I’m a sucker for a young Pride Celebration. Wait did that come out right? Yes it did. One of my favorite Prides to date was when I attended the 10th Pride Celebration in Savannah, Georgia and it was their first year of having an actual Pride Parade which they did at night. It was sweet, fun, exciting, full of energy, very inclusive, and just made me fall in love with Savannah even more. When I moved to Florida back in 2013, I was shocked to hear that Miami Beach pride was only five years old. Knowing our queer history and knowing that Miami Beach is an LGBTQ hotspot in the nation, it just didn’t seem right that it was only five years old. Come to this year 2023, Miami Beach had its 15th Pride Celebration and knowing current politics, any Pride is a protest right now in Florida.
Prepping for Miami Beach Pride –
Whoever said getting there is half the battle is very correct when it comes to getting to South Beach Miami. I mean, it is easy, just 2 roads, but there are some other factors. Living in Fort Lauderdale for the past decade, I can count on two hands how many times I’ve been to South Beach, just 34 miles away. May it be the traffic or the traffic or the traffic or the parking, it’s not always a pleasure to get my gay self to South Beach. So, when I wanted to go to Miami Beach Pride this year, I got rid of half of the battle. To make my trip to Miami Beach Pride enjoyable I enlisted the help of two things – a bird and a train.
The Brightline Experience –
The train was the Brightline. The company did some great marketing to our community and were offering incentives to take the Brightline train to Miami and Miami Beach Pride. I created my own trip on their app, which for a mere $66, it included all of this: a scheduled Uber to pick me up at my house and bring me to the Fort Lauderdale train station, the train to Miami, another scheduled Uber to pick me up at the Miami train station to bring me to South Beach, and then the reverse from Miami Beach back to Fort Lauderdale. Car rides and train rides included, all for that $66 and all on one app. I know for a fact that there are two spots on Interstate 95 where I cheat death every time I make that ride from FLL to MIA, so taking the train is just a complete exhale and relaxation, well worth the $66 back and forth, but to have myself and luggage picked up at my house and brought to South Beach and in the reverse for that all-inclusive $66 it was a no brainer. Valet parking sans tipping on South Beach alone can run you $35 to $45 to $55 a night and you don’t know where your car is going to be. Oh, and for that $66, you get access to the premium lounge at each station where there is free food, beverages, and even free beer on tap, and then the premium car on the train also offers more free food and more adult beverages for your ride.
The Overnight Stay –
The bird was in the form of the Pelican Hotel right on Ocean Avenue in South Beach. If I was going to make the trek, I was going to stay for a couple nights to enjoy myself and Pride.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the historic Art Deco Pelican Hotel reopened last November, revealing a design-centric, oceanfront haven that pulses with the energy of contemporary fashion, culture, and flavors. Originally built in 1948, the property was purchased by Renzo Rosso, founder of DIESEL, in 1990 and was then designed and decorated by Renzo himself together with the brand’s Creative Team. The exceptional and meticulously restored property injects new life into the iconic strip, complete with its redesigned in-house restaurant, the Pelican Café.
I checked in about 4:30 PM, was greeted with great smiles and excitement at the front desk, went up to the second floor to my room and began to start the weekend with just simple relaxation. All the mixers and waters in the mini bar were free, complimentary, and refillable at my request. Happy hour from 4 to 6 in the downstairs bar provided a complimentary drink each day and was a great way to meet other travelers. Also, be sure to check out the Pelican and the DIESEL merch at the front desk reception area. I may have to get that red watch they had there on display. Here’s a gallery of some of the rooms at the Pelican Hotel.
Café Coziness –
Not wanting to explore too much away from the hotel and South Beach that night, I decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant and choosing to sit at a sidewalk table at the Pelican Café.
After a highly anticipated transformation and with celebrated Italian Chef Giancarlo “Wendy” Cacciatori overseeing the kitchen, the Pelican Café offers authentic Italian cuisine enhanced with a modern twist while celebrating culture and tradition with seasonally inspired dishes and beverages. Nested within the newly reopened Pelican Hotel, the 30-seat beachfront eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour and late-night cocktails.
I ordered the seared scallops with seaweed salad and salmon egg appetizer, a couple fizzy drinks, bottle of water, and the ricotta and spinach ravioli entree followed by the panna cotta dessert. It was a nice and elegant meal while watching the variety of South Beach passersby as my entertainment.
The Pelican Café staff was fun enjoyable and much more friendly than I have experienced at other hotel restaurants on South Beach. Travelers tip – always remember to look at your bill for in Miami as most if not all businesses by practice usually place 13% to 15% to 18% gratuity on every single bill, no matter what you buy at a restaurant or bar and no matter how good or bad the service.
The location of the Pelican Hotel on the 800 block of Ocean Avenue was the perfect spot to begin my one man parade north past all the other art-deco hotels as well as The Palace Bar where of course The Palace Drag Queens and performers were just doing it like they do, always on fire, always on point, always entertaining. The main entrance to the Pride Celebration was at the 12th St. Lummus Park entrance which was just north of The Palace Bar. On Friday night, the Pride Celebration had a VIP party on the beach. Miami Beach Pride was massive this year as its events stretched from March 31st to April 16th. So there were many events for a variety of people to enjoy. I stopped in for a little bit but desired to go back and do some people watching along Ocean Avenue.
The next day, the Pride area opened up at noon. So before going, I took the opportunity to walk up to one of my favorite 24-hour restaurants, Maxine’s and order one of my favorite bites, the bruschetta, probably the best bruschetta I’ve ever had.
Coming back down from 17th St. and entering the park on 12th, I was able to see all the different booths: food, health care, service and community groups, free HIV testing, travel companies, media, and more. And of course it was just fun watching all the pretty people walking around. Be prepared when you go to South Beach as everything is hot – hot – hot, hot men, hot tourists, hot temperatures. All of that hotness just wore me down really quick, so back to the Pelican Hotel I went to relax before the evening ramped up at the Pride venue. On Saturday night, the music was very Miami as it was EDM on one end and Latino on the other.
The Parade –
I wasn’t planning on staying past the parade on Sunday. I knew there’d be more entertainment, more well-known performers, and more to see but I really just wanted to see the parade and so I asked for a late checkout at the Pelican, left my bags at the front desk at noon just as the parade started, and I sat at one of the restaurant’s sidewalk-level tables again and enjoyed lunch. It was the perfect spot to see people parade by and to meet a wonderful couple from France that had a lesbian daughter at home. They really were excited that they postponed their trip one extra day to the Bahamas and they were able to see the parade. It was really great to see international admiration for our celebration of pride, it was wonderful to see the people in the parade that were jovial and happy, it was also great to see people protesting some of the politicians that have not done their job efficiently and actually have gone against our community, but they still felt they should be in the parade.
Repeat Offender –
Overall, the trip to Miami was a great success. With the ease of taking the Brightline back and forth to Miami with car rides included, my relaxing fulfilling air conditions stay at the Pelican Hotel with its perfect location and atmosphere to enjoy South Beach, it was truly just a wonderful escape from Fort Lauderdale, where I live, where my house just flooded two days before. Thank you Brightline, thank you Pelican Hotel, thank you Miami Beach, for giving me a gay staycation that I will look forward to doing again very soon, Pride or no Pride.