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Un-conventional diversions: the nation's leading business convention destinations can be, shall we say, less than lavender, but that doesn't mean you can't find a gay ol' time. Take off that name badge and roll up your sleeves--it's time to play hooky!

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San Antonio

Get your creative fix at the San Antonio Museum of Art: Conventioneers routinely pass time in downtown San Antonio by strolling the enchanting River Walk (and its myriad bars and restaurants) or touring the iconic Alamo, but the San Antonio Museum of Art is the city's true cultural gem. This striking facility, built inside the old Lone Star Brewery complex, contains an unparalleled collection of Latin American art, plus the ACT UP Art Box sculptural project, designed by Ross Bleckner, Nancy Spero, and others to promote AIDS awareness. Distance from Gonzalez Convention Center: two miles

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Nashville

Embrace the kitsch and culture of Opryland: True, about the only thing overtly gay about this mammoth resort on the Tennessee River is that it's owned by a company named Gaylord, but flamboyant Opryland offers visitors a feast of distractions, from the star-studded shows at the Grand Ole Opry to the nine acres of indoor botanical gardens to soothing treatments at the Relache Spa. And next door a gazillion retail shops and restaurants await you at Opry Mills. Distance from Nashville Convention Center (although many conventions take place at Opryland itself): 12 miles

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Detroit

Catch a show in the theater district: Just a 15-minute stroll up Woodward Avenue from downtown, you'll find the Motor City's underrated but inspired theater district. Acclaimed nationally touring shows headline at such stunning venues as the ornate 1927 landmark Fox Theatre. And at Wayne State University's prestigious Bonstelle Theatre, a young local comedian named Lily Tomlin got her start. Sports fans take note: The 'hood is also home to the city's baseball and football stadiums. Distance from Cobo Center: one mile

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Tampa

Eat a Cuban sandwich and dance the mambo in Ybor City: Formerly a cigar-making district inhabited by Tampa's vibrant Cuban community, Ybor (pronounced "ee-bor") City--with its hulking red-brick buildings, balustrade balconies, and cobblestone streets-has morphed into a lively entertainment district that's quickly becoming Tampa's hot spot for gay clubbing. Stop by Columbia Restaurant, an institution for Cuban food and flamenco since 1905, before hitting the hugely popular gay club O Bar. Distance from Tampa Convention Center: two miles

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St. Louis

Stroll Euclid Avenue and the Central West End: Following the World's Fair of 1904, which was held in Forest Park, the adjacent Central West End evolved into St. Louis's most fashionable neighborhood. It then spiraled downward for a time before hippies and progressives helped spur a gentrification. Today, the neighborhood's main drag, Euclid Avenue, is the St. Louis strip for gay-friendly cafe and restaurant culture. Try Balaban's or the Majestic Cafe for tasty American fare and even tastier people-watching, gay-friendly Coffee Cartel for java and ice cream (it's open 24/7), and the Loading Zone gay bar for cocktails. Distance from America's Center: five miles
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Title Annotation:ORIENTATION
Author:Collins, Andrew
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Jan 29, 2008
Words:470
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