Arizona receives more than 330 days of sunshine a year. But it’s not just the hours of daylight that bring a sense of brightness to the capital of the Copper State.

With two annual LGBTQ pride festivals (Phoenix Pride Festival in spring and Rainbows Festival in the fall), the thriving ‘gayborhood’ that is the Melrose District, and a welcoming community, Phoenix is a city drenched in colors of the rainbow.

We recently caught up with newlyweds Paola Franqui and Laura Prado to find out about their Arizona mini-moon, which was capped off with a trip to Phoenix.

Laura had initially proposed to Paola three years ago, with the vision of getting married in 2020. Of course, that didn’t go as planned and, eager to start their lives together, the couple ended up tying the knot in a small ceremony in June.

“We were supposed to get married last year, but then COVID happened. This year we were like, ‘Let’s do it!’ We only had about 14 people at the ceremony. It was small, but it was perfect—just what we needed,” said Laura.

Then, when the opportunity for an Arizona honeymoon came up, the pair jumped at the chance to get to know the Grand Canyon State a little better. With their focus on immersing themselves in the stunning scenery that Arizona has to offer, stops like the Grand Canyon were at the top of the couple’s travel to-do list.

“In the Grand Canyon, we stayed at Under Canvas Grand Canyon. It’s a camp with comfortable canvas tents, a restaurant and other creature comforts, where you can spend the whole night under the stars. It was amazing. I’ve got this really beautiful photo of Laura sitting outside our tent with the stars behind her, it’s just unbelievable,” Paola mused.

“It’s great, because there’s no light pollution in the area, so you get to see the clear skies and the stars. That night there was also a SpaceX test happening, so you could see a bunch of little lights just tracing across the dark sky, which was a super cool experience,” added Laura.

After the picture-perfect landscapes of Arizona’s biggest attraction, Laura and Paola set off for Phoenix. And although it had a lot to live up to, the city didn’t disappoint. “The Rise in Uptown Phoenix was amazing. It was probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in and everyone was so friendly and nice. We were treated like absolute royalty,” said Paola.

“Our itinerary had been pretty jam-packed up until then, so we took the opportunity to wind down a bit and spend some time by the pool.”

The first item on their city itinerary was a WNBA game, which ended up being a highlight for the couple, as it gave them a great look into the LGBTQ community in Phoenix.

“That was a really cool experience. It was our first time at a women’s basketball game. The vibe was great, there were so many queer women there supporting their teams—even though it was a pre-season game—everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and just there to have a good time,” Laura noted.

It wasn’t just at the basketball game that the newlyweds encountered this welcoming atmosphere, it was all over Phoenix. “Wherever we went in Phoenix, it gave us that vibe that everybody’s welcome. You really get the sense that everybody’s equal, and there’s a lot of love and acceptance, which is always great to feel when you’re travelling as a queer woman or person in general,” Laura added.

The fun really began in Melrose, Phoenix’s LGBTQ district, where Laura and Paola had the chance to attend one of the city’s must-see drag shows.

“It was our first drag show, so we didn’t know what to expect at all,” explained Paola. “We sat down, right in the front, and the host started asking us questions and joking around with us. We just couldn’t stop laughing because the show was so freaking awesome and they’re just so talented.

“The whole Melrose area is great, though. It’s got such a great vibe. There’s so much to do that you can spend a whole day there eating at restaurants and exploring.”

“Every time we went to go and grab a coffee, the insides of the shops would blow me away. There’s so much attention to detail in the decor, and there’s just this ambience across the whole district—and even the city. You really get the feeling that you could stay forever because it’s so welcoming and interesting at the same time,” added Laura.