My parents moved to Florida in 1990, when I was 7 years old. Back then, the center of Florida's licit gay life and nightlife was South Beach. (The illicit center, I've heard, was in the darker corners of Alice C. Wainwright Park, in the shadows of the seagrape and palm trees.) South Beach -- the glittering, pastel-Deco apotheosis of Miami Beach flash, known 'round the world as the setting for so many excellent late-'90s music videos -- had long been a prime destination for sin and decadence because of its weather and its distance from the respectable rest of America. South Beach is still full of debauched nightlife, much of it gay or lavender-tinged. But gentrification, which so often follows gayfolk to their ghettos, nudged much of the gay population out of Miami Beach in the 1990s.
The center of gay SoFla moved about 40 miles, trailing outposts here and setting up colonies there. It's present demesne is nowhere near as flashy as South Beach. Stay on the main roads and you might miss it all -- it's hiding behind Arby's and Wendy's, the abandoned Blockbuster and Target. But if you can find the roads in, I promise: It's spectacular.
A note on staying safe: South Florida is not the Deep South. It's too Caribbean, too Spanish, too full of New Englanders and New Yorkers and Jews. But on some nights, on certain streets, it can do a good impression. Public displays of affection are A-OK anywhere in Wilton Manors, in most of Miami Beach and much of Miami proper, and in most of the townships and municipalities around Fort Lauderdale.
But the farther west you go, and the farther north, the Dixier the landscape becomes. Good rule: If the men in your immediate vicinity are all white and look like frat boys, and if the women have hairdos you last saw on Bret Michaels' Rock of Love -- and, most crucially, if all of these people have been drinking -- please summon a Lyft and scootch off to one of the more hospitable locales mentioned below.
A note to lesbians: This guide is gay guy-centric. SoFla is full of queer women, but it does not have a queer women's scene. Even the gayest of the gay ghettos in SoFla lost its lone lesbian bar almost a decade ago. I'm sorry I don't have more for you.
How gay is it? Late-'90s Nathan Lane.
Like Greenwich Village, Hollywood, or the strand of Parisian neighborhoods that run along the Right Bank of the Seine, South Beach has been gay enough long enough for its gayness to seep into the neighborhood's aura. The gayness is no longer a matter of individual clubs and cafes; it is a component of South Beach's glittery, sweaty, pansexual gestalt. This is a good place to integrate.
Miami Beach is a city on a barrier island, separated from Miami proper by Biscayne Bay. South Beach takes up its southernmost two miles. If you've never been to Florida, South Beach is what you think about when you think about Miami. The Versace mansion, the Colony, the Art Deco, the old mob money, the outfits that cost too much while covering too little, the riots of pastels, the tables spilling out of cafes under bright umbrellas and covering the sidewalks leading to the great wide beach, the evil consumerist paradise of high-end shopping and eating and clubbing. If that's the stuff you're coming to Florida for, you have very little reason to leave South Beach 'til it's time to fly home.
The gayness is as a component of South Beach's glittery, sweaty, pansexual gestalt.
You'll find most nightclubs along Washington Ave, and lots of eats and historic architecture on Ocean Ave, which is the last thoroughfare before the Atlantic. (That's where you'll find the Versace manse, now a boutique hotel, sparkling behind stucco and shrubbery and looking like a shrine to a pagan god.) The eats on Ocean can tend towards the touristy -- there is, for example, a TGIF full of dazed-looking Midwesterners. Better to head to Lincoln Rd, in the northern part of South Beach, which is South Beach's most scenic (and priciest) location for shopping and eating. You can't drive on Lincoln, and driving almost anywhere in South Beach is a pain because there's no place to park. Get to walking.
There's a fine gay hotel called the Gaythering on the Biscayne Bay side of South Beach (with a notably steamy "Men's Self-Spa"), and there are tons of gay and gay-oriented clubs on the Atlantic side -- Club Boi (which caters mostly, but not exclusively, to Latinx and black men), Score, the gracefully aging Twist, Palace (a good place to catch a drag show), and many more. There are frequent openings and closings, and the hot Saturday or Wednesday club this year may not be hot on the same nights or in the same ways next year. My advice: Make your first stop the LGBT Visitor Center and see what's what.
The Design District, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables
How gay are they? James Franco in a generous mood.
But really: There's a lot more to Miami than South Beach, and you're missing out if you stick to one side of the bay.
The Design District, aka Wynwood, is a formerly terrifying maze of decaying Deco buildings and warehouses. It's not very gay but it's plenty gay-friendly. Wynwood has been full of oddball galleries for two decades, and it's suddenly flush with high-end retailers -- Givenchy and Tom Ford now face each other across an intersection at which, in 2007 or 2008, I was almost mugged by a raving bald guy with one shoe and no teeth. Miami!
Come for the art and stay for the Arsht Center, a performance venue and bone-white architectural marvel that looks like a felled cubist angel. The main auditorium has outstanding acoustics, and it's the home of the venerable Florida Grand Opera.
Travel south, past the immensities of Downtown -- the Wall Street of Central America, as it's called -- and you'll arrive in the old boho hangout of Coconut Grove. This is Miami's oldest neighborhood, as well as its greenest, still full of the primeval hammocks that greeted Miami's first dredgers and builders. There's serious money down the Grove's sleepy streets. Madonna used to live here, as did Sly Stallone and LeBron James. Not far from their former abodes is the stunning Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which is an excellent place to get gay married. There's nightlife in the Grove, too -- mostly centered around the CocoWalk, near Grand Ave and Main, though none of it's explicitly gay. (For a gay bar, you've gotta go a mile or so north to Azucar -- which, incidentally, isn't at all far from Miami's last old-school gay bathhouse, Club Aqua.)
Just a bit farther south you'll find yourself out of Miami and in Coral Gables, another lush, old-money 'hood with an understated gay presence. Go there for the theater. Actors' Playhouse on the Miracle Mile is about as good as regional theater gets in America -- I've seen Broadway-beating productions of Les Miserables, Le Cage aux Folles, and Urinetown there. You'll find more challenging fare at GableStage at the Biltmore, where director Joe Adler mounts fiercely smart productions of plays by, say, Sarah Kane, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Martin McDonagh. (I once saw a production of Sarah Kane's Blasted there that haunted me for actual years.) Please note: The Biltmore is a stunning hotel, a relic of the Gilded Age, and you should show up to your show an hour or two early so you can wander the premises, gawp at the enormous pool, and enjoy a cocktail or three in the snug basement bar.
How gay is it? Sodom and Gomorrah meets the men's room at the Republican National Convention.
In 2006, a notably terrible film called Another Gay Movie briefly appeared in a few American theaters. It was a gross-out teen comedy with an interesting conceit: In the world of the film, gay was normal. Gay was the majority. The whole damn world was gay.
That conceit is the reality in Wilton Manors.
"The Island City," as it's known, is a little municipality 10 minutes north of Downtown Fort Lauderdale and 40 minutes north of Miami. It's surrounded by an unremarkable canal, and its borders are roughly defined by undistinguished streets -- particularly Oakland Park Blvd, Powerline Rd, and Federal Highway, which could be thoroughfares plucked from the urban sprawl around Anydamnwhere, USA.
I moved to Wilton Manors when it wasn't gay at all. I was 13, and Wilton Manors was still faintly dangerous -- it wasn't many years after Jaco Pastorius, the pioneering jazz bassist, was beaten to death on a sidewalk on Wilton Drive. Not far from that spot, there were two competing Christian bookstores selling devotionals, chintzy Jesus-themed gifts, and vestments.
The Christian bookstores are long gone, and Wilton Drive is now a gay fantasia.
Wilton Manors is an extremely wholesome-feeling burg. Sort of like Mayberry R.F.D. but with Speedos.
A brief tour of The Drive, as it's known:
At the intersection of Dixie Highway and NE 26th St there is a cafe and bakery called Stork's. This is the eponymous cafe opened by Wilton Manors' gay ex-mayor, Jim Stork. Continue west from there, and on a side street just off Wilton Drive you'll find Le Patio, a teensy, deeply romantic French restaurant owned by lesbian restaurateurs Vero and Jean. Shortly thereafter, The Drive becomes a blur of gay commerce -- within a few blocks there's Rumors Bar, Progress Bar, a gay burger joint called Rosie's with a gorgeous lanai, a high-end gay sushi and Thai joint called Galanga, a combo nightclub-restaurant with an excitingly labyrinthine layout called The Manor, a gay pool hall, two gay ice cream parlors, and two gay thrift stores.
There are gay condo developments. There's an extraordinary gay candy shop called To The Moon, the proprietor of which, Antonio, has a frighteningly encyclopedic knowledge of sweets through the ages. In a single plaza, you'll find the venerable gay bar and restaurant Georgie's Alibi, a clothing store called Gaymart, a gay sushi shop called Tee Jay's, a gay bar called Hunters, a gay coffee shop called Java Boys, and a gay optician's office called Chic Optique. One plaza! And this continues for over a mile. The het world doesn't reassert itself until long after Wilton Drive has turned south and become NE 4th Ave, and you pass by the gleefully piggy Ramrod Bar, full of leather daddies and the boys who love them.
Branching off of Wilton Drive every hundred yards or so are more streets, and each of them has gay commerce of its own. And on many of those streets are gay guesthouses. There's this one, and this one, and many more besides.
You know, a funny thing happens when the gays take over a town. The sex and sensuality that defines explicitly gay spots in a more predominantly het city doesn't disappear, exactly, but it does tone itself down. Wilton Manors is probably one of the easiest places in the world for a gay guy to get laid, but perhaps for that reason, "getting laid" does not seem to be the dominant concern of street life. Which is to say: Wilton Manors is an extremely wholesome-feeling burg. Sort of like Mayberry RFD, but with Speedos. My straight friends have started moving there, because it seems like such a friendly, healthy place to raise a family.
The Gay Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and towns near Fort Lauderdale that aren't Wilton Manors
How gay are they? Varies.
A lot of gay life orbits around the homo-singularity of Wilton Manors, and the greater Fort Lauderdale area is full of stuff to see. Some of it's subtle.
For example, there is no sign identifying the Sebastian Street Beach as "The Gay Beach," but that's what it is. Just across the street from, and slightly to the north of, the rather fratty outdoor mall called Beach Place, there is a 200- or 300-yard stretch of sand where the blankets are mostly lain upon by same-sex couples, and where the men's bathing suits are mostly of the kind known as "banana hammocks." It's fun to watch the looks of dawning bemusement on the faces of conservative tourists as they realize what they've just wandered into.
You'll find a strip club called Le Boy, specializing in adorably malnourished twinks.
Just a little ways south of Sebastian (and past the famous Elbo Room, of Where the Boys Are fame) is the eastern terminus of Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale's most famous (and overpriced) shopping street. It's lovely. Head west to where it ends in a complex of straight nightclubs, and you're suddenly not far from The Club, an extensive bathhouse where you can get into just about anything with just about anyone at just about any time. Also nearby is Victoria Park, once Fort Lauderdale's premier gay 'hood, where you can still find some very nice clothing-optional gay guesthouses. At the edge of the neighborhood is The Gateway Theatre, an old-timey movie house that features gay and independent cinema.
Though most of the area's gay bars are in Wilton Manors, you can find some charming dives around Fort Lauderdale. Mona's and The Cubby Hole are friendly, economical places to get a drink in relative peace and quiet, and they're not far from this place, which is plenty friendly, but neither peaceful nor especially quiet. And just north of there you'll find a strip club called Le Boy, specializing in adorably malnourished twinks.
North of Fort Lauderdale is a blossoming burg called Oakland Park, which is being rapidly colonized by gays priced out of Wilton Manors. It's home to SoFla's best independent beer-brewing operation, Funky Buddha, which sometimes hosts gay nights in its expansive taproom. Near there is an outpost of Lips, the drag-bar chain.
Outposts, colonies, miscellanea, and Key West
How gay are they? Varies.
There are little redoubts of gay life all the way up the South Floridian coast. Delray Beach is arty, historic, architecturally charming, and reliably metrosexual. Clematis Rd, in West Palm Beach, has an inclusive and frequently freaky nightlife. Boca Raton is full of retired gays, and they have their spots. But one can only travel so much, and if you have somehow exhausted the possibilities of Dade and Broward Counties, head south past the half-settled swamps outside Homestead, over the 40 or so bridges and 160 miles that bring you to the end of the Florida Keys.
Key West was one of America's original gay havens, just like it was a haven for anybody who had a hard time fitting in elsewhere in America: the weird, the lazy, the pathologically chill, the hopelessly boho, Ernest Hemingway. What happened in South Beach happened much earlier in Key West, and the island's explicitly gay subculture has merged with the place's general funk and fun. Now it's all gay, all straight, all pansexual, all the time. You'll find Baptist housewives from Tennessee yucking it up with drag queens at a place like La Te Da, and everybody seems cool with everybody. The hets from the Big American Middle have an unusually easy time dropping their guard here, maybe because Key West never feels quite like the real world.
There are places on the island that are gay-only. The Island House and Equator are little preserves of old-school gay life and easy sexuality, and much fun can be had there. But do get out onto the main drag of Duval St at least a few times, and mingle with the straights and tourists and local oddities in their natural habitats. Head west to the Sunset Celebration and catch the spectacular natural light show over the gulf and the motley bunch of street performers who assemble nightly at Mallory Square. The last time I was there, which was a while ago, there was a fantastic contortionist, a gymnast, an exceptionally loud bagpiper, and a guy who'd trained some of the polydactyl cats that roam the island to jump through hoops of fire, like little circus lions. I don't know if he's still there. If he isn't, I'm confident that someone comparably weird and wonderful has taken his place.
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1. Club Boi1437 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
2. Score Bar1437 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
3. Twist1057 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
4. Palace Bar1200 Ocean Dr, Miami
5. Azucar NightClub2301 SW 32nd Ave, Miami
6. Club Aqua2991 Coral Way, Coral Gables
7. stork's2505 NE 15th Ave, Wilton Manors
8. Le Patio Restaurant2401 NE 11th Ave, Wilton Manors
9. Rumors Bar Lounge2426 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
10. Progress Bar2440 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
11. Rosie's Bar & Grill2449 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
12. Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi Bar2389 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
13. The Manor2345 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
14. To The Moon2205 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
15. Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar2266 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
16. Tee-Jay Thai Sushi2254 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
17. Hunters2232 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
18. Java Boys2230 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors
19. Ramrod1508 NE 4th Ave, Wilton Manors
20. Mona's Cocktail Lounge502 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
21. Cubby Hole823 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale
22. 321 Slammer Club321 Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
23. LeBoy1243 NE 11th Ave, Fort Lauderdale
24. The Funky Buddha Brewery1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park
25. Lips Restaurant1421 E Oakland Park Blvd, Oakland Park
26. La Te Da1175 Duval St, Key West
If you’re looking for a nightspot that ditches electronic music for Latin hits, hip-hop, R&B, and old school rap, head to Miami Beach’s Club Boi. The nightclub’s roster of events packs a punch, including the crowd-favorite, high-energy weekly Sexy Saturdays. Though the club caters mostly, but not exclusively to Latin and black men, it’s open to everyone of course, so make Club Boi a stop on your next night out.
Get ready to shoot, score, and win at Score Miami, a nightclub in Miami Beach that prides itself on being one of the hottest, most energetic spots in the city. Situated on Washington Avenue, Score’s space is lit up with rainbow spotlights and a massive disco ball, lending a truly universally flattering glow to the well-coiffed men on the dance floor. If you’re seeking a spot to see and be seen, make Score next on your Miami nightlife bucket list.
Twist has two stories, three dance floors, and seven bars, which are numbers you should get behind… literally. The massive nightclub on Washington Ave. is the apex of gay bars on the beach, with abundant drink specials, beats bumping, and shirtless buffs packed shoulder-to-shoulder in every nook and cranny. Grab a drink at one of the many bars and dance until dawn on one of the dance floors, just don’t leave without a trip to the back cabana, the “Bungalow Bar,” for a dance from the go-go boys. And remember, as they say at Twist, “Never a cover, always a groove!”
The first and only gay restaurant and bar on Ocean Drive, the Palace has been an Art Deco District institution for decades. The menu, divided into appetizers, sandwiches, flatbreads, burgers, salads, entrees, pastas, and sides will fuel you during both weekend drag shows and weekly dance parties, and highlights include blackened mahi, shrimp and tilapia livornese, and Cajun fettucine with peppers and sautéed chicken. Signature cocktails are whimsical and innovative, including the Tiffany Fantasia, with pear vodka, lychee puree, and lemonade, the T.Lo with Tanduay Asian Rum, raspberry puree, pineapple juice, and soda water, and the Melissa Hilton with peach vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice.
It’s been said that nights at Azucar Miami are sweet as sugar, and you’ll understand why after a couple of drinks at this premier gay Latin nightclub in Miami. Whether you’re shy on the dance floor or like to shake it out for everyone to see, you’ll find a home at this spot, which serves as a gateway to the nightlife scene in Little Havana. Azucar Miami jam packs its schedule with cabaret nights, drag shows, and, of course, drink specials, promising a good time every time.
Club Aqua -- formerly known as Club Body Center upon its inception in the '70s -- is Miami’s last remaining old-school gay sauna and bathhouse in Coconut Grove. The “Clothing Optional Facility” has everything you know and love about a bathhouse: gym, sauna, jacuzzi, spa, pool, tropical gardens, maze (that’s right, I said tropical gardens and a maze). Every day brings with it a different special, like free beer on some nights, DJs and male dancers the next, and poolside buffets when you get hungry. And there men, lots and lots of men.
If all candidates for office opened bakeries, perhaps our country would function a little more sweetly. Okay, probably not, but considering that smile-inducing, sugar-high-inspiring Stork’s Bakery was opened by a one-time candidate for Congress, forgive us for thinking pastries can solve our politics. In any case, head to Stork’s for cakes, cheesecakes, pies, pastries, and tarts that will make your heart skip a beat. And if you’re craving “real” food (Mama once told you that cookies aren’t a meal), there’s that too. Try a salad, sandwich, or soup to feel extra satisfied.
Is there anything more romantic than a teeny tiny restaurant with an outdoor garden patio of wrought iron chairs and wooden tables lit by purple string lights? Combine the atmosphere and the European comfort food of Fort Lauderdale’s Le Patio, and you’ve got yourself the perfect date spot. Start with a cheese plate and work your way through the menu to the crowd-favorite lobster ravioli served in a heavy cream sauce, eventually ending with the crème brulee that will leave you with sweet dreams for days.
Rumors Bar and Grill is one of the few Wilton Manors spots that offers a BYOB option. That’s right, Build Your Own Burger. Add sautéed peppers, sautéed onions, garlic aioli, jalapeno jelly, mushrooms, and crispy onions to a blend-of-beef patty for the ultimate experience. If burgers aren’t your thing, opt for a mac & cheese with braised short rib, avocado fries with sriracha aioli, fried Brussels sprouts, or nachos to line your belly before diving headfirst into the cocktail menu of margaritas, wines, and beers.
Progress is a breath of fresh air in a Wilton Manors strip heavily dominated by dive bars. This LGBTQ spot operates on the ethos of progress and unity, evident in the sleek and sophisticated décor like low ceilings, stone elements, and chrome lighting fixtures that make the space decidedly intimate. Come here for a drink or two with friends or make it your night-out destination, an experience enhanced by the club’s up-and-coming DJs and ultra talented dancers.
It’s time to finally have a reason to order dessert for breakfast. Rosie’s Bar and Grill, a gay restaurant in Wilton Manors, offers a Sunday Funday brunch on its tropical patio. Sitting below vibrant umbrellas and paper lanterns, start with something “Big and Fluffy,” like a stack of s’mores pancakes loaded with milk chocolate and topped with marshmallow fluff, and then continue with a “Big ‘Dict,” Benedicts served on big, flaky biscuits. If you’re into “Omelet Porn” (don’t worry; there’s no discrimination here) try the cheeseburger omelet with beef, Cheddar cheese, tomato, onion, and pickles. Wash it all down with a Bloody Mary or three, and get dancin’ to the beat of the DJ.
Restaurants on The Drive in Wilton Manors have a responsibility to be as exciting and hip as the various clubs, condos, and stores in the vicinity. Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi Bar fulfills its responsibility in its hip chalet-like house on Wilton Dr. with a romantic, contemporary atmosphere (perfect for a date) and famously attractive staff (perfect for finding a date, perhaps?) to prime its patrons for a wild dance party down the street. The food proffer includes authentic Thai and Japanese cuisines, with dishes like pad Thai, curries, familiar sushi roll favorites, and sashimi.
The Manor is the pinnacle of Wilton Manor. It’s equal parts nightclub, event space, and ultra lounge housed in a two story space, culminating in a gay and lesbian funhouse… though fun mansion would be a more accurate depiction of the labyrinthine complex. The Manor features a combination of vintage and modern styles, with crystal chandeliers hanging alongside disco balls, a lavish VIP room with plush couches, and fog machines and rainbow confetti filling the air on the sweaty, sticky dance floor that you can’t seem to break away from… not even for bottle service in VIP.
To The Moon is an otherworldly treasure trove of over 12,000 colorful, collectible confectionary items, including hard-to-find candies from 1806 to today, 70 types of chocolate-covered snacks, over 100 types of black licorice, 90 varieties of dark chocolate, and hundreds of international grocery items like German pretzels, Dutch wafers, and British crisps. And if that’s not enough of a mouthful for you, add in some decidedly adult novelties sprinkled throughout the Wilton Manors store, and then reevaluate your opinion.
With a name like Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar, you pretty much know exactly what to expect, right? Right. The gay bar and restaurant in Wilton Manor is one of the area's busiest spots, maybe because of the award-winning burger, maybe because of the generous happy hours, but probably because of the late night transformation from burger joint to dance club Georgie's makes when the lights go down. Expect a line out the door and down the street, people travel to Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar to be serenaded by the drag queens and the divas, for the nonstop dancing, and yeah, that award-winning burger, they're here for that, too.
Before hitting up gay club Georgie’s Alibi at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, stock up on raw fish and Thai specialties at Tee-Jay Thai Sushi. Perhaps somewhat envious of Georgie’s club aesthetic, Tee-Jay brings amps up the Asian dining experience to new, flashy levels with the glow of purple and blue neon lights, jellyfish-shaped lamps at the sushi bar, and sleek wooden furniture. Start with Thai dumplings, which come light and silky, and fill up on tuna tataki, Thai-style chicken fried rice, and aromatic chicken panang curry with peanuts, coconut milk, bell peppers, and a hefty amount of spice for a kick in the pants.
The team behind Hunters Palm Springs has expanded its gay club empire down south, where Hunters Fort Lauderdale occupies a coveted spot in the Shoppes at Wilton Manors. The energy is contagious here, so come ready to tear up the dance floor beneath laser lights and a spiked disco ball that could potentially injure (read: impale) if gravity has its way. But you’re at Hunters. Your Moscow Mule is divine, your favorite song is blaring on the speakers, and all is well. Don’t be afraid to live on the edge.
In Wilton Manors, there are few spots where you can sit down for a drink that isn’t beer, wine, or a cocktail. Luckily, Java Boys is here to serve with the espresso you’ll need to wake you up after a night on the strip, as well as some delicious pastries to fuel (and fill out) your beach bod. With muffins, scones, pies, and even fried empanadas on offer, this cozy spot is a destination for both breakfast and lunch seekers.
If you’ve ever spent time in Wilton Manors, it’s likely you’ve seen leather-clad men cruise by you on 4th Ave., but it’s even more likely that you’ve been to Ramrod, one of the longest running gay clubs in Fort Lauderdale, with an affinity for leather. Enter and enjoy edgy music and erotic videos in a medieval dungeon-like space, with gargoyles, griffins, and cast iron jail doors hanging from the ceiling, and a smoke machine clouding up the small room. There’s a bar on the back patio for those that shy from the sweaty dance floor inside, and for those that dare show up sans leather, you’re encouraged to stop by Leatherwerks, the on-premises leather and fetish store, which just so happens to be the best in the area… or just take off your shirt.
Mona’s Bar is what you’d imagine a real-life Fort Lauderdale Barbie dream beach house to look like if you nixed the teeny furniture, poured a whole lot of booze, and planted it on the side of Sunrise Boulevard. The cocktail bar (and its hot pink exterior) has a loyal following of locals who prefer this out-of-the-way gay dive to the Wilton Manors strip, and with popcorn and chocolate pretzels on offer as bar snacks, it’s not hard to understand why. Stick around long enough to play the bar’s signature train game -- every time the train rolls by, you might win yourself a free drink.
You’ll enter The Cubby Hole through, you guessed it, the back door. The smoke-filled hallway lined with Christmas lights will lead you to a bar that’s packed with tens of men (and a few ladies), and depending on the time of week, patrons will either be stripped down to their skivvies (there are weekly drink deals for that) or fully clothed. Come with your girls or your boys and down a couple of cheap cocktails as you move to the music of the 90s jukebox. You have entered the self-proclaimed Friendliest Bar in Fort Lauderdale, and yes, that is indeed porn playing on the flat-screens around the bar.
You’ll need a membership to enter 321 Slammer, but that shouldn’t turn you off. With public and private play areas, slings, and glory holes, the space is darkly sexy with amber and dark red hues throughout. Wall decals of men of all shapes and sizes line the mazelike hallways, leaving what goes on behind these closed doors only to your imagination. The bar is BYOB, so bring your finest booze and your worst behavior.
LeBoy is: where the boys are, never a cover, always a good time. LeBoy took a new approach to the strip club, turning it into an upscale establishment for entertainment and hospitality alike. The 2,500sqft space features choreographed performances, VIP rooms, an outdoor patio, and most importantly, male models. And this isn’t one of those strip clubs with questionable food, rather one of those few strip clubs with food that’s actually good. Pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, and the like are served on the patio, which is the perfect primer for watching male models flaunt their flawless bodies when they take the stage each night.
Funky Buddha Brewing is home to big flavors, meaning that in a peanut butter and jelly beer, you’ll actually taste the roasted peanuts and fruit jam as you sip. Flagship beers include Hop Gun IPA and Floridian Hefeweizen, which pair perfectly with the cheese board, soft pretzel, Floridian spiced olives, and pork sandwich, which are all made in-house and served at the brewery. The space is industrial-chic with flecks of wood and chrome imbued in the walls.
Lips Restaurant is a show palace, where drag queens and divas dazzle during dinner theater in a space self-described as "Ken and Barbie's dream house on acid." A longtime West Village, New York City favorite, Lips extended its flashy entertainment to Fort Lauderdale, putting on shows beneath grand chandeliers and disco balls. There's no cover for the coveted seats at the bar, just a two-drink minimum, so order a couple kitschy-named cocktails, sit back, and prepare to be dazzled.
Key West was one of America’s original gay havens, but the island’s explicitly gay subculture has merged with the area's general funk and fun. It's evident at places like the historic La Te Da, a cabaret and piano bar set in an iconic hotel that once housed Cuban exile José Martí. Now, you’ll find Baptist housewives from Tennessee yucking it up with drag queens over martinis poolside -- it’s all gay, all straight, all pansexual, all the time.