LoAnn Loves…The Gardens in Key West
Photo and story by LoAnn Halden
I admit it. I still love Key West. If anything, all the queer media whining in recent years about it not being so gay any longer has made me more willing to tout its appeal. A few less gay bodies to ogle allows more time to notice that the town is as hopelessly relaxing, welcoming, and charming as ever -- an island hideaway that's not on a well-worn flight path, yet doesn't require a passport. For every tacky T-shirt shop on the main Duval Street drag, there's a fantastic restaurant tucked into the Conch-style architecture of the quiet side streets. And what can I say? I am a sucker for a great sunset.
My recent stay at The Gardens Hotel (526 Angela St.; 800-526-2664) reaffirmed my affection. A dozen visits to the southernmost U.S. city and I'd never noticed this hidden gem. More than an acre of lush, rambling gardens engulf the four-building property, which was once Key West's largest private estate. Although it appears on Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List of the World's Best Places to Stay, there's no pretension on these grounds. The staff is friendly, not fussy; the rooms are tastefully tropical; breakfast served on the poolside patio is a languorous affair. (And I think every resort in a seaside town should include sunscreen among its amenities -- so hats off!)
All-LGBT guesthouses may now commence with the stone throwing, but sometimes a girl just wants to ditch the 24-hours-a-day gay. The Gardens' clientele skews straight (and coupled), but the property is undeniably gay-friendly and a half-block from the stretch of Duval where most of the gay bars are clustered. For me, that's the best of both travel worlds.
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LoAnn Halden is a contributing editor to OutTraveler.com. Check back often for more dispatches on her travel "loves."