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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
December 2009 Email this to a friend

Miami

By Michael K Lavers

Nobiz, Miami

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Miami!

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Miami article click DailyXtraTravel

Known for its intense Latin flavor and balmy tropical climate, Miami has been among the country's most popular winter resorts for more than a century.
Miami remains an important stop on the pink party circuit. Both the White Party and Winter Party raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for local, state and national gay rights organizations. And some of the country's most celebrated DJs spin at Miami Beach nightclubs.

In 1977, Dade County made history when it passed a gay-rights ordinance. Singer Anita Bryant waged a successful crusade
to repeal it, leading to a national boycott of orange juice. Today, than 30 years later, the gay community is warmly welcomed here. Both the city and county offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples.

Getting Here
Miami International Airport is located eight miles northwest of downtown. Metrobus provides direct connections to the rest of the city. The Tri-Rail, a commuter train that operates throughout Miami-Dade County, has its southern terminus at the airport. A taxi from the airport costs roughly $22 to downtown, $19 to Coral Gables and $32 to South Beach.

Getting Around
Most South Florida visitors rent a car, but buses and trains run throughout Miami-Dade and southern Broward County. A seven-day pass costs $26. The free Metromover shuttles stop at 20 downtown Miami locations.
The Tri-Rail is another option. A round-trip from Miami to Fort Lauderdale costs $8.45 during the week and $5 on weekends.
One of the best ways to truly appreciate Miami is on the water. Gay-friendly Island Queen Cruises offers a variety of sightseeing trips on Biscayne Bay. The company also offers tours throughout the city and the Everglades.

Neighborhoods
Coconut Grove: Located directly south of downtown Miami and east of Coral Gables, Coconut Grove remains the historic heart of Miami's gay community. Bohemian types moved into the South Miami neighborhood in the 1960s, but its waterfront location and many restaurants make Coconut Grove a popular destination.
Miami Shores and Upper East Side: Gentrification has brought an increasingly gay population into Miami Shores and other areas along Biscayne Bay. The Design District, Edgewater and Belle Meade also contain bars, galleries and restaurants.
South Beach: It almost goes without saying that South Beach has the hottest gay scene. Collins and Washington avenues and Alton and Lincoln roads are the area's principle thoroughfares.

What to See
The vast majority of gays who travel to Miami and Miami Beach want to taste at least a little of the area's renowned nightlife. As a result, most of the area's attractions are on or near South Beach.
The Art Deco District, between 6th and 23rd streets, contains nearly 800 buildings that reflect the style of architecture made popular in the 1930s. Many of the city's most popular bars, clubs and restaurants are scattered throughout
this square-mile area.

Casa Casuarina (1116 Ocean Drive) is perhaps South Beach's most notorious location. Andrew Cunanan shot and killed Italian designer Gianni Versace on the mansion's front steps on July 15, 1997. Another famous Miami mansion is Coconut Grove's Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (3251 S Miami Ave). Built by industrialist James Deering as a winter home, the villa incorporates a variety of French and Italian flourishes. The surrounding gardens have sweeping views of Biscayne Bay.

The city has a lively arts scene. Groups ranging from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra are on the schedule at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd). The Bass Museum (2121 Park Ave) on South Beach and the Miami Art Museum of Dade County (101 W Flagler St) are also good bets.

In focus

Where the wild things are
A seemingly endless string of high-rise condos and hotels dominates South Florida's landscape. But one of this area's greatest assets is the Everglades, the so-called "River of Grass" that is just a short drive from downtown Miami.
Everglades National Park protects more than 1.2 million acres of hammocks (groves of mahogany and other tropical hardwood trees,) cypress strands, mangrove swamps and estuaries in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties. Some of the many endangered species found within the park's boundaries include the Florida panther, the American crocodile, the leatherback turtle and the elusive manatee. Herons and hundreds of other species of birds are a common sight along the two roads -- the Tamiami Trail (US 41) and Alligator Alley (Interstate 75) -- that traverse the park.

The park's proximity to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and even Fort Myers and Naples means getting here is a breeze. The Ernest Coe Visitor Center, on State Road 9336 near Homestead, is the main entrance. The Flamingo Visitor Center along Florida Bay, the Shark Valley Visitor Center along the Tamiami Trail and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in sleepy Everglades City in Collier County have various exhibits and access to trails that lead into the park's more remote areas.
Seem like too much work? The gay-friendly Island Queen Cruises (305-379-5119) offers tours for those who want to experience the Everglades from a climate-controlled bus without mosquitoes and other pesky pests.
In addition to the Everglades, the area is home to other natural wonders. Home to one of the world's largest barrier coral reefs, Key Largo proudly proclaims itself as the "Diving Capital of the World." But the chain hotels, kitschy gift shops and ugly strip malls that stretch for miles along US 1 may dissuade some visitors. Islamorada and Marathon provide more tranquil options for South Florida day-trippers.

Another convenient option is Biscayne National Park. Located east of Homestead, the park is home to manatees, crocodiles and other animal species. One of Biscayne National Park's more curious features is a group of raised houses near Key Biscayne called Stiltsville. Various boating, fishing and social clubs have occupied the structures since they were built in the 1930s, but only seven of the original houses remain.

Event Planner

Winter Party
March 3-10
Winterparty.com

AIDS Walk Miami
April
Aidswalkmiami.net

Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
April 23 to May 2, 2010
Mgllf.org

Miami Latin Gay Film Festival
September 2010
Latingayfilmfestival.com

Miami White Party
November
Whiteparty.org

Pride day
Beach Gay Pride
will take place along Ocean Drive on April 17.
Miamibeachgaypride.com

Local Media
Both EDGE Miami and Hotspots Magazine cover the area's gay happenings.

Top experiences

Sun and sand: A number of beaches offer clothing-optional and gay sections for those who want to soak up the sun. These include Haulover Beach Park in Miami Beach and the area around 12th Street in South Beach, which is marked by two gay flags. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area, on Key Biscayne, routinely ranks among the country's best beaches.

Heading south: The Miami Beach Architectural Historic District -- better known as the Art Deco District -- was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Miami Design Preservation League (Mdpl.org) offers regular walking tours.

Going Green:� Everglades National Park protects 1.5 million acres of swampland throughout Broward, Dade and Monroe Counties. The ever-expanding population continues to threaten this fragile ecosystem, but nearly a thousand species of birds, mammals and plants can be found throughout the park.

Little Havana: Located southwest of downtown Miami, Little Havana and its Calle Ocho is the heart of South Florida's Cuban American community. Enjoy a cafecito at one of the authentic eateries.

Accommodations

The Catalina Hotel & Beach Club (1732 Collins Ave; 305-674-1160) has rooms with stylish luxury at affordable prices. Two restaurants, the Kung Fu Sushi with sushi and Asian food, and Maxine with breakfast all day, plus the Red Bar with lounges and a garden, are a part of this complex.

The European Guesthouse (21 Michigan Ave; 305-673-6665) brings Continental flair to the Art Deco District of South Beach, convenient to bars, shops, beaches and restaurants, with a generous breakfast buffets, and charming rooms.

The enduring Island House (1428 Collins Ave; 305-864-2422) rents studios and apartments at several Miami Beach locations. Their 21-unit accommodation on Collins Avenue, a block from the beach, features large, modern, unfussy rooms with king beds, small kitchens, and several smaller economy rooms. All are an easy walk to Washington Avenue hot spots, and a breakfast buffet is served.

For additional local hotel listings click here

Nightlife
Nightlife in South Beach goes late, so afternoon siestas are often taken on the beach.

Club Boi (726 NW 79th St), South Florida's only black-owned and operated gay club, has 18+ weekend dancing to Urban American, Reggae and Soca music all night long. Parking is secure and special nights include last Fridays' all-nude male reviews.

Discotekka at Metropolis Club (950 NE 2nd Ave), like most clubs downtown, has a 24-hour license, so Saturday to Sunday after-hours parties go full-throttle until 9am. The young, mixed crowd includes lots of shirtless hunks, plus frequent guest porn stars and other performers. Fridays are women's nights.

Mova Lounge (1625 Michigan Ave), a contemporary boutiquey smoke-free venue, offers plush seating, an eclectic mix of lounge music, and a large variety of martinis and cocktails.

They love to say it: "Every Queen needs a... Palace" (1200 Ocean Dr). Ocean Drive's only gay bar and restaurant is right across from the 12th Street Gay Beach (look for rainbow flags). Open from 10am to 11pm (midnight on weekends), the crowds spill onto the sidewalks from their high-energy drag shows. Sandwich wraps, finger foods, Steak and Salmon entrees, and all-day every day breakfasts are a few of the menu items. They also have Sunday T-Dances and Latin Nights.

Ruby J's (239 Sunny Isles Blvd) a feast for all your senses, has food, drinks, cabaret music, and an ambience to delight at Sunny Isles Beach. The live entertainment includes drag shows Tuesdays through Saturdays, and there's gourmet dining on a beautiful patio.

The stylish Score (727 Lincoln Rd) cocktail bar and dance club, has terrace seating on the famous and cruisy Lincoln Road Mall. Sunday T-dances are well-attended and Tuesday nights draw a big Latino crowd. Creme and Sugar Thursdays and Salvation Saturdays are also popular. Bartenders are handsome and personable and hot erotic male dancers are among the performers.

Twist (1057 Washington Ave) is a must for any gay South Beach visitor, with late-night intrigue and a packed dance floor. They have a nightly international crowd, friendly and relaxed staff, and special nights such as: Sunday amateur strip shows; blackout and fetish parties; game shows, talent contests, and Happy Hour BBQs Fridays and Sundays from 6pm.

Downtown, the Vault Miami (145 N Miami Ave) has a sexy, sophisticated 18+ weekend crowd, dancing to hip-hop, R&B, Reggae and House until 5am, with strippers to entertain. Their Sugar Sundays drag shows start at midnight.

Vlada Lounge (3215 NE 2nd Ave), the Miami outpost of the plush New York City lounge, has food, infused vodka drinks, and cabaret entertainment.

Edison Farrow's website Sobesocialclub.com peeks into South Beach's gay nightlife schedule, including special events hosted by him.

Bathhouse

Plan a visit to one of the premier bathhouses in the country. Club Aqua Miami (2991 Coral Way), formerly CBC Miami, has new owners, management and renovations, opens 24-hours to men 18+, and accepts CBC membership cards. Events include "live entertainment with safe sex practices" on Tuesdays and Sundays; and periodic naked pool parties (swimsuit optional). Facilities include gym, steam sauna, Jacuzzi and outdoor pool and patio.

Author Profile:  Michael K Lavers

Michael K Lavers is the national news editor for the EDGE Media Network and managing editor of the Fire Island News. His work has appeared in The Advocate, the Village Voice and many gay and mainstream publications.

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