Gay Miami neighborhoods
During the day, you’ll find the pride of LGBT Miami working up a sweat at the gym or baking in the sun at the gay 12th Street Beach, ready to hit the gay clubs in Miami tanned and toned. Other al fresco action can be had at Flamingo Park (1200 Meridian Ave) where there’s a pool and running track, plus basketball, handball and tennis—but be aware that it closes at 8:30pm.
For those in search of more highbrow stimulation, the Wynwood Arts District is home to more than 50 galleries, studios and museums. Back on South Beach, every visitor’s itinerary should include a stroll along Ocean Drive, shopping and cocktailing on Lincoln Road and a trip to the World Erotic Art Museum.
The queer calendar
Miami hosts two of the U.S.’s largest events on the gay circuit—the White Party, “the world’s sexiest HIV/AIDS fundraiser”, held around Thanksgiving, and the Winter Party Week beach blowout. In April, the internationally acclaimed Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival comes to town—it's a 10-day movie extravaganza showcasing more than 65 films from around the world. Since 2009, the city has also played host to the fast-growing Miami Beach Gay Pride Festival each April. This weekend-long celebration of LGBT lifestyles attracts more than 100,000 people.
In May, thousands of women migrate south for Aqua Girl, the largest charity women’s weekend in the US, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Aqua Foundation for Women, which promotes lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. The three days of action include raucous comedy shows, pool parties, happy hours and wine and cheese tastings.
If you want pretty faces, a cool—but not super hipster—vibe and a mojito, Hotel Gaythering’s bar should be your first stop for the evening (and of course, being a hotel, you can stay the night). Billing itself as “straight-friendly”, this gay-centric hotel’s moniker says it all. The decor is a hodgepodge of vintage Americana and tropical ’50s elegance and even includes cool spots to pop a squat like a repurposed vintage dental chair. It’s a refuge from the South Beach madness, set aside in a mid-century structure off Lincoln Road. The music and TVs are never too loud for a conversation. The concierge service makes guests “instant locals”, and you won’t find any babies at this 21-and-older spot. Check out Wednesday trivia night, ’90s Thursdays, a ‘hoppy’ Hour that lets you hop-in after work for dirt cheap drinks, and Bares & Hares which welcomes otters, wolves, pigs, the site says and “even the Beavers”. Most importantly though, you can grab a glass dildo or buttplug—or even a bottle of lemonade—in the bar’s vending machine.
In the heart of SoBe, just steps from the 12th Street beach, Island House is gay central. The guesthouse mainly caters to men, although all open-minded adults are welcome to stay. Some of the rooms have a kitchen with a fridge, which can be a blessing for visitors on an extended stay.
One of the coolest hotels on Miami Beach isn’t on the beach at all. But the Standard, a Florida offshoot of André Balazs’s fashionable LA and NYC lodgings, is on the waterfront: it boasts dreamy views of Biscayne Bay from its ethereal saltwater infinity pool. In some ways, the location beats the beach: you still get the sea breeze but without the crowds, and at night the twinkling lights of Miami’s skyline add romance. Nirvana is reached via the outdoor mud bath, massage table or waterfall jacuzzi (there’s a hammam inside the hotel). A Zen-like calm also permeates the meditation garden, complete with fire pit, swings and daybeds. The rooms are chilled too. Combining blond wood walls and white linens, the cabin-like spaces are simple and classy, some with outdoor clawfoot tubs. The lobby, by contrast, is a funky bohemian showpiece, with retro wall hangings, beanbag coffee tables, a driftwood check-in desk and 1960s orange sofas. On the first Sunday of each month, scenesters gather for bingo night. Hip but not haughty.
LGBT restaurants and cafés
There are so few places in the world where you can see a nimble drag queen do the splits on a sidewalk just steps from breaking ocean waves. And all while you chug bottomless mimosas. Palace South Beach may not look particularly fabulous inside, but the drag shows here are unrivaled and feature special guests like uber famous South Florida gem Latrice Royale. Sure, it’s located on Ocean Drive, Miami’s very own Times Square, but you’ll always find locals amped and mingling at this Palace. Each Sunday, they revel in “Brunchic”, an outdoor meal fit for the actual Queen. As they rightfully say about this hot spot by the sea: ”Every queen needs a Palace." This is yours.
One of the quainter and less posey spots on Ocean Drive, the Front Porch is the preferred breakfast and lunch venue of locals who seek good food with no attitude. Expect no-nonsense diner fare, including pancakes, plus fruit salads; the moreish french toast comes with bananas and walnuts.
The Icebox is a curious mix of industrial space (exposed ducting, hard metallic surfaces), matronly tearoom (creamy chocolate cakes on frilly stands) and gay bar (beefcake waiters serve a campy crowd). But it’s quite pleasant, especially for a quick cuppa while shopping on nearby Lincoln Road. However, lingering over coffee and cake earns you scowls around lunchtime, when hungry shoppers queue for the Med-style cuisine from a surprisingly ambitious daily changing menu. Don’t forget to save room for dessert; the restaurant’s Chocolate Delight was named one of the "best cakes in America" by Oprah Winfrey.
The Vagabond Hotel's in-house restaurant went through a revamp in 2016, stripping away its progressive menu to reveal pared-down dishes and traditional preparations helmed by Miami chef Robert Dubois. With the new look came a name change (from Vagabond Restaurant to Kitchen & bar) reflective of the new laidback vibe and bustling happy hour and late-night scene. As for good, Chef Dubois nails simple dishes such as a whole rotisserie chicken and wows with an approachable grilled octopus that even non-seafood lovers will enjoy.