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Outbound: San Francisco and Tempe
Outbound: San Francisco and Tempe
San Francisco two hours away, amazing food awaits you by Benjamin Schock - SGN A&E Writer

On my first official trip to San Francisco, I only had three full days and nights to experience as much as I could within this fabulous city. Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com) has several daily flights to Oakland, including the 5:45 p.m. flight I took that got me there in less than two hours. But don't let that short flight-time fool your preparation; you should still be at the airport and checked-in an hour and-a-half to two hours prior to boarding. If you're planning on taking just a quick weekend getaway, packing just a carry-on will shorten your time at the airports. Transportation to downtown from Oakland airport is easy when using the BART system, as it drops you in the center of San Francisco in less than 20 minutes. Also, the MUNI subway system in San Francisco is a great way to get around the metro area, with stops everywhere.

During my trip, I was able to experience many of the wonderful things the city has to offer. Within a few days, I got a full feel of what San Francisco is like. Although this particular OUTBOUND feature only focuses on a few of the fabulous restaurants in the City by the Bay, make sure to look for future segments in weeks ahead on other fun things to do in San Francisco, including shopping, touring, clubbing, and exploring. Go to www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/gaytravel for information pertaining specifically to GLBT visitors.

STAY
Hotel Palomar (12 Fourth Street)
www.hotelpalomar.com

When deciding where to stay in San Francisco, downtown is probably your best bet - not only are there loads of hotels to choose from, but their locations are central. Wonderfully located on the corner of 4th and Market Street, Hotel Palomar is a tall and luxurious hotel that has much to offer its guests. Immediately, you will be extremely impressed by the staff's attentive and kind service. The men at the front desk will be happy to help you with any (if not all) of your needs, from hailing a cab, moving your bags up to your room, to wakeup calls, as well as getting to specific locations in San Francisco. The rooms are exquisite. Comfortable king-sized beds, flat-screen TV, free wireless Internet service, fully stocked minibar, large windows with the view of the street below, as well as a Jacuzzi in the bathroom with jet-spas. Also, the New York Times gets delivered to your front door every morning. A full-dining restaurant and bar are located on the 5th floor of the facility, as well as full-scale room service.

FOOD
Asia SF (201 9th Street)
www.asiasf.com

Located downtown on the corner of 9th and Howard Street, this trendy restaurant is full of great food, awesome entertainment, amazing drinks, and wonderful hospitality. Offering a mixture of Asian-Californian cuisine, all dishes are served family-style, so everyone is able to enjoy the food together. There are also vegetarian and vegan options available. Items such as duck quesadilla, baby bok choy salad, and king salmon are all magnificently prepared and taste delicious. As far as entertainment goes, Asia SF is no novice; every hour or so during the weekend nights, the restaurant displays what they like to call "gender illusionists." Dancing on top of the bar (located in the middle of the dining room), these professional performers dance, swing, and lipsynch to fun hip-hop songs for all the guests. All the ladies of Asia SF also have their own signature drink. When it starts to get late, Asia SF's nightclub opens up downstairs with a full bar and dance floor.

supperclub (657 Harrison Street)
www.supperclub.com

Between 2nd and 3rd on Harrison Street lies the nearly hidden and modestly expressed supperclub (one word, lowercase) of San Francisco. Known for its eclectic interior design, extravagant and unique entertainment, and delicious food, the supperclub is like nothing else you've ever experienced. For starters, there are no tables, just large firm beds placed against the walls so patrons can stretch, relax and experience the décor and enjoy one another's company. Small trays occupy every individual bed (though they are all connected) so that guests can eat the five-course meal that is wonderfully prepared. Sweet white corn soup, blue cheese filet with cranberry sauce, and cod with a squash purée are just a few of the dishes served throughout the evening. A large assortment of wine and cocktails are also available to keep everyone happy. The entertainment at supperclub is also something I guarantee you've never seen before: Operatic divas dressed in old Venetian gowns and wigs, boxing ballet contortionists flying high up to the sky on suspended rings, and DJs playing new-age Euro-funk music are only a few memories from my unforgettable night at this restaurant.

Tres Agaves (130 Townsend Street)
www.tresagaves.com

If you're looking for something that's not so flashy or eccentric, but still want to experience something that's unique to the city, then the fabulous Mexican restaurant Tres Agaves, is a terrific pick. Situated on the corner of 2nd and Townsend Street, what Tres Agaves is especially known for is their knowledge and expertise with tequila. When it comes to offering only the best of the three kinds of pure, 100% agave tequila (blanco, añejo, reposado), the establishment doesn't fool around: To insure quality service and knowledge - not only of food, but of drink - the restaurant sends all new staff members to tequila plants in Jalisco, Mexico about once a month, so they're able to answer as many questions as possible about the liquor. Additionally, before Tres Agaves even orders a new brand of tequila, they send a representative to the plant in Mexico to inspect the facility and sample the finished product.

Five tempting reasons to visit Tempe (besides year-round sun)
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

According to health experts, the human body needs regular doses of natural Vitamin D. That translates to sunshine, not tanning beds. Tempe, Arizona is full of sunshine - nearly 365 days of it, in fact. With flights just under three hours to Sky Harbor International Airport (in Phoenix), you can escape the winter chills and increase your Vitamin D intake with a weekend trip to Tempe, home to Arizona State University, southwestern cuisine, pink sunsets, and a booming arts community that attracts big-name theater productions and world-renowned artists. US Airways (www.usairways.com) offers daily nonstop flights from Seattle to Phoenix, and Tempe is within 10 minutes of Sky Harbor Airport. Visit www.LGBTinTempe.com for information specific for Gay travelers. Here are five must-do items to include on your Tempe itinerary:

Tempe Center for the Arts (700 West Rio Salado Parkway)
www.tempe.gov/tca

Not that Tempe had to prove its passion for the arts, but it went ahead and did it anyway. Opened in September by multiple Grammy winner Natalie Cole, Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) is a welcome addition to the city's artsy community. Housing four separate performance venues under one roof, TCA is an always-happening entertainment zone for adults and children. Classical music aficionados can enjoy the sounds of the Tempe Symphony in the Theater while pint-size attendees can sing along to season productions like Seussical in the 200-seat Studio next door. Noise-resistant walls ensure the spaces don't compete for sound against each other or the overhead aircraft flying to Sky Harbor Airport. The taxpayer-supported facility cost $66 million to construct and covers 88,000 square feet filled by the theater, studio, gallery and a "Lakeside Room," used as a rehearsal space and for meetings, banquets, and smaller performances. An on-premise café will soon begin serving daily lunch, both inside and on the third-floor patio overlooking the cityscape and riverbed below. This impressive structure is well worth a peek during business hours or for an actual event. For a city that prides itself on embracing the arts, TCA is a work of art itself Visit www.tempe.gov/tca for upcoming schedules and ticket information.

I Am The Center / The Center Café (21 East 6th Street)
www.iamthecenter.com

Although I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked into I Am The Center, I certainly wasn't expecting to do yoga to Eminem's "Lose Yourself." Two hours later, I couldn't wait to do it all over again. This body-nourishing, multi-level facility on the fringe of the ASU campus offers workshops, yoga sessions, and organic-based meals to keep locals in tip-top condition. You can even sign up for a "yoga power lunch" - an alternative to that greasy combo meal - which includes a 45-minute session, organic sandwich or salad, and tea or water. Dedicated to their clientele's physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, I Am The Center staff members are individually trained professionals in the fields of health and fitness. After a brief introductory meditative session, I was curious to sample an all-organic dinner. The Center, a café tucked in the back corner of the main level, features sandwiches, soups, salads, flatbreads, hummus plates, and fully organic beer and wine. The free-range chicken sandwich with avocado, arugula and mint vinaigrette was rather flavorful, but I wasn't as enthusiastic about my beer choice. I'll stick to my draft microbrews. Overall, I'm sold on this place (and the cute Russian server) and can't wait to go back again. Who would've thought staying in shape could ever be this hip?

Tempe Mission Palms (60 East 5th Street)
www.missionpalms.com

Wake up to a rainy, chilly morning in Seattle and dip into a rooftop swimming pool later that afternoon. Such a thing exists at Tempe Mission Palms, a striking 303-guestroom hotel within walking distance of the very popular Mill Avenue district and ASU campus. The property is a desert oasis, complete with rooftop tennis courts, courtyard gardens, Jacuzzi spas, a fitness center, and airport transfers (between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and included in the hospitality fee). Of course, there's also that swimming pool to relax in and soak up the 80-degree winter climate in Arizona. The four-story hotel is designed in warm, smooth tones with Southwestern touches throughout, and includes two on-premise restaurants. Harry's Place, in the lobby, has both indoor and outdoor seating with weekly live music, plus a steady flow of locals and tourists. At Tempe Mission Palms, staying cool has never been cooler. Visit www.missionpalms.com for availability, rates, and current specials.

Mill Avenue District
www.downtowntempe.com

Everyone parties in the Mill Avenue District: Gays, straights, and everyone in between. Best described as Seattle's Capitol Hill, U-District, Belltown, and Ballard neighborhoods crushed together, Tempe's Mill Avenue is the pulse of the city. From trendy restaurants to raucous bars, trinket shops to outdoor cafes, fast food hangouts to chic lounges, and from hippie street performers to tipsy fraternity men, this is where to hook up and boogie down in Tempe. Most of the "Gay bars" are in central Phoenix (though I suggest nearby Nu-Towne Saloon for an interesting drinking ambiance) but the Gay crowd feels perfectly comfortable roaming about in the Mill Avenue District. A personal recommendation is Café Boa (398 South Mill Avenue), which serves wonderful Italian cuisine in a high-ceiling, open-space dining room with a spiffy bar.

Tempe Marketplace (Loop 101, Loop 202 at Rio Salado Highway)
www.tempemarketplace.com

Forgot to pack your sunglasses? Only brought one bathing suit? No problem. Tempe Marketplace has nearly 100 stores to satisfy your shopping habit. Target, American Eagle, Old Navy, Levi's, Gap, Ross Dress for Less, Sunglass Hut, Quicksilver, Wet Seal, and JC Penney are just some of the clothing retailers at the 1.3 million square-foot complex. Add to the list Pier 1 Imports, Best Buy, Sketchers, Barnes & Noble, Payless Shoe Source, Shoe Pavilion, Office Max, and Sam's Club (opening March 2008). Shopping takes a lot of energy, so you can refuel at California Pizza Kitchen, Chipotle, Red Robin, The Keg, Ruby Tuesday, Cold Stone Creamery or a dozen other eateries spread throughout the two-month-old mall. Tempe Marketplace is close to downtown, but you'll have to drive or take a short cab ride to get there.

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