We flew into Miami in early April, headed to Miami Beach for its seventh annual Pride celebrations and the sun-kissed climate of the Florida coast, not knowing what to expect from a city rebuilding the visibility of its LGBTI community.
What we found during our short but eclectic time perched on the shores was the magnificent fire that first gave inspiration to the original pride marches of the late 1960s and sparked a movement that began to change the nation; and it’s alive and well.
This year, Pride in Miami Beach returned to the true roots of the LGBTI movement, aiming to bring diverse communities together in understanding and provide a safe space for self-expression and enjoyment for everyone – something that other prides have arguably lost sight of in recent years, in favor of weekend-bender parties.
In Miami Beach for the first time, and reveling in the delights of a sunny Pride, we decided to take in some of the other attractions of the city. From historical to culinary, architectural to stylish and a nightlife unique to only few LGBTI capitals – it’s all for the taking in beautiful Miami Beach…
The LGBTI community and nightlife
In 2010 Miami New Times reported on an increase of anti-gay hate crimes: ‘South Beach isn’t the free-spirited haven of gayness it once was. According to state records, 75 percent of countywide gay hate crime in the past year occurred in Miami Beach, a place the rest of the world sees as a big, happy gay rainbow.’
But this is surely a thing of the past – the atmosphere at this year’s Pride felt entirely safe and inclusive. And if you believe Miami Beach’s gay scene is currently at tumbleweed status, you’d be wrong. The beauty in the city’s few, but lively, dedicated LGBTI clubs and bars is the sense of family and comradery not always felt on other scenes around the world.
Twist, where otters, bears, cubs, twinks, jocks and alike rub shoulders in harmony, is the most popular gay club in Miami Beach and is known through the decades as the place to be seen for welcomed visitors looking for regulars to show them a good time!
For twenty eight years Palace Bar has been a staple fixture on Ocean Boulevard and is the first and only of its kind to have ever graced the Miami Beach oceanfront.
In the heart of the Art Deco District, Palace Bar is known as the essential pre-club pit stop for chilled drinks, great food and an on-street drag performance brunch that will make even the most open-minded of people blush – just what we want!
For those looking for a hardcore house music night out SCORE on Washington Ave will fulfill your needs. Imagine London’s XXL or Barcelona’s Circuit festival parties.
The great thing about the gay scene on Miami Beach is the changing shift of different and diverse people that change the dynamic and atmosphere. No night is the same.
But the history of the LGBTI community in Miami is quite colorful – just take a look at this.
Where to stay
Step back into the past…
The National Hotel is the crowning jewel of the Miami Beach Art Deco legacy and conjures warm nostalgia from an inspired period of American history, the 1940s.
Taking us back in time, the ocean-view historical centerpiece fills the Florida air with a summer haze of tunes from times gone by, gifting the means of traveling the threshold of time to embrace a calmer, simpler way of living with the announced sophistication of this era in time; returned to their former glory via the accurate restoration of the hotel in 2014.
If you want to experience Miami as it was during the heyday, with a few modern improvements included the longest infinity pool on Miami Beach, the National is the place.
Look to the future…
W Hotels came to Miami n 2009 with W South Beach, to bring a touch of modern hospitality to the area; a revolution that would change the landscape forever.
Opening in 2009, W Hotels lit the spark that evolved South Beach into an ultra-chic destination, dedicating the beachfront property to maintaining their lead as the front-runners of innovation.
Expect luxury stylings around every corner, abundant views across the beach from your private balcony and the most helpful pool staff you’ll ever meet!
If you’d like to enjoy the best of both worlds – the bright lights of Downtown Miami and the white sandy shores of South Beach – then YVE Miami is a great choice. Modern, welcoming and, above all, conveniently-located, it boasts views across the city and the bay areas.
YVE Miami is just south of the main highway to South Beach and in the heart of downtown on Biscayne Boulevard, and provides an American-style buffet breakfast to guests at the Biscayne Tavern.
The food at Baoli Miami, paired with the serene atmosphere of filament lamps, gentle live music and a flourishing open air courtyard, makes for the greatest dining experience anywhere on Miami Beach.
This fusion restaurant, inspired by Mediterranean and Asian culture and created with original recipes from their respective countries, boasts a cuisine undefined by boundaries.
A favorite among jetsetters, celebrities and locals.
For something different…
Check out the crazy creations at Sugar Factory; expect giant sundaes, fluorescent cocktails and a white chocolate double bacon cheese donut-burger. Or maybe Apeiro, the Mediterranean tapas restaurant serving bacon-wrapped dates!
From the sophisticated to the crazy, we love Miami food. Period.
Some ideas to spend your time…
Miami is a very different place from sunset to sunrise. A plethora of diverse nightlife, visitors from around the world and a highly-concentrated Spanish influence turn the city into an international party. During the day, however, calm is restored with cultural activities appealing to the very nature and history of the city that entice the admiration it deserves.
You can only appreciate the true and beautiful value of the Art Deco hotels that line the streets of South Beach in Miami’s historical architecture district by gaining an insight into their past and beginnings.
The best way to do this is to join the 90-minute walking tour, departing the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean at 10.30am everyday, which will only introduce you to this pinnacle moment in art history, the rest is for you to explore.
Keeping on this theme, the Perez (not to be mistaken with Hilton!) Art Museum brings the modern and contemporary scene to the shores of Miami and is also a must for those wanting a great view of the cruise ships docking and departing from the Port of Miami, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival for those ship-watchers!
It mustn’t be forgotten that Miami Beach was and is a hub of fashion and art revolutions, even bringing Gianni Versace to Ocean and purchasing the famed Versace Mansion. Although the famed designer was murdered on the steps of his home in 1997 for unknown reasons, which some say triggered a migration of the LGBTI community to nearby Fort Lauderdale.
But if that kind of culture isn’t reason to come back today, we don’t know what is.
The newly opened Miami Design District and outlet shopping center is a work of art in itself; installations draw critiques and fans alike to admire creations produced just for the district, adding another level to the shopping experience in Miami.
We are experiencing the resurrection of one of the great, yet forgotten, US LGBTI meccas. With events like the WorldOut Gay Games coming in 2017 and legendary events like The White Party, Aqua Girl and The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival continuing to bring people in their droves, it’s just a matter of time before Miami becomes a year-round LGBTI destination once again.
- This forgotten gay mecca has a message for us – and it’s our duty to listen
- These 39 photos prove Miami Beach Gay Pride is the hottest in the United States
Find out more about the annual Miami Beach Gay Pride here.
For more tips and recommendations visit Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and check out their ‘Gay Miami’ travel guide.
Follow Gay Star Travel on Twitter.
Feature photo: Jimmy Baikovicius. No changes were made to this image.