fear River, Wilmington residents have the advantage
of life nestled between a river and the ocean.
The city offers its historic downtown as a main tourist attraction and
business center and is minutes away from nearby beaches. It is also home
to the WWII Battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55). Now a war memorial,
the ship is open to public tours and is on display across from the downtown
port area. The town is home to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington,
the Wilmington Hammerheads USL soccer team, the Cape Fear Soccer Youth
Soccer Association and the Cape Fear Museum. The city has become a major
center of American film and television production; motion pictures such
as “The Crow” and “Blue Velvet” as well as television
shows such as “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” have
been produced there.
Additional tourist attractions include the Bellamy Mansion and Airlie Gardens.
Like Chapel Hill, this town has an active gay community that supports many
gay owned attractions and businesses. Wilmington, however, boasts its own
LGBT Community Center. Out Wilmington just celebrated their first annual
Pride and the center just celebrated their first anniversary (see page
Historic Charleston, South Carolina is probably the most popular tourist
destination in the two-state area. The town was founded as Charlestown
or Charles Towne, when South Carolina and North Carolina were known as
Carolina in 1670. Up until 1800, Charleston was the fifth largest city
in North America, behind Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Quebec
City. It adopted its present name in 1783.
As an old colonial city, Charleston has a wide variety of museums and historical
attractions. The Old Exchange and Customs House in downtown Charleston,
finished in 1771, is perhaps the third most important Colonial building
in the nation (behind Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts and Independence
Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). The building features a dungeon, which
held various signers of the Declaration of Independence, and also hosted
events for George Washington in 1791, and the ratification of the U.S.
Constitution in 1788. There are also several former plantations in the
area, including Boone Hall Plantation, Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation,
and Middleton Place.
Other fun spots to visit include the South Carolina Aquarium, the Audubon
Swamp Garden, Cypress Gardens and Charles Towne Landing.
Inarguably the three most desirable features of the city are the plethora
of colonial-era architecture, it’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean
and its bountiful supply of fine dining experiences.
It’s the home of the LGBT political action group AFFA (Alliance For
Full Acceptance) and boasts numerous gay owned bed and breakfasts, as well
as several restaurants and nightclubs.
Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, has an estimated metro population
of 689,878. Located in the state’s Midlands region, the town was
founded in 1786 as the site of the state’s new capital city. One
of the first planned cities in the United States, the area is often cited
for its high quality of life offerings, with its many cultural amenities,
parks, and recreational features. At the confluence of two major rivers,
Columbia is one of the best destinations in the country for kayak and canoe
enthusiasts. It is also known for its large number of independent theater
groups. The city was recently named as one of 30 communities from across
the nation chosen as “America’s Most Livable Communities.”
Columbia boasts a happening historic downtown entertainment district, museums,
an internationally acclaimed zoo, galleries and Lake Murray, a magnet for
water sports fun. It’s also home to The South Carolina Gay and Lesbian
Pride Movement’s Harriet Hancock Center, an LGBT resources facility.
Greenville, located in South Carolina’s Upstate region, features
an award-winning revitalized downtown with a spectacular 20-acre park.
The artistic and cultural epicenter for Upstate South Carolina, the city
features traditional symphony and ballet organizations, as well as cutting-edge
theatre, visual artists and film societies.
Much of the local arts activity is centered on the Peace Center for the
Performing Arts. This $42 million center features a 2,000-seat concert
hall and a more intimate 400-seat theatre.
With a blending of historic homes and modern office towers, Greenville
has often been described as where “Old South” meets “New
Additional points of interest include Falls Park on the Reedy, a large
regional park with beautiful gardens. It’s also home of the Liberty
Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge.
The Greenville County Museum of Art mainains a highly acclaimed Southern
Collection of art that dates back to the 1700s.
Resources for the LGBT community here seem somewhat limited, though there
are a handful of organizations, among them, AFFIRM, a gay youth organization
and a PFLAG chapter. At the current time, the city has two clubs frequented
by mostly gay men and a third that is popular with lesbians. According
to a few local insiders, Greenville proper is an excellent choice for a
South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach has long been a popular destination
for sun worshippers and graduating high school students. Located in a region
known as the Grand Strand, that stretches from Georgetown, S.C. to Little
River, S.C. The largest community of its kind in the area, Myrtle Beach
is a major tourist destination known for its wide beaches, large selection
of challenging golf links, excellent seafood restaurants and outlet-style
shopping activities. For this reason, the Myrtle Beach area attracts over
14 million visitors a year.
In recent years it’s become a destination for the gay community as
well, as the local LGBT community has grown in leaps and bounds in the
area. June 1 saw the opening of an LGBT community center located at 307
Highway 15 in downtown Myrtle Beach (near the intersection of Third Ave.
South and Broadway).