December 21, 2015
There are no specific ‘gay friendly’ areas in Miami. The entire city, its beaches and surrounding areas are all beautifully, sunnily inclusive, making it a major contender for the LGBT capital of the United States.
Eight major LGBT Miami festivals are held each year, kicking off with the Winter Party Festival in March (pool parties, celebrity DJs and more pool parties) and bowing out with the legendary White Party Week in November. Not forgetting one of the most colourful Pride celebrations in the world every April and, in May 2017, international sporting event the World Outgames.
But there’s never a dull day here. With paintbox art deco buildings, deluxe hotels, award-winning restaurants and more parties than you can shake a rainbow flag at, Miami does coastal chic like nowhere else. Here’s our guide to how to get the best out of LGBT Miami.
Hotel Gaythering on Miami Beach is a haven of quirky luxury, with huge, seductive rooms in scarlet and grey and a “˜self spa’ with hot tub, cedar sauna and hammam room (mud packs are available from reception).
Many of the hottest hotels are perched along South Beach, with the best awarded the “˜Pink Flamingo’ stamp of approval. Try the pretty Betsy Hotel or recently renovated 1937 boutique Hotel Croydon, steps from the ocean.
Surfcomber is a classic, housed in a historic Art Deco building and with a palm-tree-lined pool overlooking the beach.
Downtown, hip Viceroy Miami is decked out like an art gallery and has a private roof deck with views across the city.
And your little dog, too? Most hotels allow you to bring Fido for free or for a small surcharge. EPIC in downtown goes above and beyond with mats, bowls and Yip-Yap breath mints in your room, and no restrictions on pets around the pool.
You can even treat Fluffykins to a pedicure in the spa, and have someone walk your four-legged pal if you’re nursing a particularly bad hangover.
Soak up the sun, fun and views of some very fit bodies on South Beach’s 12th Street Beach, marked by two large gay pride flags and within walking distance of shops and restaurants on Ocean Drive.
Feeling liberated? The gay section of Haulover Beach Park, famed for its clothing-optional policy, is 20 minutes north.
At 79th Street and Collins Avenue you’ll find the largest state park beach, North Shore Open Space Park, which hosts free concerts all year round.
For a classic photo op and some quiet reflection, walk along the pier at Sunny Isles Beach – or enjoy a romantic sunset in Bill Baggs State Park, where the beach has a lighthouse.
More action can be found on the beaches of Key Biscayne, just east of Miami, including Crandon Park Beach. Its shimmering sand and slender palm trees have featured in hundreds of TV commercials and glossy photoshoots.
Get your bearings and a dose of history with The Gay & Lesbian Walking Tour of Miami Beach, run by the Miami Design Preservation League. The tours, on the second Saturday of each month, start at the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive and highlight LGBT contributions to the history of the area.
Housed in a beautiful 1920s building, Coral Gables Art Cinema is worth the short drive out of town. It’s one of the venues screening culturally diverse works during the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, held each spring.
For the Broadway experience, check out the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts or Fillmore Miami Beach, while classical music fans shouldn’t miss a performance at the New World Center. The recently opened Pérez Art Museum Miami or PAMM also houses world-class exhibits in a sleek geometric structure on Biscayne Bay.
Looking for a bit of sauce? The World Erotic Art Museum offers more than 400 works of erotica dating from 300BC to the present day.
The restaurant scene in Miami is sizzling right now, with delicious new openings including The Matador Room at Miami Beach EDITION. Beautifully subtle dishes include stone crab with paprika mustard and crispy black grouper tacos.
Nearby, Thompson Miami Beach houses Floridian brasserie Seagrape, while locals eat in Sunset Harbour, a residential area on the west end of Miami Beach. Save room for the Nutella pizza at Brooklyn import Lucali or graze on a charcuterie board at Barceloneta.
Lido at The Standard Spa Hotel specialises in organic, nutritious dishes. Order the eggplant stack and a carafe of biodynamic wine, and enjoy the breezy ocean views.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, don’t miss the “˜Sunday Brunchic’ drag brunch at Ocean Drive institution Palace. Eggs, carbs, massive Bloody Marys and outrageous drag performances will blast away the hangover.
There’s no need to choose between dinner or a night out in Miami. Get both rolled into one at supper lounges like HaVen. As the night draws on, the restaurant morphs into a nightclub with energetic music and exotic cocktails until 5am.
Glitzy Miami Beach is the hub of the nightlife scene. Favourites include Twist, which has seven bars, DJs and drag queens, and frenetic mega-club, Score. Both draw fun, friendly, mixed crowds.
The Cabaret South Beach, owned by gay nightlife impresario Edison Farrow, is an intimate live music venue with lounge singers, pianists and saxophonists.
Another low-key option is Rec Room in the Gale South Beach Hotel. Designed like a 1970s basement with faded palm tree prints, vinyl records and wood-panelled walls, it’s all very Warhol here.
In downtown Miami, dance until the sun comes up at Club Space, where ravers party on the terrace until mimosa time.
Head to the LGBT Visitor Center on Miami Beach for free “˜Yogay’ classes, regular cocktail receptions and other events to get tips on your stay and meet fellow travellers.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Miami from London Heathrow, bringing these great LGBT bars, clubs and hotels within easy reach.
Written by Ella Buchan