Best gay bars and clubs in Fort Lauderdale – 2018
Over the past few decades, Fort Lauderdale has evolved massively to become the gay capital of Florida as well as one of the top LGBTQ destinations in the USA.
Wilton Manors is the vibrant gayborhood of Fort Lauderdale, which comes alive every night of the week. The city also has some awesome gay beaches to check out, as well as many gay hotel options to suit everyone.
We've been to Fort Lauderdale several times, mainly due to the abundance of inexpensive flights from Europe. We used JustFly to search and book our flights, which we recommend because they offer a comprehensive range of options allowing you to search for the lowest prices. We also recommend searching for options to Miami Airport, which is only a 45 minute drive away, to maximise your flight options.
However and whenever you visit Fort Lauderdale, you're guaranteed to have a great time with warm weather: temperatures rarely dip below 25 degrees (77 Fahrenheit).
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The gay area of Fort Lauderdale
The main gay area of Fort Lauderdale is Wilton Manors, located around 15 minutes drive inland from the beach. Wilton Manors comprises several blocks with many gay bars, clubs, boutique gay shops, cafes and restaurants. The biggest parties take place on weekends, but there is always a large crowd on every night of the week.
Nearby to Wilton Manors is a small Bohemian road called “Eucalyptus Gardens”. It has a handful of open minded and very colourful cafes like “Voo La Voo”, as well really cool street art murals. If you're looking for a gay shop to stock up on your fetish gear, buy new swimwear and other accessories, check out Pride Factory.
Finally, be sure to check out the Stonewall National Museum for an excellent history lesson about LGBTQ culture, as well as the World AIDS Museum for a fascinating insight about the history of HIV and the steps taken to alleviate it.
Gay bars of Fort Lauderdale
There are many gay bars in Fort Lauderdale, mainly based in Wilton Manors, some of which also double up as a restaurant. Our advice is to head to Alibi and see where the night takes you. Here are some of the main gay bars of Fort Lauderdale worth checking out. Unless otherwise stated, all bars listed are found in Wilton Manors and are open daily until around 2/3am.
- Georgie's Alibi/Monkey Bar: one of the largest gay bars in Wilton Manors, where you're bound to end up at at some stage. It has a large outdoor terrace for smokers with a small bar. Inside it has a large bar area where shows take, a separate dance area and an additional room for latino music and drag shows. Next door it also has a restaurant which serves up some pretty decent burgers.
- thePUB: we love the drag shows at thePUB. It's a smaller venue than Alibi but the female impersonators are hilarious. They usually have a drag or cabaret show on most nights of the week. They also serve food and have a daily 2-4-1 happy hour from 11am-9pm.
- DrYnk: fun cozy bar in Wilton Manors famous for their draft beers and cocktails. We like the more chilled atmosphere here, but still gets quite busy and rowdy on weekends.
- Le Boy: this is where the twinks (and their fans) hang out. Look out for their Thursday strip contests and happy hour from Tuesday to Sunday from 2-8pm. Le Boy is closed on Mondays but open every other day until around 2/3am.
- Gym Bar: one for sports fans (and their fans!) Gym bar plays the latest football/baseball/hockey match on the TV screens and has pool tables. But to be honest, we came here more to ogle at the hot gay jocks rather than follow the latest baseball game!
- Johnsons: a speakeasy lounge bar in Wilton Manors with live shows and really friendly, welcoming staff. They have themed nights like karaoke, drag night and more. Note that Johnsons is only open on Wednesdays to Sundays from 6pm until around 2/3am.
- Infinity Lounge: one of the more sophisticated bars in Wilton Manors with very stylish and chic interiors. It's more intimate than the other bars and better for a romantic date than a wild night out with friends.
Gay restaurants in Fort Lauderdale
There are many gay restaurants in and around Wilton Manors. Here are some of the best we highly recommend from personal experience:
- Bubbles and Pearls: this is one of the best restaurants we ate at in Fort Lauderdale. It's owned and managed by lesbian couple Marcy and Josie (who is also head chef). Their oysters are absolutely delicious and their Key Lime Pie is one of the best we've tried in Florida. B&P is open daily from 5pm to 10pm (11pm on weekends).
- Rosie’s Bar and Grill: we love coming here for a burger dinner before heading out to party in the Wilton Manors gay bars. Each week they produce a new Bow-Wow (Burger of the Week) and have a weekday happy hour from 11am to 7pm. Rosie's is open everyday from 11am to 11pm (midnight on weekends).
- Lips Drag Show & Dinner: The Ultimate in Drag Dining! This is one of the best places to come for drag shows in Fort Lauderdale, with some really funny and entertaining shows to complement your meal. Lips is located in Oakland Park and is only open Tuesday-Sunday till 10pm (after midnight on weekends).
- Rumors Bar & Grill: half sports bar, half restaurant with themed nights like $6 burgers on Mondays. They also have trivia nights and fundraiser events to look out for. Rumors is open daily from 11am to 2am (3am on weekends).
Gay clubs of Fort Lauderdale
These are some of the best gay clubs in Fort Lauderdale. Unless otherwise stated they are in Wilton Manors and open daily until around 2/3am:
- Hunters: the main gay club in town, which we ended up at almost every time we partied in Wilton Manors. There's always something happening here, whether it's karaoke night or “Fur Friday” Bear night. When we came here on a Saturday evening it was packed, but a lot of fun.
- Ramrod: Fort Lauderdale's famous leather, levi and uniform fetish bar with themed nights every day of the week. For example, Monday is “3 Dollar Night” and Friday is leather night. Check their website for the most up to date information about each event happening.
- Boardwalk: gay club which is famous for their margaritas, male dancers and $5 meals after midnight from their “Beefcake Grill”. They have a themed night every evening. Our favourite was Thursday's “Latin Night”. Check their Facebook page for the most up to date information.
Gay beaches of Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is famous for its long white sandy beaches. These are the main gay beaches to check out:
- Sebastian Street beach: this is the most popular gay beach of Fort Lauderdale, located at the end of Sebastian Street near the Ritz Carlton hotel and next to the Fort Lauderdale beach. It gets particularly busy on weekends and has parking, places to buy food/drinks and umbrella rentals. Note this is not a nude beach.
- Haulover nude beach: located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Haulover is one of Florida's most famous nude beaches. It's family friendly and attitude free: you can choose to cover up, or go nude – no one cares. Though when we came, most people were nude, so we followed suit.
- Northeast 18th Street beach: a smaller beach than Sebastian, but more cruisy with a more local crowd. Click here for more specific directions to it. Note this is also sometimes referred to as the “NE 18th & A1A” beach.
- Terramar Street beach: not as popular as Sebastian beach, which means it won't be as crowded. It is located at the end of Terramar Street near the Royal Palm Resort and opposite the Atlantic Hotel.
- Vista Park beach: an even more laid back and tranquil beach than Sebastian and Terramar. As a bonus, there is a reef around 100 yards in, which is perfect for snorkelling. This beach is located near Vista Park, which it is named after. Click here for more specific directions.
Gay events in Fort Lauderdale
As Fort Lauderdale is one of the gayest places in the US, they have many LGBTQ events taking place throughout the year. We set out the main ones below, including the main ones that take place in Miami, which is only 45 minutes drive away:
- Pride Fort Lauderdale Carnaval (Feb): one of the few Pride events with a parade that takes place on the beach. As it coincides with the Carnaval season, this is the theme for each one. Therefore, the more extra your outfit, the better!
- Gay8 Festival (Feb): Latino based gay festival taking place in Little Havana on 8th Street in Miami, which is popular with the Fort Lauderdale Latino gay boys.
- Miami Pride (April): one of the biggest events in South Florida, attracting around 200,000 people.
- Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride (June): this is Fort Lauderdale's second Pride, which takes place in Wilton Manors. It includes a parade and street festival.
- Out Shine film festival (Oct): the main film festival of South Florida, which takes place across Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It's been going strong since it started in 2008 and has grown to become the largest LGBTQ cultural arts event in South Florida.
- Wicked Manors Halloween party (31 Oct): we love dressing up for Halloween and had to come to Wicked Manors when we heard about it. It is a large street party in Wilton Manors every year on 31 October. The surrounding roads are blocked off to traffic to allow the Halloween street party to take over the entire area. It includes costume contests, entertainment, music, live DJs and plenty of parties (see video below).
- White Party Week (Nov): one of the largest Circuit parties in the world, which takes place in Miami in late November.
Where to stay in Fort Lauderdale
The number of gay hotels in Fort Lauderdale is impressive: each time we visit, we seem to stumble on a new “male-only clothing-optional” resort, which is testament to how gay friendly the city is. We tried several gay hotels in Fort Lauderdale and list the best ones below. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list, simply the ones we had a positive first-hand experience of, which we confidently recommend to other gay travellers:
- Grand Resort & Spa: one of the most famous gay hotels in Fort Lauderdale, mainly due to its association and sponsorship of Ru Paul Drag Races (which we're massive fans of). It's also located a few blocks from the beach, which for us ticks all the boxes. The front part includes a pool area, and the back includes a hot tub and relaxation area, which is clothing optional. We also loved the Spa a lot, particularly the deep tissue massage. Prices at the Grand Resort start from $150 a night and you can read more about it here.
- Pineapple Point Resort: although it's not so close to the beach, this is one of the best gay hotels in Fort Lauderdale. It's more expensive than the others, but worth it. It's full of greenery, the rooms are huge and has more communal (all clothing optional!) areas, each with different hot tubs, pools and more. The happy hour at 6pm is a sweet touch, which encourages socialising between guests. Prices at Pineapple Point start from $300 a night ($200 in low season). You can read more about Pineapple Point and check availability here.
- W Hotel: this is one of the largest W hotels in the world with 550 rooms. It's also super trendy and chic, with a super cool bar and highly rated restaurant called “El Vez”. What we love most about the W brand is that it is world famous for being very gay friendly. For example, upon arriving at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale, we noticed gay weddings are openly advertised in the lobby, and they also frequently host LGBTQ events like “Night of 1,000 Chers”. Rooms at the W start from around $380, but we suggest checking their Booking.com listing for the latest deals.
For a more cost effective gay stay in Fort Lauderdale, we suggest checking out one of the many listings on Misterbnb. There are a number of gay hosts advertising on it, which means you'll have a local friend who can hang out with and will show you the gay scene. Some of the Misterbnb listings also work out much cheaper than most of the gay hotels of Fort Lauderdale.