We, as a gay couple from Europe, had the pleasure of visiting Fort Lauderdale in the USA this February, attending the first Pride of the Americas edition (POTA). During this week-long vacation on Florida’s east coast, we were excited to explore the “Venice of America” with its famous beaches and waterways. Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Gay Capital of Florida“, with a lively and vibrant LGBTQ+ community. Even the city’s “Everyone under the Sun” motto reflects the LGBTQ+ welcoming mindset. From the Central Beach Area and Fort Lauderdale Pride to attractions of particular interest to the LGBTQ+ community in the “gay-neighbor(hood)” Wilton Manors: In this blog article, we collected some of our highlights worth considering for your travel planning.
– paid collaboration with Visit Greater Fort Lauderdale –
Welcome to “Florida’s Gay Capital”
Welcome to Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Gay Capital! Since our first trips to the sunshine state in the South East of Florida, we have wanted to visit sun-soaked Fort Lauderdale and its exciting LGBTQ+ community. After visiting Wilton Manors for the first part of our trip, we stayed at the Central Beach Area, which boasts stunning beaches, world-class sights, and an electric nightlife. On our list: visiting the historic Bonnet House Museums & Gardens and Pride Fort Lauderdale to relaxing hours at Sebastian Gay Beach. Fort Lauderdale never had a dull moment. Let us show you why Greater Fort Lauderdale for us is an excellent choice for LGBTQ+ travelers.
For the second part of our summer holiday in Greater Fort Lauderdale, we stayed at the Kimpton Shorebreak Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, overlooking the Intracoastal Highway, just a block from the white sandy beach. And we should find out why Fort Lauderdale is also known as the “Venice of America”.
The hotel has been recently refurbished in a vintage Floridian style. Our highlights were the spectacular rooftop terrace with a pool overlooking the intercostal highway.
Get to know Fort Lauderdale by Water Taxi
Unlike Wilton Manors, which is surrounded by a waterway system but not directly on the ocean, Fort Lauderdale has it all, from downtown skyscrapers to white, award-winning beaches. To get an overview of the Floridian metropolis’s different microcosms, we were eager to explore another highlight of Fort Lauderdale: the Intracoastal Waterway. And not just like that, by rowing boat, for example. But instead, by water taxi on its way to the final stop, downtown Fort Lauderdale. Luckily, it wasn’t that hot when we walked to the banks, waiting for one of the yellow boats to pick us up.
And although the boats were supposed to depart every 10 minutes, we knew we might have to wait for a boat that still had a few available seats. Lucky again. And then our journey began, cruising around the most expensive yachts and enormous villas and mansions you might think of. The sun shone through the palms lining the banks of the New River, and the salty wind ruffled our hair. We could see so many canals and waterways even from the taxi. It became clear why Fort Lauderdale is also called the “Venice of America” even though the atmosphere in the historic Italian namesake is quite different.
Travel planning with TripAdvisor: Water Taxi Fort Lauderdale >
We found some great deals with flights worldwide as well as in and around Europe via Amsterdam (and return) with gay-friendly KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. That includes direct connections with KLM or their partner airlines, Air France and DELTA. *subject to availability / last check: 2023
Exploring Downtown Fort Lauderdale
Yes, besides the bustling LGBTQ+ neighbor Wilton Manors and the luxurious beaches, Fort Lauderdale has an impressive Downtown to explore. Especially architecture enthusiasts and museum-goers will find their hotspots here as well. The area boasts a charming mix of modern and historic buildings, such as the stunning Broward County Main Library and the Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum. We arrived by water taxi over the New River with its well-maintained Riverwalk that runs through the heart of downtown FL. Museum highlights in downtown Fort Lauderdale include The Museum of Discovery and Science, where you can learn about Florida’s unique ecosystems and wildlife. Another tip is the NSU Art Museum, which showcases contemporary and modern art.
Restaurant Tip: Big Buns Damn Good Burgers
Time for lunch. After all, exploring the city made us really hungry. Then we discovered Big Buns Damn Good Burgers in downtown Fort Lauderdale right at the Riverwalk. This restaurant served up some great burgers we could put together with the ingredients of our choice. Daan was especially happy about his vegetarian choices, which did not only look good but were delicious! The atmosphere was lively and fun, and the shakes were seriously refreshing.
Known for its vibrant nightlife, welcoming LGBTQ+ community, and various queer venues and attractions, Wilton Manors in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a fun and inclusive vacation in Florida. Read more about our time in Wilton Manors with tips and our highlights.
Gay Sauna Club Fort Lauderdale
In just about 15 minutes walking distance from the burger restaurant, we had the opportunity to visit Club Fort Lauderdale, the well-known gay sauna in Fort Lauderdale. As you know, we like to visit clothing-optional gay places and are big fans of gay saunas. And we were not to be disappointed in Fort Lauderdale either. The facilities were clean and well-maintained, and we felt comfortable and safe exploring the sauna, steam room, and hot tubs. It was an exciting experience, and we appreciated the inclusive and respectful atmosphere indoors and outdoors in the big refreshing pool. We were pleased to find a place where we could be ourselves and connect with locals and other LGBTQ+ travelers alike. Good to know: Club Fort Lauderdale offers a big gym, vending machines, lockers, many private rooms, and, of course, dark room areas for a unique and relaxing experience.
Bonnet House Museums & Gardens
Nature lovers by heart, we had to visit the historic house museum and botanical garden right on the beachfront of Fort Lauderdale. The Bonnet House and Gardens tells the story of the Bonnet family’s impact on the area. We scheduled our visit in the afternoon to catch the unique lighting of the sun shining through the plant life and on the different architectural highlights. Talking about the buildings: The property’s architecture is impressive, with a unique blend of styles influenced by the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.
The house was built in the 1920s and is now home to an extensive art collection, giving insides of a bygone era. The gardens are equally stunning, with diverse tropical plants and trees arranged around a pond on the backside of the main building. We loved exploring the property and learning about the history of the area. We also appreciated the Bonnet House’s staff and volunteers for creating an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.
After all, as a couple of gay travel bloggers, we captured a few photos and videos here and there around the property. We highly recommend visiting the Bonnet House Museums & Gardens to anyone visiting Fort Lauderdale, whether interested in history, architecture, or nature. It’s a hidden gem that’s not to be missed.
Travel planning with TripAdvisor: Bonnet House & Gardens >
Sebastian Gay Beach in Fort Lauderdale
Our trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sebastian Gay Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Fort Lauderdale for the local queer community and LGBTQ+ travelers. Sebastian Gay Beach had a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Especially after a day at Pride Fort Lauderdale with lots of walking and dancing, a relaxing day in the sun, and refreshing intermezzos in the water were precisely what we needed. The beach, surrounded by palm trees, is conveniently located just a short walk from our hotel in a natural setting.
We met many other gay couples, single sunbathers, and groups. Without any problems, we engaged in conversations with locals and other travelers. The main topics: Pride, the controversial politics of Florida’s governor, and tips for a night out in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Good to know: Fort Lauderdale’s gay beach isn’t hard to find. A giant rainbow flag points to the white sand beach with a mixed crowd. Moreover, the beach entrance clearly states the name of the gay beach: Sebastian!
Travel planning with TripAdvisor: Sebastian Gay Beach >
We were excited to experience our first pride event in 2023, the first-ever Pride of the Americas, presented by Visit Lauderdale. POTA promised to attract guests from all over the North, Central, and South of the USA and the Caribbean. And while our time in Wilton Minors flew by, we were looking forward to joining in the festivities and celebrating our community, the LGBTQ+ community. Enjoy our best photos of Pride of the Americas = Pride of Fort Lauderdale!
Now it is time for your gaycation in Gay Fort Lauderdale
Our time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was a fantastic experience. We were pleasantly surprised by Fort Lauderdales’s diverse and colorful LGBTQ+ community, the beautiful beaches, and the incredible food. Throughout our stay, we felt genuinely welcomed and accepted. We had no issues holding hands, sharing a kiss, or asking for a double bed when checking into our hotel.
Although we can’t guarantee you’ll have similar experiences, we want to share our honest and authentic tips for Fort Lauderdale. We researched, and this article’s experiences, opinions, and photos are genuine. Furthermore, we hope our tips will inspire and give you ideas for your upcoming and safe trip to Fort Lauderdale.
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Karl & Daan.
Please note: This trip was made possible in collaboration with Visit Greater Fort Lauderdale and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Thank you for the support and the opportunity to experience Fort Lauderdale in an accessible and authentic way.