Memorial Day is the official start of summer, and that means crowds at the Delaware beaches. Because of the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey and New York shoreline, This will be one of the busiest years ever in Rehoboth Beach. All of us want those damaged communities to rebuild quickly, but in the meantime, Rehoboth anticipates a huge new crowd of summer tourists. Many in the LGBT community know that Rehoboth Beach is gay-friendly but can still be slightly disappointed when they get there, because it isn't another Provincetown.
However, even though the gay population in Rehoboth seems to be proportional to the larger gay population, it is a great, inclusive community and a place where you can feel comfortable walking down the street holding hands with your partner. Delaware is now a state where gay marriage is legal, so you can even plan your wedding there. Parts of Rehoboth are gayer than others, and if you head to the very south end of the beautiful, mile-long boardwalk, you can spread your towel on Poodle Beach and be surrounded by the gay community. An easy way to get to the Delaware beaches from D.C. beginning Memorial Day weekend is with the DC2NY bus company. Check their website for the schedule, and for information on their new service from New York (with a stop in Wilmington at the Amtrak station) beginning Friday, June 28, and continuing through Labor Day.
For over 30 years Rehoboth Beach has been my choice for summer vacations. The town has grown up during that time and is now a year-round place to live. But summer is still the time when crowds arrive and business owners make their year.
Those coming to Rehoboth for the first time will find that the gayest block in town is Baltimore Avenue. There you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner; do your shopping; and go to happy hour and late-night dancing all on the same block, with nearly all the businesses owned and operated by members of the LGBT community. You can stop by CAMP, the Rehoboth LGBT Community Center, and get all the information you need for a great weekend or the whole summer.
Those who have been to Rehoboth before know that, as in all beach communities, there are always new places opening. One of note this year is Frank and Louie's Italian Specialties at 58 Baltimore Avenue. Frank and Louie are known to many as the nice guys from Touch of Italy. Their shop is welcoming and their secret weapon is Mom, who is a fantastic chef and baker. I recently tasted her lasagna at a dinner party, and it was delicious. I recommend that you stop in and try their full range of Italian specialty items, including great sandwiches, cheeses and baked goods, and then call them to cater your parties. You could pretend that the lasagna is yours and that you spent the day slaving away in the kitchen (something I cant' do, because everyone knows I don't cook).
Stroll down Baltimore Avenue and find the grand dame of Rehoboth gay bars, the Blue Moon at 35 Baltimore Avenue, all spruced up for its fourth decade, with new bar tops, tiled floors and sound system. Chef extraordinaire Lion Gardner is still at the helm in the best dining room in town. The bartending staff includes Chandler and Matt, who always remember what you are drinking. Pamela Stanley will again be ensconced there a few times a week. Then try the always-fun Aqua Grille at 57 Baltimore Avenue. Each year everyone waits for the unveiling of their new bar staff. Owner Bill Shields never disappoints with his hires, which this year include newbies Tyler, Dennis and Jesse, with Josh, Mike and Taylor returning from last year. There is nothing as nice as happy hour on the big Aqua deck on a mild Rehoboth evening and, after a few drinks, being lazy and staying for a casual and very reasonably priced dinner. Also try their newly expanded and upgraded Maggio and Shields Café on the mezzanine at 70 Rehoboth Avenue. They have great new comfortable seating, and the chef and some staff from the old Cloud 9.
Lori's is still in the CAMP courtyard and is as good as always. Stop in for a quick and easy breakfast bagel or good hearty sandwiches for lunch. While in the courtyard, peek into the Ward Ellinger Gallery and browse his incredible artwork. Then move on to some of the other shops on the block: Elegant Slumming, with its fine jewelry and beautiful items for the home, and the Philip Morton Gallery, now owned by Eric Davison, where you can see some very special artwork. Eric also owns Gallery Fifty on Wilmington Avenue.
One of the other fun places to shop on Baltimore Avenue is Universal Gear, owned by David Franco. The Universal Gear chain is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Part of the fun of shopping at Universal Gear is chatting with manager Denis Dmitriev. Denis spent the winter working at VIDA in D.C., building both his body and his modeling portfolio.
There are other gay-owned and -operated places not to miss on Rehoboth Avenue. Try the Purple Parrot for a good meal and happy hour; the back beach bar and karaoke make it fun any time of the day or evening. Look into Gidget's Gadgets for fun retro toys and games, and stop at the Coffee Mill in the mews between Rehoboth and Baltimore Avenues for a good cup of coffee, and take home a pound of your favorite beans.
Summer 2013 in Rehoboth will be great, and if this is your first time, you are sure to return over and over again.