Miami's vast gay history has many layers -- from the revolution of Art Deco architecture in the 1920s and '30s to today's sophisticated developments in downtown: Brickell City Centre, with rooftop bars, restaurants, and malls; and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, with three state-of-the-art theaters.
In this metropolis of diverse and ever-changing cultures, LGBT visibility has helped define the city's image. When organizers canceled the long-planned 10-day LGBT sporting event, World OutGames, at the last minute in 2017, the local community banded together to save the event, in the process rejuvenating the city's morale and strengthening its bonds.
Above: Courtesy of Diamond PR
A similar sentiment was palpable as Hurricane Irma barreled down on the "Magic City." Even in the face of certain destruction, residents had no doubt they would rebuild. And yet they haven't had to. Irma had minimal impact on Miami and its beautiful sandy beaches.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a #MiamiNow promotion in the wake of the hurricane, giving travelers unprecedented discounts. While most offers expired at the close of 2017, updated specials can be found at MiamiAndBeaches.com.
I'm particularly fond of the "beach chic" that the Shelborne South Beach exudes with its own backyard beach. It also offers a killer breakfast buffet and an in-house cabaret featuring stars in the making. While enjoying the show, don't miss a drink called the Bramble Bush (with berries and gin). You'll love it! (TheCabaretSouthBeach.com) If beach hotels aren't your thing, the new downtown SLS Brickell Hotel (SLSHotels.com/Brickell) gives you the luxury treatment -- with an impressive rooftop pool and separate restaurants by award-winning chefs Jose Andres and Michael Schwartz, respectively, and it's walking distance to the evolving nightlife. For the month of July, SLS Brickell Hotel offers a "Same Sex and the City" special for gay couples: complimentary bottle of champagne, $50 credit, and couples massage. Talk about hospitality.
If you want to see South Beach's most epic drag shows, you need to pay homage to the famous gay hangout, the Palace (PalaceSouthBeach.com), which now has a new home at Amarillo restaurant on Ocean Drive. It's worth the visit simply to watch the faces of shocked taxi drivers as beautiful drag stars strut their stuff on the street crosswalk.
To get a true sense of the diverse cultures inhabiting Miami, visit the Espanola Way/Washington Avenue shopping district and enjoy a hot meal at Mare Mio, featuring fresh fish, line-caught by celebrated restaurateur Claudio Giordano's local fisherman. If you're up for a brisk walk, don't miss the incredible artistry that defines the Wynwood Arts District with the one and only Ryan "The Wheelbarrow" Ferrell, a local screen-printing performance artist who also offers the quintessential guide to Miami's street art (MiamisBestGraffitiGuide.com).
If you can drag yourself away from the city, you'll find it's incredibly easy to pop over to the Bahamas (Bahamas.com) for a day. Bimini, the closest Bahamian island to the U.S., beckons beach bums, water adventurers, high-rollers, and spa-goers alike for an easy tropical escape and the clearest blue waters imaginable. My favorite is the adults-only infinity pool and Monkey Business bar at Resorts World Bimini (RWBimini.com).
Back in Miami, Little Havana is a must-see neighborhood. Home to many Cuban exiles, the area is bustling with street life and constant music. Eat a Cuban sandwich at Enriqueta's and follow it up with the best ice cream of your life at Azucas Ice Cream Company. This summer, visit the new Sterling Market on Miami Beach's famous Lincoln Road (LincolnRoadMall.com). It will be home to multiple vendors, including LGBT-owned Mr. Bing, specializing in shaved ice. Make a stop at Meat Market, too, to have a bite of its Nutella dessert -- it's out of this world!
A Guide to Miami's Legendary LGBT Parties
February28-March 6: Winter Party Festival, where more than 10,000 party-goers from around the world will gather for an action-packed six-day party featuring celebrity DJ performances, swanky cocktail receptions, and the hottest hotel pool parties on the planet.
April:OUTshine Film Festival, where a strong dose of Miami's vibrant art and culture scene at this exclusive film festival held each spring. Miami Beach Gay Pride: Show your support for Miami's colorful LGBT community at the annual Gay Pride Festival held each spring. Join tens of thousands of community members, civic leaders, business owners, and supporters for a big and bold celebration held on infamous Ocean Drive in South Beach.
May: Aqua Girl, the largest charity women's week in the country, this week-long festival brings in les-bi-queer girls from around the country (and their bikinis). Meanwhile, Sizzle Miami, the five-day festival predominantly attended by black men, brings in the boys.
July: Out in the Tropics LGBTQ Performing Arts Series: Artists from around the world take the stage in South Florida's first LGBT contemporary performing arts festival (@outintropics). Miami Beach Bruthaz Conference: A blockbuster lifestyle event happening each summer, MBB is a weekend revolving around three themes: knowledge, culture, and fashion. Events include a white masquerade party, hip-hop lovers' jam, rooftop soiree, signature Bruthaz SpeakUP event, fashion shows, and one of the hottest Brazilian parties on the beach (@MiamiBeachBruthazEvent).
October: Celebrate Orgullo Festival, a one-day festival showcasing Hispanic LGBT pride and featuring music, dance, refreshments, vendor booths, and more.
November: White Party Week, an unparalleled week of fundraising parties and events culminates with the legendary White Party. For over 25 years more than 15,000 partygoers annually raise awareness and funds for the fight against HIV and AIDS.
December:Art Basel, where hundreds of galleries display art from around the globe. Art Basel has transformed the art world in Miami, with lots of queer films, fairs, pop up exhibitions, performances, and more.