Whether or not you have other big vacation plans this summer, a weekend hop across the pond for a taste of EuroPride (June 16-July 1)--not to mention all that's new in totally gay London--should definitely be on the agenda. You'll find nonstop special events, a pulsating club scene, and some exciting updates in queer ol' Soho.
Celebrate: Since its 1992 inauguration in London, EuroPride (011-44-20-7494-2225) has graced cities from Paris to Stockholm. It returns this year with two spirited weeks of performances, parties, rallies, and then the grand finale--a massive parade along Oxford Street on July 1. Ian McKellen and Elton John will attend--along with more than 700,000 queer folks expected to descend on the city from all over the world.
Find perspective: Begin your morning with a "flight" on the London Eye (011-44-870-5000-600), offering spectacular 360-degree views of the city (you can even get hitched in midair, thanks to the United Kingdom's recent civil partnership law). Then get in touch with the past through a guided Historical Walking Tour of Lesbian and Gay Soho (011-44-207-437-6063) from Kairos Soho, touching on spots made famous by folks like Oscar Wilde and Tallulah Bankhead. While you're in that way-gay hood, stop in at First Out (52 St Giles High St, 011-44-7240-8042) for a snack, then rack up some debt at stylish shops like the new Dirty White Boy (Old Compton St.), a recent import from Provincetown, Mass. Continue the night here at one of the many gay pubs, such as the just-refurbished Shadow Lounge (5 Brewer St, 011-44-20-7439-4089); girls have a new home at the Rush's (25 Frith St, 011-44-7956-529-649) sexy lesbian party, Player (Saturday nights only).
Explore: Learn a thing or two about libido, safer sex, and love at the brand-new London Academy of Sex and Relationships (to open in late May), a sort of sexual theme park near Piccadilly Circus. Then hit the funky markets of up-and-coming East London, which is busy setting its sights on hosting the 2012 Olympics. For tapas and cocktails, try The Green (74 Upper St., 011-44-20-7226-8895), an unpretentious new queer and "straight-friendly" lounge in mellow Islington. Then make a beeline to Fiction, a swell mixed soiree (Fridays) at Cross (Kings Cross Freight Depot, 011-44-20-7749-1199), followed by a jaunt to Vauxhall, a booming club zone just south of the River Thames. It's home to a treasure trove of beloved late-night and after-hours parties like Orange (Sunday night/Monday morning from 3 a.m.) and Later at Fire (South Lambeth Rd.) and Beyond at Super Club Coliseum (1 Nine Elms Lane, from Sunday 4:30 a.m.).
Still hot is the South Beach, Fla.-cool St. Martin's Lane (45 St Martin's Lane, 011-44-17-1300-5500, from $425), part of the hip Morgans Hotel Group. One Aldwych (1 Aldwych, 011-44-7300-1000, from $460) is luscious luxury and style, while the Soho Hotel (4 Richmond Mews, 011-44-7559-3000, from $500) is edgy and sleek and right in the heart of the gay hood. Outlet (32 Old Compton St., 011-44-7287-4244, from $110), for homebody types, hooks up LGBT travelers with well-located flats featuring decidedly queer aesthetics. The Capital (22 Basil St., 011-44-20-7589-5171, from $460), located in the shopping mecca of Knightsbridge, is offering a special three-night package for gay travelers that includes chauffeur service to and from Heathrow Airport and free VIP entry to the Shadow Lounge.
Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, each about 20-30 minutes from central London, have direct flights from major cities on most major airlines. British Airways offers several direct flights from U.S. cities, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Before you jump on the plane, spend some time at Visit London's gay microsite, which features a comprehensive selection of listings for shops, bars, pubs, clubs, hotels, and other attractions.