In the last century, Miami has grown from a 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 I have for you, the traveler.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel Gaythering describes itself as being “Miami Beach’s only gay hotel.” Every room includes hypoallergenic bedding on Serta king sleeper mattresses, wingback reading chairs and a sound machine to aid in sleep. Other amenities include an on-site bar, coffee shop, library, and a men’s self-spa which includes a steam room, mud lounge, cedar sauna and jacuzzi, just to name a few things! (1409 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 786-284-1176)
Hotel Victor has been a Miami Beach mainstay for over 75 years, and they underwent an extensive renovation to celebrate turning 75. The guest rooms are all designed with the theme “beach house” in mind. Every room features California king beds, 46-inch LCD TVs, plush bathrooms with luxury toiletries, and even gourmet food in the mini-bar! (1144 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-779-8700)
The Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach gives you boutique hotel cosiness all from a world-renowned chain. Not only can you lounge about in luxury in your tastefully-decorated guest room, you can call up concierge and do pretty much anything you want on your Miami Beach getaway — from going on tours to hiring a personal shopper! Ask them about their air-conditioned poolside cabanas; now that’s luxury! (1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-1271)
The Biltmore Hotel was built nearly 90 years ago, and at the time, the hotel’s main tower was the tallest building in all of Florida! The 275 rooms all feature comfortable sitting areas, luxurious bathrooms with Bamboo Orchid towels, and beds with 340-thread count Egyptian cotton duvet covers. Other amenities include golfing, a wide assortment of restaurants, a spa, fitness center, and even a salon! (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, 855-311-6903)
WHERE TO PLAY
The LGBT nightlife scene is evenly split between Miami Beach and Miami proper. Many glitzy and glamorous options are located in Miami Beach. As far as bars and nightclubs in Miami are concerned, they are spread out across the county, from Biscayne Bay all the way to Doral.
In Miami Beach, we recommend a number of nightclubs, such as Twist (1057 Washington Ave.), a massive two-story complex with seven bars, allowing people the chance to “bar hop” without even leaving the club; Score (1437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), a large nightclub with many options for the nightclubber, including a sleek lounge area and an expansive dance floor; and Palace (1200 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach), which is one of the places to be for great food, drinks and drag (definitely don’t miss the high-powered Sunday brunch!).
Across the bridge in Miami, you should definitely check out Club Bailo (7020 NW 72nd Ave.), a dance club that caters to the Latin crowd, and which features sexy dancers and fierce drag queens; and The Floppy Rooster (7018 NW 72nd Ave.), one of the sexiest bars in the area, featuring dozens of full-nude dancers for your enjoyment. For a relaxing sauna experience, try Club Aqua (2991 Coral Way) any day of the week; and for adult videos, underwear, clothing and more, stop by Miami Playground (2657 NW 36th St.).
Other clubs you should consider in Miami include Club Azucar (2301 SW 32nd Ave.), a Latin dance club with lots of fun female impersonation; The Dugout (3215 NE 2nd Ave.), a neighborhood sports bar with a gay flair; Jamboree Lounge (7005 Biscayne Blvd.), which touts itself as the oldest gay bar in Miami; Club Space (34 NE 11th St.), a large nightclub where local and celebrity DJs perform to packed crowds; and House Nightclub (1915 NW Miami Ct.), a fairly new addition to Wynwood, where people must have “a key” to get in.
Some events in the Miami social calendar that you should not miss include Winter Party Week, a fundraiser for the National LGBTQ Task Force, consisting of circuit parties held in early March (winterparty.com); the Ultra Music Festival and Winter Music Conference, for people who love electronic music, both held in March as well (ultramusicfestival.com, wintermusicconference.com); Miami Beach Gay Pride, one of the largest LGBT pride celebrations in Florida, held every April (miamibeachgaypride.com); AIDS Walk Miami, also traditionally held in April (aidswalkmiami.org); Celebrate Orgullo, a month of festivities for the Latin LGBT community, from September into October (celebrateorgullo.com); and White Party Week, a large circuit party fundraiser for Care Resource, traditionally held around Thanksgiving weekend in November (whiteparty.org).
WHERE TO GO
Start out in the downtown areaI and branch out. Visit Bayside Marketplace for lots of shopping and dining in a fun festival atmosphere. With over 120 stores and other services across 230,000 square feet, you could spend most of the day here. Afterwards, you can head over to Bayfront Park for a stroll or a live music concert, or you can head to the AmericanAirlines Arena for something in the air conditioning, like a major concert or a Miami Heat game.
Close by is Freedom Tower, now part of the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus. This 17-story tower was originally the headquarters for the Miami News, but it is perhaps best known to locals as being the primary processing facility for Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s regime between 1959 and 1972. Just south of the downtown area is the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, where many well-known names in fine arts from around the world play to rapt audiences. Also nearby is the Pérez Art Museum, the city’s museum of contemporary art, which received over 150,000 visitors in 2014 alone. Jungle Island, on the MacArthur Causeway between downtown and Miami Beach, is a fun interactive zooloogical park where you can see beautiful animals and flowers up-close.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove, built in the Mediterranean Revival style in the 1920s, and now owned by Miami-Dade County, serves as a museum and an events venue. In Coral Gables, the Venetian Pool is an 850,000-gallon pool, built from a rock quarry, that’s open to the public. In the olden days, you could see Hollywood starlets such as Esther Williams, who would practice her routines in this very pool!
If you’re headed to Miami Beach, you have to stop at Lincoln Road Mall for some retail therapy. Stella McCartney owns a boutique here, as do other designers and designer brands such as Armani, Diesel, Lululemon Athletica, Lucky, SuperDry, Vogue Italia, and others. Afterwards, take a relaxing stroll along the Miami Beach Boardwalk, which stretches from Indian Beach Park all the way down to 5th Street, totaling nearly four miles. The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, originally where Jackie Gleason hosted his CBS variety show in the 1960s, now hosts live entertainment year-round. If you want to stop off at museums, we recommend two: the Jewish Museum of Florida, located in two buildings that were once synagogues; and The Wolfsonian, a museum dedicated to decor and design in a city that has influenced the world in both areas.
To read more about Miami and Miami Beach, visit the official tourism website at miamiandbeaches.com. To find out more about LGBT Miami, visit the website for the Miami Beach LGBT Visitors’ Center at gogaymiami.com.