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TRAVEL Mixing business with pleasure
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jeff Guaracino

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Great trip ideas can come from travel columns like this one, from your favorite travel magazine or recommendations from friends and family. Business travel—if planned correctly—can be a perfect time to research your next pleasure trip. Yes, I know we are always in a rush to get to that next meeting, answer that pesky text or resolve the work emergency, but hey it's travel. Don't forget to stop and smell the fun!

Viva Las Vegas—midweek

I was invited to speak at the Las Vegas International Tourism Safety and Security Conference. I hadn't been to Las Vegas since 2007, so I was excited to see what had changed along the famed Las Vegas Strip. A midweek trip proved to be an exceptional option to avoid the crowds but still enjoy all of the amenities that Vegas has to offer.

With 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas, there are plenty of options to suit every taste and budget. Among the true standouts is The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which opened in 2010. Among the most notable differences are sexy vibe created with impressive use of video throughout the hotel and the spacious rooms with balconies overlooking the Strip. With spectacular views of the Bellagio Fountains, you are actually encouraged to stay in the room, relax, and soak in a deep tub and chill. The emphasis on this hotel is the non-gaming amenities—from the rooftop pool to a well-appointed gym (which was crowded every morning with fellow business travelers), the not-to-miss spa and designer shops.

Krave, billed by promoters as the "World's Largest Gay Club," is opening in a new location June 15. Once on the Las Vegas strip, Krave relocated to the famed Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. The openings of Krave and Drink & Drag, both in the same complex, are good reasons to discover the original Las Vegas. The Fremont Street experience offers live music, a state-of-the-art light show and the fun people watching. You will also take lots of pictures of the kitschy old-time Las Vegas neon signs ( ). An insider's tip is to check out the Golden Nugget Las Vegas ( ). The hotel is walking distance from the gay nightlife and there's a great pool where you can swim with the sharks (seriously) and have a wide range of casual or gourmet foods.

Chicago—navigate it smartly

As vice chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), we hosted the organization's 30th-anniversary convention in the awesome city of Chicago.

The host hotel was the Hyatt Regency Chicago ( ), which underwent an impressive renovation. The hotel has a central location and is very business-friendly (but lacks a suitable gym). Chicago is a city for architecture, so I was in search of a hotel with a bit more character.

Voila! The Renaissance Blackstone is located on South Michigan Avenue across from Millennium and Grant Parks. Opened in 1910, this historic hotel has been the accommodations of choice for 12 U.S. presidents and celebrities. Here is the insider's tip: In a city this big, it is best to find a centrally located hotel like this one to enjoy between meetings, Chicago's fine art museums, outdoor performance spaces and, of course, the famous reflective "Cloud Gate" sculpture, informally known as "the Bean."

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