Pick a month on the calendar and any of them will be the perfect time to visit gay friendly Fort Lauderdale. Synonymous with the title of gay capital of Florida and arguably the nation, Wilton Manors / Fort Lauderdale offer a plethora of activities, watering holes, and places to stay, all next to one of the most popular beach destinations in America.
Where to Stay –
Sometimes referred to as America’s Venice, most travelers stay close to the beach and the waterfront. We’ve shared our stays at many of those places before, but when it comes to beachfront resort life, we wanted to stretch out on the sand of the highly recommended Pelican Grand Beach Resort.
We’ve heard rave reviews of guests from out of town enjoying their stay here, locals boasting about its beach, brunch, and dinners, and this spot cannot be overlooked when driving along Fort Lauderdale Beach. It’s one of the few resorts that are directly on the beach and not across A1A highway.
My stay at the Pelican Grand could not have been better. Form arrival to the end, the staff had to be the most genuine I have experienced in a long time. Their thoughtfulness gave me a welcomed feeling from the beginning, their being proactive to my needs had me floating throughout my stay with zero cares or worries. As I’m always one to look around and notice things, this staff was so helpful and accommodating to all.
I request an ocean view and lodging for myself and a couple, preferably separate sleeping areas if it was available. Picking up my keys at the front desk, I proceeded to my 11th floor suite, top floor of the Pelican. The style, comfort beauty, spaciousness and quality of the room were immediately noticed as I entered my home for the next few days.
Pelican Grand is the only resort directly on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. The zero-entry oceanfront pool is nestled in the curves of the area’s only Lazy River. Oceanfront dining at OCEAN2000 has become a favorite of locals and guests alike. Visit O2K Lounge for daily happy hour specials and live entertainment. On the rooftop sits PURE Spa, the Swedish-inspired respite with an all-natural approach to wellness.
The resort is the perfect spot on the beach as it is just north of Sunrise and south of Oakland Park Boulevards, keeping you away from the sometimes congested roadways. But a short walk on the beach or a golf cart ride either way and you’ve tapped into the day and nightlife Fort Lauderdale Beach is known for. Sebastian Beach is a stretch of Fort Lauderdale Beach where LGBTQ crowd tends to congregate and bask in the sun. See and be seen here or just soak up the sun amongst chosen family. Once done kicking up the sand with the alphabet mafia, it’s just a short jaunt back to the hotel, leaving all the hustlers and bustlers behind and you’re back in your calm paradise at the Pelican.
Where They Boys Are –
If you didn’t find your match in the sand, head down the beach at night or into town where you’ll find many restaurants and numerous bars. If it is the gay nightlife you are looking for, the gay scene in Fort Lauderdale is expansive and diverse and boasts one of the largest scenes in Florida, if not the nation. The hub of the city’s gay community is Wilton Manors where you’ll find yourself enveloped in PRIDE. WilMa, what the locals call Wilton Manors is iconic for its high concentration of gay bars and clubs. Walking around, you can feel the energy, the positivity, the excitement of being surrounded by authentic people living and loving. If you desire to step into a bar or snag a chair along The Drive and watch all the gayness stroll by, here are the places we recommend.
You don’t have to know all there is about sportsballs to fit in here, but this is where you’ll find the men and women that do. Large tvs hang from the walls, school and professional teams’ banners hang from the ceiling, and the chicken wings and fried pickles will help you through the night. The boneless ones are epic. Pair that with some of the best prices in Fort Liquordale and you are all set. A gay sports-themed bar with big crowds for games, don’t mind if I do!
This massive two-story nightclub is always packed on the weekends, hosts several events inside and out on its patio, and they’ll even take over the parking lot for the bigger events like Pride, Thunderpuss Reunion Tour, New Years Eve, and so much more. Sunday nights before a Monday holiday are epic and cannot be missed. One of my favorite bartenders in town is here. Tell her I said hello.
One of the newest bars on The Drive, this bar is now a staple and a must visit. Delivering an elevated experience with its craft cocktails, dark wood walls and ceilings and decorated long-horn bull overseeing all, DrYnk and its staff always put you in a positive mood. The Backyard, it’s a whole other experience when you walk into this garden oasis with lit umbrellas, towering palm trees, and its own shack bar to keep the juices flowing. It’s like all these gay men just popped into your backyard!
Is this South Florida’s best gay country-western bar? We are not going to argue with that, but Scandals in Wilton Manors is not just for cowboys to dance under the disco ball made out of four cowboy boots. You’ll find everyone and anyone here. Come feed the bears with your personality and presence on Sundays as Bear Tea is always a sight to see and enjoy. It’s not directly on the drive, but it is just a cute country two-step away.
Where to Dine –
Stay, Sand, Studs, now we need Sustenance.
You cannot go wrong with any of the options at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort. The on-property restaurant OCEAN2000 recently re-launched their oceanfront brunch each Saturday and Sunday (from 11:00am – 4:00pm).
This luxury breakfast-lunch mashup pleases palates from seafood-centric dishes like blue crab cake benedict and spicy tuna ahi tacos to classic brunch dishes like avocado toast and Belgian waffles along with bottomless bloodies and mimosas to wash it all down. Other taste temping offerings include candied double-cut bacon and a seafood tower filled with lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams and crab… not to mention the most stunning views of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. Please call 954.556.7667 or click HERE to make reservations.
But we were staying midweek and decided to treat ourselves to a culinary experience at OCEAN2000. Carlos took care of all of our needs. His attentiveness, humor, and smile, kept us happy throughout the meal. Our recommendations are the Candied Nueske’s Double-Cut Bacon, Roasted Beets Salad, Cedar Plank Salmon, 8 oz. Wagyu Filet of Beef. The desserts were radiant and fit our likings to tee with a mixed berry and apple tart for one and a lava cake accompanied by elements of s’mores for the second. The toasted marshmallows were divine.
Other food spots you can try on for size are:
One of the newest offerings in Wilton Manors, Union Kitchen & Bar offers two outside dining areas, a great interior and wonderful bar space. Date night, work dinner, or a time to treat yourself, this is a must try. And speaking of try, if you cannot decided on one pasta, get a 1/2 serving of two instead, a lovely option. Husband and wife team Roberto and Christie came from different backgrounds and two different parts of the world, each with its own unique culinary history. Christie was born in Peru and Roberto in Northern Italy. Both are usually on premises and their love of food and entertaining the public comes out in their food and their smiles. (more here)
Yes, the name is fun and the food is even better. Make a reservation at this remodeled restaurant. Patio dining or indoors, we recommend ordering shareable plates as you’ll be envious of what everyone else orders as it comes to the table. The pineapple rice – impressive, filling, and a visual treat.
Everyone eats here, everyone loves the food, everyone is happy that this business is having great success in this spot. Others have tried to put forth a product in this space and this latest offering has become one of the best offerings on The Drive. My two favorites are the Chicken Parmesan and the Wedge Salad. But like I said everything is good, especially the Deep Eddy Lemon Drop, that’s the best in town, too. Ok, I just called and made a reservation after typing this.
Culture & Shopping –
If you’ve left room in your suitcase and your heart, here are a couple of more things and places you should check out.
Las Olas Boulevard in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, Florida is at the forefront of everything from fashion boutiques and art galleries, to memorable restaurants, sidewalk cafes and bars… set the stage each evening for South Florida’s most architecturally unique, authentic, and eclectic shopping and dining district.
Stroll the boulevard, duck in and out of our cool breezeways, and be delighted by what you discover. Las Olas Boulevard stretches from the beach at A1A, immaculately lined with palm trees and beautiful people, rising over the fabulous Intracoastal Waterway with magnificent views of million dollar homes and spectacular yachts.
Empire Stage is an artist-driven collective that produces new and existing works for the diverse audiences of Ft Lauderdale, including the LGBT and Senior populations. They’re committed to presenting dynamic works originating from both the New York City and South Florida theatrical communities. Another goal of theirs is to offer theater artists a supportive environment where they can collaborate, take risks and develop as writers, as directors, as actors, as designers and as producers. The theater is small, laughs are large, the drama is palpable.
ISLAND CITY STAGE is a professional theater committed to sharing stories of universal interest, engaging diverse audiences with entertaining, challenging, and inspiring productions and programs, often exploring the LGBTQ+ culture. We recently went to see Tim Murray and Michael Henry on tour there at one of their two sold out performances.
The gays do need to shop. Every single gay friend wants to go to the Pride Factory when visiting me so they can stock up on everything from belts to bathing suits, undies to adult toys, from campy tees and hats to satchels and more. Recently, the gay owners moved this gay store directly into the heart of the gayborhood. See the gay link above for its new gay location and what they gay have to offer.
As mentioned, any time of the year, you’ll find an inviting and supportive environment here in Fort Lauderdale, a beautiful surroundings to relax, play, have adventures, and fellow LGBTQ locals and tourists alike to share drinks, food, and pride with. Times are changing, but what still remains the same, we support cities and businesses that support us, that welcome us, that believe in us. I want to thank the businesses mentioned above as I will continue my patronage to them with smiles and appreciation.
Here are just a few more pictures from the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, including some of one of the many same-sex weddings they have hosted. Marriage Equality looks great on the sand and in baby blue!