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LGBTQ+ Scene: A Rainbow Of Possibilities In Greater Miami & Miami Beach

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(MIAMI) – As America’s Gay melting pot, Miami attracts a diverse crowd of every persuasion drawn to the immense possibilities and iconic experiences.

From the edgy art scene to beautiful beaches, innovative cuisine, ecotourism, international nightlife, and an inclusive, inviting spirit, Miami is the ultimate LGBTQ+ destination for many reasons. Along with being a sensual playground for “sun and fun,” Miami happens to be a center of sophistication, style, and substance, from the glamorous Art Deco hotels to cool Miami entertainment districts from Brickell in downtown to the arty Design and Wynwood districts.

“Miami offers something new with every visit,” says Hector Castaneda and Jorge Zambrano, founders of the House of Trouble (H.O.T.) clothing line and local influencers known as Hector & Jorge. “Even locals are constantly surprised with the best in new restaurants, shops, and nightlife. The yearly events, such as the Pride festivals, Art Basel, Winter Music Conference, and many more, fill the city with vibrant experiences both day and night. Also, let’s not forget how the heat of Miami makes a day at the beach feel like paradise. Coming from a gay couple living in Miami, our week is full of opportunities for adventure. On a visit, you can experience iconic drag brunches, legendary beaches, and a melting pot of cultures. Miami feels full of life, and everyone needs to come and experience it.”

Always an attention-getter, Greater Miami and Miami Beach capture hearts everywhere as a leading LGBTQ+ destination. Impressive accolades include being one of The Travel Channel’s Top 10 Best Gay Destinations (2019) and Miami Beach topping the World Travel Awards as North America’s Leading Destination (2020), among other accomplishments in recent years.

While the LGBTQ+ universe of Greater Miami and Miami Beach is undeniably sexy and sassy, a whole spectrum of other things to explore awaits—and all are welcome. For instance, when it comes to the social scene, Greater Miami and Miami Beach are highly inclusive; it’s not about gay versus straight hotels, clubs, and establishments—although you can find these spots if you want. A fantastic place to make your plans is the LGBTQ Visitor Center in South Beach (1130 Washington Avenue. The first in the country operated and funded by the MDGLCC Foundation, Inc., the non-profit arm of the Miami Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Launched to meet LGBTQ+ travelers’ needs, the visitor center is a one-stop destination for information, publications, wireless Internet access, and details on community events. The LGBTQ Visitor Center also assists with any last-minute needs, such as hotel and excursion reservations and dining and attraction recommendations. The Chamber offers a unique Pink Flamingo Hospitality Certification for businesses and hotels, which guarantees a welcoming space for LGBTQ+ travelers. Another excellent resource for inspiration is GoGayMiami.com, featuring a great community calendar listing all events happening in the area.

Where Arts and Culture Converge

Miami takes its place at the forefront of international arts and culture, pushing boundaries with eclectic events that shine a spotlight on issues and interests that resonate with the LGBTQ+ community. Along with playing a starring role on the big screen as a colorful backdrop for movies, such as The Birdcage, Scarface, Bad Boys, Miami Vice and There’s Something About Mary, Greater Miami and Miami Beach is home to gorgeous art house theaters, such as the LGBTQ+-operated O Cinema South Beach, an independent, community-based arthouse cinema inside the historic Old City Hall. The Coral Gables Art Cinema is considered South Florida’s premiere nonprofit cinema for the best indie, foreign, and cult classics, while The Betsy – South Beach features inspiring live conversations with artists, writers, and other creatives, spanning subjects, styles, and time zones.

Cinephiles have the OUTshine Film Festival, the preeminent showcase for LGBTQ+ films taking place every April in South Beach, or the Miami Film Festival, organized by the Miami Film Society and Miami Dade College, featuring independent films from America and abroad in March.

Essentially, it’s always showtime and there are plenty of places to catch memorable performances, whether taking in Broadway musicals, campy cabarets, ballet, provocative plays, or underground comedy. A fixture since the 1950s as the former Miami Beach Municipal Auditorium attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra as well as serving as the filming location of The Dick Clark Show and the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater today continues its tradition of entertaining audiences with some of the biggest names in live entertainment. Meanwhile, on Lincoln Road, fans of the Great White Way can get their fix at the Colony Theatre, home to Miami New Drama, an extraordinary award-winning theater company and recipient of the 2021 Drama Award for its production of 7 Deadly Sins. Other places where original works are on the playbill include the Faena Theater inside the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, GableStage at the historic Biltmore Hotel, and Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. In Little Haiti, Miami’s one and only LGBTQ+ improv troupe, YAAS Improv, invites guests to participate in the delightful comedic experience that typically takes place every Friday at the Villain Theater.

Downtown, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, the largest performing arts center in Florida and the second largest in the United States, offers outstanding programming with resident companies, such as Miami City Ballet, Florida Grand Opera, City Theatre, and Zoetic Stage, and visiting artists from around the world.

As for the visual arts, Miami offers a vibrant landscape with ever-evolving exhibitions leading up to Art Basel Miami Beach, the most comprehensive art fair in North America, featuring over 200 of the world’s top modern and contemporary galleries on display at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The whole county becomes an art fair during Art Basel in December, boasting more than 20 satellite fairs, and LGBTQ+-friendly parties and gatherings during Miami Art Week, such as Art Gaysel with mixed-media works on view in South Beach.

Art lovers will find something to explore year-round. Across the street from the LGBTQ Visitor Center is the ever-popular World Erotic Art Museum, featuring the world’s largest collection of exotic/erotic art. A short walk leads to the Wolfsonian-Florida International University Museum, which delves into how art and design shape and reflect the human experience. Just up Washington Avenue is the new AxelBeach Miami hotel catering to LGBTQ+ travelers with nightly programming, dancing, a large pool and sauna, and several bars to meet any need. In Collins Park in South Beach, The Bass boasts an impressive collection of colorful contemporary works, as does the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in the Design District and the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

Boasting views of Biscayne Bay, Maurice A. Ferré Park, formerly Museum Park, welcomes culture vultures with several points of interest, including the renowned Patricia & Philip Frost Museum of Science Miami, and contemporary art at Pérez Art Museum Miami as well as lush gardens, outdoor sculptures, and a beautiful waterfront promenade. In the Arts and Entertainment District of downtown Miami, the HistoryMiami Museum highlights Greater Miami and Miami Beach’s storied past with exhibitions and guided walking, bike, boat, and coach tours.

As Miami’s artistic and cultural renaissance of the last decade evolves, dynamic developments such as the Miami Design District continue to grow, featuring cutting edge high-end shops from fashion houses Christian Dior, Fendi, Celine, Tom Ford, Hermes, and exciting dining destinations awaiting discovery. On the northern edge of downtown, Wynwood exudes a more casual vibe with spectacular public art, including the Instagram-worthy Wynwood Walls, an open-air park featuring cutting-edge murals by renowned street artists. In recent years the entire district has become a “city of murals,” with every building façade painted by artists from all over the world. Along with boutiques, concept stores, lounges, bars, and eateries, the area is also home to the famous LGBTQ+-owned RHouse Restaurant, which throws epic Drag Brunch performances on Saturdays and Sundays, and hosts Wigwood Miami, an annual three-day queer and drag culture extravaganza. Both neighborhoods host gallery nights (as do many of Miami’s neighborhoods!) on the second Saturday of the month, with locals and visitors passing back and forth between the adjacent neighborhoods to explore the latest artworks.

In Allapattah, one of the oldest communities in Miami, the Rubell Museum stands out as a contemporary art paradise with its remarkable rotating display of works from the massive collection of longtime Miami residents Don and Mera Rubell—who have amassed more than 7,200 pieces by more than 1,000 artists over the years. Close by, Superblue showcases experiential and extraordinary works with stunning, transformative installations.

Events for Every Fancy

No matter what you’re in the mood for, you will find something fabulous in Greater Miami and Miami Beach. There are so many options—whether escaping away from it all at the beach and one of the many spas or mixing and mingling at one of the year-round mega-events, ranging from the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival to the Miami International Boat Show.

Of course, there are quite a few major LGBTQ+ events in Miami to keep on the radar throughout the year. Miami Beach Pride, a weeklong celebration in April, livens up the city, attracting 170,000 people lining up the length of Ocean Drive in the Art Deco District for its festive parade and performances by big-name entertainers, including the likes of Adam Lambert and Gloria Estefan over the years. In May, SweetHeat Miami, the only continuous party on South Beach catering to women of all races, returns. The “Utopia for Women” extends a warm welcome with celebration, appreciation, and acceptance—and over-the-top events at various venues across the city. Taking place over Memorial Day weekend, Sizzle South Beach celebrates men who love men of color with a packed schedule of pool and yacht parties, nightlife events, and performances. Shortly after, in June, Wynwood Pride takes over the Wynwood Art District for three days with a celebration focusing on diversity, activism, and culture with performances, art installations, and more.

For those who are in the mood for circuit parties, Miami boasts some of the best out there, including the URGE Miami Festival, the “biggest gay international event,” with fabulous dance parties all over Greater Miami and Miami Beach. Winter Party, an annual week-long celebration of music, dance, and community, features an extraordinary lineup of celebrity DJs, with parties and events leading up to the world-renowned beach dance party at the end. All proceeds benefit the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and local Miami-Dade LGBTQ+ organizations. Gay8 Festival, a free, one-day LGBTQ+ art, music, and food street festival in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami each January, is the largest Hispanic LGBTQ+ Festival in the U.S., attracting close to 80,000 revelers from around the world.

Since there are so many ways to play here, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts Miami Temptations, a series of ongoing monthly promotions by theme (www.MiamiTemptations.com), such as Miami Health and Wellness Months (February-March), Miami Attractions and Museums Months (April-May), Miami Hotel Months (June-September), Miami Spa Month (July-August), Miami Spice Restaurant Month (August-September), Miami Entertainment Months (October-November), and Miami, Arts, Culture and Heritage Months (December-January).

Escapades Elsewhere: Beyond South Beach and Downtown Miami

Beyond all the glitz, glamour, and partying until dawn, Miami boasts a sophisticated, multi-faceted scene well beyond South Beach and downtown Miami. Areas including Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Little Havana, Bal Harbour, South Miami Dade, and Upper East Side offer a magnificent mix of world-class accommodations, dining, culture, shopping. and eco-tourism.

A legendary arts colony in its heyday, Coconut Grove still embodies that bohemian spirit with casual and quirky restaurants and cafes, art galleries, boutiques, farmers markets, and festivals. On the first Saturday of the month, the galleries open for parties, inviting locals and visitors to soak up the local culture. “The Grove” is home to the must-see Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an Italian Renaissance-style mansion and gardens overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Coral Gables, renowned for world-class dining as well as its flock of top galleries that present the crème de la crème of Latin American and Spanish art, features First Fridays when galleries offer open houses. “The Gables” is home to the Shops at Merrick Park, one of Miami's most upscale shopping meccas, with more than 100 haute couture fashion and home décor shops and boutiques. Nearby is Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a premier tropical botanic garden with the largest selection of tropical plants, vines, and flowering trees and palms in the world. Saturated with Cuban culture, Little Havana's main thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (Eighth Street) is lined with comfort food restaurants featuring Latin specialties and cafes where men sip cafecitos and play dominos and argue about politics all day. Here, artisans still hand-roll cigars, and tailors create custom guayaberas (traditional linen shirts), while the sounds of salsa and merengue fill the air.

LGBTQ+ travelers heading south of Miami often stop in The Redlands and Homestead. Rich in agriculture with its fields of strawberries, tomatoes, and other produce, “The Outback of Miami” is also home to Taste of Redland, a local farm known for its Market Sundays and Locavore Brunch series.

From there, active types head to Miami’s two unique national parks, Everglades National Park—where you can hike, canoe, kayak, or take guided boat tours -- and Biscayne Underwater National Park, great for snorkeling and scuba diving. One of the most famous farm stands in the area is Robert Is Here, a popular stop on the way to the parks. The roadside stand has garnered international acclaim for fresh tropical fruit shakes and unusual produce.

Many of the area's quirkiest attractions are also here, including Zoo Miami, Monkey Jungle (where the people are in cages), Schnebly’s Redland’s Winery & Brewery (wines made from tropical fruits), Everglades Alligator Farm (with cool airboat rides), and Coral Castle Museum, featured on many mystery TV shows. The latter is an impressive stone sculpture garden made from 1,100 tons of coral rock. Carved secretly by one man, Edward Leedskalnin, from 1923 to 1951 without machines, this accomplishment remains a mystery today.

Hotels with Character

While South Beach has long attracted the LGBTQ+ crowd with its stunning collection of Art Deco gems and boutique hotels with personality to burn, the luxury lodging scene has been heating up across Greater Miami and Miami Beach. Looking for five-star property? There are many to savor, such as The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, The Setai South Beach, the Acqualina Resort and Residences on the Beach, the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, and the Mandarin Oriental Miami. Just a few blocks north of South Beach—between 32nd and 36th streets on Collins Avenue—is the Faena District Miami Beach, home to the glitzy Faena Hotel Miami Beach, featuring 169 guestrooms and suites designed by award-winning film director/producer Baz Luhrmann and four-time Academy Award® winning production and costume designer Catherine Martin. The district is also home to Faena Forum, a new 50,000 square-foot cultural institution—designed to "transcend disciplines and encourages collaborations across artistic, intellectual, and geographic boundaries."

Posh lifestyle properties offering a cosmopolitan vibe with spectacular views also abound, such as the Conrad Miami, J.W. Marriott Marquis, the W Hotel in downtown Miami and Miami Beach, Kimpton Epic Miami, the Hotel Beaux Arts, Miami Beach EDITION, The Confidante Miami Beach, 1 Hotels, Shelborne South Beach, and the National Hotel (which hosted Equal Plan Wedding Expo) and the Hôtel Gaythering—Miami Beach’s gayest hotel and Out Traveler’s favorite Best Small Hotel in recent years. The latter earned these accolades for its oh-so-hot west location on the west end of Lincoln Road, plus its chic design, trendy but approachable bar, library, spa with hammam and very reasonable rates. AxelBeach Miami, part of the world’s biggest chain of LGBTQ+-focused and hetero-friendly hotels, deserves all the buzz with its splashy offerings one block from the beach.

The legendary Morris Lapidus-designed Fountainebleau Miami Beach and Eden Roc resorts, made famous by the 1950s Rat Pack, have received multimillion-dollar makeovers and are hotter than ever, while notable newcomers include the newly rebranded lifestyle hotel in South Beach Nautilus by Arlo and home to one of the Top Hotel Pools in the World, and the Moxy South Beach, a bright and bubbly, Latin-inspired addition to the scene with its rooftop pool, cabanas, and restaurant, and bar.

Those who can't imagine leaving home without their feline or canine companions will find Miami to be extraordinarily pet friendly. Hotels welcome guests traveling with their faithful four-legged friends with an extraordinary array of offerings, ranging from the essentials of comfortable beds and water bowls to spa treatments, doggie yoga, yappy hours, jewel-studded collars, special menus, pet turndown service, puppy pagers, play dates, grooming services and much more.

Dining, Drag Queens and Nightlife That Dazzles

In Miami, there’s no doubt that the dining scene is impressive. People dress to impress, flaunting their style from a place of pure playfulness. But once inside the restaurant, proper due is paid to the diverse and exotic cuisine. The plate takes the stage as America's hottest chefs dish up award-winning fare, warranting people to strike a pose with their culinary creations on social media. As the birthplace of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Miami’s cuisine scene is heavily Latin-flavored, but this multi-ethnic melting pot lets galloping-gourmet visitors make their way around the world on any budget. Especially enticing is August-September's Miami Spice Restaurant Month, which offers special prix fixe prices at dozens of the city's top restaurants (MiamiTemptations.com).

The drag scene is alive and well in Miami and leading the way for over 30 years is the legendary Palace on Ocean Drive. Popular with gay and straight crowds, the iconic institution puts on a spectacular show, with unlimited mimosas and glamorous queens strutting down Ocean Drive like a catwalk. A newer addition to the social calendar is Drag Bingo at Time Out Market Miami—showcasing 17 of the city’s best restaurants and top chefs as well as talented mixologists in South Beach. During this free, fun-filled event, fabulous diva about town, Athena Dion entertains and calls out numbers to guests hoping to get lucky.

When it comes to nightlife, Nathan’s, Bar Gaythering, AxelBeach Bar, and Twist are among the favorite gay hangouts. Off the beach, the options are on the rise as well. Visitors can choose a mainstay like Azucar nightclub and R House on the mainland for drinking, dining, and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Many other mixed or mostly gay nightspots pepper downtown and out to the heavily Latin areas to the west and south. Here, you'll get a taste of a larger cross-section of gay Latinoamérica than anyplace else in the hemisphere.

The Miami Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce also sponsors monthly social and professional gatherings, and its website GayBizMiami.com is a great resource for up-to-the-minute information about gay happenings.

Outdoor Splendor

With Miami’s tropical weather year-round, the world comes to play outdoors on Miami’s beaches and waterways, as well as its gorgeous parks. As America's most sun-worshipping big city, checking out the gay scene at SoBe's 11th Street Beach has been celebrated far and wide, with rainbow flags signaling a warm welcome. Twenty minutes north, the gay section of Haulover Beach Park is just as popular with locals, if not more so). Meanwhile, 20 minutes south on Key Biscayne, the beach at Bill Baggs State Park is more low-key and romantically picturesque, complete with a lighthouse. Or avoid sand in your suit at the Gables' lush, romantic Venetian Pool, where a strong gay contingent frolic amid the waterfalls and grottos along with everyone else.

Don't forget, too, that you can combine the outdoors with culture on one of the cool biking and walking tours of South Beach's Deco District and other colorful parts of Miami. For the more active, there's volleyball on SoBe's gay beach and in Edgewater at Margaret Pace Park (another area with a large LGBTQ resident population), as well as windsurfing and snorkeling off Key Biscayne and zooming along the Intracoastal Waterway on wave runners.

Set in Virginia Key Beach at North Point Park, Virginia Key Outdoor Center takes pride in providing a comfortable and inclusive environment for all guests, regardless of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation, who head here for kayaking and paddle boarding with the striking Miami skyline as a glorious backdrop.

And in addition to the national parks and abundant agritourism experiences down south, Miami-Dade Parks EcoAdventures offers a wide variety of exciting naturalist-guided excursions for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts that combine adventure, recreation, and natural history.

More information is available on www.VisitMiamiLGBTQ.com and on social media by following @VisitMiamiLGBTQ.

About The GMCVB

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an accredited not-for-profit sales and marketing organization whose mission is to attract visitors to Greater Miami and Miami Beach for leisure, business, and conventions. For a vacation guide, visit our website at www.MiamiandMiamiBeach.com or call 1.888.76. MIAMI (US/Canada only) or 305.447.7777. To reach the GMCVB offices, dial 305.539.3000. Meeting planners may call 1.800.933.8448 (US/Canada only) or 305.539.3071 or visit www.MiamiMeetings.com. To get further engaged with Miami, join the conversation by following us on our social media channels at Facebook.com/visitmiami, Twitter.com/miamiandbeaches, Instagram.com/miamiandbeaches and Pinterest.com/miamiandbeaches.

Revised: February 2022