Mt. Vernon, Baltimore
Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon isn’t just one of the city’s historic gayborhoods—it’s also a main cultural center, with a rich arts and nightlife history.
Start with brunch at City Cafe, where you can enjoy a cocktail out in the sun and feast on their chicken and biscuits or a Maryland crab cake sandwich. For an after-breakfast stroll, head to either The Walters Art Museum or The Contemporary to take in some culture, or the Maryland Historical Society to see the oldest known surviving manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Eclectic Mt. Vernon also makes for eclectic dining options: The Helmand, a local landmark, serves traditional Afghan cuisine in a more upscale environment, while Dooby’s is a relaxed hipster-chic café where you can nosh on hangover ramen (sapporo noodles, chashu, hot dogs, American cheese, nitamago!) or a Korean BBQ cheesesteak with a local craft brew. Finish your day off with a nightcap at Grand Central, one of the city’s oldest LGBT-friendly locales. The two-story venue has three distinct vibes: a traditional pub, a loft with a pool table and a club to dance the night away.
Where to stay: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore
Washington Square West (aka the Gayborhood), Philadelphia
Talula’s Daily Market in the City of Brotherly Love’s Washington Square West neighborhood is a great start to any day. With freshly-roasted coffee and baked pastries in hand, explore this historic slice of Philly.
Founded in 1973, Giovanni’s Room Bookstore has great books mixed with a little history—the shop bills itself as the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the U.S. Nearby stores include Duross & Langel, featuring boutique soaps and skincare products that are made on site, as well as Open House, a gift boutique with a well-curated selection of smart home goods and accessories.
Barbuzzo is a late-night Mediterranean favorite that serves up pizza, pasta, and plates like grilled octopus and branzino until midnight, while Jamonera, a tapas and wine bar owned by local entrepreneurs, is open late night and Sundays. End your night dancing at LGBT institution Woody’s Bar, or keep it low-key with cocktails at the piano bar Tavern on Camac.
Where to stay: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia & Palomar Philadelphia
Logan Circle-Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
If you want some time away from D.C.’s monuments and walking tours, start at Glen’s Garden Market, which serves up brunch with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients every weekend until 2 p.m. Contemporary Italian hotspot Urbana will be serving up a boozy brunch right off the pride parade route—expect house-made pizzas (topped with sunny-side eggs) and inspired artisanal cocktails like the Sedano Frizzante, featuring house-made celery cucumber soda. Get your fill of brunch before stopping at the spa at Bluemercury to unwind.
Once rejuvenated, walk on over to Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, an independent bookstore and cafe where you can grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while you browse. Round out a neighborhood visit with a stop at Redeem, an independent boutique featuring avant-garde designers such as OAK, Assembly New York, and Our Caste.
If you’re in the mood for a classic bite (we always are), Stoney’s offers immensely hugely popular grilled cheese sandwich menu including one that’s loaded with tomato, bacon and onions. But if you want to live like the Obamas, try to get into the James Beard-nominated KOMI, where the First Couple was seen enjoying this Greek restaurant’s $125 multi-course menu.
Where to stay: Kimpton hotels in D.C.
— Paul DeBendetto
Paul DeBenedetto is a native New Yorker who now makes his home in Houston. He’s written for Vice, Sports Illustrated, Mental Floss, and other outlets, covering both hard news and lighter features, recently including a profile of Houston’s indie music scene, and a roundup of outdoor bars and restaurants in Brooklyn.
(Banner image: Camac Street, Phildelphia, PA. Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia.)