Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Orlando Gay Days: Crashing the Family Fun

“I’m at the Host hotel lobby. Where are you?”
Gay Days' original party at the DoubleTree near Sea World

“You’re definitely not here…  Did you mean the fake host hotel?”

It’s the tale of two celebrations – and actually many more – in Orlando for Gay Days. Always the first weekend in June, the party kicks off with a combination of all things fun! Water slides, friends from all over the country (dressed in as little as possible), music and of course your choice of enhancement – be that drink or drug – it’s the Riptide Party at Typhoon Lagoon. And that’s the main reason I left NYC in the (near) summer; to make new friends on water-slides!

Refer friends now to the GAYography brief for a chance to win a 3 night stay for Gay Days in Orlando this year!

About 25 years ago, Gay Days started with no corporate approval – just some parties and the wearing of red shirts into the Park. Disney tolerated it – and to some degree they still do. But there are plenty of Disney rainbow souvenirs now! Plus the area hotels and tourism board are now onboard with the LGBT – with a big G. Florida also has plenty of pink cash to go around – all of the parties and hotels were full!
Mid-Day Pool Party at the DoubleTree from a swanky room
The competing gay options are the original, authentic “GayDays” set up at the DoubleTree Hotel, and despite its distance from Disney, it’s closer to the airport as well as downtown (maybe not first thing for my Orlando visit). Yet the B Hotel on Disney property (but not Disney, note) now holds (this year again) the “One Magical Weekend” party. The only difference – really more rainbows and maybe more local or younger (and much more fun) folks attend the DoubleTree; it includes the twinks 18(ish) to 24 as well as the bears 45-65. The B hotel was a slightly more “you can’t sit with us” 28-45 crowd with much less rainbow, more circuit boy, which might mean a tad more “class” but in the end it’s basically more judgment. That’s not a hit on anyone of course, I enjoyed (and connected with old & new friends) at each event.
One Mighty Weekend Circuit pool party at the B Hotel

I arrived in Central FL (quite far from the happiest place on earth in my book…) in typical Ashton-style:  no plans whatsoever. Friends were arriving later and checking-in to where we were staying at a different on-Disney property, which is fun if you want to have your own party with close buds; there are always plenty of couples and other gay groups staying at these more posh spots, but it’s not the party scene.

At the airport, I spotted a fellow gay – looking lost and forlorn – so I decided to join him & get my Gay Days weekend off to a fun start. Initially awkward in making a new friend (really, me? Scare people?), he began to relax and we agreed to taxi to the Doubletree – where I thought I had friends (I was informed they would be at the “host hotel”). But of course, I did find friends there! – I wandered through the conference, got tipsy on some drinks and met up with some travel-industry buddies who snuck me briefly into the pool party for a look before my group picked me up.

I was supposed to get some free underwear for this -
but someone stole them!

Sadly, the main event – and real motivating reason for my trip – the Riptide party started out with a thunderstorm (bigger than most of the daily drips that hit this part of the world). This meant a pretty cold & damp event – but I still had a great time hitting the water-slides sloshed – borrowing a wristband to sneak into VIP – and meeting all kinds of new people! I’m planning to give it a go again this year, to see if warmer weather makes it even more exciting. Plus, I missed visiting a park – and I want to see Harry Potter World – even though I’ve never even picked up the book (it must that I'm drawn to what could only be twink-heaven, I guess).

The rest of the weekend is kinda blurry – but no doubt worth the free hotel stay you’ll win if you sign up for the GAYography brief – and refer others to sign up! 

Always great to run into long lost friends
in Florida!
If you'll be in Chicago for Creating Change next weekend - I'll be announcing the winner there at Scarlet on Sunday! More soon about why Chicago - and particularly Boystown - is my favorite gay neighborhood in the US.