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 as usual, and the Buffalo Chicken Sliders are both filling and yummy.

Beefcakes, formerly the Bird Cage is actually a part of a gay stripper bar, the Boardwalk, and as such is basically a gay, late night gay eatery and general gay hang. The patrons are mostly comprised of those coming or leaving the Boardwalk along with an off duty male stripper or two.

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 located in Wilton Manors, the "Gayborhood of South Florida".

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.

The Grand Resort and Spa is a 4-minute walk from Fort Lauderdale Beach and is a lively hotel catering to gay men, a mile from both Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and the plantation-style Bonnet House, which dates from the 1920s. Streamlined, modern rooms feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, and the outdoor pool has a sundeck and a 1960s vibe.

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.

Lastly, the Windamar Beach Resort is a block from Fort Lauderdale Beach. This relaxed, clothing-optional hotel caters to gay men a mile from the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, and 4 miles from theatre at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

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 www.sunny.org.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Beefcakes Grill (1721 N Andrews Ave; T: +1-954-463-6969)
Casablanca (3049 Alhambra St; T: +1 954-764-3500; 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)
J Mark's Restaurant (1245 N Federal Hwy; T: +1-954-390-0770; Website)
Jungle Queen Riverboat (801 Seabreeze Blvd; T: +1 954-462-5596; 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)
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)
The Grand Resort and Spa (539 N Birch Rd; T: +1 954-630-3000; Website)
Villa Venice Men's Resort (2900 Terramar St; T: +1 877-591-5127; Website)
Windamar Beach Resort (543 Breakers Ave; T: +1 954-561-0039; Website)
Worthington Guesthouse (543 N Birch Rd; T: +1 954-563-6819; Website)

Revised January 2018

 

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