By: Kara Franker
Lasting Legacy: LGBT history in Miami.
Miami has been rolling out the rainbow carpet to LGBT travelers for decades. And while our art and cultural events and institutions keep getting better and better, one thing hasn’t changed: the Magic City loves the gays.
Attracting more than one million LGBT visitors a year, Miami even has its own dedicated LGBT Visitor Center. Let’s take a walk down memory lane…
Always famous for an energetic 24/7 nightlife scene, gay clubs have existed in Miami since the 1930s. But it wasn’t until the seventies that the local LGBT community really started to take center stage. Known as the “golden age,” gay bars began popping up all over town and the first gay pride week was celebrated on Lincoln Road. Throwback hotspots included Club Benni on Miami Beach, the Nook in Coral Gables and Hamlet in Coconut Grove.
Throughout the eighties and into the nineties, Miami Beach became the hub of what became known as the Versace era—think glamorous, star-studded parties with celebrity guests. Popular places of the day included Paragon on Washington Avenue and Salvation on West Avenue. Restaurants and boutiques kept popping up to cater to the burgeoning LGBT community. The Palace on Ocean Drive, where the tag line reads, “every queen needs a palace,” has been a popular mainstay for nearly 30 years and is home to lively drag queen shows.
But it wasn’t just about the party scene. Leonard Horowitz, the openly gay co-founder of the Miami Design Preservation League led the charge alongside Barbara Capitman to promote the preservation of Miami’s iconic Art Deco architecture. SAVE Dade, an organization that fights for equality was founded in 1993 and continues to protect the LGBT community from discrimination.
The Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC), the largest non-profit corporate in the county for gay and lesbian businesses, open its doors in the late 1990s. Steve Adkins took over as the President of the MDGLCC in 1999, immediately taking a keen interest in promoting Miami as a year-round, gay and gay-friendly tourist destination. And George Neary, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor's Bureau’s Assistant Vice President of Cultural Tourism/LGBT Marketing, led the first LGBT press trip back in 1997--before other destinations had even heard of the gay travel market.
Today the LGBT scene in Miami is stronger than ever. From nightclubs like Twist and Score to hotels like Gaythering, opportunities to celebrate the LGBT community in Miami are abundant. And the opportunities to attend parties and events year round are endless. From action-packed Winter Party Festival in March, to the never-to-be-missed White Party near the end of the year, Miami hosts some of the hottest gay-friendly events in the country. Held each April, Miami Beach Gay Pride has grown into the largest, two-day event of the year. In May, Aqua Girl for the ladies and Sizzle Miami offer more opportunities to celebrate pride. View more annual events.
Mark Your Calendars: In 2017, Miami will be hosting the World Outgames, an international sporting event that is organized to help advance gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender human rights around the world. Join 15,000 participants and thousands of spectators in Miami for the World OutGames on May 26 to June 4, 2017.
Insider Tip: A resource for inspiration, check out GoGayMiami.com, a website featuring a great community calendar listing all events happening in the area.
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