Category Archives: Gay Illinois

By @ 05/07/19 in Chicago, Gay Illinois, Gay travel, Gay-Friendly, Illinois, LGBT Illinois, LGBT travel Illinois, Travel

Gay-friendly Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineGay-friendly Illinois is a big, important state full of hometown pride, queer culture, and adorable small towns. But what do you really know about Illinois? You’re going to say Chicago, right? We thought so.

And yes, Chicago is fabulous. But there’s so much more in this wonderful state to explore, and so we did! And what we found were small towns full of charm. Welcome, pivotal moments in American history. Iconic architecture. And a historic road called Route 66 (you may have heard of it) that helped change a nation and still captivates the world.

More Gay-friendly Illinois

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Begin your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.

Photo: Ed Salvato



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By @ 05/07/19 in Chicago, Gay Illinois, Gay travel, Gay-Friendly, Gay-friendly Illinois, Illinois, LGBT Illinois, Travel

LGBTQ guide Chicago in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineLGBTQ Guide Chicago: Looking for a warm-weather getaway that offers a bustling urban environment, sprawling green spaces, public parks, and a sandy beach, steps from the skyline? Head to the heartland to experience Chicago’s thriving LGBTQ offerings

Each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods offer distinct character and personality, with culture and history interconnecting to create a vibrant tapestry of community life.

Chicago has long been an epicenter for queer culture and Lakeview’s Boystown (the U.S.’s first recognized gay village) section remains one of the most vibrant gayborhoods in the nation. With dozens of queer bars, venues, and monuments, the neighborhood is a haven for LGBTQ residents and visitors. Its history of queer icons — from literary heroes like Lorraine Hansberry and Jane Addams to gay rights activists such as Henry Gerber — is inspiring. Their stories can be discovered on a self-guided LGBTQ Landmark Tour and provide a terrific frame of reference for what has become a robust LGBTQ community.

This summer, on June 29, Chicago will make queer history with the first-ever Pride in the Park Chicago in Grant Park. The event will feature celebrations of love and protest, live music performances by international and local talent, top queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, artisanal food vendors and a fireworks show. About 15,000 are expected to attend.

The summer of LGBTQ also includes International Mr. Leather. From May 23-27, leather-bound attendees will descend upon the city, letting their freak flags fly, and capping off the festivities with the Black and Blue Party on Monday.

Early June will see the ANDERSONVILLE MIDSOMMARFEST. The Andersonville neighborhood is one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly in Chicago, and Midsommarfest is a street festival for the arts, retail, music and more in the area.

The BACK LOT BASH runs from June 28 – 30 (butting up against Pride in the Park this year) kicking off with a safe space for families to celebrate pride followed by a two-day outdoor music festival. The event is now in its 16th year and is one of the best-attended lesbian Pride events.

And finally, come end of June, the free and fabulous NAVY PIER PRIDE on June 29. The event consists of a full day of family-LGBTQ guide Chicago in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazinefriendly festivities in honor of the LGBTQ+ community. This event includes Storytime with Drag Queens, live performances, special film presentations, and a new “Queer the Pier” fashion and music show headlined by special guest CeCe Penistone.

Thanks to an easy-to-navigate elevated rail system (referred to as “the L” by locals), getting around town is convenient and affordable. Visitors can also quickly tap their way through apps like Uber and Lyft for personalized pick-ups and drop-offs. For those wanting to pre-burn calories in anticipation of indulging in deep-dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dogs, Divvy offers more than 580 bike share stations throughout the city.

Summer Sizzles

Chicago’s cultural calendar overflows throughout the year, but things really heat up in the summer with these annual signature events, providing a terrific anchor for a weekend getaway.

Chicago Pride Fest and Parade (June, 2019) – Mark your calendars for these back-to-back LGBTQ celebrations. Chicago Pride Fest (June 22-23) is a two-day festival the weekend before the actual parade on June 30, which marks its 50th anniversary.

Lollapalooza (August 2-5) – More than 170 acts descend upon eight outdoor stages for this mega-musical festival that dates back to 1991. Attendees get just as excited about the “Chow Town” food offerings, art market and merchandise.

Northalsted Market Days (August 10-11, 2019) – Boystown becomes a thriving street festival each August, packed with live music on four stages, more than 200 vendors, and plenty of rainbow pride.

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival (September 19-29, 2019) – The festival dates back to 1981 and is the second-largest of its kind, including features, shorts and special appearances by the filmmakers.

Curtain Up

Arts lovers can hit a home run in Chicago, even if they’re not at Wrigley Field. This year shines a spotlight on live performance as the city declares 2019 The Year of Chicago Theatre. From Broadway musicals to storefront theaters producing new works, LGBTQ stories have a home in Chicago.

Pride Film & Plays – Located in the Pride Arts Center, the theater company produces works with LGBTQ characters and themes.

About Face Theatre – In its 20-year history, the boundary-pushing company has produced more than 60 productions exploring the narrative of the LGBTQ community.

Broadway in Chicago – Broadway’s best can be found in Chicago (and is often more affordable than its New York City counterpart). Pre-Broadway runs and national tours can be seen at five distinctly gorgeous venues throughout the city.

Mark Your Calendar:

Desire in a Tinier House (May 30 – June 29, 2019) – A world premiere about the challenges of maintaining a gay relationship in today’s culture. (Pride Film & Plays).

Falsettos (May 28 – June 9, 2019) – William Finn and James Lapine’s Tony Award-winning musical about an unconventional family at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. (James M. Nederlander Theatre).

Stay a While

From affordable to luxurious, hotel accommodations run the gamut and suit every style and budget. Here are three distinct picks to consider:

Hotel Lincoln – Steps from Lincoln Park Zoo, this boutique property features a rooftop bar and tons of quirky design touches.

Hotel Zachary – Wrigley Field architect Zachary Taylor Davis inspired this recently opened Marriott property (use those points!), which resides within a pitch of the famed baseball stadium and neighboring Boystown.

The Langham Chicago – Modern luxury reigns supreme at this stylish hotel located within an iconic Mies Van der Rohe landmark building.

ACME Hotel Company

The ACME is loaded with character and artsy touches, hipster vibes, and a super friendly staff. The chalkboards on the doors allow everyone to represent their true selves. But it’s really the location that’s paramount here: steps from The Loop, the mall, and the famous UNO’s.

Where to Eat

Wells Street Market – The newly opened food hall in the Loop offers something for everyone. Favorite bite: Furious Spoon’s shoyu ramen.

Bavette’s Steakhouse – Honoring Chicago’s long tradition as a steakhouse town, this swanky spot offers French flair and romantic enclaves for the ultimate date. Favorite bite: Chicago cut classic ribeye with béarnaise.

Southport Grocery and Cafe – Baked-from-scratch pastries and all-day breakfast can be found along with ancho chili-infused Bloody Mary’s at this Lakeview neighborhood spot. Favorite bite: grown-up pop tart with preserves and mascarpone.

Hot “G” Dog – Along with Chicago-style pizza, hot dogs are a Chicago staple. These artisan (and budget-friendly) options are a favorite among locals. Favorite bite: Chicago dog with a side of duck fat fries (weekends only).

From Dusk ‘til Dawn

Overwhelmed by so many amazing choices? Here’s an itinerary to jumpstart your weekend:

FRIDAY NIGHT:

Head to Sidetrack, the legendary Boystown video bar that has been the city’s go-to LGBTQ destination since 1982. Extend your getaway by a day to stay for Musical Monday, a standing ovation-worthy tradition.

A drink at Little Jim’s Tavern, the city’s first gay bar, is also essential. The bar has tons of old-school charm, local gays and daily drinks specials. And as far as legendary bars go, no pub crawl is complete without an Uber to Andersonville for some lesbian karaoke at Spyners Pub. By now, you’re plenty drunk enough to belt out some Journey.

SATURDAY:

The Legacy Walk, located in Lakeview, features 37 bronze memorial markers and interactive technology to connect with the people and places that have been instrumental in the nation’s LGBTQ movement. Check out the historic stroll during the day before heading to The Art Institute of Chicago for some of the country’s most stellar art. Be sure to visit the incredible 68 Thorne miniature rooms.

Come nightfall, head uptown to explore the city’s diverse collection of bars. Big Chicks is a friendly, low-key vibe that can be found Uptown with a different energy than Boystown bars. For the high-energy millennial crowd, Hydrate is a high-energy club with a stellar roster of DJs including former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Nina Flowers. Also pop into Berlin, a “pan-cultural” late-night dance club open ‘til 4 a.m.

SUNDAY:

Drag reigns supreme at the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club, a terrific spot for brunch (prix-fixe menu plus a la carte) and entertainment.

More gay-friendly Illinois:

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Continue your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.



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By @ 05/07/19 in Gay Illinois, Gay travel, Gay-friendly Illinois, Illinois, LGBT Illinois, LGBT travel Illinois, Travel

Romantic LGBTQ getaways in Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineIllinois is home to a number of romantic, LGBTQ-friendly getaways within easy driving distance of Chicago, from kick-your-feet-up spots where you and your partner can take a breath, to hipster beer-and-bike meccas where y’all can let loose.

Galena: Vintage Shopping, Vintage Setting

Just three hours west of Chicago you’ll find Galena, a small but vibrant town known for its immaculate nineteenth-century architecture and bustling arts and shopping scene. For you antiquey gays who can’t get enough small-town charm, Galena is for you.

Plan to arrive early and check in to The Aldrich Guest House, a queer-owned five-bedroom B&B that’s hosted President Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Owners Doug and Robert have warmly arranged and decorated each room with comfy beds, high-end linens and personal touches.

The Inn at Irish Hollow is another gay-owned B&B, an aspirational place to stay. From the cozy interiors, the three-course weekend brunch, the seven-course dinners, and the lovely and welcoming gay hosts, this is one of our favorite places in Illinois.

The gorgeous Jail Hill Inn is another option. A 135-year-old, four-story brick gem of a hotel perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway. The hotel was rated the number 1 B&B in the United States on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards.

Once you’ve dropped off your bags, head out to explore the small-town charm of Main Street, strolling hand-in-hand along the dozens of quaint shops nestled in historic, red-brick buildings. If you and your partner are looking to feather your nest, stop in at Pinder Pottery, where a small handful of local potters are spinning beautiful and functional pottery. At Common Cents Resale, old housewares and vintage furniture are restored, restyled and sold at reasonable prices.

After some light browsing, grab lunch at One Eleven Main, a farm-to-table hotspot with a seasonal menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients. But if Galena’s historic sites have you in the mood for something more traditional—or you’re trying to turn up the romance—try Fried Green Tomatoes. Despite its name, the restaurant serves up traditional Italian fare with a farmhouse chic ambience. Before you leave Main Street, pick up a bottle (or three) at Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery.

Spend the rest of your evening relaxing back at the hotel and wake up to their award-winning breakfast (with coffee brewed from a local roaster!) before heading home (or continuing on your Illinois journey!)

Galena remains one of Illinois’s top LGBTQ friendly cities, a charming, artsy, welcoming place that’s as quirky as it is inclusive.

Romantic LGBTQ getaways in Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineInstafamous in Pontiac

For Route 66 fanatics, your trip begins on Michigan Ave. in Chicago and stretches for 300 miles, filled with some of most interesting and ‘grammable spots throughout the state. Somewhere in the middle of the historic highway, you’ll find Pontiac, a small town hidden gem central to American culture, literature, and industry, from the Grapes of Wrath to the Beats and Disney-Pixar’s Cars.

You’ll want to book a room in The Three Roses Bed and Breakfast, situated in a pristine Victorian in the center of town. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more modern and chic, check out the ACRESinn LOFT—an 1,800 sq.-ft. loft overlooking downtown Pontiac. Both options are relaxing, romantic settings close to all attractions including the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. Be sure to peek around the backside of the building where you’ll find one of Illinois’s most iconic Route 66 murals (and unofficially the state’s selfie capital!).

You can have an early breakfast at Three Roses or take a short walk to Edinger’s Filling Station, a favorite diner among locals, with a vintage Route 66 ambiance serving homemade American breakfast and brunch dishes. They’re famous for their homemade pies, so save room for a slice.  

After breakfast, stroll with your better half down Main Street and pose in front of the many ‘grammable murals depicting Americana (including Coca-Cola, RCA Victor and the iconic line of Pontiac automobiles).

Beyond Pontiac, Route 66 extends down through Springfield and takes you through Alton, where Illinois meets Missouri. If you’re up for a classic American road trip, fire up your playlist and keep on truckin’ along Route 66.

Springfield: Love in the Land of Lincoln

Since this is the land of Lincoln, why not stay at the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel? It has a great location right in the center of town. Breakfasts here include house-made baked goods like blueberry muffins or buttery, flaky croissants.

In the morning, stroll past the cute, gay-owned Cardologist (a little greeting card and knick-knack shop perfect for sending postcards!) before settling in for a tasty meal at Incredibly Delicious, a locally owned French Bakery and Café located in the historic Weber House near downtown Springfield, Illinois. Founded in 1995, they specialize in artisanal breads, traditional croissants, handmade pastries, specialty cakes, and desserts. Their breakfast and lunch menu changes daily and pastry selections change seasonally. Be it savory or sweet, you will find your new favorite treat behind their doors.

Afterward, head just one block north of the hotel to the Dana-Thomas House — a Frank Lloyd Wright landmark — to tour its ornate, yet still-modern-feeling halls and rooms.

Continue your architecture lovefest with a guided tour of the recently-renovated Governor’s Mansion. Built in 1855, the mansion’s renovated exterior showcases the styles of the different governor’s that called the mansion home over the years. Tours usually last just over an hour.

For even more woodworking artistry, head to Sangmon Reclaimed, where local firefighters and veterans take the wood from torn down barns and reclaim it, rework it, and reimagine it as new pieces of art, architecture, and furnishings. A fascinating look at the Midwest traditions.

Once you’re up to the gills with house envy and dreaming of a nest with your partner, take a short cab ride or a decent walk (25 minutes or so) up South 6th Street to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The library is mainly intended for researchers but the museum is a must-see for anyone, and particularly appealing to children if you’ve brought the family. Another short cab ride will take you to President Lincoln’s (and his family’s) final resting place, a monolithic, granite tomb in the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

For dinner, consider the upscale American Harvest Eatery, serving up familiar dishes with twists, all artfully plated and made from fresh Illinois ingredients. If you and your partner are looking for a night cap, hit up the Station House, a queer bar and dance club spinning great tunes.

Pontiac maybe be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in friendliness, local vibes, homecooking and history.

Urbana-Champaign: Beers, Bikes, and Beers

Millennial hipster queers will fall hard for Urbana-Champaign. Just over two hours south of Chicago, this college town is home to a variety of breweries, eateries, and arts and culture gems. Plus, there’s dockless bike sharing in the area so you’ll burn off those calories as fast as you consume them. (But, please, no drinking and biking!) Can it get more romantic than good food, delicious beer and (sober) biking?

If you’re looking for a charming, Southern feel, stay in the queer-owned Champaign Garden Inn. The Victorian Queen Anne-style mansion, surrounded by lush gardens, is a short walk (ahem, stumbling distance) from downtown Champaign, which makes it a safe bet if you’re planning to brewery hop.

Kick off your brewery crawl at the Riggs Beer Company, The Blind Pig Brewery, or Destihl Brew Works, recognized as three of the top breweries in Illinois. Wherever you go, do not skip the Sipyard, a beer garden in downtown Urbana operating out of a shipping container in the middle of an outdoor graffiti gallery.

For dinner, go big at the Black Dog Smoke & Ale House. While not romantic in the most traditional sense, nothing brings a couple closer than sharing a rack of ribs. They also have spicy southwest potato salad. Enough said.

One of Illinois’s most beloved twin cities, Urbana-Champaign is the future of the state, with a nod to the past, it’s always looking forward, whether it be art and breweries, or welcoming festivals and queer-owned hotspots.

Alton/Elsah: Charm on the Mississippi

Alton and Elsah are small-town twin cities along the Mississippi River on the Missouri border, about four-and-a-half hours south of Chicago. Their scenic, down-south feel and pace are well worth the trip on a long weekend—especially if you and your partner are looking for a respite from city life.

Nestled in the bluffs below the Great River Road, The Green Tree Inn in Elsah is a charmer, with hospitable hosts who’ve held numerous gay weddings at their property. Next door is a quaint general store stocked with incredibly hard-to-find sodas, sweets, cakes and any toiletries you might need.

Once you’re settled, drive the majestic Great River Route along the Mississippi River. It’s beautiful and relaxing—perfect for cranking some music and soaking in the views.

After your drive, ward off the afternoon sleepies with some award-winning espresso from Maeva’s Coffee, one of several community-oriented businesses in a former schoolhouse in Alton. Maybe split a piece (or heck, just get two slices) of their famous quiche while you’re there (there’s a vegetarian option, too!).

Then, for lunch, check out Weezy’s Bar & Grill for some good ol’ Route 66 kitsch. This roadside diner is a legend, and you’ll love their classic burger and fries while you snap pics of the Route 66 memorabilia that adorn the walls here.

But small towns don’t necessarily mean small nightlife. Bubby & Sissy’s is the big, gay exclamation point on Alton’s after-dark scene. The welcoming bar is known for its drag performances on weekends with special performances from the famous Shelby Right Back.

Elsah and Alton are quite the pair — so different with a shared sensibility and easy-going charm. There’s history here, but the towns also look forward, always evolving, always innovating, always welcoming.

More Gay-friendly Illinois

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Continue your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.



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By @ 05/07/19 in Gay Illinois, Gay pride, Gay travel, Gay-Friendly, Gay-friendly Illinois, Illinois, LGBT Illinois, LGBT travel Illinois, ManAboutWorld, Travel

River City Pride, Peoria, Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazine

Pride season is upon us and there’s no shortage of inclusive events in the urban centers and historic townships of Illinois. Whether you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the city and support smaller LGBTQ+ communities or don’t want to stray too far from an “L” station in Chicago, the Prairie State’s strong queer community has you covered.

The Swedish Pride celebration in Chicago

While not a traditional pride, Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood throws its annual Midsommarfest every summer, an event that’s now so popular in the LGBTQ+ community here it’s become something of an honorary queer event. The low-cost, family-friendly event runs June 7-9 and will split its time between celebrating the neighborhood’s Nordic roots and its present distinction as one of Chicago’s best and most vibrant gay communities. Round up the crew (whether that’s bears or your kids, everyone’s welcome here!), practice your best Swedish greetings—Skål!—and get ready to dance around the Maypole.

Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey

The River City Pride Festival — you might know it as Whiskey City Pride — is Peoria’s annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Just a couple hours southwest of Chicago, the event celebrates Central Illinois’ vibrant queer community as well as its legendary distilleries. It’s slated for August 3 at the Peoria Park District Glen Oak Amphitheatre and is a great excuse to get out of the city, enjoy the region’s famous whiskeys, Peoria’s fantastic park district, and celebrate all things LGBTQ+. The free event is put on in part by Peoria Proud, a coalition that promotes community unity through education and outreach.

A Decade of Pride in Urbana-Champaign

PrideFest, Urbana-Champaign’s annual pride celebration, is going strong in its 10th year as Central Illinois’ go-to queer celebration. The event features live music, guilty-pleasure food and family-friendly activities, so get decked out in your best rainbow duds come September. (The date for this year’s pride is still pending.) Check here for more information as the event draws closer. While Pridefest is a family-friendly event, Urbana-Champaign is a college town, so party-seekers should take note. Be sure to thank PrideFest’s organizers at the Up Center, a pillar in the region’s LGBTQ+ community, while you’re there!

River City Pride, Peoria, Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazine
New Queer on the Block

There’s a new family-friendly pride celebration that started up just a stone’s throw from Chicago. The Buffalo Grove Inaugural Pride Parade in Buffalo Grove, just 40 minutes northwest of Chicago, kicked off June 2. The event was free and featured floats, live music, entertainment and a megadose of rainbow costumes and pageantry. The event garnered massive support from Buffalo Grove’s LGBTQ+ community and ally volunteers led by Molly, the queer 13-year-old who led efforts to bring Pride to her hometown. Check the website for next year’s edition and get out there and support an exciting new LGBTQ+ event.

Whether it’s in one of the most famous cities in the world or a small township of a few thousand, LGBTQ+ pride is everywhere in Illinois. Bring your kids, your friends, and your allies to celebrate some of the best small-town prides in America.

More Gay-friendly Illinois

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Continue your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.

Photos: Cre8jax



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By @ 05/07/19 in Gay Illinois, Gay travel, LGBT Illinois, LGBT travel Illinois, Personified, Travel

Josh Laskowski, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineJosh Laskowski is the sunshiney morning voice of WQQB FM “All the Hits on Q 96” in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. His parents have owned a record store in Decatur for 30 years and still going strong, something that’s fueled his appreciation for every genre of music imaginable from death metal to Motown; but didn’t provide a straight path to his DJ career. After working a corporate gig in Chicago, Josh became promotions director at WQQB. As luck would have it, an on-air position opened up two weeks later. Despite his early morning wake up — his first alarm goes off at 4:25am weekdays! — he remains a cheerful morning voice for all his Champaign-Urbana listeners.

Josh always sits on the board of directors of Champaign-Urbana Pride & Parade, an event he helped significantly expand. Josh also leads tours of kids and young adults to historic places across the United States. We caught up with Josh after a recent morning show to discuss how Champaign-Urbana inspires him and what makes it so friendly for local and visiting LGBTQ+ people.

What inspired you to become a DJ?

I always knew I wanted to be in media. I tried TV, but didn’t like it.  I like to talk, and I’m loud. Someone gave me a shot on a late night show on a Decatur radio station. Two weeks in, my promotions director was fired and I took over. That lead me to doing community events that bring people together, which lead me to emceeing Champaign-Urbana’s Pride celebration. The event has become a staple for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in September. It’s fun for those who wish to dance and party to the wee hours, but also fun for the family.

Tell us about life as an LGBTQ person in Champaign. Is there a strong sense of queer community here?

Yes, and having the University of Illinois in our backyard helps tremendously. I came from a more blue-collar area in Decatur, which wasn’t as accepting as it is here in Champaign-Urbana. The only gay bar here closed but its closing hasn’t really harmed the local queer community. We’d love to have such a space here but I still feel accepted everywhere. “Midwest Nice” is real. In terms of diversity, it doesn’t get as diverse in Illinois as it does here.  I feel I can go anywhere and be accepted.

How does Champaign standout from the rest of Illinois?

Part of it is the university. Another is the wonderful food scene. The breadth of local farm-to-table restaurant options is amazing. I Josh Laskowski, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazinecould go out every day for a month and never go to a chain and never go to the same place twice. Also of course the Pride celebration which was the first Pride parade downstate in Illinois outside of Chicago.

What are some places in Champaign that inspire you?

Because I go back to my music ties, the Virginia Theater is a gem in our community. I’m inspired by all the music coming through from 38 Special to Manhattan Transfer — a great spectrum of musical genres that comes to see us. I can see major performances including the Russian Ballet at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. We have an amazing monument of Lincoln near me in Urbana called “The Lincoln Lawyer” statue, which is is located in Carle Park across from Urbana High School. I’m inspired by all the learning that happens here. Champaign-Urbana is cultivating the next generation of leaders. We have an area called Research Park with many major companies recruiting here.

How can LGBTQ visitors support the queer community when they visit Champaign?

They should make plans to come down and see how we celebrate in September for Champaign-Urbana Pride Festival. Pride has become a staple for not only the community but also for University of Illinois faculty, staff and students. We celebrate Pride in September because the students are gone during the summer. Come and see how accepting people are no matter what you look or sound like. It’s an open and loving community. You can get that feel in general all over Champaign-Urbana but especially so in September for when we celebrate Pride in CU.

How would you like to see the LGBTQ community evolve, if at all, in Champaign?

We’d love to have rainbow sidewalks or cross walks! If Chicago and other large metros have them , why can’t we?! But I digress, I’d love to see a dance club open. C Street was the gay dance club and it closed so I feel like that’s missing. I’d love to see that club where it’s easy to go mingle with people looking for the same thing I am. We are only two hours from Chicago and Indianapolis and three from St. Louis so we have the best of both worlds, corn fields and small towns where everyone knows you and a quick drive to the city!

Tell us your perfect Champaign day.

It starts with brunch at Prairie Fruits Farm, a lovely farm whose restaurant (unsurprisingly!) offers a farm-to-table menu. You can also take a tour of the creamery. Then I’d go for a midday movie at the Virginia. We also have a great sports scene here with the fighting Illini. Then we end up downtown Champaign with a fresh meal at a local restaurant.

What local tips do you have for people visiting Champaign for the first time?

For the first time check Visit Champaign County and request a visitors guide ahead of time. Read it and follow it. It focuses on cool stories.  See a sporting event at the university. Go to the local theater. We have a reindeer farm in the county where you can interact with reindeer. Make sure to eat and drink locally. There are great local brews and extraordinary restaurants. Go local with more of my specific recommendations.

More Gay-friendly Illinois

This is just one of our many favorite stories and hotspots to help you discover gay-friendly Illinois for yourself. Continue your exploration here.

Enjoy a more immersive Illinois experience in the magazine:

ManAboutWorld is an app-based travel magazine by gay men which provides travel inspiration and trip-planning information for all whether you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. It’s built exclusively for mobile devices and is not available in print. We first published these articles in the spring 2019 issue and make them available here for your enjoyment. The app and issues are all free. Download it for Apple devices or Android devices.



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