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Gay and Lesbian Miami

The hottest spot in the gay universe for its hospitality and sexy, sun-splashed vibe, for more than a decade the Greater Miami area has been famously rolling out the welcome mat for gay men and women from around the world. Pioneered in no small part by the gay community, sophisticated, seductive South Beach–tropical yet trendy, Deco you can dance to--still rocks on with a sizzling array of very gay-friendly and sometimes specifically gay-oriented lodgings, restaurants, and especially nightspots. And it all shifts into overdrive when we host three of the planet's foremost "circuit" events: late November's White Party, March's Winter Party, and Aqua Girl Weekend in May.

Yet beyond all the glitz, glamour, and partying till dawn, Miami also boasts a multi-faceted appeal that might surprise you. But other parts of Greater Miami such as Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Little Havana, and Bal Harbour also vie in offering up a head-spinning mix of world-class dining, culture, shopping, and eco-tourism–which means that singles, couples, and families will all find that laid-back yet fun-loving Miami can offer them one of the best vacations of their lives. No class of offerings is more diverse, exciting, and sometimes exotic than the dining scene. The birthplace of Nuevo Latino cuisine is home to some of America's hottest chefs, who dish up award-winning fare in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, downtown, and elsewhere besides South Beach (and budget-minded visitors take note: you can sample their goodies for special prix-fixe prices during August-September's "Miami Spice" program). And though heavily Latin-flavored, Greater Miami's multi-ethnic gumbo lets you galloping-gourmet your way around the world on virtually any budget you choose.

Turning to sustenance for the soul, drama queens will love quality theaters such as the Coconut Grove Playhouse (often featuring nationally known actors and playwrights), and there are scores of other performing arts venues for every conceivable taste and pocketbook, from salsa to symphonies and blues to ballet. The abundance of art galleries and institutions can hold its own with those of most major American cities. You could spend the better part of a week just prowling through the likes of Miami Beach's Wolfsonian and Bass museums, the Lowe Museum of Art in Coral Gables, downtown's Miami Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art off Biscayne Boulevard on Miami's increasingly hip (and gay) "upper east side."

A significant chunk of the culture you'll find is specifically queer-oriented, such as May's annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which in 2003 will celebrate its fifth year of groundbreaking world cinema, and also holds special screenings throughout the year (this month--before the film opened elsewhere in the U.S.--it debuted All the Queen's Men, with Matt LeBlanc in drag). Venues like the Shores Performing Arts Theatre in Miami Shores regularly showcase gay-themed works like the acclaimed The Nature of the Beach, co-starring ex-major-league baseballer Billy Bean.

Also raised to an artform in Miami is America's true national sport--shopping! From the funky, sometimes outré shops of SoBe to the chic boutiques of the Grove and the Gables, there's something for every taste and wallet. Upscale shopping centers are springing up all over, from small (such as the shops at Eighth Street and Collins Avenue in South Beach) to enormous (Coral Gables' new Village of Merrick Park). And don't pass up a visit to the classic Bal Harbour Shops, in the tony beachside community of the same name. America's top-grossing shopping center, it boasts more than fifteen acres and nearly a hundred upscale retailers, along with special events and fine dining. Meanwhile, decoratin' divas will get a charge out of the Design District just above downtown, with 18 blocks of showrooms, boutiques, and art galleries that span just about every taste and time period.

Then, of course, the great outdoors comes in all shapes, sizes, and speeds in America's most outdoorsy, sunworshipping big city. The gay scene at SoBe's 12th Street Beach has been celebrated far and wide, but 20 minutes north, the gay section of Haulover Beach Park is just as popular with locals, if not more so (maybe something to do with the clothing-optional stretch?). Meanwhile, 20 minutes south on Key Biscayne, the beach at Bill Baggs State Park is more low-key and romantically picturesque--complete with lighthouse. Or avoid sand in your suit at the Gables' lush, romantic Venetian Pool, where a strong queer contingent frolics amid the waterfalls and grottoes along with everyone else. Don't forget, too, that you can combine the outdoors with culture by taking a number of cool biking and walking tours of South Beach's Deco District and other colorful parts of Miami.

For the more active, there's volleyball on SoBe's gay beach, but also windsurfing and snorkeling off Key Biscayne; zooming along the Intracoastal Waterway on Wave Runners; canoeing near Vizcaya (the elegant mansion that's the site of the White Party itself); plenty of golf and tennis; and of course skimming across the Everglades in an airboat. Take it to the next level with a new series of expert-guided eco-adventure tours, which lets you hike, bike, kayak, and snorkel through the area's top nature sites. Finally, when it comes to nightlife, don't overlook the wealth of goodies across the causeways from South Beach. Miami has been called the capital of Latin America, and to that we'd add the gay capital, too, with lots of mixed or mostly gay nightspots across the county, from the area around downtown out to the heavily Latin areas to the west and south. You'll get a taste of a bigger cross-section of gay Latinoamérica t han anyplace else in the hemisphere, and a guaranteed blast even if you don't habla español.




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Source: magazineUSA.com; GMCVB
Last modified: 20050315
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