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GLBT Travelers Rank San Francisco As Top “Gay-Friendly” Destination

According to a new national survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Industry of America (TIA), San Francisco is the top gay-friendly destination in the U.S., outranking its nearest contender, Key West, FL, by almost 20 percent.

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According to a new national survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Industry of America (TIA), San Francisco is the top gay-friendly destination in the U.S., outranking its nearest contender, Key West, FL, by almost 20 percent. The top 10 gay-friendly U.S. destinations named in the survey (in order) include: San Francisco, CA (76%), Key West, FL (57%), New York, NY (51%), Fire Island, NY (48%), Provincetown, MA (46%), Los Angeles, CA (38%), Miami/South Beach, FL (37%), Las Vegas, NV (35%), New Orleans, LA (34%), Palm Springs/Palm Desert, CA (33%).

The survey confirmed that nearly half of all gay men (48%) and lesbians (47%) surveyed in the U.S. say that a destination’s gay-friendliness is important to them when making leisure travel choices. In fact, over one-quarter of gay men (27%) and lesbians (28%) say gay-friendliness is “extremely” or “very important” as a consideration in travel planning.

The TIA national online survey was conducted among 2,020 self-identified U.S. GLBT travelers (ages 21 and over) in conjunction with Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.

Destinations considered “gay-friendly” in the TIA survey were recognized as “places generally identified as safe and free from intimidation and threats.” Other factors such as “known to be culturally welcoming,” and “positive word of mouth” helped confirm San Francisco’s top ranking.

Media contact: Cathy Keefe, TIA, 202-408-2183, ckeefe@tia.org.

Winter by San Francisco Bay Get The Year Off To A Great Start

A number of special events ranging from the city’s annual Dine About Town restaurant promotion, a whimsical interpretation of “sex in the city” and visiting royalty are the perfect inducement for a winter getaway to San Francisco:

Someone’s In the Kitchen With Dinah…or David
The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) and Visa will once again offer the popular prix fixe restaurant promotion, “Dine About Town™” Jan. 1-31, 2007. One hundred of San Francisco’s finest restaurants and, for the first time, a few in neighboring cities, will offer three-course prix fixe menus at $ 21.95 for lunch and/or $ 31.95 for dinner (taxes and gratuities not included; official terms and conditions are available at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com). A la carte menus will be available as well. Available exclusively to guests paying with a Visa credit card, "Dine About Town" gives diners the rare opportunity to try out hot new restaurants and revisit some favorites at tempting prices. Reservations will start to fill as soon as the link from the SFCVB home page, www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com, goes live on Dec. 18, 2006. The site will list all of the participating "Dine About Town" restaurants, searchable by cuisine and location, and reservations can be made online through a partnership with OpenTable.com. The "Dine About Town" site will also include a link to a collection of "Dine-N-Stay" hotel packages, to extend a dining experience into a full-fledged getaway. Media contact: Laurie Armstrong, 415-227-2603, larmstrong@sfcvb.org Woo at the Zoo Wiles Visitors The San Francisco Zoo’s popular 17th annual Valentine’s Day Sex Tour, now called “Woo at the Zoo,” explores sexual and mating behaviors of animals. Don’t miss this famous, entertaining, educational event conducted by the hilarious Jane Tollini, animal care professional and creator of the sex tours. This year, Tollini is changing location to offer this special event in the comfort and warmth of the Great Hall. With the fireplace roaring, guests can relax, get cozy and be wooed. “Woo at the Zoo” also features up-close encounters with animals and romantic refreshments including champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, sushi, risotto bar and a delicious surprise.

Pre-purchased reservations are required as this “sense”ational event sells out each year. $70 per person (21 and over only) includes the tour, refreshments, parking and entrance to the zoo. For more information, telephone 415-753-7236 or e-mail woo2007@sfzoo.org. Dates and times for the tours are: Feb. 2, 6 pm; Feb. 3, 6 pm; Feb. 10, 6 pm; Feb. 11, noon (Sunday Brunch); Feb. 13, 6 pm; Feb. 14, 6 pm. Media contact: Paul Garcia, 415-753-7174, paulg@sfzoo.org

If It’s Time to Celebrate San Francisco has often been described as the "cool, grey city of love" and it’s a perennial favorite for LGBT couples. Visitors planning a trip to the city this February should check out the Web site of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com and take advantage of special hotel packages that are available throughout the year. Editor’s note: Special "Romance Season" content will be posted in mid-January, 2007. Media contact: Laurie Armstrong, 415-227-2603, larmstrong@sfcvb.org.

The Queen is Coming – Queen Mary 2
That Is The largest ocean liner in the world, Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 (QM2) will make her maiden call to San Francisco on Feb. 4-5, 2007. Docking at Pier 27 on Sunday, Feb. 4, the QM2 measures 1,132 feet from stem to stern - almost four times the height of San Francisco’s famed Telegraph Hill - and towers 200 feet above the waterline. The rare overnight visit falls on the 26th day of QM2’s maiden “Around the World in 80 Days” cruise; she will have some 2,620 guests onboard and an additional 1,253 ship personnel. From San Francisco, she strikes a southwesterly course towards the South Seas, Australia, China, India, Egypt and the Mediterranean. As befits a queen, San Francisco will give the majestic ship a royal welcome. Media contacts: Jackie Matthews, Cunard Line, 661-753-1035, jmatthews@cunard.com or Maria Andriano, Redpoint Marketing Public Relations, 212-229-0119, andriano@redpointpr.com

Take a Bite Out of Valentine’s Day on Vampire Tour
Nothing brings a couple closer than thrills and chills and the Vampire Tour of San Francisco has that in spades. The tour is held every Friday and Saturday night at 8 pm (unless it is raining hard), and lasts about two hours. Private tours can also be arranged for groups of five or more on any other night or weekend days for a rate of $25 per person. The tour includes Grace Cathedral, the Nob Hill Cafe, Huntington Park, the Pacific-Union Club, the Fairmont Hotel, and the Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental. A darkly mysterious host named Mina a.k.a. Kitty Burns will tell you the history of each of these stops, and how the living dead played a role in that history – according to Mina. For more information call 866-4-BITTEN (866-424-8836) or visit www. www.sfvampiretour.com. Media contact: Kitty Burns, 650-279-1840, sfvamptour@yahoo.com

The Whole San Francisco Shebang Tour
Once you’ve seen the city’s dark side, why stop there? Grab lunch at one of the city’s famed delis and then go on an iPod-guided walking tour with Stroll San Francisco. Their Whole San Francisco Shebang Package is a collection of 33 story-tours of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, landmarks and attractions. It includes the Castro and the rise of gay San Francisco, North Beach, Golden Gate Park, The Presidio, the debaucheries of the Barbary Coast, the Embarcadero, Union Square and the 1906 earthquake, Chinatown, Nob Hill, the Haight’s Summer of Love, the Golden Gate Bridge and more. Total time is just over four hours for under $15.

Stroll San Francisco is filled with professional actors portraying the city’s colorful historical characters, real San Franciscans telling their own stories, well-known city historians bringing the past to life, great music, sound effects and a lively narrator. The story-tours can be loaded onto an iPod or any other MP3 player, burned to a CD or just listened to on a computer. They also come with a printable custom map. For more info and to order tours, visit www.strollsanfrancisco.com. Media contact: Sam Pond, 415-665-8911, sam@strollsanfrancisco.com.

Funny Pages Come to Life San Francisco’s famed Cartoon Art Museum, 658 Mission St., offers graphic fans another couple of reasons to visit the city this winter. A showing of Renee French work will be on display through Feb. 4, 2007. Renee French started working in comics in the early 1990s, first with her Fantagraphics-published series Grit Bath, and then published two Dark Horse graphic novels, The Ninth Gland, and Corny’s Fetish. In 2001, Oni Press collected her many short pieces that had appeared in anthologies and most of her work up until that point in a volume called Marbles In My Underpants. In that same year, Top Shelf published French’s book The Soap Lady.

Fans of The New Yorker will adore their second exhibit, “The Rejection Collection - Not In The New Yorker Cartoons.” As cartoonist Matthew Diffee explains, "The New Yorker has room for about 15 or 20 cartoons in each week’s issue, but there are 40 regularly contributing cartoonists who each submit about 10 cartoons a week . . . If we’re lucky, we’ll sell one . . . The other nine roughs we take back to our studio and place on what we call the ‘pile.’ Then we have what we call a ’drink,’ get what we call ’depressed,’ and ’briefly reconsider dental school,’ before beginning work on next week’s batch."

These rejected cartoons were piling up in the dusty corners of studios all over the country (Sam Gross, who has been contributing since 1962, has more than 12,000 rejected cartoons). Diffee tapped his fellow cartoonists, asking them to rescue these hilarious lost gems. From the artists’ stacks of all-time favorite rejects, Diffee handpicked the standouts — “the cream of the crap” — and created “The Rejection Collection.” The collection will be on exhibit at the museum until March 18, 2007. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, $2 for children 6-12, and kids under 5 are free. For more information, telephone 415-227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org. Media contact: Andrew Farago, 415-227-8666, ext. 314, gallery@cartoonart.org

San Francisco Winter Theater Season Features Some “Left Coast” Debuts
This winter is high time for theatre in San Francisco. Legally Blonde makes its world premier at the Golden Gate Theatre Jan. 23-Feb. 24, and Jersey Boys at the Curran Theatre has just been extended through the end of March. www.shnsf.com. Media contact: Nicole Oloff, 415-551-2056, noloff@shnsf.com

The fifth show in the New Conservatory Theatre Center’s (NCTC) Pride Season Twelve, Farm Boys, Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, 2007, makes its West Coast premiere. Based on the oral history book Farm Boys Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest by Will Fellows, an unexpected inheritance sends John from New York City to a small farm in his central Wisconsin hometown. He hopes to reacquaint himself with the farming lifestyle, but the ghosts of his past cast a shadow over his current romance with his partner, Kim, a native New Yorker. Judged by a community fearful of homosexuality and pressured to sell the property by a corporation that is slowly extinguishing small farmers, John must ultimately question where he and Kim can create a home for themselves.

Also at the NCTC, 25 Van Ness Ave., Jan. 26-March 4, Craig Lucas’ The Dying Gaul is a must-see modern American tragedy set in Hollywood. The story follows Robert, a grieving gay screenwriter who compromises his ideas to make a small fortune as he is swept into an intoxicating world of sexual ecstasy and intrigue. With breathtaking speed, he is caught in a love triangle with Jeffrey, a rapacious bisexual film producer and Elaine, his fascinating, envious and vicious wife. For more information and show times, call 415-861-4914 or visit www.nctcsf.org. Media contact: Victoria Kirby, NCTC, 415-333-5110, vickirby@sbcglobal.net

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
A New Year in February It’s time for one of San Francisco’s biggest annual celebrations: the Chinese New Year’s Parade and Celebration. The festivities ushering in the Year of the Boar include a Chinese New Year Flower Fair (Feb. 10- 11), Miss Chinatown USA Pageant (Feb. 24), Miss Chinatown Coronation Ball (March 2) and the Chinatown Community Street Fair (March 3-4). But the big event—the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade that winds down from Second and Market Streets to Columbus Avenue—happens at 5:30 pm on Saturday, March 3. What began as a New Year’s celebration during the Gold Rush days is now one of the largest Asian events in North America.

Once again, the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) will be in the parade along with fellow San Franciscans. Their float last year featured children of gay couples, a 10-foot tree covered with hundreds of red hearts created by children of same-sex couples, two families and even a white picket fence. Marchers along side the float wore red ponchos with Chinese characters illustrating support for marriage equality. The float, said organizer Clarence Wong, was meant to “reinforce the notion that families take many forms.” LGBT parade watchers are eager to see how GAPA tops that this year. For more information on the parade, call 415-982-3071 or visit www.chineseparade.com. For more info on GAPA, visit www.gapa.org. Media contact: Karen Eng, karen.eng@cnyparade.com

Kiss Me I’m Irish — and Gay!
In San Francisco, you can march in the parade this St. Patrick’s Day but the fun comes in watching one of San Francisco’s largest annual parades and one of the longest-running parades in the U.S. Celebrated with live music, dance, beverages and traditional Irish cuisine, it takes place March 17 at Civic Center Plaza (Polk Street and McAllister) at 11:30 am. For more info, visit www.sfstpatricksdayparade.com. If you skip the parade or need a wind down afterwards, head over to the Buena Vista Café, 2765 Hyde St., for their world-famous Irish coffee. The historic venture started on the night of Nov. 10, 1952. Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create a highly touted "Irish Coffee" served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Intrigued, Delaplane accepted the invitation, and the pair began to experiment. The recipe perfected in 1952 has never changed and the view is still good, too. The original building where the Buena Vista sits today was a boardinghouse until 1916 when the landlord converted the first floor into a saloon. That saloon was named the Buena Vista ("good view" in Spanish). The view was good indeed and it served as a warm meeting place for hundreds of fishermen and handlers who worked for the nearby sardine cannery. There they could take in a whiskey while scouting the bay for incoming fishing boats, which would mean, "Quick! Finish your drink and back to meet the boats!"

Famed columnist Herb Caen lauded the coffee and Armistead Maupin made it famous in his book Tales of the City. You can even grab one of Buena Vista’s huge breakfasts up until 9:30 pm (bar is open until 2 am). For directions or information, call 415-474-5044 or visit www.thebuenavista.com. For a list of other Irish restaurants, visit the Web site of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com and search by cuisine under Where to Eat.

The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau continues its LGBT tourism efforts in concert with the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), the country’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Travel packages, including hotel stays, can be booked through the San Francisco Convention & Visitor’s Bureau at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com or by calling 800-637-5196. An LGBT Travel link on the home page takes visitors to the LGBT section with hotels, restaurants, transportation, event calendars and local activities of interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.