Summertime is upon us, and it’s the prime time for exploring all the sun and fun that we can squeeze in before the fall rears its ugly head again. We all know Atlanta offers a virtually limitless variety of activities for gays. If it doesn’t, we make it happen.
But what of the attractions and excursions that lie outside the safety zone of the Perimeter? Believe it or not, there are quite a few of them that are either gay-specific or, at the very least, gay-friendly.
Here are just a few of them to tempt you to venture OTP. Best of all, they’re all within a short three-hour drive of the city.
A mere 60 miles from Atlanta, Athens is a quintessential college town: the University of Georgia, steeped in elite academia and crawling with gorgeous boys who study all day and party all night, is here. It’s also hallowed ground where legendary queer-inclusive alternative rock bands the B-52’s and R.E.M. got started playing indie gigs at local venues including the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre. It’s a liberal, gay-friendly town that’s light on the attitude and heavy on the arts. A morning departure from Atlanta will land you in Athens early enough to grab breakfast; then, stock up on the home décor of your dreams in the many art galleries, antique stores, flea markets, and specialty handmade-gift shops. Refuel for lunch at one of Athens’ acclaimed independently-hip cafes and restaurants, where – chances are – one of those hunky college guys could be your server. After lunch, head back out for more shopping or satisfy your closet history buff at the Georgia Museum of Art or Georgia Museum of Natural History. Grab a cup of joe and people-watch at a local coffeehouse, take in a foreign or art-house film at Ciné, then round out your day with a stop at a local club for some excellent live music before heading back to Atlanta. www.visitathensga.com
Gay Campgrounds. Georgia may be a red state that gives short shrift to its GLBT citizens, but that doesn’t stop us from creating our own secluded oases of peace where we can do whatever we damn well please. When you just need to escape the hectic pace of the big city and get back to nature, load up your SUV or pickup truck with camping gear and hit the highway toward one of the surprising number of gay campgrounds in Georgia that are all within a three-hour drive of the ATL. (And boys, they’re clothing-optional!) If you’re not already a regular, go online for details then ring up the friendly staffs at In The Woods Campground & Resort in Canon, GA (www.inthewoodscamp.com, 706-246-0152) and River’s Edge in Dewy Rose, GA (www.camptheriversedge.com, 706-213-8081). New this year is OZ Campground (Unadilla, GA); formerly Lumberjacks, it’s now under new ownership and has a fresh new look. (www.ozcampground.com, 478) 892-2299). Nature boys, indeed!
Georgia Apple Festival. We’re cheating a little; this venerable, down-home tradition doesn’t take place until October. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains in North Georgia, the festival is a smorgasbord of more varieties of apples than you might ever have thought existed. In addition to purchasing apples and the famous fried apple pies, you can partake in festival-style food and baked goods, purchase handmade crafts and gifts, and check out the live entertainment. We know you might be wary of the idea of heading so deep into bumpkin territory, but fear not: Ellijay and neighboring Blue Ridge are actually pretty gay-tolerant communities. And it couldn’t hurt that you’re likely to see plenty of irresistible, sexy country boys at the festival. www.georgiaapplefestival.org, 706-636-4500.
Macon, Georgia. While Macon isn’t exactly a gay mecca – well, okay, it’s not a gay mecca – it is the birthplace of flamboyantly gay rock-and-roll legend Little Richard. Its downtown historic district features beautifully restored Greek Revival and Victorian houses, and Macon was the home of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which was shuttered in June 2011 after 15 years and dwindling interest by the public. If you doubt that squealing “I drove through Little Richard’s hometown this weekend!” is likely to impress the boys at the bar, just 24 minutes’ drive from Macon in nearby Juliette, GA, however, lies the Whistle Stop Café (www.thewhistlestopcafe.com, 478-992-8886). This quaint, picturesque eatery was the actual filming location (standing in for Alabama) for the classic 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes that starred the late Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates and was based on the novel by lesbian author Fannie Flagg. It still serves mouth-watering traditional Southern fare including barbecue, fried chicken, country fried steak, pork chops, peach and apple pies, and – yes – fried green tomatoes!