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River rafting outside Guerneville, in Sonoma County
Nate Bolt/Flickr

LGBTQ Escapes in Guerneville

LGBTQ Escapes in Guerneville
Relax in a redwood-shaded heaven along the Russian River

Discover a more rustic side to Northern California’s LGBTQ scene in the woodland setting of Guerneville, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. Set among majestic redwood forests on the banks of the Russian River, the tucked-away hamlet has been the go-to gay getaway for Bay Area weekenders for decades, earning it the nickname of the 'Gay Riviera'.

For pinch-me-perfect romantic settings to enjoy with any partner, book a stay at the luxurious, Mission Revival–style Applewood Inn, or at least dine in the firelight-lit restaurant (the wine list is a stunner—not a surprise in Sonoma County). Another option is Boon Hotel + Spa, opened in 2008 by local entrepreneur and quasi-celebrity (she was named Triple Grand Champion on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show Grocery Games) Crista Luedtre. Also check out her other local restaurant endeavours, farm-to-table bistro Boon Eat + Drink, German beer hall Brot and modern Mexican bar El Barrio. For a truly down-to-earth and easygoing stay, Highlands Resort offers a wide array of cosy cabins and suites and promotes an 'unplugged' approach to relaxation.

During the day, hire a canoe from Burke’s Canoe Trips—a long-standing local classic—and zigzag down the easy-to-paddle Russian River. Back on land, walk through stands of giant trees in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, just north of the town at the end of Armstrong Woods Road.

Add some indulgence to your day with a wine or champagne tasting at Korbel California Champagnes in Guerneville, or follow country roads south towards Healdsburg, sampling acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels at countless wineries along the way. At night, catch the action at the landmark Rainbow Cattle Co., a party destination since 1979, or the Bar at the R3 Hotel, another long-standing favourite of the LGBTQ crowd. Featured prominently on the Russian River calendar of events is an entire week starting in late July devoted to 'bears'—and good deeds—during Lazy Bear Week, when profits from all dance parties, pool parties, wine tastings, gourmet meals and more go to charity.

If you’re visiting with children, be aware that many LGBTQ-focused accommodation options in Guerneville are adult-oriented. Check their websites before booking. If you’re looking for child-friendly events to celebrate Pride Month, see what’s happening at sonomacountypride.org.

 

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me."  –singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

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