Fort Lauderdale has grown up since its Spring Break days of the 60s, 70s and 80s immortalised in the classic teen movie Where The Boys Are. The students have been replaced with sophisticated Europeans, hip Americans, savvy Latinos and gay and lesbian travellers. Having undergone a major tourism-related transformation in the past decade, the destination offers an ideal climate, wide variety of attractions and quality accommodations, fine dining and shopping. OutUK correspondent Jill Pentrack explores one of America's best gay destinations just 40 minutes from Miami.

The weather is a factor in any holiday, and assuming you miss the occasional hurricane even with great weather you need something more. Well, if some naked, sun-bronzed bodies aren't enough - a man needs to eat after all, and we all like the social aspect of making lots of new friends from different parts of the world. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, the gay community has exploded on the scene with a variety of restaurants, clubs and shops all with that marvellous gay-family feel. Since there is so much to do and see here, I thought it might be helpful to outline a typical day and night in this very gay city along the Florida coast.

By Day

If youíve arrived from any of the weather-challenged parts of Europe youíll need to spend at least one day thawing by the pool. A tan is mandatory and will also serve as your best souvenir. (Plus your friends back home will envy you even more.)

Next on your agenda should be a drive along the coast (especially if youíve rented that hot little red convertible for the week). Not only does this contribute to your healthy glow, it also allows for a 360į view of the boys jogging, skating, walking and sunning along the beach.

Your first stop is the Gay Beach located at Sebastian Street where locals and visitors alike congregate. After youíve enjoyed a few hours of sun and fun, head back North along the coast to Wilton Manor, a Gay district of sorts in Ft. Lauderdale. Stop by Georgiís Alibi Monkey Bar for a cool one and a bite to eat, head to Pride Factory for some lite shopping and supplies, and then back to your hotel for some R&R before your night on the town.

Spend at least one afternoon or evening walking along Las Olas Boulevard. With over 100 specialty shops, galleries and restaurants, itís a great opportunity to try out that new Platinum card.

If you'd just like a relaxing cruise through the waterways, in what some call The Venice of America, the Water Bus will only set you back a few dollars and makes about 20 stops throughout the day. The Jungle Queen Riverboat (no kidding) hosts 3 hour sightseeing cruises and includes a stop at the Jungle Queen Indian Village in a tropical island setting.
If youíre into watersports (the real ones) like snorkeling, diving, and parasailing, there are a number of companies here to indulge you.

By Night

Dining choices are endless. Some of my favourites if you enjoy sushi and other Asian fare include Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi, located in Wilton Manor has some of the finest, served in a trendy and relaxed setting. Lots of gay men, it can be quite cruisy.

For American cuisine, great location, and very gay-friendly service make sure you try the Casablanca Cafe. It has good food at a very reasonable price.

Rosie's Bar & Grill has great atmosphere, staff, food and drink specials. They famously serve a fabulous Sunday brunch, and it's comfortable for both gays and straights. J Mark's Restaurant attracts a gay crowd and over the years has had some mixed reviews - although lately it looks like standards have improved considerably. The Martini's are delish, the Bam Bam Shrimp are tasty, and the Buffalo Chicken Sliders are both filling and yummy.

321 Slammer is a private club for men. They feature public and private play areas for members' enjoyment, including a BYOB bar, free pool table, outdoor patio, indoor fireplace, lounge areas and shower facilities. Ramrod Fort Lauderdale is a Gay leather bar with different theme nights, DJ music & weekend crowds in the mood to cruise. Rock Hard Tuesday is an underwear night, there's also Jock Strap Wednesdays, Fetish Fridays, Saturday Sweat and Leather Night Sundays.

LeBoy is a lively gay hot spot with food, bar and a patio, featuring dancers, DJs and drag performances. They say it's "Where the boys are" with countless Dancing Boys, Towel Nights, the Saturday Strip and Sunday Sin.

One of the largest Adult entertainment clubs in Fort Lauderdale is The Boardwalk. It's a gay late night eatery and hangout with many strippers and go-go dancers. Watch out for Giovanniís Circus a bi weekly show on Wednesdays where local guys try out and show the audience what they have and what they can do!

Broward County is home to over 4,100 restaurants and over 120 nightclubs (1/3 of them are Gay or Lesbian oriented). Several of the nightclubs are located in downtown Fort Lauderdale's Arts & Entertainment district, but most LGBT establishments are found in Wilton Manors, the "Gayborhood of South Florida".

Hunters Nightclub Wilton Manors is a Gay hangout with a contemporary feel featuring cocktails, pool, karaoke, plus DJs and dancing on a large dance floor with the largest video screen on the drive, a video bar with 8 screens for viewing your favourite videos, and an upstairs lounge overlooking the dance floor. They have sexy go-go dancers most nights and monthly theme parties.

Johnsons Fort Lauderdale, just off the popular Wilton Drive is a lively bar with classic & creative drinks & cocktails in a club environment which recreates the era of speakeasies. You can enjoy conversation at the bar or walk through the velvet curtains to enjoy their nightly entertainment.

At Bedtime

Time for bed, and here is where it gets tricky - there are so many great places to stay, from the larger, full service hotels, to the more intimate menís guesthouses (over 30 of them). Understanding that each resort has a unique setting, I suggest you visit them online to find the perfect one. Here are a few which caught our eye to consider:

The Royal Palms is our favourite with impeccable standards of service and a sophisticated vibe. It's an intimate gay-friendly small hotel which surrounds a lush tropical pool. It's no longer exclusively gay as it used to be, and it's certainly NOT clothing optional anymore!

The popular Coral Reef Guesthouse is a spectacular property located in the beautiful Coral Ridge area. It has a heated pool and 14 man Jacuzzi, both of which are high standard. Clothing here IS Optional.

Cabanas Guesthouse & Spa is located in Wilton Manors, the heart of gay Fort Lauderdale, and it's a clothing optional resort, voted Best Gay Guesthouse and Best Menís Day Spa for 8 years in a row. They have an all-male day spa, a pool and jacuzzi. The grounds have one of the best waterfront locations in the area with lush tropical gardens and modern contemporary rooms.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard
Photo:U+1F360 CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Pineapple Point Guest House is bright with airy rooms. They also have a 2-bedroom cottage with a furnished patio. Other amenities include a gym, 2 outdoor pools and 2 hot tubs, as well as a lounge and massages which you will need to pay for.

Villa Venice Men's Resort is a relaxed, clothing-optional hotel catering to gay men 2 blocks from Fort Lauderdale Beach, and a mile from Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. Continental breakfast is served in a casual dining room. Other amenities include 3 outdoor heated pools, 2 hot tubs, and a gym with floor-to-ceiling windows. Beach towels, umbrellas and chairs are also available.

Hot and Steamy

Club Fort Lauderdale is the local American men only sauna, with a Gym, Steam Room, Sauna, Whirlpool, Heated Pool and Sundeck - all of it clothing optional. Clubhouse II is the other Gay Sauna Club in Fort Lauderdale and they have a Bear Night, Bare Skins Party, CumUnion Party, Leather Night and Blackout Party as well as the usual sauna attractions.

With 23 miles of pristine beaches, over 100 gay-owned establishments, and more than 30 hotels catering to the gay and lesbian market. You can get full contact details at in the official gay guide to the city at visitlauderdale.com.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

321 Slammer (321 W Sunrise Blvd; T: +1 954-524-2625; Website)
Boardwalk (1721 N Andrews Ave; T: +1-954-463-6969; Website)
Cabanas Guesthouse & Spa (2209 NE 26th St, Wilton Manors; T: +1 954-564-7764; Website)
Casablanca (3049 Alhambra St; T: +1 954-764-3500; Website)
Clubhouse II (2650 E Oakland Park Blvd; T: +1 954-566-6750; Website)
Club Fort Lauderdale (110 NW 5th Ave; T: +1 954-525-3344; Website)
Coral Reef Guesthouse (2609 NE 13th Ct; T: +1 954-568-0292; Website)
Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi (2389 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors; T: +1 954-202-0000; Website)
Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar (2266 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors; T: +1 954-565-2526; Website)
Hunters Nightclub (2232-2238 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors; T: +1 954-630-3556; Website)
J Mark's Restaurant (1245 N Federal Hwy; T: +1-954-390-0770; Website)
Johnsons Fort Lauderdale (2340 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors; T: +1 954-908-1272; Website)
Jungle Queen Riverboat (801 Seabreeze Blvd; T: +1 954-462-5596; Website)
LeBoy (1243 NE 11th Ave; T: +1 954-368-8786; Website)
Pineapple Point Guest House (315 NE 16th Terrace; T: +1 954-527-0094; Website)
Pride Factory (850 NE 13th St; T: +1 954-463-6600; Website)
Ramrod Fort Lauderdale (1508 NE 4th Ave; T: +1 954-763-8219; Website)
Rosie's Bar & Grill (2449 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors; T: +1-954-563-0123; Website)
The Royal Palms (717 Breakers Ave; T: +1 954-564-6444; Website)
Villa Venice Men's Resort (2900 Terramar St; T: +1 877-591-5127)
Worthington Guesthouse (543 N Birch Rd; T: +1 954-563-6819; Website)

Revised November 2022

 

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