Watching tanned, sweaty men in short panties doing weight training on the beach in South Beach: Check. Licking a popsicle in the hot Florida sun and giggling from ear to ear: check. If it gets too hot, just dive into the refreshing water of the Atlantic Ocean: Check. Strolling down Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive holding hands like Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, aka Armand and Albert, in the cult film The Birdcage, capturing the charming buildings of the Art Deco Cultural District with a camera: Check. Falling in love with the LGBTQ+ friendly atmosphere of Florida’s second-largest city while getting in the gaycation mood with Latin sounds: priceless. Welcome to our Couple of Men – journal about our summer trip to gay-friendly Miami and Miami Beach in Florida!
– in paid collaboration with Visit Miami –
Miami – Gay Paradise Full of Contrasts
Seems to be a real gay summer dream that we found ourselves in on the east coast of the USA. And yet, Miami is a city full of contrasts: The majority of Miami’s inhabitants have their roots in Latin America. So, it’s hardly surprising that the majority speaks Spanish as their mother tongue; while numerous celebrities reside on luxury estates on the islands off the city’s coast. Miami is at the same time one of the poorest cities in the United States.
If you leave the skyline of downtown Miami behind, after only about 30-40 minutes by car in a westerly direction you reach the Everglades with its species-rich swamp areas, some of which can only be accessed by a propeller-driven swamp boat. And right in the middle of this melting pot of cultures we, Karl and Daan alias Armand and Albert spend our belated summer vacation on the east coast of Florida.
Miami Beach’s only gay hotel
Of course, we reside at Miami Beach’s only gay hotel, the self-proclaimed “friendly gay hotel” Gaythering, which is easily accessible from the Venetian Islands by car, bus, or even bike. Shortly after sunset, we check into our gay-friendly abode and get a chance to socialize with the local LGBTQ+ community on the very first night. It’s karaoke night at Hotel Gaythering, of course with appropriate drag queen moderation. To our surprise, it’s a drag queen from Germany.
With glitter into our first night in Miami Beach
The Saarland-born Drag Queen CC Glitzer has been part of the hotel’s inventory for a few years now and is heating the colorful crowd of locals and hotel guests this evening as well. Her husband Randolph provides the necessary drinks behind the bar. Of course, we recognized the German accent already after the first sentences and were even more pleased to have a few words with the German drag icon during the break. With pride, CC Glitzer tells us about this year’s Pride in Miami, which finally took place again after a break in 2020.
“I had the honor of moderating Miami Pride on the main stage. That was really an exceptional experience, especially after the forced break last year,” ‘the hottest import from Germany’ tells us, as it is written on the posters in the hotel elevator. “I feel really comfortable here in Miami, and I’m happy to have become a part of the queer community in Miami Beach.”
And we can see and hear that: With shining eyes, her charming English, one joke after another, and a large portion of glitter, the drag queen brings the bar to life, not to fire! Two drinks later, however, the entertainment is over for us this evening. After a short but relaxing visit to the hotel’s gay sauna, we are off to bed. After all, an extended bike tour around Miami Beach is on the agenda for tomorrow. With tropical temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, we cycled the next morning after breakfast at the hotel in a southerly direction. The way led along the palm-lined waterfront past yachts and the famous green iguanas, which lie comfortably in the sun everywhere along the way.
Convertible? Walking? Or by bike through Miami?
Only for a short distance, we have to share the road directly with the American SUVs. And yet, we feel safe on the bike in Miami Beach because local drivers, bicyclists, and scooters, but also inline skaters are part of the daily street life. The first stop is the South Pointe Park Pier, an observation deck at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. Whoa, the view of the Atlantic Ocean, the long, white sandy beach on one side,klm and Biscayne Bay, including the Miami skyline on the other side of the bay, is simply breathtaking. Arm in arm, we were able to observe considerable schools of fish below us in the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Though, we had to be careful not to burn our butts while resting briefly on one of the benches, which had become super hot from the sun’s rays.
Cooling off at the Gay Beach in South Beach
We continue on the bike through the long, well-maintained park between the beach and the road in a northerly direction. We made it. Daan can hardly wait to hook up the bikes and walk (well run) to the beach with his beach slippers in one hand and his swim bag with 50+ sunscreen in the other. The pink lifeguard house and the numerous rainbow flags tell one thing: We have arrived at the right beach, the Gay Beach between 11th and 12th Street, where tanned men in Speedos soak up the sun.
But for the moment, we don’t really care. We finally want to dive into the turquoise, crystal clear, 27 °C warm water. Overjoyed and a little incredulous, we lie in each other’s arms while floating in the water. Can this perfect moment really be real? While the palm trees sway in the wind and the blue sky offers the best contrast to the white-colored art deco buildings in the background, any thoughts of stress drop from our minds. Just floating in the salty water, that’s the motto for the next few hours. Well, of course, every now and then we let our eyes wander over the interestingly mixed crowd on the beach.
Time Travel in the Art Deco Cultural District in Miami Beach
A few hours of sun later, it’s time to stretch our legs a bit. Holding hands, we stroll down Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive in swim trunks and T-shirts, encountering a few gay and/or queer couples who do the same and happily smiling back at us. The sun is still high above us in the bright blue sky and twinkles through the well-kept palm trees of the beach promenade. Again and again, inline skaters in skimpy neon-colored outfits whiz past us – and, of course, through our photo shoots. Our plan was to capture some of the most beautiful buildings such as boutique hotels and some of the small and large restaurants that line the pedestrian zone here in the Art Deco Cultural District in all their colorful splendor.
Nightlife adventure in Miami
Back at the hotel, we prepare for the evening. Taking a shower, applying after sun lotion to each other and off we go. We had an appointment for dinner with our friend Dan at the vegan restaurant PLANTA. The Colombian native has lived in Miami for many, many years and, in addition to his work as LGBTQ+ marketing director for Miami, also actively campaigns for the interests of the queer community on a voluntary basis. This is how we learned about the Orgullo Festival, Miami’s Hispanic and Indigenous Pride Festival, which has been held annually since 2011, and whose closing event, just a couple of days from now, we should not miss. Noted to our agenda.
But the evening is still young, and so we set off together to visit another queer institution in Miami Beach, Nathan’s Bar. A surprise awaits us there: the gay couple Chris und Gus, loyal readers of our blog for many years, knew about our evening plans from Instagram and surprised us by coming to the gay bar as well. The two men are originally from Cuba and decided many years ago to emigrate to Miami and from here to travel the world – which was impossible for them back in Cuba. With every drink, the atmosphere at Nathan’s got better and better, the music louder and louder, and more and more queer dance fans started singing on the dance floor and swinging their hips to South American sounds. And then it’s time for us to mingle with the rainbow-colored crowd.
Art, Culture, Pride & The Birdcage
Lazy beach days follow at the Gay Beach in the city and, of course, at Haulover Nude Beach, the only, official gay nude beach in the very north of Miami Beach. On the cloudier days, we mix some culture into our itinerary with a visit to the Pérez Museum of Art, PAMM in short, for modern and contemporary art by international artists. One afternoon, we visited the particularly artfully landscaped gardens of Villa Vizcaya. Definitely a tip for a day on mainland Miami.
For us adventurers, of course, a trip on a swamp boat into the Everglades with Tigertail’s Airboat Tours was one of the absolute highlights of our Florida sun vacation. During the trip, we learned a lot about the fragile nature of the Everglades National Park. We even encountered a few aligators, rare birds and insects. Back in Miami, there is of course much more to experience, such as the ever-changing graffiti landscape in the Wynwood district. But we’ll have to put that off until our next visit because one thing is for sure: we definitely want to come back and discover more of Florida.
On our last evening, things got especially queer – and American. The Orgullo Festival invited us to an improv concert by Patrick & the Swayzees, followed by a drive-in movie. The choice of movie for the evening, how could it be otherwise, fell on The Birdcage, the classic queer Miami movie par excellence. We sat in our (rented) convertible with popcorn in our hands and experienced the full, particularly American feeling of cinema under the Florida stars with the extra portion of glitter.
Our first trip to the United States of America brought us via Atlanta to Florida, where we spent some beautiful days in Orlando’s Disney Parks and Universal Studios. In the same year, we explored the South Western part of the USA, starting with California from San Francisco. Meanwhile, we visited more states in the USA including Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and are planning to back every year at least once.
Now, it’s time to plan your summer vacation in Miami & Miami Beach
We hope we could give you a taste of Florida and Miami with our travel story. For us, the week in the sun felt like a wonderful summer adventure that we would very, very much like to repeat as soon as possible. Actually, before Miami, we visited Orlando, where we visited Disney World and Universal Studios, including our stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando. But there is so much more to discover in Miami, Florida, the USA, and the whole wide, rainbow-colored world.
For any clarifications about your plans for traveling to Miami, Florida, and the USA, follow us and email us or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. See you around the world and the next time in Miami!
Karl & Daan.
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