Once known for hordes of drunk and horny spring breakers, Fort Lauderdale has emerged as one of South Florida's gay hubs. It's a popular destination for gay travelers who want an alternative to South Beach and its A-list attitude.
The Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is quick to point out that the city and Broward County contain more than 20 miles of palm-fringed beaches. But Fort Lauderdale, located roughly 30 miles north of Miami, offers much more than a day on the beach. Within the city limits there are around 150 gay-owned bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels at any given time.
Local tourism officials report gay travelers typically pump over a billion dollars into the area's economy each year. So it's no wonder Fort Lauderdale continues to lay out the welcome mat for visitors who seek out its alluring combination of sun, surf and sex.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is located three miles southwest of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Broward County Transit's #1 bus shuttles passengers between the airport and downtown Ft Lauderdale. A taxi to Fort Lauderdale costs roughly $12; $25 to $30 to Wilton Manors.
Broward County Transit offers an expansive system of buses covering many areas of the country. A one-way fare costs $1.75; an all-day pass is $4. The Tri-Rail commuter train stops at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and downtown Fort Lauderdale. A round-trip from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, for example, costs just $5 on weekends.
Even when the ocean is rough, the inland waterways are ideal for paddle boarding or kayaking. Hop-on, hop-off water taxis cruise the Intracoastal Waterway from Oakland Park Boulevard (just north of Wilton Manors) to 17th Street Causeway, providing a refreshing, affordable break from the city’s car culture.
Wilton Manors: Located just over Fort Lauderdale's northern border, Wilton Manors remains the heart of Broward County's gay community, and home to one of the largest year-round gay and lesbian populations in America. Scores of gay-owned and operated bars, restaurants, cafes, shops and guesthouses can be found along a mile of Wilton Drive, the main thoroughfare. Each club and bar lays claim to the crowds for their own special nights. Annual LGBT festivals and events here include the Stonewall Street Festival in late June, and Wicked Manors at Halloween, attracting tens of thousands of costumed partiers from around the world.
Las Olas Boulevard: A mix of galleries, restaurants and boutiques along palm-lined sidewalks. Suit-wearing profesionals appear at lunchtime, followed by afternoon shoppers. Partiers climb from stereo-blaring cars dressed in star-bright bling to linger well into the night.
Gold lamé T-shirts, jeans with excessive stud embellishments and collared shirts with detailed embroidery fill the boutiques here. Banana Republic loyalists may run screaming. The boulevard’s galleries follow a similar style. Big, bright, bold pieces are displayed in vast showrooms to tempt passersby in search of culture or air conditioning.
Fort Lauderdale’s local food scene is also centered here, with restaurants opening and closing quickly --very fad-driven, what’s hot today is closed tomorrow, and locals aren’t terribly loyal.
The city's warm climate and seven miles of sandy beaches are among Fort Lauderdale's biggest draws. A number of the area's gay resorts are located along the oceanfront near Terramar Street at North Birch. A poplular patch of sand, the Sebastian Street Gay Beach, is just down the coast a few blocks to the south on North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd (Route A1A), near the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
The beach at NE 18th Street, one of Fort Lauderdale's most popular cruising areas, is to the north on N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. Smaller and less crowded, it's popular with bears and leather men. Another local favorite is the clothing-optional Haulover Beach, south of Hallandale.
What to See
Fort Lauderdale has become a popular destination for leather aficionados, who have affectionately dubbed it "Fort Leatherdale." Bars, clubs and stores that sell a variety of leather goods are located throughout Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors and the surrounding suburbs.
Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors also have an abundance of shopping opportunities. The massive Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise is one of the largest commercial complexes in the United States. Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is lined with dozens of boutiques, galleries, restaurants and sidewalk. Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors also contains a number of gay-owned and operated bars, restaurants and boutiques.
Gay books and the Village People
A lot of things come to mind when contemplating a trip to Fort Lauderdale: sunny days on the sand or beside the pool, a night out at the trendy clubs or even a visit to one of the famous clothing-optional resorts.
A trip to the library is not what most people dream about for a beach vacation.
But first-time visitors to Fort Lauderdale might not even realize that one of the country's largest gay libraries and archives is located along busy East Sunrise Boulevard, at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives. Sun-thirsty visitors who flock to Fort Lauderdale--especially in winter--are often unaware of the collection, housed within a short distance of the city's better-known gay attractions.
Founded in 1973, the Stonewall contains more than 20,000 books, and 1,000 DVD movies. Sixty national and regional periodicals may be found in the John Graves Reading Room, along with other materials. It also houses 5,000 artifacts, manuscripts, periodicals and posters that document the history of the gay rights movement, and they have an ongoing series of guest author events. The facility also contains exhibits highlighting various aspects of gay history. Visitors once donned platform shoes, leisure suits and other disco-era garb, to mark the opening of "Turn the Beat Around: Disco 1974-1982." They had vintage memorabilia from Studio 54, the Saint and other venues. The Village People figured prominently. Besides the exhibitions there is an ongoing series of gay and lesbian cinema screenings.
Pride South Florida will take place February 28 - March 1, 2015 with parade and entertainment at Holiday Park and the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.
The Stonewall Pride Wilton Manors parade and street festival takes place on June 20, 2015, with multiple stages, entertainment, exhibits, merchants, games, street performers, gourmet food trucks & beverage stations, at the center of the city's gayest neighborhood.
Cinemas & Film Festivals
Cinema Paradiso (503 SE 6th St) the Broward County Film Society screens Art House movies from around the world. This is home to the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, scheduled each October - see our events listings.
Free movie nights at the Stonewall Museum & Archives (1300 East Sunrise Blvd) include Out Boys Movie Nights (2nd Fridays), and "Girls Nights" (4th Fridays) plus foreign language and classic films of gay interest, usually at 7pm. Check their website for scheduled titles and dates.
The Fort Lauderdale GL Film Festival screens gay and lesbian films at their annual event in October at the Gateway Theatres. They also have an ongoing movie series throughout the year. See our events listings for dates, and further info at their website.
There are also Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival screenings at the Paradiso year-round.
Media and resources
South Florida Fun is the website of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
The Broward/Palm Beach New Times has general-public news, reviews and listings for music, movies and other events around town.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, see our Fort Lauderdale gay map & listings pages.
The city's many gay establishments cater to a broad cross-section of the gay world. There's a fine selection of gay resorts at Fort Lauderdale Beach. They're actually situated two blocks off the ocean, but within easy walking distance of sand and surf. As anyone can tell you, the gay beach is opposite Sebastian Street, just north of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Alcazar Resort (555 North Birch Rd; 888-830-9931), all-male, by the sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach, convenient to gay shops and clubs, clothing-optional pools and hot tub.
Alhambra Beach Resort (3021 Alhambra St; 877-309-4014), conveniently close to the beach, but apart from the bustle of the scene; with heated pool and immaculate facilities.
The Atlantic Resort & Spa (601 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd; 866-318-1101), stylish luxury hotel overlooking pristine beaches, three miles from downtown.
Cabanas (2209 NE 26th St; 866-564-7764), all-male resort complex of smart cabanas with kitchens and big windows overlooking Middle River canal (kayak here!), at Wilton Manors center. Amenities include clothing-optional pool, whirlpool with waterfall, steam room and spa services; pet friendly too.
Cheston House (520 North Birch Rd; 866-566-7950) gay-exclusive guesthouse, spacious rooms, suites and apartments at reasonable rates, clothing-optional pool area, just steps from the beach.
Coral Reef Guest House (2609 NE 13th Court; 888-365-6948), upscale, quietly back a ten-minute walk from the beach, with eight modern, sunny, spacious rooms, pool with a built-in whirlpool, bikes for rent.
Deauville Hostel (2916 N. Ocean Blvd; 954-568-5000) backpacker dorm, hotel rooms, and efficiency apartments for any budget with all the amenities, two minutes from the beach and dog-friendly too.
DeSoto Beach Inn (2916 DeSoto St; 800-686-4809), cozy studios and spacious efficiencies for simple pleasures in lush gardens by the sea, or on their bougainvillea-shaded veranda.
Ed Lugo Resort (2404 NE 8th Ave; 954-275-8299), luxury one or two-bedroom suites at Wilton Manors center, with heated pool and waterfall amid beautiful landscaping.
Elysium Resort (552 North Birch Rd; 800-533-4744), local gay legend, spacious studios and suites with kitchenettes on connected properties, clothing-optional pools, secluded Jacuzzi, private rooftop sundeck, gym, intriguing tropical garden paths. Also an all-day sunshine deck, wireless or room data-port internet access, newspapers, books, and extensive video library.
Fort Lauderdale Vacation House (2109 NW 2nd Ave; 954 557-3312), in Wilton Manors less than a mile from George's Alibi, 3 bedrooms/ 2 baths, bikes, BBQ, clothing-optional heated pool, board games, XXX-DVD movies.
Grand Palm Plaza Resort (2801 Rio Mar St, FtL Beach; 954-565-7250), men-only resort, clothing-optional pool, lush tropical garden BBQ, WiFi throughout.
The Grand Resort & Spa (539 North Birch Rd; 800-818-1211), area's largest and among the finest gay men's resort hotels; luxury rooms, suites, penthouse suites, steps from the beach. Loyal guests return often, if only for the exceptionally hospitable staff. Oversized heated pool, spa, fitness center, clothing-optional courtyard and ten-man Jacuzzi, spa facials, body wraps and scrubs, massage, manicure/ pedicure, waxing, dermabrasion and hair styling.
Inn Leather (610 SE 19th St; 877-532-7729), on south side of Fort Lauderdale, with sling in every studio and suite, hosting all-male international crowd of Leathermen since 1999, just a mile from downtown. Their clothing optional compound has hot tub, heated pool and free wireless internet.
La Casa del Mar (610 SE 19th St; 877-532-7729), gay bed & breakfast on south side of downtown, one block from Fort Lauderdale Beach; kitchenettes in each room, rental DVD movies, internet access and long-term rental specials.
La Casa Fort Lauderdale (2727 Terramar St; 800-283-4786), 15-suite/studio boutique hotel near the beach, uncommon furnishings, five-star amenities, lush tropical landscape, pool, spa. Was Flamingo Resort.
Liberty Suites (1501 SW Second Ave; 877-927-0090) clothing-optional gay men's hotel In Dania, affordable daily weekly and extended stay rates, pleasant facilities, and host-owners who go out of their way to make things special.
Manor Inn (2408 NE 6th Ave, Wilton Manors: 954-566-8223), gay guesthouse, rooms with kitchenettes, clothing-optional pool and Jacuzzi.
Mary's Resort (1115 Tequesta St; 866-805-6570) four Key West-style buildings In Dania, within a secluded tropical oasis a few blocks from downtown; heated pool and Jacuzzi, special rate packages, pet-friendly.
Pineapple Point (315 NE 16th Terrace; 888-844-7295) near Las Olas Boulevard in Victoria Park, vast grounds, verdant lush tropical foliage, restored splendor of 1930s architecture, one and two bedroom suites. All amenities expected by today's sophisticated gay traveler are provided, including on-site gym with physical training.
The Royal Palms Resort (717 Breakers Ave; 800-237-7256) is one of the world's best known, most loved gay resorts. Large, luxuriously appointed rooms, spa massage and body care, fitness center with personal training. American fare poolside cafe, indoor/outdoor seating for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner plus cocktails. Big monthly poolside Sunday T-dance.
Villa Venice Resort (2900 Terramar St; 877-284-5522), all-male resort two blocks from the beach with sociable events like poolside cookouts.
W Fort Lauderdale (401 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd; 954-414-8200), large high-rise hotel at ocean's edge, stylish accommodations, two infinity-edge pools, gym/spa.
Windamar Beach Resort (543 Breakers Ave; 866-554-6616), near Sebastian Street Beach, but plenty of sunshine all day if you prefer relaxing in their clothing optional tropical garden retreat. Day passes allow locals to use the heated pool, so it gets quite sociable. Breakfast served daily and "BYOB Happy Hour" lubricates the weekend afternoons.
Worthington GuestHouse (543 N Birch Rd; 800-445-7036), with a sexy vibe, one of gay Fort Lauderdale's most popular all-male resorts, connected to the next door Alcazar Resort. The clothing-optional pool and deck get plenty of sun all day, and the gay beach is just a few minutes walk away.
CLOSED: Coconut Cove (3012 Granada St), Key-West style, clothing-optional all-gay male guesthouse, popular with bears; The Schubert Resort (855 NE 20th Ave), all-male, clothing-optional private men's resort - now the site of the family-oriented Victoria Park Hotel.
For additional Fort Lauderdale area accommodations, see our full maps & listings tab.
Alibi (2266 Wilton Dr), aka Georgie's Alibi, local treasure at the heart of the social gay scene, helped turn Wilton Manors into the major gay destination it's become. Many events, videoa and sports, killer drink specials, great food, outdoor patio, and people in droves. The restaurant serves 11am until 1:30am daily, with drinks until 3am weekends.
BAM (2829 W Broward Blvd, west of I-95), has occasional gay nights, otherwise it's a straight nightclub by night and the Broward Arts & Music community arts space during the day.
Bill's (2209 Wilton Dr), serving tasty burgers at amazing prices, is more than an average neighborhood bar. Their four bars, include the upscale Mustang Lounge, a VJ to keep things moving on the dance floor (especially on Growl Fridays for bears), karaoke, games, special stage events, and free parking. Thursday nights see contestants in wet briefs vie for cash prizes.
Boardwalk (1721 N Andrews Ave), naked men dancing, guest porn stars. Badpuppy members get intimate online views of dancers. Amateur Wednesday night contests, Sunday brunch and charity carewash (at Beefcakes) highlight their every-night 18+ weekly events.
Castle Lounge (1322 N Dixie Hwy, Hollywood), drag shows, tranny bar, fetish parties, bi-sexuals & transsexuals, gay men, all life styles welcome. Also at 840 E Oakland Park Blvd, in Wilton Manors.
The Corner Pub (1915 N Andrews Ave) is Wilton Manors neighborhood bar with pool table, beer specials, bear nights, and basic food.
Cubby Hole (823 N Federal Hwy), no-attitude neighborhood men's bear bar of many years, all welcome. Famous for their burgers and other tasty snacks. Jukebox, 50-cent pool games, video games, underwear nights, weekend "grindin grizzlie" pole dancers, HDTV, two-for-one special nights.
Hunters Nightclub (2232 Wilton Dr), cocktails crowd from 4pm, gay nightly dance club, everyone welcome. Fur Friday bear nights, Country-Western dance nights, Sunday T-dances, karaoke and cabaret nights. Former Boom location.
Le Boy (1243 NE 11 Ave, Wilton Manors), 18+ male strippers, two shows nightly, VIP cabin lap dances, amateur Hot Bod contests for cash prizes, male couple and diva stage shows; BBQ burgers and dogs on the patio.
The Manor (2345 Wilton Drive), multi-level complex, restaurant, martini bar/ lounge, sports bar and nightclub; DJs, mixed, somewhat younger crowd than most Wilton Manor gay clubs. Tapas and American-style main entrees, Sunday brunch, Porn Bingo and other game nights, drag and cabaret shows.
Mona's (502 E Sunrise Blvd), home vibe, pool games, "the train game," karaoke, and kicking back in Lisa's Background, outdoors with affable bartenders. Daily drink specials draw "arounders" and out-of-towners. Holidays are always celebrated and even pets get an annual pageant. On December 26, at the annual "Grab-bag," they give out presents, and over $6,000 in cash.
The Naked Grape Wine Bar (2163 Wilton Dr) good wine, cheeze nibbles, tapas, relaxed atmosphere, tasting events, plush and comfortable seating for mixed crowd.
Off the Hookah (111 SW 2nd Ave), former VooDoo Lounge, large dance club, diverse crowd and music mix, smart and trendy. They kept South Florida's longest-running drag show going, Sundays, with top drag performers, the most gay-popular night.
PJ's Corner Pocket (924 N Flagler), diversity-welcoming interracial bottle club (byob), beer and wine bar, R&B Music and fun people.
Ramrod (1508 NE 4th Ave), Levi/Leather and uniform cruise bar, non-stop rotation of leather, fetish and kinky events, bear nights, undies and bulge contests, weekend back patio bar, Friday bear nights, Saturday caged hunks. Mr Ramrod contests each October.
Rosie's Bar and Grill (2449 Wilton Dr) is a local institution for casual dining indoors or out on the large covered outdoor patio; open daily with a big fat menu.
Rumors Bar & Grill (2426 Wilton Dr), bar/lounge open 7 days, music videos, games, entertainment planned, favorite foods from the Courtyard Cafe guys -- took over the space of Matty's on the Drive, February 2013
Scandals (3073 NE 6th Ave), Wilton Manor's country-western dance bar, line dancing and lessons, karaoke, and lots of pool games and tournaments. Sunday T-dance and beer blast on the patio.
Sidelines Sports Bar (2031a Wilton Dr), state-of-the-art sports-themed bar, area's most popular gay bar of it's kind. Sixteen flat-screen HDTVs screen the most exciting games; pool tables, dart boards, video games, WiFi access. Sunday Beer Bucket specials, noon to closing.
Smarty Pants (2400 E Oakland Park Blvd #101), fun neighborhood bar with bingo, trivia games, drag cabaret shows, and weekend karaoke.
Stable (205 E Oakland Park Blvd), men's cowboy/country-western hangout, drag shows, underwear nights, bingo, karaoke, bear nights.
Swinging Richards (1350 SW 2nd St. Pompano Beach), half-way to Miami, Atlanta's famous all-nude male strip club now has a Florida twin just north of Ft Lauderdale (relocated from North Miami Beach), with VIP specials and amateur night cash prizes; also food.
Tap 42 (1411 S Andrews Ave), craft foods, cask ales, beer and cocktails; snacks/starters, burgers, salads, veggie options, brunch.
Tropics (2000 Wilton Dr), fine dining and entertainment nightly, Sunday brunch and evening buffet, piano bar lounge, terrace and pool table.
Village Pub (2283 Wilton Dr), new gay sports bar in Wilton Manors, pool games, dancing, live entertainment, WiFi and power-up access, patio, food deliveries, secure valet parking.
CLOSED: Depot (2935 N Federal Hwy), gay neighborhood party bar; Dudes (3270 NE 33rd St), male strippers/dancers, lap dances, amateur nights, shower shows; Johnny's (1116 W Broward Blvd), nude male stripper bar, amateur contests; New Moon (2440 Wilton Dr), stylish lesbian/women's lounge, dancing, live music, karaoke; Torpedo (2829 W Broward Blvd), male stripper bar.
Restaurants & Cafes
Beefcake's Grill (1721 N Andrews Ave) on corner patio at Broadwalk bar, indoor and patio seating, specializes in wraps, cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings and salads. Sunday brunch and sexy-guy car wash fundraisers, 11am-4pm.
Candela's (2909 NE 6th Ave), small Wilton Manors cafe, kababs, Spanish Mediterranean-stye fish, Cuban chicken, pork, Ropa Vieja and Picadillo Habanera con Tostones; lunch specials at bargain prices.
Courtyard Cafe (2211 Wilton Dr), next to Bill's, open daily, 24 hours Thursday through Saturday, Sunday until 3am, breakfast, lunch, sandwiches, salads, platters, patio tables.
Dapur Asian Tapas & Lounge (1620 N Federal Hwy), innovative, extensive menu Southeast Asian restaurant/ bar, star chef, "Ladies Night" Thursdays, holiday feasts.
Galanga Kitchen & Sushi Bar (2389 Wilton Dr) with stellar Thai fare and sushi is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in Broward County and they deliver.
Hi Life Cafe (3000 N Federal Hwy), cute young team greets Fort Lauderdale regulars at this upscale bistro where Zagat's ratings are "top 40" for their worldly American cuisine.
At Humpys Pizza (2144 Wilton Dr) has pizzas, paninis and pasta for eat-in or deliveries convenient to all the local hotels.
There's always a crowd at Java Boys (2230 Wilton Dr) for their many varieties of coffees, hot and cold libations, and sweet treats.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, La Bonne Crepe (815 E Las Olas Blvd) serves distinctive crepes, waffles and french toast topped with fresh fruit, plus eggs, meat and potatoes , bagels and smoked salmon at sidewalk terrace tables.
Lips (1421 E Oakland Park Blvd), also with locations in Atlanta, San Diego and New York, offers the ultimate in drag (show) dining, serving from 7:30pm.
Sage (2000 Harrison St) Cafe & Oyster Bar has casual ambience and good French country cuisine at decent prices.
Stork's Bakery Coffee Cafe (2505 NE 15 Ave, and 1109 East Las Olas) brings a bit of Viennese coffeehouse bistro style to Florida, with soups, sandwiches, pastries, salads, cakes, tarts, tortes, mousses plus fine wines, imported beers and, yes, coffee.
Tropics (2000 Wilton Dr), with the "best brunch in south Florida" has been voted "best restaurant" seven years in a row.
For more Fort Lauderdale area restaurants, plus locations and weblinks to the above, see our maps & listings section.
For sexy underwear and trendsetting beach and swimwear Audace.com dazzles, and not only at the crotch, with t-shirts, jeans, belts, shirts and accessories as well. Formerly with store on Wilton Drive, they now sell online-only.
Leather Werks (1226 NE 4th St) continues to serve the leather community with garments, accessories and play equipment. A second store is located within Ramrod bar, (1508 NE 4th Ave), open every night from 8pm.
Pride Factory (850 NE 13th St) men's fashion, gym, swim and underwear, adult DVDs and novelties, lubricants, cards, CDs, pride gear and gay-themed movies; jewelry, bracelets, pendants and watches.
To the Moon (2205 Wilton Dr) candy, sweets and gourmet food from 80 countries, especially dark chocolate and licorice goodies; also gag gifts and novelties, magazines, greetings cards, and party supplies -- over 13,000 different items.
Working out, steaming up
Club Fort Lauderdale (110 NW 5th Ave), Florida's largest private men's club, among largest in the USA. With 12,000 square feet of space, lush tropical landscaping, clothing-optional outdoor pool and spa, steam room/ sauna overlooking pool. Multiple TV rooms show regular TV and adult entertainment. A large state-of-the-art gym has all the latest equipment.
The Clubhouse II (2650 E Oakland Park) private membership club, big leather night every Tuesday, popular bears and cubs night each Thursday; steam and dry saunas.
Steel Gym / Island City Health & Fitness (2270 Wilton Dr), the latest equipment, cafe, lounge area, men's sauna, health and wellness spa.
Slammer (321 W Sunrise Blvd) unabashedly proud to be a sex club. The "you bring the booze, we've got the bar" policy, and second Thursday Leather Nights are two ways they give more bang for your buck. A large 21+ men's club for the wanton pursuit of pleasure.