Travel

Discover Gay Florida :: Miami

by Mike Halterman
Sunday Sep 15, 2013
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It’s hard to believe that in fewer than 100 years, Miami has grown from a small village to an important city on the world stage. The railroad, a land boom and dreams of living in paradise brought hundreds of thousands of people here in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and the city we know today grew from those roots.

In World War II, the U.S. military made Miami a key city in the war effort, and the sailors and airmen would continue to make an impression on the area for the next 50 years. A creative and inspiring generation popularized architectural trends such as Art Deco, and the generation after created the genre of Miami Modern (MiMo). The designers still live here today and continue to impact how Americans live.

As time went on, the Bahamians immigrated to Miami, then the Cubans, and still the Haitians, as well as countless others, giving Miami an unmistakable Latin and Caribbean flavor. Miami grew onwards and outwards, up the coast and out to the Everglades. People wanted to live the pastel "Miami Vice" dream; they wanted to thank the Golden Girls "for being a friend." In the last few decades, Miami has been firmly established as a world leader in work and play, real estate and relaxation, finance and fashion, a reputation that continues to this day.

Miami has so much to offer. Here are a few suggestions from us.

Accommodations

Circa 39

This 100-room boutique hotel on the beach keeps the pastel colors in mind in its decor and claims it is the best place for you and the ones you love to relax. They tout their gay-friendly credentials and play the pet lover’s card too -- bring the pup at no extra charge! (3900 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-4900, circa39.com/gay-friendly/)


Mayfair Hotel & Spa

This hotel just finished a multimillion dollar renovation, and they want you to experience all the new things they’ve had to offer (right now they are offering complimentary upgrades and promises of champagne to all who see the new digs). A health spa, Asian garden, business center and crystal ballroom ensure you’ll come back for play -- and work. (3000 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-441-0000, mayfairhotelandspa.com/gayfriendly/)


Hotel Victor

Hotel Victor is another Miami hotel that has underwent a pricey renovation, reopening just in time for the Labor Day holidays this year. Luxury can be found everywhere -- from the penthouse suites that look like they were ripped from Manhattan, to the smallest option (still called the "double deluxe") with marble soaking bathtubs and gourmet snacks in the minibar! (1144 Ocean Dr., South Beach, 305-779-8787, HotelVictorSouthBeach.com)


Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The Rat Pack stayed here in the ’60s and gave the Fontainebleau a national reputation for chic hedonism. After a period in which the hotel fell into disrepair, it is back (after a half-billion dollar renovation) and as snazzy as ever. You won’t even need to leave the premises with four different bar/nightclub options and even a Michelin-starred restaurant at your choosing. Getting into pricey LIV Nightclub is an honor; in the past year Real Housewives, Miami Dolphins and nearly every Kardashian of age was spotted there. (4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-535-3283, Fontainebleau.com)


Restaurants

Magnum Restaurant and Lounge

Gay-owned, this restaurant doubles as a piano bar and a lounge in the evenings. Reservations are recommended on weekends when the place can get very busy. The outside bar offers dance music. (709 NE 79th St., North Miami, 305-757-3368, Facebook.com/magnumlounge)


Cafe Prima Pasta

The Zagat Survey and The Miami Herald both call this restaurant one of the best Italian places in all of south Florida. Its discounted menu, which it offers before the 6 p.m. dinner rush, should be tried if you’re an early eater and want good Italian food on a budget (we recommend the chicken formaggio, $10.98 for a full entree). (414 71st St., Miami Beach, 305-867-0106, CafePrimaPasta.com)


Joe’s Stone Crab

A Miami Beach institution for 100 years, Joe’s is only open during peak crab season to ensure freshness. 1 1/2 pounds of king crab legs are what dreams are made of, drizzled with garlic key lime oil ($67.95). The restaurant re-opens for the season on October 15. (11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-0365, JoesStoneCrab.com)


Versailles Restaurant

Known the world over for Cuban cuisine, this restaurant has racked up the awards ever since opening its doors back in 1971. The oxtail stew with white rice and sweet plantains ($14.95) is a favorite, as is the cafe con leche ($2.25), recently voted the best in Miami! (3555 SW 8th St., West Flagler, 305-444-0240, VersaillesRestaurant.com)


Hakkasan

The aforementioned restaurant in the Fontainebleau, Hakkasan comes direct from London, where it was the first Michelin-starred Asian restaurant in the United Kingdom. Its most popular dish is also its most expensive; if you can treat yourself, do have the Peking duck with Russian Osetra caviar ($198). (4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786-276-1388, Hakkasan.com/Miami)


Events

White Party Week

What started as a small-scale fundraiser for HIV/AIDS in 1985 has grown to an entire week of events and parties, and now typically signifies the end of the circuit party season for the calendar year. Over the past three decades, nearly $12 million has been raised to benefit Care Resource, South Florida’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization. (Last week in November, WhiteParty.org)


Winter Party Week

Miami’s Winter Party is one of the largest gay-themed events in the world, produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of the parties, and over 10,000 people were in attendance. The main event, the beach party, brings DJs and revelers from all over the world. (First and second weeks in March, WinterParty.com)


Ultra Music Festival/Winter Music Conference

The best in electronic, house, techno, trance, and more are on stage (literally) at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami during this week of performances by artists both well-known and more obscure. A popular event for locals and tourists alike, 2012’s Ultra Music Festival attendance figures shattered all past records, as 330,000 people watched special guest Madonna perform. Happening roughly at the same time is the Winter Music Conference, which brings electronic and dance music insiders from all around the world to the city. The International Dance Music Awards are a focal point of the conference week. It is the hope of many underground artists to be discovered at the conference as many movers and shakers from around the world will be in attendance. (Last two weeks in March, UltraMusicFestival.com, WinterMusicConference.com)


Carnaval Miami

Cuban and other Hispanic influences come out during a weekend street parade down Calle Ocho, with music, food and live cultural entertainment. Proceeds benefit the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, who have aided impoverished children since the mid-1970s. A popular event for a good cause that should not be missed. (First week in March, CarnavalMiami.com)


Miami International Book Fair

250,000 people and over 200 different publishing houses converge on Miami for the largest book promotion and sale in the United States. Nationally and internationally-known authors are asked to speak about their legacies and about English-language literature in general. There is also a sizable selection of books in Spanish, the largest such sale outside Latin America. (Third week in November, MiamiBookFair.com)


Nightlife

There are many nightlife options spread across the city, from North Miami down to downtown and Brickell, out on the beach, and even as far west as Doral.

Club Boi (1060 NE 79th St., North Miami, 786-395-2272) caters to a more urban crowd. Eros Lounge (8201 Biscayne Blvd., Upper Eastside, 305-754-3444) is a sexy lounge with many themed events. Discotekka (950 NE 2nd Ave., Downtown, 305-371-3773) is one of the nation’s most famous dance clubs. The Dugout (3215 NE 2nd Ave., Midtown, 305-438-1117) is a gay sports bar. Jamboree Lounge (7005 Biscayne Blvd., MiMo, 305-759-3413) is a bar that promises "something for everyone." Therapy (60 NE 11th St., Downtown, 754-522-2917), once for after-hours dancing, has underwent a revamp and pushed its hours earlier, battling it out with the rest of the traditional nightclubs.

Palace (1200 Ocean Dr., South Beach, 305-531-7234) is a place where you can get food and drink, and see some fierce drag queens. Twist (1057 Washington Ave., South Beach, 305-538-9478) has different bars and dancefloors for different grooves and moods. Mova (1625 Michigan Ave., Miami Beach, 305-534-8181) has an undeniable air and energy and some great martinis. Score (727 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 786-326-6947) is a trendy lounge and dance floor all in one building on Lincoln Road Mall. Touting itself as the largest gay bar in town, Score has hosted DJs and entertainers from all over the world.

Mova (401 SW 3rd Ave., Brickell, 305-534-8181) is similar in energy to the original on the Beach, but add a pool into the mix for even sexier sexy times. Coliseum (3635 NW 78th Ave., Doral, 305-709-1900) boasts one of the hottest Latin scenes in town. AzĂșcar (2301 SW 32nd Ave., Coral Gables, 305-443-7657), also Latin, is well-known for its drag shows.


Things to See and Do

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

dgf arshtThere was a time when Florida was considered a cultural wasteland. In recent years, a lot of investments have been made to change this perception. The Arsht Center was built on land that was originally a Burdines department store, dating from 1929. What remained of the old structures were preserved and incorporated into the center’s final look upon its grand opening in 2006. The Arsht Center houses the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet, and also welcomes many singers, plays, musicals, and other acts each year. (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Omni, 305-949-6722, ArshtCenter.org)


Venetian Pool

Built from a rock quarry, this 850,000-gallon public pool is drained and refilled daily. In the 1920s and 1930s, the pool and its Old World-style buildings around it became the place to see Hollywood starlets such as Esther Williams. The pool is still a favorite of locals, tourists, and even the pets of locals (the annual Dog Swim is coming up in October!). (2701 de Soto Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-460-5306, Venetian Pool)


Lincoln Road Mall

Lincoln Road runs between Alton Road and Washington Avenue in South Beach. Originally it was THE hub for Miami Beach shopping; it even had Florida’s first-ever Saks Fifth Avenue department store. It still doesn’t do too bad nowadays; there are dozens of stores selling designer brands, and there are department stores such as H&M and Macy’s along the way. If you love to spend money or simply window-shop, you will get lost in a maze of fun. (Between Alton Road and Washington Avenue, and 16th and 17th Streets, South Beach, LincolnRoadMall.com)


Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Originally the home of James Deering, this building was meant to be an Italian villa transported to a tropical climate. There are thirty-four different rooms in the house, and within its walls hang elaborate art collections and showcase treasure troves of antiques. The gardens on its grounds, green and expansive, were also meant to mimic Baroque-era Italy. Mr. Deering, a fan of orchids, planted them throughout the grounds, and a special part of the gardens was posthumously dedicated to orchids in Deering’s honor. The historic building on Biscayne Bay is a nice getaway from the bustle of downtown, and not that far away. (3251 S. Miami Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-250-9133, Vizcaya.org)


Freedom Tower

Thousands of Cuban immigrants were processed and documented here on their quest to become American citizens. If you arrived in Miami from Cuba between 1959 and 1972, chances are you got to know the building (formerly the headquarters of The Miami News) very well. Now a national historic site, it is owned by Miami-Dade College, which has plans to turn the tower into a full-time memorial to all Cuban Americans. (600 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown, freedomtowermiami.org/)

Copyright HotSpots! Magazine. For more articles from HotSpots! visit www.hotspotsmagazine.com

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