Great Escapes

Ten destinations guaranteed to fight cabin fever.

Cleveland is home to a large and thriving queer community, one which supports 23 different bars and clubs. Of those 23, one (The Leather Stallion; 2205 St. Clair) is a men's leather bar, two are women-only, and the rest range from dance bars to pool halls. With so many to choose from, it is recommended that the savvy traveler explore the full listing by calling the 24-hour computer information line (216-781-6736) or by picking up a copy of the Gay People's Chronicle while in town.

Before heading to the bars, stop for something to eat at one of the numerous queer-owned and queer-friendly restaurants. Billy's Northcoast Café (W. 111th and Clifton) is known for its Sunday brunches and pasta dishes. The Harmony Bar and Grill (3359 Fulton) has a piano player on the weekends who takes requests and specializes in show tunes. For Twin Citians whose experience of ethnic food stops after lutefisk, Cleveland is the place to pig out. The Harmony offers an education for the palate: Try those pirogies!

While there's no shortage of hotels -- from the more expensive chains of the Sheraton and the Hilton to the suburban and ring-road mainstays of Motel 6 and the Red Roof Inn -- what Cleveland still lacks are B&Bs and more cozy hotels. There is, however, at least one gay-friendly pension: The Clifford House (216-589-9432). Located in the Ohio City area, this B&B shines in a neighborhood of beautiful, renovated Victorian homes.

A city of numerous theaters and an art museum that has been compared to the Met (The Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd.), Cleveland is a city bursting back into flower. The Lesbian/Gay Community Center of Greater Cleveland (216-522-1999) will point you towards the variety of events and communities that make up Cleveland queer life. By the time you leave, you too will be singing: "Cleveland Rocks!" -- Susan Raffo


Only six hours away (well, eight if you actually drive the speed limit), Chicago makes for a great gay weekend getaway.

Halsted Street and Andersonville, on the north side, are the gay meccas, where there seems to be at least one gay-owned or gay-friendly shop, bar, or restaurant on every block. Full-on boys' bathhouses, such as Man's Country, still exist here. Girls can meet girls at the relatively new Girlbar (2625 N. Halsted) or the Closet (3325 N. Broadway). Sorry, the well-known Paris Dance closed in November. For a mixed crowd, the Red Dog (1958 W. North) features two floors of dancing. And don't go home early: Everything's open until 4 a.m.!

Sleep in and then get up and out: Shop Nike Town and Watertower Place or get a little culture at the Art Institute, Museum of Science and Industry, and Shedd Aquarium.

For dinner, impress your date with the wine selection and Italian food at Scoosi! (410 W. Huron), part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain (which owns and runs Tucci Benucch at Mall of America). Or bring your own wine to Tomboy's (5402 N. Clark Street), an upscale, lesbian-owned, white-table-cloth bistro that serves potatoes sculpted into roses alongside your pasta or filet mignon.

If you have someone to finance your trip, stay at the posh Four Seasons Hotel (120 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-280-8800). If you're paying, there are plenty of chain hotels (Days Inn, et. al.) downtown or near O'Hare International (you can take the el-train into the Loop). Flights into downtown's Midway Airport, however, are dirt cheap at under $100. No matter how you travel to get there, once you're downtown, cab everywhere; parking costs will sticker-shock your Minneapolis mind. -- Lisa Needham


While Minnesota sweats through a botched winter of 40-plus-degree days, head north and west about 4,800 miles to experience Alaska. Yes, you heard right: Winter is prime time to visit Anchorage and its surroundings. February temps average 26 degrees, and there's at least seven hours of light every day.

In this land of pristine beauty and bounty, shelter doesn't come cheap, however. The Hotel Captain Cook is Anchorage's finest, but it bristles with tacky nautical memorabilia. Take a room at the Holiday Inn (800-465-4329) or Super 8 (800-800-8000) and plan to spend your time out and about.

Start with one of the two big winter events: either the Fur Rondy (Rendezvous), a town festival held during the second and third weekends of February, or the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, which kicks off the first Saturday of March.

The city of Anchorage has an funky, adolescent feel to it -- growth has come in spurts and gone unchecked by zoning. The sole skyscraper, the Arco Building, and a hip, new mall are flanked by two-story shops and log cabins.

Friendly cafes line Fourth Street, where you'll find the Log Cabin Information Center (907-274-3531) at one end and the starting line for the Iditarod at the other, the span between them filled with emporiums selling scrimshaw, carved whale vertibrae, musk-ox fur hats, and Yukon gold jewelry. The Anchorage Museum of History and Art (907-343-4326) is amazing: Don't miss the century-old waterproof Inuit fishing suit made out of countless strips of tightly sewn fish gut.

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