With so many destinations courting the gay and lesbian traveler these days, it is easy to forget that Miami and Key West are two fun and close-by getaways worth your money. Last month, I took a trip to see what’s up in these LGBT vacation towns.
The two best things to do in Key West are relax and rejuvenate. You won’t need a car in Key West, but do rent a bike and check out the cruise ships in port and the island’s attractions. Key West has great drag shows, male erotic dancers and, of course, the famous sunsets at Mallory Square. There are plenty of water activities, including jet-ski tours and LGBT sailing trips. Sunday brings the Tea Dance at La Te Da and special parties at the Island House. Every Saturday is the Key West gay trolley tour. Special events offer magical times to visit Key West. Upcoming events include Tropical Heat (Aug. 18-21), Women’s Fest (Sept. 6-11) and Bear Fest (Sept. 22-25). For information on events, parties and shows, visit the LGBT Visitor Center at 513 Truman Ave. (www.gaykeywestfl.com).
Key West is all about the guesthouse experience. Don’t miss the Island House, which recently completed a $2.5-million renovation: It’s the most luxurious gay guesthouse in Key West. The all-male resort is clothing-optional. Even if you prefer your bathing suit to your birthday suit, you’ll be comfortable here. You’ll also find the friendliest staff in Key West and one of the best restaurants on the island. The guesthouse draws a highly successful international crowd, so conversations over the daily happy hour are always interesting. There is an onsite massage therapist and a gym. There’s no need to ever leave.
A popular guesthouse for women is Pearl’s Rainbow, which bills itself as all-welcoming. Women can sunbathe topless here. Check out live music and events at Pearl’s Patio (www.pearlsrainbow.com).
Alexander’s Guest House is a great option for gays and lesbians traveling together (www.alexanderskeywest.com).
For some years now, the buzz has been that Ft. Lauderdale replaced Miami as the South Florida gay hot spot. Miami today is definitely worth a second look. Heck, the local gay chamber of commerce just opened a new LGBT Visitor Center in the Old City Hall, 1130 Washington Ave.
In addition to the visitor center, the new Lords South Beach Hotel is Miami’s only hotel primarily geared toward gay and lesbian travelers. Located in the heart of South Beach at 1120 Collins Ave., the hotel is within walking distance to everything gay in South Beach. The hotel is fun and sexy. The staff is super-friendly and the hotel has pool parties, Sunday brunch, parties for women and top-notch entertainment. The Lords is an awesome value in South Beach, worth every one of your travel pennies.
A short cab ride away from Lincoln Road is the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel, among the world’s best hotels. From its magnificent pools and luxury cabanas to the stellar spa and rooms with inspiring views, it’s worth the trip. It’s no wonder that celebrities, including Lady Gaga, flock here to escape the winter blues. The onsite Studio 54-like nightclub Liv is a must-see, as is the smaller Arkadia lounge. This hotel has it all: incredible restaurants, an amazing gym, beautiful bodies around the pool and beach access.
Jeff Guaracino is vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” Traveling locally, check out visitphilly.com.