Road Trip USA Highlights American South West – It was a fantastic experience to travel around the country of boundless possibilities on our road trip around the southwest of the USA. Our tour started and ended in San Francisco, going counter clock around the states of California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada back to California. Being one month on the road as an openly gay couple gave us plenty of time to feel the American way of life in all its facets through skyscrapers, dense forests in National Parks to deserts, and dry salt lakes. Join us on our LGBTQ+ Road Trip US-American South West and see the highlights of the four states California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada through a couple of men‘s eyes.
A Gay Couple Road Trip around the South West USA
Starting with our drive south from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the famous Pacific Highway 1, we found abounded places along the coast around Big Sur and beautiful, long beaches in Malibu, California. Drag Queens in Hollywood, our days in Disney and Universal Studios theme parks as well as a ghost town and great hikes with stunning sunsets at Zion and Yosemite National Park are only some of our Top 13 Highlights during our 1-month Road Trip around the Southwest of the United States of America.
Great Flight Deals
We found some great deals with flights worldwide as well as in and around Europe via Amsterdam (and return) with gay-friendly KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. That includes direct connections with KLM or their partner airlines, Air France and DELTA. *subject to availability / last check: 2023
#1 From San Francisco to Los Angeles – Drive the Pacific Highway No. 1
If you are planning to arrive in San Francisco and you want to go to Los Angeles, you should plan some extra time (like 2 to 3 days) and take the Pacific Highway number 1. Yes, there is a faster and shorter connection from San Francisco to L.A. via Highway 101, but the Pacific Highway from Santa Cruz via Malibu to San Diego is worth the Detour. Although you can take pictures everywhere literally out of your car (thanks to the American tourist-friendly road builders), you should stop from time to time and take a walk. Away from the touristic crowd, you’ll be able to find some hidden natural treasures. Almost abounded and was perfect for a deep breath and some stunning photo moments.
#2 Become a child for a day at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure
You know it already… we are Disney nerds. Disneyland is the place where it all started, and together with Disney California Adventure, they are the two happiest places on earth, located in the heart of Anaheim, south of Los Angeles. Happiness in the form of colored sugar, different popcorn flavors, and non-stop smiling plastic Disney characters that are. We mostly love the beautiful attractions and the heartwarming feel for small details which we still have never seen so well executed at any other theme park. Yes, we are thrilled driving through Cars Land, splashing down Splash Mountain, and getting goosebumps at the Haunted Mansion. Especially because Daan knows how to take advantage of the fast pass system, so we could enjoy every ride in the park without going nuts about the waiting time. And don’t miss Star Wars Land in Disneyland!
A tip for Disney California Adventure: start waiting early enough for the evening light and water show World of Color. Stunning and definitely worth getting wet for! We <3 Disney.
#3 Meet some of the world-famous RuPaul’s Drag Race Queens
Who is a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race? Of course, we all are. But meeting one or two or even 4 of these Queen in real? We didn’t even dare to dream such a thing! Well, never say never. Because we met four drag Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race, during our road trip through the South West of the USA! Yes Gooath, seriously. Let us tell you one thing, they are all real, they are all super friendly, and they are all as beautiful as we have seen them on Logo TV. Detox was the first Drag Queen we walked into right after leaving the “Frozen Show” at Disney California Adventure. Lovely dressed in a pink outfit she couldn’t be nicer, and we made some fun snapshots.
Courtney Act was next on our list. We met her during an evening show at Micky’s West Hollywood. After her performance, she was happy to go with us on a group photo of our new friends Enrique and Christopher. The third Queen we met (from the balcony), was a real Queen and winner of the 6th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Bianca Del Rio during her comedy show “Not today Satan” in the Warfield Theater in San Francisco.
Finally, there was Alissa Edwards. After our day at Castro Street Fair, she was our highlight of the evening with her short but hilarious Q&A performance. “Klack”! (tong pop) Thank you, Queens. You didn’t fuck it up!
#4 Wait for the Sunset over Los Angeles at Griffith Observatory
We have been on the lookout for the best point of view over Los Angeles and Hollywood. It didn’t matter whom we asked, everyone would suggest the Griffith Observatory. It was the best decision ever to go there around two hours before sunset and experience how the Hollywood Hills baths in light right before the darkness falls. The view over the valley of Los Angeles is simply breathtakingly beautiful and romantic, before, during, and especially after sunset. The Observatory itself is also super cool and interesting, and it’s all for free which made Daan’s Dutch heart start beating with joy!
#5 Get blown away by the “KA” show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Did you ever see indoor fireworks? No really, we are talking about rockets inside a Cirque du Soleil theater inside the MGM Grand Arena. Something so spectacular must make it in our list of 13 Highlights Road Trip South West USA. Actually, the fireworks were not even the wildest thing during this 1.5-hour spectacle. Breathtaking stunts on a one-of-a-kind technical stage by a cast of great actors and dancers of Cirque du Soleil made this show into a fantastic evening definitely worth the money (a ticket is around 150 US$). As the Los Angeles Times stated correctly, the KA show is since the premiere in 2004 one of the most spectacular shows in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Western world. WOW.
#6 Hike the Narrows at Zion National Park
It was even more stunning than it looks in the pictures. And when in Utah, you should not miss it. While high above the Narrows the warm late summer sun was shining, we hiked a wild river through the deep and cold Narrows at Zion National Park. The rain of the past days made the river dirty creating a challenging trail in between rough stone formations. On our way back everything looked radically different since the sun lighted entirely different parts of our way. The upstream river takes your power during the day but gives you so much energy and wonderful memories back.
#7 Take a deep breath of fresh air at the Grand Canyon North Rim
First, we have to admit, the Grand Canyon was not on our list for this road trip. But in the end, we just couldn’t resist being so close while staying at Zion National Park. So, we made the decision for a one-day trip from Zion to the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a decision we did not regret. Everyone is always talking about the huge, unbelievable, and fascinating Canyon in West USA, Arizona. And they are right. The Grand Canyon is seriously mind-blowing and ungraspable wide and beautiful. When we arrived the Rim was covered in clouds but later on, the sun came through and bathe the rock formations in breathtaking light silhouettes. Soon more wonderful pictures and stories about our day trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
#8 Open the X-Files: Look for Aliens around Area 51
Accidentally, we opened our “gay-friendly” X-files without Fox Mulder and Agent Scully in Rachel, Nevada while driving from Zion in a Western direction towards Yosemite National Park. Totally unexpected we entered the so-called Extraterrestrial Highway and the huge region around the well-known Area 51, Nevada. After half an hour of driving and a shortstop for a photo moment in front of the closed Alien Research Center, we took a break. Where? At the “Earthlings Welcome – Little A’LE’INN” to listen to fantastic Alien stories, look at unreal or real (?) U.F.O. photos and buy some real Alien souvenirs in Rachel. Our Tip: If you are hungry, try the Alien-Burger 🙂
#9 Visit the mysterious sulfide castle sculptures at Mono Lake
Before entering Yosemite National Park, we passed by Mono Lake, a huge saline soda lake in Mono Lake County, California. The sun was just about to set, and the lake area turned into a magical kingdom full of castle-like Tufa columns. The colors of the lake and sky are breathtaking around sunset. We stayed until complete darkness before we returned to our car. Mono Lake is not to be missed when driving west coming from the Sierra Nevada.
#10 Find Bodie, the Gold Rush Ghost Town
Bodie is a ghost town from the gold rush times of the mid-late 19th century in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The houses, schools, casinos, and every other building of Bodie are in the same condition as they were after the former inhabitants left the town. The town was founded as a mining camp and become a Wild West boomtown after Gold was found in 1876. Over the coming years, the mines in Bodie produced gold valued at nearly US$ 34 million. Back in 1879 Bodie had a max population between 5,000 to 7,000 inhabitants and was one of the biggest towns in California. After disappointed get-rich-quick miners moved away to other boomtowns in the West US, the first signs of an official decline in Bodie occurred in 1912. Today the so-called Bodie Historic District or Bodie State Historic Park is a National Historic Landmark and open daily until 6 pm. Since 2012 the park is operated and administered by the Bodie Foundation.
All about our One-Day Adventure at Ghost Town Bodie >>
#11 Experience a “WOW” sunset at Yosemite National Park
Actually, there is not much to tell about Yosemite National Park. Just, the view, nature, the mountains, and the feeling of being just a tiny piece of nothing in this huge and wide beautiful world we are living in. Yosemite is one of those places where you should stay longer than just one or two days. Our evening watching the sunset over El Capitan was exemplary for our time in this huge National Park in California. So for now, we leave you with this wonderful, stunning, and unique sunset view.
#12 Bike the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Make Karl’s Dream come true…
Especially our beloved Karl couldn’t wait any longer. On day two of our time in San Francisco, we planned to bike the Golden Gate Bridge. All around the Fisherman’s Wharf, you will find bike rentals providing bicycles for THE tour. And so, we made a big dream for Karl to come true and biked over the majestic and beautiful landmark of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. Passing by the traffic jam with a spectacular view over the bay around sunset time, you could see the happiness in Karl’s eyes.
If you are a San Francisco fan, love biking, and have spectacular views, you should not miss biking once in your life over the red bridge. Even Daan has to admit it made him speechless.
#13 #keepkissing at Castro Street Fair in San Francisco
Everyone knows the Pride and the fetish festival Folsom in San Francisco. But there is another, even more important, annual LGBTQ pride celebration, the Castro Street Fair. Since 1974 founded by Harvey Milk, in the middle of the Castro “gay” district local artists, vendors, craftspeople, and organizations line the streets at the intersection of Market and Castro Streets.
Together with thousands of mostly local LGBTQ+ people and supporters, they celebrate the diversity of the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, in 2016 for the 43rd time. And in the middle of all of them, our kiss for love, for diversity, and pride. #lovewins
Road Trip Highlights of the US-American South West
By participating in the 43rd Castro Street Fair, our one-month road trip around the South West of the USA comes to an end. But there are still a lot more stories to tell. What about our gay-friendly hotels, restaurants, and bars? And how did we manage all our activities and explorations? All that and even more travel stories are coming soon in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to ask more questions about your travel plans. We are excited about your feedback and looking forward to getting more inspiration for the next USA trip. There will be more, promised.
Do you want to know more about our gay travels? Stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. See you again in the States and around the world! Karl & Daan.
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