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It's summer, and you're melting. Where in the world can you escape to for a little evening chill?

Ah, New England, the land of shady trees and breezy shores. The normally chilled upper Atlantic Oceanfront stretching from Connecticut to Maine offers perfect hideaways from the sweltering city heat. Plus as the country's most welcoming region for legal gay marriage, it's a bastion of open-mindedness. There are delightfully diverse experiences for everyone from sunbathers to nature revelers, with plenty of LGBT-friendly accommodations for a nice coastal road trip.

Ogunquit, Maine

Just 66 miles north of Boston, Ogunquit is quite the happening hamlet. Over the past many decades, gay and lesbian clubs have cropped up, leading to surprisingly fabulous nightlife events -- from musical theater and big-name drag shows to live comedy acts (current listings at www.gayogunquit.com). There's even a seven-nights-a-week piano bar at the Front Porch (www.thefrontporch.net), and nightly DJs at the gay hub Maine Street (www.mainestreetogunquit.com). But hey, the Algonquin Indians didn't name this town "Beautiful Place by the Sea" for nothing. Ogunquit's three-mile white sandy beach is a great place to go horseback riding, hike in the nearby nature preserves, take a sailing excursion, or even sign up for surfing lessons. Followed by a nice cabaret show, of course.

Mystic, Connecticut

Seems like just yesterday we were dazzled by the rising starlette Julia Roberts in the 1980s classic Mystic Pizza. But that was 22 years ago, and now we're grown-up enough to visit the other city by the bay. Historic Mystic, straddling the banks of the Mystic River, is a great escape from the daily grind and into a cozy village that happens to be a perfect road-trip layover between New York and Boston. It has several gay-owned accommodations, including the Old Mystic Inn (www.oldmysticinn.com) and the House of 1833 (www.houseof1833.com). It's easy to lose track of time strolling around town, but the picturesque harbor, Haley Farm State Park, and Bluff Point Coastal Reserve are also amazingly scenic ways to work in some fresh air and hiking. Then head back "downtown" to slip into one of the town's delightful spas.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

On the north end of New Hampshire's modest 18 miles of "Seacoast" (say the locals) is the rather cool town of Portsmouth. Along the cobblestone streets and historic harbor, you'll find an unpresuming flavor and a good assortment of things to do. Stop by the Portsmouth Brewery (www.portsmouthbrewery.com) for a sip of the local brew, or get cultured with a show, movie or tour at The Music Hall (www.themusichall.org), the grand 1878 Victorian theater and arts center. This music-loving town is home to a bevy of great venues, like the Press Room (www.pressroomnh.com), with live music seven nights a week. And if you're going for quirk, maybe you'll luck out with a live midnight staging of The Rocky Horror Show by the local Players' Ring (www.playersring.org) troupe. Or consider renting a bike from Bicycle Bob's (www.bicyclebobs.com) or strolling along the crescent Wallis Sands State Beach, both just a bit south of Portsmouth.

Provincetown, Massachusetts

The place where it all begins and ends: P-Town. Parked at the northern tip of Cape Cod, this town of just 3,200 residents has attracted gay travelers since the 1970s. You can't throw a lobster in Provincetown without hitting a gay-owned or gay-friendly B&B, restaurant, shop, or café. So the first thing to do is decide what kind of experience you want.

Are you into nightlife and more modern digs? Consider the sleek 8 Dyer Hotel (www.8dyerhotel.com). If traditional Cape Cod floats your boat, check into the quaint Carriage House (www.thecarriagehse.com) or Waterford Inn (www.thewaterfordinn.com). And for those whose raison d'etre is to lounge, try the luxurious Carpe Diem Guesthouse & Spa (www.carpediemguesthouse.com). Many of these hotels even offer great last-minute rates. But perhaps the best part of a P-town visit is getting to see great theater and name acts -- like saucy comedian Kate Clinton or the ever-irreverent drag beauty Hedda Lettuce -- in smaller (and affordable) venues. Theme weeks for all niches take over the town throughout the season, and the summer brings an express ferry from Boston.

More New England Trip-Planning Resources

The website Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com) offers a great list of gay- and lesbian-owned New England accommodations.