The heat is always on in Miami. Will Smith knew it – that song lives rent free in your brain, don’t deny it – and as your car pulls up alongside Miami Beach, you will too.

Miami is where – to use a cliché – North meets South. Latin American culture makes sweet love to that of urban Northern America. It’s glamorous and yet inclusive. Edgy but accessible.

By day, Cadillacs blasting reggaeton music cruise along the palm tree lined Ocean Drive; Miami Beach full of speedo wearing hunks on one side and rows of art deco style hotels on the other. By night, the streets hum with the noise from bars and terraces packed with people from all over the world out to have a good time. Miami is about more than just the beach and nightlife though: it also has culture and art incorporated into its bloodstream, evidenced through its street art, galleries and aforementioned art deco buildings.

Off the back of our Florida Keys’ road trip and a Virgin Voyages Caribbean Cruise, we decided we’d spend some time getting reacquainted with “the Magic City”' and its thriving LGBTQ+ scene.

Addressing the (Not So) Pink Elephant in The Room

As of late, Florida has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. A slew of anti-LGTBQ+ legislation has led many within the community to call for a boycott on LGBTQ+ travel to the state as a whole – including Miami. Yet a place is truly represented by its people and the LGBTQ+ community remains the beating heart of the city – hell, isn’t it everywhere!

Miami holds a wealth of LGBTQ+ run businesses worthy of support. The non-profit organization MDGLCC (Greater Miami LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce) has over 70 member hotels and 600 members working to promote an inclusive Miami, The Pink Flamingo Hospitality Program trains and certifies business institutions on gender and orientation sensitivity and the Miami area has not one but two Prides – Miami Beach and Wynwood. As such, it is fair to say Miami remains an LGBTQ+ welcoming destination along with its Florida sisters in crime Key West, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa. Miami is a place to be celebrated and raised up, not – in our humble opinion – boycotted and left to the wolves.

Where to Stay 

Miami is full of gay-friendly hotels, but two really flex their muscles in going the extra distance for the LGBTQ+ community.

AxelBeach Miami is a great choice if – like us – you want to be right in the action by South Beach. The first Axel hotel in the states has an exterior every bit as hip and happening as the city itself, fitting in nicely with its bold art deco buildings around it. The hotel offers a garden, a fitness center and a large – often man filled – pool with an outdoor jacuzzi. Hellbent on giving you the full Miami experience, you’ll also find a sassy outdoor “Sky Bar”, popular with locals and guests alike.

Another solid – and more budget friendly – choice in the same area is Hôtel Gaythering. The hotel is as much a place to meet, socialize and enjoy a laidback Miami vibe as a place to stay. There’s a bar – where we attended their Thursday drag bingo night – and a sauna, which is open to the gay public. The rooms have a modern yet vintage flair to them with a cheaper option in their “crate” rooms, which involves sharing facilities – not always a bad thing if you take a liking to your roommates. The bar manager, Nick, is particularly friendly and gives great advice about the gay ins and outs of Miami.

Miami Beach

Let’s be real, if you’re in Miami, you’re there for the beach first and foremost. So that’s exactly where we made a beeline for on our first day.

Technically Miami Beach is on a separate island to the city, but it’s easily connected via a land bridge from Downtown Miami. South Beach is the main attraction with Ocean Drive running alongside – full of restaurants, bars and hotels. We headed – like sharks – straight to the gay beach, found between 11th and 12th Street. You can’t miss it thanks to the rather conspicuous rainbow painted lifeguard tower. However, this isn’t your only gay beach option if you don’t mind a bit of a trek to the north of the island. Haulover is a half mile stretch of nudist beach, popular with gay men who want to “chill” while working on those tan lines.

Bored of the beach? There’s plenty to see around the area. For a good guide to where to find queer-owned businesses head to the LGBTQ Visitor Center to get the lowdown on the scene.

A good place to start is strolling down Ocean Drive where you’ll see many famous buildings. One being the luxurious mansion where Versace was murdered, now a hotel and restaurant. Another being The Carlyle – the home and nightclub of the characters in the gay film classic Birdcage. Art deco hotels are plentiful, but there’s a whole area with buildings dedicated to the style a few blocks back from the beach. For some greenery, Lummus Park is a beautiful seafront park with winding trails full of plant life and fountains. A must-see “attraction” alongside the park is Muscle Beach, where gym bunnies go to sweat and flex.

Having worked up an appetite we checked out the LGBTQ+ owned Cheeseburger Baby, easily found from its neon pink signs. Known as “The Queen of South Beach ” by locals, the restaurant is owned by ex-delivery driver and member of the LGBTQ+ community Stephanie Vitori. Cheeseburger Baby has been visited by the likes of Beyonce, Kayne West and Diddy. Not to mention, its namesake burgers are particularly delicious.

As the sun sets, Miami’s nightlife kicks into action. A good spot to start is at Palace Bar, a legendary venue with some of the best drag shows in the US. It’s also a great place to go for drag brunch. For a gay night out in Miami though, all paths lead to Twist. The huge gay dance club is actually seven gay bars all in one. The bartenders are always energetic, outgoing and know how to nurture a good time – as do the go-go boys. The 2-1 happy hour drinks don’t hurt either. Well, maybe the next day hurts.


Downtown Miami and Wynwood Walls

Miami isn’t all about South Beach. Downtown also has a lot to offer its visitors. Knowing there’s nothing like a little culture to mitigate a bad hangover, we headed down into the city.

Our first stop was at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, just a little outside of downtown Miami. Despite having both been to Miami before, we never knew about this hidden gem. It’s essentially a gorgeous mansion with expansive gardens that you can tour. The large property feels sequestered away by nature and a welcome respite from the busy city.

Next, we headed north to Wynwood Walls. The area is famous for its spectacular street art, characterized by a colorful array of murals along the walls. Wynwood Walls is a unique outdoor museum in the area that’s a collection of the world's greatest artists working in the graffiti and street art genre.

There is also a gaggle of decent gay eateries and bars in the area like R House. There we chatted over happy hour drinks with Owen Bale, one of the owners, who talked to us about how their restaurant has been part of the thriving Miami gay scene since 2014. The restaurant is a good option for brunch, lunch or dinner. It offers an international/Latin menu, signature cocktails, plus vivacious drag performances Friday to Sunday.

Little Havana

No trip to Miami is complete without spending at least half a day in Little Havana. It’s certainly clear why people say, “The best thing about Miami is how close it is to the United States.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in Little Havana…and it’s fabulous.

Little Havana is always abuzz with raw Latino energy. Vintage cars cruise down the streets, locals play dominos on park benches as salsa music plays in the background and the air is filled with the aroma of delicious food – some favorites being Ropa Vieja, Cuban sandwiches, guava pastries, chicken plantain cups, and flan ice cream. Calle Ocho is the center of the action with the best restaurants, cigar rolling shops and even its own Walk of Fame paying tribute to Latin and Cuban celebrities.

Miami was the perfect end to our Florida trip. If Key West was a crackling fireplace to warm our spirits by, Miami was a burning blaze to bask in. There’s no doubt in our minds that we’ll be back to feel its heat once more.

This trip was sponsored by Visit Miami.