Rediscovering Miami: Beaches, Bliss and Beyond
If you’ve ever seen "The Birdcage" you probably have an image of Miami as a 24/7 drag queen fabulous party, all drinking hot-boy-fest wonderland - and that’s just before noon.
While the decadent element of ’90s Miami, and South Beach in particular, is still visible on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, and in the drinks served at the outdoor, mist-blowing restaurants, this South Florida playground has grown up and taken on a more mature look (like most of us). Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend on the beach or fast-paced cultural and nightlife city experience, Greater Miami and the Beaches offers a head-spinning mix of world-class lodging, dining, culture, shopping and eco-tourism. Miami Beach’s Gay Chamber of Commerce GoGayMiami.com will help steer you in the right direction.
South Beach today is a melting pot of ethnicities. The understanding and combatable mix of gay and straight is even better than the weather.
You can spend all day gazing at the Art Deco hotels and condos (and you should) and then hit the outdoor mall on Lincoln, which may be the best place on earth to people watch and shop. You’ve got everything from an Apple store to Spris, a pizza place that offers up some of the best slices in the city. Work it off later by renting a bike on the beach through DecoBikes and tackle the city on two wheels, then park it at any of the drop-off locations around town. After all of that, head off Miami Beach, and into Miami’s heartbeat.
The Design District
Once a rarely frequented neighborhood of struggling artists, the Design District has now become a creative haven, the SoHo of SoFlo. This is an area on the upswing, so expect a mixture of newly opened storefronts with vacant properties that are still beckoning the next great designer. New arrivals will be in good company, as Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Prada are already in residence with Zegna and TomFord not far behind, according to The New York Times.
Also plan on visiting nearby Wynwood - Miami’s arts mecca, land of hipster bars, quaint shops, and the everpopular meeting spot, Panther Coffee. You’ll also discover an amazing array of graffiti art by some of the world’s most accomplished artists, all set against the backdrop of warehouse buildings. If you’re traveling in the winter, this neighborhood takes a huge part in the yearly Art Basel festival - try to get tickets to one of the many dazzling events in the area.
Once you’re exhausted from all the cool shops and cooler people, hit Atlas Plaza and dine at Michael’s Genuine, indoor or outdoor, for lunch or for dinner. It rates as one of Miami’s best restaurants. Order anything - heck, even the roast chicken is a dish to savor - and then make sure you save room for one of their homemade desserts. The serving size of their Red Velvet Cake is huge, and no, you won’t want to share.
Luxury Digs with a Good Conscience
Tired from all that food and flash and not wanting to head back into the chaotic South Beach nightlife scene? Don’t. As Miami’s culture expands, so does its hotel choices. For a whole new perspective on the city, stay downtown. With great city and ocean views, you’ll see Miami from a new perspective.
If you choose to head back to the beach, consider Lords South Beach Hotel. The property has established several unique partnerships that enhance the guest experience as well as strengthening the LGBT presence in the community and among other businesses. Absolut Vodka has created an exclusive cocktail menu for Lords, with drinks as delicious as the patrons imbibing them.
Stay in one of the Rooms That Matter, and 10 percent of proceeds will be donated to one of the hotel’s charity partners that includes (among others) The Point Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to LGBT youth. And if you happen to see a piece of artwork that you like - it’s yours (for a price). All of the art in the public spaces and penthouse is drawn from a 1,000-artist collective by KimptonART and is for sale.
Miami by Day
The clear blue sky and warm sunshine is the perfect setting to explore Miami and its surrounding areas by day. And while it’s easy to be mesmerized by South Beach and downtown, you won’t want to miss out on nearby attractions. The Viscaya Museum and Gardens, built in 1916 and now a National Historic Landmark, is a stunning reflection of architecture, landscape design and horticulture. For an even more exotic exploration of natural wonders, head to the The Faichild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables.
If you’re more interested in fashion than fauna, the nearby Village of Merrick Park offers premiere shopping and dining including retailers such as Façonnable, Burberry, BOSS Hugo Boss and more.
The Everglades offer hiking, canoeing and kayaking - and while en route be sure to make a stop at Robert is Here. A favorite of locals and tourists alike, this fruit stand is famous for its smoothies and local and unusual produce.
Of course, no trip to Miami is complete without reveling in the beautiful people as well as the beautiful places. Check out www.CoralGaybles.com for various special events and local offerings. If sun and sand is more your style, South Beach’s gay beach at 12th Street and Ocean Drive offers plenty of eye candy or you might want to play some beach volleyball.
It’s true... on occasion the clouds roll in - but not to fear. Miami has plenty of indoor activities to offer and none are more indulgent than those during Miami Spice, a two-month dining extravaganza offered by some of the city’s top restaurants yearly from August 1 - September 30th. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts Miami Temptations, a series of ongoing promotions by theme. Visit www.MiamiTemtations.com for information on them all.
Miami at Night
It gets better. At night, Fifty Ultra Lounge opens up atop downtown’s Viceroy, and it may be the biggest party in town. Bigtime DJs take over the windowed space, and drinks are served in surrounding cabanas with a mixed crowd. One of the rare traits that Miami has developed that differs from most big American cities is bars and clubs that tailor to straights and gays alike. This party goes on all night, so pace yourself.
Liquored up or just hyped up and wanting to experience those flashing lights from the ground? Head back into South Beach and hit one of the many popular gay bars in the hood. SoBe nightlife starts even later than New York, so make sure you hit Score after midnight, because, well...no one likes to drink alone. Score’s front area offers a pure cocktail atmosphere and eye-candy bartenders. Head to the backroom dance floor to an all-night dance fest.
No trip to South Beach would be complete without a visit to Twist, where if you bring a lot of bills you’ll be living in the, ahem, lap of luxury. The guys are so alluring you’ll be planting bills in their skimpy skivvies like coins in a Vegas slot machine. And like a casino, house rules say you can’t go home with the whole kit and caboodle. Besides, that flush you’re feeling just might be a straight one.
When the Sun Rises
Dawn already? No matter what time your day ends, head to News Café for breakfast served around the clock. (Now’s a good time to note that pretty much any bodega you head into in Miami has fantastic coffee, so I would avoid the chains as much as possible.) Of course, if you end up there at happy hour (4-7 p.m.) that’s not such a bad thing either.
Since sleeplessness seems inevitable, make sure you finally visit the gay-beach section, from 12th Street to 16th Street, where in addition to witnessing some of the most beautiful creatures to grace God’s turquoise-watered earth, you’ll find a lot of topless women who don’t want to be pestered. If the guys aren’t as friendly as they are in the gay Caribbean, that’s probably because they’re a little uncomfortable talking to someone solo. So plan a visit with your buddies and don’t forget to pack your swimwear.
Before you say goodbye and head back to your hotel, visit the former Versace mansion on Ocean Drive to pay your respects to the man who seemed to start it all. There’s a new hotel there now and tours are offered, but it’s enough to walk by those now-legendary gates and feel his presence. Like Miami itself, his legacy never goes out of fashion.
For your ultimate online gay Miami guide, be sure to visit GoGayMiami.com. Once you arrive, stop by the LGBT Visitor Center (1130 Washington Avenue) for personal recommendations.
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Miami Beach Bruthaz Conference
August and September