You will, rightly, hear plenty about the Stonewall riots of 1969 this month. What happened in New York 50 years ago sparked a global movement. As I learned during a recent visit to Miami and its beaches, communities across the United States had pivotal moments of their own as LGBTQ rights activists took action.
While I toured the History Miami Museum, I came across the work of Ruth Shack. Led by Shack, a fight for equality in Miami culminated with an important milestone in 1977. A member of the Metro Dade County Commission, Shack sponsored the amendment to the original Dade County anti-discrimination ordinance to add the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Sadly, shorty after its approval, the ordinance was repealed.
But, as with Stonewall, the monumental beginnings created rumblings in Miami’s legislative offices and brought conversations of gay equality from behind closeted doors to the dinner table in many American homes.
Twenty years later, in 1997, Dade County re-enacted the anti-discrimination ordinance — finally protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Now, the LGBTQ community safely roams the city and welcomes visitors throughout the year to join in their 365 celebrations.
Some of the largest annual LGBTQ events in Miami and its beaches include: the male-focused White Party in November, the female-focused Aqua event in May, and Miami Beach Pride in April that sees thousands of visitors take in multiple stages of talent while dancing the night away on the sandy beaches under the stars.
The local LGBTQ community also plans dozens of other parties, galas, festivals, and events throughout the year, always making sure its visitors have a unique experience different than other destinations.
But regardless of which event you plan your visit around — there are plenty of offerings to take in. Here are some tips to make some unforgettable memories when you and your crew hit the city and beaches of Miami.
Unforgettable Places to Stay in Miami
Miami and Beaches offers an endless variety and style of accommodation.
From towering highrises to boutique beachside properties, Miami offers private-label choices as well as an assortment of options from notable property brands.
EAST: Located only a 15-minute drive from Miami International Airport, the new EAST hotel is in the very lively Brickell City Centre. It marks the first venture into North America for parent brand Swire Hotels.
EAST is a luxury hotel at its finest. Its offerings include rooms, suites, and resident-style accommodations that allow access to a plethora of amenities. Among the highlights is a 20,000-square-foot lush outdoor pool deck in the sky.
The property sits atop a shopping plaza and offers a number of food and beverage including a secret, hidden Tea Room with free-flowing champagne and beer during a two-hour set menu dining experience ($88).
Edition: A part of the Marriott portfolio, the Edition brand is tops when it comes to modern, urban luxury that’s always sure to include unique and interesting surprises.
In Miami, Edition’s “Basement” holds an experience unlike any I’ve seen anywhere else.
From a micro-nightclub that pays homage to the legendary Studio 54 with surprise DJ shows and eclectic performers added to its multi-lane bowling alley and indoor ice-skating rink, this adults-only playground will have you up all night and thankful your room is just an elevator ride away.
Gaythering: It doesn’t get any gayer than Miami’s only play n’ stay hotel.
With multiple simplistically quirky room layouts to choose from you’ll be amiss if you stay in for too long.
During the day the hotel offers free shuttles to the city’s clothing-optional beaches and when the sun sets, the hotel bar is a hotspot for a fun-filled night.
With some pretty exceptional happy-hour drink prices and special themed nights, including Friday’s Bears and Hares party, Hotel Gaythering is attractive for many reasons. It also houses a mens-only sauna right on property for you to get even more up close and personal with its locals and visitors.
Entertaining Eateries Near South Beach
Miami’s dining options are creative, fun, and plentiful, all offering a mix of menus of local and international flare.
Not only do the following restaurants offer deliciously tasty food, they also deliver memorable experiences.
R House Wynwood: This drag brunch is a non-negotiable must!
From its food to its Queens, R House draws you in and fills you up with a gluttonous serving of brunch, talent, and liquid libations.
Bottomless margaritas, mimosas, and mojitos will help bring out your inner Yasss Kween as you witness some of Miami’s most talented performers drop, kick, split, and lip-sync for their well-deserved tips.
Havana 1967: Step back in time and re-live the glamor and glory of Havana in 1967.
Skip the patio and head inside to experience this venue’s interior space laden with kitschy decor, a sophisticated lighting system, and nightly performances.
During the evening you’ll be living your hot Havana fantasies as you cool down sipping on authentic mojitos finished with rods of sugar cane. When it comes time to dine, you’ll be feasting on a wide assortment of authentic Cuban eats with sides of fried plantains, black beans, and rice.
Palace Bar: When this beachside bar is in full swing during its seven-days-a-week drag show, your eyes will dart around the room at a rapid pace to take it all in.
From sweaty go-go boys to glossy queens, and every fan-clacking moment in between, Palace Bar is a literal three-ring circus of gay entertainment spilling out onto the sidewalk.
With specialty margaritas the size of an aquarium and an easy menu with options for everyone, you’ll have your hands full as you take in all the high-energy antics.
Villa Casa Casuarina: Opulence, opulence, and more.
Getting a photo in front of this former home of Gianni Versace is a given while in Miami, but getting inside is another thing. Yet, it’s easier (and cheaper) than you think, as long as you book in advance.
From Monday to Sunday, between noon and 3:30 pm, you can dine inside the mansion at Gianni’s original eclectic dining room adorned with mosaic walls created with imported pebbles and fresco-painted ceilings.
Choose from a la carte offerings or an exceptionally priced three-course experience for only $29 per person.
While inside, make sure to ask to sneak a peek at the breathtaking pool, complete with solid gold tiles, and don’t forget to snoop around in the washroom!
This will not only be an unforgettable sensation for your palate but a treat for your eyes as well.
Where to Visit in South Florida
When a city hosts a Hop On, Hop Off bus as a tour option, you know it has a lot to offer in its arts and culture.
Whether by bus or foot, the sights are unique and the community pride is full force.
Little Havana: South Florida and Cuba have had an interesting and mostly friendly relationship that has spanned decades. The community of Little Havana is proud to share those memories along with its heritage.
From its fresh fruit markets to hand-rolled cigar shops, stepping foot in Little Havana is a relaxing journey and way to discover some of the history and culture of Cuba.
History Miami: In addition to large and small artifacts, this museum has currently curated an important exhibition titled “Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities” that spans decades of saddening and historically significant landmark moments in the fight for equality.
Wynwood Graffiti: Hundreds of walls in this district have been designated as canvases for local and international graffiti artists. The neighborhood explodes in color in endless directions and for endless blocks. Wynwood offers the perfect place to load up on Instagram content using the walls as backdrops or letting them shine as the primary focus.
For those looking for the most in-depth way to experience the art, book a VIP tour with renowned graffiti artist Pedro Amos at miamisbestgraffitiguide.com
Erotic Art Museum: Miami is home to the largest private erotic art collection in the world. With more than 4,000 pieces, the collection not only holds current treasures but those that date as far back as 300 BC.
The collection, formerly owned by the late Naomi Wilzig of New Jersey, was a passioned hobby that took 30 years of visiting flea markets and swap meets to amass.
The museum has some fairly notable and original pieces like a penis prop featured in “A Clockwork Orange” as well as a number of Tom of Finland drawings.
This is an interesting gallery not to be missed.
Hot Miami Nightlife Spots
Save some of your energy to take in the city’s nightlife. With multiple LGBTQ-specific and “friendly” bars and restaurants, you’ll wish you booked a longer visit. Here are a few of the places I found unforgettable.
Twist Nightlife: This multilevel, multi-roomed bar offers everything your gay heart desires.
This maze-styled club offers multiple DJ’d dance floors, a sit-up bar at which to spill the tea, a dimly lit room with hoards of buff dudes ready for lap dances, and an inner outdoor courtyard where you can cool down and catch your breath.
Twist also boosts no cover so you’ll be left with your dollars to tip the dancers.
Gramps: This Wynwood “dive bar” is not specifically listed as a “gay” bar, but during its popular Thursday night Drag Shows the clientele is far from straight. The night is filled with antics as back-to-back drag performers offer a well-rounded supply of flying acrobatics, drops, and quick reveals for the thirsty onlookers in their expansive outdoor courtyard.
Wallcast by New World Center: Experience Miami’s New World Symphony in an unforgettable way: underneath the stars.
While ticket-holders sit inside, the public is invited to experience the live classical performance outdoors in SoundScape Park with the show being projected on the buildings, making for an exterior wall space that soars 7,000-square-foot. Bring a chair or blanket along with some snacks and enjoy the sights and sound of the New World Symphony for free.