You cannot beat a winter vacation in South Florida, including Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Wilton Manors. I recently spent time in all three areas. Yes the beaches are great, but there\s also a lot to do beyond that. Wilton Manors is a LGBTQ+ friendly city surrounded by Fort Lauderdale. It replaced Miami Beach as the gay mecca 20 years ago and is still going strong.


·Enjoy the Botanical Gardens, The Holocaust Museum, and the many art deco buildings in Miami Beach. The 12th Street Beach is fun.  In Fort Lauderdale, it’s the Sebastian Beach near the Ritz Carlton that’s known for being the gay area. Explore Holiday Park and meet up with the Fort Lauderdale Frontrunners Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a run or walk. Work out at BRXV Fitness in Wilton Manors. A 2- hour pass is $15 which allows for workouts for two days. Then go shopping for new clothes next door at the Pride Factory and have lunch at Rosie’s is also in order. Enjoy the Sunny Side Up Farmers) Market in Flagler Village at 820 NE 4 Ave in Fort Lauderdale. For other farmer’s markets in the area, click here. Walk along the Riverwalk and have lunch on Las Olas Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale.


All the bars are close together in Wilton Manors. I like Hunters Night Club for happy hour. Georgie’s Alibi is a lot of fun and has events. You will find dancers nearby at Johnsons which has a great happy hour as well.  The Eagle and the Village Pub are popular bars. The Gym is actually a sports bar and is also worth a visit. All are steps from each other.  In Miami Beach, the Palace is your go to drag show bar and restaurant. The Gaythering has a nice bar and Twist is the main stay.


In Wilton Manors, Rosie’s is the local’s favorite to see and be seen and has good food. Sistrunk Marketplace is the first food hall in Fort Lauderdale and now has 13 vendors. For the latest roundup of what’s new in Fort Lauderdale, click here. AIDA also recently opened and serves upscale Mexican food. Grab some take out and Florida strawberries (the sweetest I have ever tasted) at Publix Market (Florida’s grocery store chain) including the Wilton Manors store at 2633 N. Dixie Highway.


The Axel Beach Miami in South Beach is the only North American outlet of this popular European “hetero friendly” hotel chain. The pool scene is fun, as is the bar which had trivia night when I was there. Their rooftop bar is a must on the weekends. The Gaythering Hotel is another option in Miami Beach complete with sauna locals can use. Bargain hunters might like The James which is handy and does not charge a resort fee. In Fort Lauderdale/Wilton Manors, try the Home2Suites by Hilton in Flagler Village. You get a complete apartment. Men will like the Calypso Inn in Wilton Manors which is handy to the bars, shops, and restaurants. You can stumble home from the bars. The Key West suite features its own private patio and garden.Wilton River Suites rents you a full apartment. This new option is at 611 NW 29th Street.


The Brightline train takes you from Miami to Fort Lauderdale in just 30 minutes. Take the #50 bus to Wilton Manors from the nearby Transit Center. The new Circuit shared taxi takes you everywhere in Wilton Manors for just $2. It is free in Fort Lauderdale. Download their app. You don’t need a car in either Wilton Manors or Miami Beach. Both are very walk able and have excellent public transportation. Whether flying into MIA or FLL. both airports have excellent public transit to and from the airport: Take the #150 Bus from MIA to Miami Beach. It runs every 20 minutes. From MIA to FLL or downtown Fort Lauderdale, take TriRail. The #1 Broward County Bus serves FLL to downtown Fort Lauderdale where you can hop on the #50 to go to Wilton Manors.


HOTSpots! Florida is your go to magazine of what to do and where to go in Wilton Manors/Fort Lauderdale, as well as Miami Beach and Key West. OUTClique Magazine is the monthly magazine in print and online..Congratulations to Jason Parsley, the new editor of South Florida Gay News in print and online. The new quarterly in Florida, Embrace Magazine is also available in print and online. It’s great to be in an area with 4+ thriving publications.  


Plan your trip at Special thanks to Ivonne MacMillan and Richard Gray of Visit Lauderdale for their helpful tips.

About the Author

Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only LGBTQ+ syndicated value travel columnist. Residing in Indianapolis, he travels with a focus on the local and value orientation.