From the sandy shores of South Beach to the urban buzz of Brickell, Miami has been a haven for the LGBT community for more than 30 years, and it’s still going strong. Here’s what we loved about our favourite Florida city.
What to see
South Beach is where you’ll find the city’s iconic lifeguard stands and stunning Art Deco district – Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue and the iconic Ocean Drive are some of the best streets to walk down. The Villa Casa Casuarina – also known as the Versace Mansion – is the property once owned by Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. It is also where he was killed. Now a boutique hotel, it is found at 1116 Ocean Drive.
In Downtown, Little Havana is home to many Cuban exiles and named after the capital of Cuba. Here you can watch older members of the Cuban community playing dominoes in Máximo Gómez Park, stroll down Calle Ocho and buy a cup of potent Cuban coffee. Later, enjoy several rounds of mojitos at live music bar and lounge Ball & Chain.
With its skyline of steel and glass high-rises, Brickell is one of the largest financial districts in the United States. Currently experiencing yet another skyscraper boom, Brickell offers a mix of imposing towers and pockets of retro-looking single-storey buildings.
The graffiti art of Wynwood Walls offers murals at every turn, and as the district is not protected from developers it’s best to try and see its masterpieces sooner rather later.
On the first Friday of every month, the Frost Planetarium stages a themed laser light show, fusing music from some of pop’s greatest artists with mesmerising laser visuals, all under its 67-foot dome roof.
And if you want to shop ‘til you drop, the recently opened Brickell City Centre [brickellcitycentre.com] is a stunning complex of shopping malls, hotels, entertainment venues and residential apartments.
Most of the gay venues worth visiting are in South Beach. Score and Twist are next door to each other but are very different venues: Score offers one big main room of tops-off dancing and special guest international DJs; Twist is a mini labyrinth of interconnecting rooms, different music genres and go-go dancing muscle boys. Both clubs are great.
The infamous Palace Bar offer brunch during the day along with sidewalk drag – traffic-stopping drag shows that literally take place on the pavement and spill out onto Ocean Drive. Come nighttime it’s a lively bar with affordable beers and a solid party vibe.
Where to eat
Found in shopping district Lincoln Road, Meat Market [meatmarket.net/miami_beach] offers classic steakhouse dishes with a contemporary twist.
Mare Mio on Española Way is a fantastic ‘land and sea’ restaurant offering an extensive seafood menu of oysters, clams, lobster, shrimp and crab plus ‘farm’ dishes such as bison tenderloin carpaccio, braised short ribs and grilled lamb chops.
Lilikoi Organic Living [lilikoiorganicliving.com] uses locally and organically sourced fresh ingredients to help you maintain your healthy lifestyle. So once you’ve jogged along South Beach and tanned your honed body to perfection, indulge in a fresh pressed juice and a vegetarian lunch here.
For an extra special evening dinner, Quinto La Huella [east-miami.com/quintolahuella], located on the fifth floor of EAST hotel on Brickell Plaza, is just the place. It specialises in wood fired oven Uruguayan cuisine. Go up a few more floors still and you’ll find Sugar [sugar-miami.com], a fabulous rooftop bar and garden offering fine cocktails, Asian tapas and views of Downtown.
Where to stay
The Shelborne South Beach hotel [shelborne.com] is an architectural Art Deco gem that has been luxuriously updated for the modern traveller. Found in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco district, at night the Shelborne’s entrance looks like a scene from video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, while the classy beachside pool at its rear is the perfect place to cool down on a sunny afternoon. Mornings are kicked off with fantastic buffet breakfasts in The Sarsaparilla Club while come evenings offers expertly mixed cocktails and live cabaret.
In Downtown Miami, the SLS Brickell [slshotels.com/brickell] is an oasis of luxury within the metropolitan neighbourhood of Brickell. Having opened earlier this year, this hotel is understandably immaculate. Suites are impeccably decorated, the fitness centre is better equipped than some London gyms, and its heated outdoor pools offers expansive city views. The hotel’s restaurants include Bazaar Mar by José André, whose vibrant menu features ceviches, seaweeds and whole fish, and Fi’lia – for feasts of artisan Italian breads and pasta – while the sexy Bar Centro is the place to go to sample caipirinhas made with liquid nitrogen and margaritas served with salt air.
Why book now?
Miami’s LGBT+ calendar is packed with exciting events that take place throughout the year.
Miami Beach Gay Pride takes place in April and sees tens of thousands of community members, civic leaders, business owners and supporters unite for a big, bold celebration on Ocean Drive.
The infamous White Party Week in November has been a preeminent, never-to-be-missed LGBT event in Miami for more than 25 years. Expect to find more than 15,000 partygoers enjoying six days and nights of non-stop entertainment all while raising awareness of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Five-day festival Sizzle in May is predominately attended by black males, but everyone aged 21 and over is welcome to join in the fun to celebrate life and pride.
In March, the Winter Party Festival attracts more than 10,000 partygoers from around the world for an action-packed six-day party featuring celebrity DJ performances, swanky cocktail receptions and some of the hottest hotel pool parties on the planet. The event culminates with a non-stop dance party on the beach and proceeds benefit the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and local LGBT organisations.
And finally, OUTshine is an exclusive film festival held each April. More than 65 screenings and events take place on South Beach and satellite locations across the city to enrich your understanding and perspective of the LGBT community.
How to get there
Direct flights to Miami International Airport leave London Heathrow daily with British Airways flying direct in approximately nine hours.