Now that 2017 has been well and truly put to bed, it’s time to start making plans for this new year – “20 Slay Queen,” as my lovely friend Jono calls it 💅 Typically for January, there are a million lists telling you where you should visit in 2018, but I’d rather talk about why you should travel! You shouldn’t just want to go somewhere amazing this year – you should go there when something really fabulous is happening! So pack your shiniest swimsuit and your biggest lashes as I bring you 12 fabulous reasons to travel in 2018!
YSL Museum, Marrakech
If you’re hankering for little more vitamin D this January, then there’s still time to book a weekend away in Marrakech. Rather than sweltering summer temperatures, the days are sunny but mild at the start of the year. Marrakech is hot for one reason right now: the new YSL Museum opened here in later 2017 and it’s getting rave reviews. It’s a fitting second home to the iconic French designer’s collected works: the red city was a huge source of inspiration to the man who is more commonly known by his initials. Yves Saint Laurent first visited the city in the 60s and returned to the vibrant style and energy of Marrakech endlessly through his designs over the next 50 years. The museum houses thousands of pieces of clothing, accessories, pictures and drawings, charting both his career and YSL as a fashion house. It is also home to a gorgeous sunny cafe and stylish auditorium, making it a must-visit on every travel guide for the city. Go be one of the first to visit it now!
You may think that Sydney Mardi Gras is the main reason to visit Australia in Feb/March – and if that’s your thing, then definitely go for it (I mean, apparently Cher is headlining it this year!). It is HUGE, and thus very commercial and mainstream, which means it’s not for everyone (especially if you fit more into the + in LGBT+). If you’re looking for something a little cosier but equally as positive, then head to a different part of Australia this month. About 2 hours drive from Melbourne, Gaytimes describes itself as a “queer camping music festival” that is about creating a safe space for LGTBIQ people to be themselves at a festival. Headliners this year include power DJ duo Stereogamous plus the lovely Alex The Astronaut (who put out one of my favourite songs of 2017). Amazingly, tickets are still available so if you can be in Oz in Feb then I definitely recommend finding your way somewhere over the rainbow to this little slice of queer utopia.
16th-18th February 2018 Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, Victoria, Australia gaytimes.com.au
Dinah Shore Weekender, Palm Springs
This is just one for the ladies, sorry (not sorry). I’ve been dreaming of a Dinah Shore weekender ever since The L Word went there in 2004 and the advent of Instagram has done nothing to quell my dreams of heading to Palm Springs. Named after a starlet from 1940/50s American TV who started her own female-golfing championship, this 5-day pool party started in 1991 to coincide with this sporting event. It now attracts some 10,000 women from around the globe – including the odd starlet (lez just say that Gaga was hanging out poolside in 2016). Now that’s my kind of watersports. Tickets are still available so go get yourself some sunshine and lady love this Easter.
28th March-1st April 2018 Hilton Palm Springs, California, USA thedinah.com
Club culture exhibition, Weil am Rhein
If you think you’ve been everywhere in Europe, I bet you haven’t been to Weil am Rhein. Where is that exactly, you ask? Well, this German town sits squarely on the Swiss, French and German borders and effectively is in the suburbs of the Swiss city of Basel (about an hour by train from Zurich). Whilst none of this may sound very exciting, Weil am Rhein is home to the Vitra Design Museum. It’s a gorgeous building (the first one Frank O. Gehry’s built in Europe) and primarily houses furniture and interior design pieces by the likes of Charles and Ray Eames. This year they are staging a fascinating exhibition about the design of contemporary club spaces, from Italio discos to London’s Ministry of Sound. New York obviously gets a spotlight with Studio 54 and the Palladium plus some lesser known parts of clubbing subculture. If you’re a design or clubbing history fiend, then a trip to Weil am Rhein should definitely be on your list this year
Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – today 17th March-9th September 2018 Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany design-museum.de
Eurovision Grand Final, Lisbon
This has already become one of the hottest tickets for 2018: so much so that some 30,000 Eurovision fans tried to snatch tickets for the Grand Final when they went on sale late last year. Sadly, most people (including me) missed out. Boo! You can still score some resales for the big show – if you’re happy to part with a couple of hundred £’s for a scalped ticket. This has always been one of my dreams since I moved over from Australia some 14 years ago (!!!) so I’ll definitely make it one day – but how amazing would it be to party in a balmy Lisbon this May for the most amazing (and most camp) televised music contest in the world!
If summer in the Northern Hemisphere really isn’t for you, then I have a fabulous reason for you to escape it. My Australian friends have been praising the dark and creatively creepy delights of this festival for years now. After the highlight’s of last years festival included Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina and 500 litres of blood (not in the same show), this year’s festival will no doubt be a corker too. Set in depths of the Tasmanian winter around the Winter Solstice, Dark Mofo positions itself as the even edgier gothic little sister festival to the hugely popular summer festival Mona Foma (which is curated by Violent Femmes bass guitarist, Brian Ritchie). It involves a challenging and provocative line-up of contemporary performance and music and is topped off by a mass nude swim in the freezing waters of Hobart’s Sandy Bay on the Solstice. If your only perception of Australia is comprised of sunny beaches and the quaint suburban drama of Neighbours, then this festival will really do your head in.
If some LGBT festivals can feel a little restrictive at times (especially if you don’t fit the set body type, look, music preference etc), then Amsterdam‘s Milkshake Festival is there to add some serious colour and diversity to your summer. Now in its seventh year, this weekender shakes things up with a party that celebrates all skin colours, religions, sexual preferences and genders. Last year’s line-up included Miss Kitten, JD Samson, Riton, WUT Club and The Village People! Amsterdam’s iconic Canal Pride is the following weekend too, so you even spend a luscious week in this beautiful city, bookended by mega weekends of partying! Sounds like a truly fabulous reason to visit Amsterdam in 2018 to me.
As one of the world’s largest and most inclusive arts events, there really is something for everyone at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This is for one good reason: no entries are rejected (because it was such a rejection from the Edinburgh Festival some 70 years ago that saw the formation of the Fringe). This pursuit of openness and inclusivity has meant it’s where you’ll find some of the most vibrant and interesting queer and feminist performers and shows. Eddie Izzard cut his teeth here. Cult TV show Fleabag first started out as a one-woman Fringe play in 2013. Pretty much every English-speaking queer performer has done a solo show here at some point. So if you’ve never visited Edinburgh before, then this is always the most fabulous reason to travel there. (Word of warning though: book your accommodation NOW because it’s a tiny city and this is a notoriously expensive time to visit. If you don’t mind sharing, The Baxter hostel is a fabulous budget option).
Azzedine Alaïa and Frida Kahlo exhibitions, London
I am so excited about these two fabulous exhibitions coming to London this summer – making it the perfect excuse to visit (if you don’t already live here, like me). Two major institutions – the Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum – are staging them so you are guaranteed that they’ll be worth the ticket price. The iconic Tunisian-born designer, Azzedine Alaïa, was in the process of co-curating his retrospective at the Design museum when he passed away last November, making this his last great work. Most of what I remember about high-end fashion when I was growing up in the 90s is Alaïa – he knew exactly how to dress the incredible supermodels of that era – so I can’t wait to experience this retrospective. When it comes to personal style, there are few as iconic as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo – which is why you should run to get tickets to this exhibition when they go on sale. When Frida passed away in 1954, her husband locked away all of her private possessions and demanded that they stay that way until 15 years after his death. Incredibly, the room was not opened until some 50 years later and this is the first time any of these pieces have been exhibited outside of Mexico. From personal artefacts to items of clothing, this will be a fascinating and rare glimpse into her life.
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier 10th May-7th October 2018 Design Museum, London designmuseum.org
Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe 16th June-4th November 2018 Victoria & Albert Museum, London vam.ac.uk
Mothership Festival, Coachella
Here’s another one just for the ladies (yup, still not sorry). This 3-day women’s festival and retreat first popped up in 2016, came storming back in 2017 and I’m slotting it in here for late 2018 with the hope that it will be around for a third year because this is the kind of shit we need actually need in the world right now. Describing itself as “the anti-mean girls, the new wave riot grrrl, sex-positive, LGBTQ encompassing, ultra-inclusive creatives” it’s probably the most woke weekend you’ll have all year. The event was partnered by the Tegan and Sara Foundation last year and is openly trans-inclusive (with the festival founder, Laura Wise, stating in the press that “trans women are women, and it’s just a non-issue”). If like me, camping under the desert stars with a bunch of like-minded and kickass ladies is your idea of fun, then you should definitely pop this festival on your calendars for late 2018.
The mega SXSW festivals (film, music, interactive media and more) are the biggest event in the calendar for Austin each year (it’s on in March – if you can make it, you should go!) – but this festival in November is the most fabulous. Austin is one of the most awesome cities in the US – a hub of awesomeness in the notoriously conservative southern state of Texas – which is why a drag festival here would be unlike any other one. The first thing that you’ll notice when looking through pictures of this event is that it encompasses ALL drag: drag kings, femme-bodied queens, and non-binary gender performers. Typically for an event like this, the headliners include the necessary bunch of RuPaul’s Drag Race starlets. But taking a look at last year’s line, you can see that it was all the really nice ones that you’d actually want to get up close to and give them a squeeze: Milk, Latrice Royale and Cynthia Lee Fontaine. Plus, there was a host of other lovelies including Cheddar Gorgeous (pictured above left), Spikey Van Dykey and Australia’s own Karen From Finance. To top it all off, the festival is run by a non-profit group of drag devotees who just want to support the Queens and Kings and help them grow their careers. How lovely!
Saving the best for last, eh? If you can end the year by seeing Gaga in Vegas, then you really should do it. This is by far the most fabulous reason to visit this crazy destination that I’ve heard of in some time. Gaga announced her residency at MGM’s Park Theatre last month and the two-year, 74-show run is due to start this month with a whole new show. Apparently, this concert series will fulfil Lady Gaga’s “lifelong dream” – and I’m pretty sure she just launched a brand new dream for thousands of Gaga fans around the globe.
December 2018-2020 MGM’s Park Theatre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA montecarlo.com
💖 What are some of the fabulous events you’re travelling for in 2018? Comment below and let me know! 👇