It was named in Out Traveler’s “Small is Beautiful: Top 5 Surprisingly Gay Small Towns. ” Yet, Portland, Maine, is not as small as people may think — especially for the LGBT community.
Having one of the largest LGBT populations per capita on the East Coast, Portland is Maine’s largest city and the state’s business, financial, retail, arts and entertainment capital. Consistently ranked as one of the best small cities in America, Portland was also named the most livable city in America this year by Forbes.com. It may not seem like a popular destination, but with 3.6-million tourists visiting each year, there is obviously a lot going on in the state of Maine.
Either a short flight or scenic New England car ride from Philadelphia, Portland is the perfect destination for a long weekend. Radically different accommodations make picking a place to stay your first adventure. The Elms Bed & Breakfast [102 Cumberland St.; (207) 854-4060] is a “straight-friendly” accommodation that will make any LGBT traveler feel at home. With a veranda overlooking the river, billiards room, sauna, hot tub and complimentary breakfast, the historic B&B is regularly between $79-$185 a night; bears and cubs get a 15-percent discount (no joke). If familiarity is what you’re looking for, By the Bay Holiday Inn [88 Spring St.; (207) 775-2311] is the way to go. Steps away from the Arts District and waterfront, the Holiday Inn By the Bay sports commercial comfort and the largest indoor swimming pool in town.
For a historic journey, why just travel to Portland when you can travel back in time as well? Inn at St. John [939 Congress St.; (207) 773-6484] is the oldest continuously operating historic Victorian inn in Portland. Built in 1897, Inn at St. John is situated in the West End and is accessible to everything. Finally, if luxury and contemporary are musts, then Portland Harbor Hotel [468 Fore St.; (207) 775-9090] is the place for you. Impeccable AAA four-diamond service and Condé Nast recommended, Portland Harbor Hotel is the newest luxury hotel addition to downtown Portland.
Once you’re settled in, get ready, because Maine can be a little overwhelming in the summertime. Tons of attractions and shopping are sure to keep you busier than expected. It may be in Maine, but Portland is still a city, after all. Center for Maine History [489 Congress St.; (207) 774-1822] and Portland Museum of Art [7 Congress St.; (207) 775-6148 ext. 3223] are two attractions that will better acquaint you with the Pine Tree State. Educational and fun, they are sure to entertain; plus, they are conveniently located on the same road. And what would a trip to Portland be without a visit to a lighthouse? Famous for these unique marine structures, The Portland Headlight [Fort Williams Park, South Portland] is a great example and perfect place for a picnic. Finally, be sure to stop by Corduroy Surf Boutique and Gallery [59 Market St.; (207) 347-3545] to pick up some local art or ensembles to remember your visit.
Don’t think the only fun to be had happens during the day: Portland has great nightlife and something for every LGBT traveler. Laidback and open, LGBT travelers are welcome at all nightspots in this northern metropolis: Northstar Music Café [225 Congress St.; (207) 699-2994] is a prime example. The main hangout of Portland’s artistic community — the walls are lined with local art — Northstar offers an extensive selection of fine beer and wine and presents live music nightly. But, if you are intent on finding “fellow travelers,” so to speak, they will most likely be located at one of three places: Styxx Video Club [3 Spring St.; (207) 828-0822], Blackstone’s [6 Pine St.; (207) 775-2885] or The Whiteheart Bar & Cocktail Lounge [551 Congress St.; (207) 828-1900]. Blackstone’s is Portland’s oldest gay bar. With different themes every night, be sure to check out the calendar to see what events and themes are coming up so you aren’t left out of the fun. The Whiteheart Bar & Cocktail Lounge is upscale but unpretentious. Offering fine dining and delicious cocktails, it’s a great setting for conversation and meeting new people.
Finally, there is one very popular reason why people love Portland: seafood. If you are a big seafood person, Portland is the place to be when the weather gets warm. With an overwhelming amount of fresh fish, you are sure to satisfy your crustacean cravings. Maine is most famous for its lobster, and there is no better place to get it, along with other seafood succulents, than The Portland Lobster Company [180 Commercial St.; (207) 775-2112]. Sitting directly on the water, The Portland Lobster Company is where all the locals go for the freshest fish in town. Portland Lobster gets its seafood fresh every day and lobster twice a day. Open for lunch and dinner, it also features live music daily. Be sure to pick up a souvenir in the gift shop to remember the best seafood you ever ate!
Portland may not seem like a number-one LGBT destination, but with good food and relaxed people, it is easy to see why this city is constantly at the top of the list for best places to live. With lobsters, lighthouses and lavish accommodations, Portland will definitely not disappoint.