Without question, Southern Florida is one of America’s most popular travel destinations. For LGBTQ+ travelers, gay Fort Lauderdale is among the best travel destinations in the region. The miles of soft sandy beaches and clear water are the perfect way to spend your day before heading into the vibrant nightlife of Fort Lauderdale’s gay scene.
When it comes to gay Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors is the section of the city to see and to be seen. It’s a close-knit community of LGBTQ+ residents, seasonal residents and tourists that all get along splendidly. Included in that group are two of my good friends from Philadelphia who moved to Fort Lauderdale ten years ago. While I was always jealous of their move for the year round perfect weather and incredible gay community, I took many opportunities to visit them in their new hometown.
Here is everything I learned about gay Fort Lauderdale and how to enjoy this perfect LGBTQ+ destinations on your own gay travels. I’ve compiled it all into this comprehensive gay guide to Fort Lauderdale. Read on and get prepared for a great time in Fort Lauderdale, then let us know what you think of the guide in the comments.
Our Fort Lauderdale gay guide includes:
- The gay community, history and area of Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors
- Guide to Fort Lauderdale gay bars, clubs, saunas, restaurants and events
- Things to do in Fort Lauderdale for your gay travel itinerary
- Where to stay in Fort Lauderdale including hotels, clothing optional resorts and Airbnb rentals
- Tips to plan your Fort Lauderdale gay holiday
- Fort Lauderdale gay travel tips
How Gay Friendly is Fort Lauderdale?
Fort Lauderdale is one of the most gay-friendly travel destinations in the United States and together with the neighboring town of Wilton Manors is home to over 200 gay-owned businesses. In the area, Rainbow flags are as common as American flags and you can feel safe and secure as a gay traveler in Fort Lauderdale.
While there’s a solid gay scene in Fort Lauderdale proper, the adjacent town of 12,000 residents, Wilton Manors, boasts a population that identifies as 14% LGBTQ. If you do the math and factor in the huge draw of tourists to the area, your grindr grid will be popping. For the purpose of this Fort Lauderdale gay guide, you can consider Fort Lauderdale and the gay village of Wilton Manors as an interchangable collective. In fact, you may not even realize it if you move between the two on your trip.
The History of Gay Fort Lauderdale
The history of gay rights in Florida has largely mirrored the difficult march towards equality that existed all over the United States. Miami was Florida’s largest gay scene for decades, despite existing largely underground, but by the 1950’s efforts were made to marginalize and target homosexuals. This culture war was largely political, but local officials sought to shut down gay bars and businesses in Miami and other Florida cities.
By the late 1960’s gay rights groups were organizing all over the United States, including Florida. In 1971 Florida struck down a statute judging homosexuality as a “crime against nature” but upheld an anti-sodomy law. Public perception still took decades to overcome years of anti-gay propoganda in Florida and all over the United States.
In the 1990’s and 2000’s gay communities saw a resurgance in Florida cities like Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. As LGBTQ+ political organizing around the AIDS crisis continued to fight for equality in all areas of life, Florida expanded marriage to same-sex couples in 2015. Later that year, the United States Supreme Court once again expanded marriage rights across America.
Today, those Florida cities have continued to blossom as LGBTQ+ enclaves in a state and country that still holds conflicting attitudes towards the gay community.
Wilton Manors: The Fort Lauderdale Gay Area
The biggest concentration of gay businesses is in Wilton Manors, so it’s likely that will be where you spend most of your time in gay Fort Lauderdale. It’s the nightlife hub and unless you’re on the beaches, you’ll probably be somewhere close to Wilton Drive aka the Drive.
The gay village of Wilton Manors got its name from a Georgia-born real estate developer in 1925. Before that it was a small train stop along the East Florida Railroad called Colohatchee. Wilton Manors was incorporated in 1947 but remained a sleepy train stop town for decades.
In the 1990s Wilton Manors saw a massive economic redevelopment. As with many quaint American towns, the gays moved into this affordable and overlooked area and made it attractive to commerce and investment.
Today, Wilton Manors still thrives and the active gay community is at the forefront of its prosperity. It’s home to the World AIDS Museum and Education Center as well as the Stonewall National Museum and Archives. There is a large Pride Center in Wilton Manors and it’s one of only two cities in America with an all LGBT+ governing body.
It won’t take you long to fall for Wilton Manors and the reason why is the community that’s been fostered over many years.
Guide to Find a Gay Hotel in Fort Lauderdale
Like any resort town, there are seemingly endless options for lodging and various types of accommodation in Fort Lauderdale. Here are just a few suggestions for finding the right place to stay for you. Overall, your budget and interests will guide you to picking the right place to stay in Fort Lauderdale.
Tips on Where to Stay on a Gay Trip to Fort Lauderdale
- Search for lodging where you plan to end the day – a short trip home is best when you have less energy. If you plan to enjoy the nightlife, stay in Wilton Manors. Planning on a trip that’s all about the beach? Then stay in Fort Lauderdale proper, close to Sebastian Street Beach.
- Book early! As mentioned several times so far, Fort Lauderdale is one of the most popular LGBT travel destinations, so people book places months and even years in advance or reserve the same group house year after year. You’ll have the best options for price and location if you plan ahead.
- It’s worth paying more to be in a prime area. You may pay a premium to be in the thick of Wilton Manors or in proximity to the beach, but it’s worth it. Uber is an inexpensive way to get around the area, but it will add up if you stay too far from the beach or nightlife areas.
- Consider a mens only resort. Gay Fort Lauderdale is a very safe destination, but many travelers like knowing they are staying at a resort that caters to the community. Many also have themes and entertainment in additon to being a great place to meet other gay travelers.
Airbnb Rentals in Wilton Manors
One of the best ways to travel is to book a short term rental property through Airbnb. There are plenty of gorgeous properties available to book in Fort Lauderdale and especially Wilton Manors. The Airbnb platform is especially great for finding a group house or a romantic vacation home as a couple.
The Guesthouse District
If you’re after a little more service and attention during your stay, consider booking a guesthouse. The Guesthouse District in Wilton Manors puts you smack in the middle of the shopping, eateries and nightlife of the gay village. Many guest houses include meals at the property and many are gay-owned and considered all male gay hotels.
Men Only Resorts in Fort Lauderdale
If you’re looking for a male-only gay resort in Fort Lauderdale, you have options. One cluster of male-only lodging is the trio of resorts; The Worthington, Villa Venice and The Alcazar. They’re connected by walkway and place you steps from Sebastian Street, location of the Fort Lauderdale gay beach.
These resorts are clothing-optional and packed with amenities. The rooms are well-appointed and there are three heated pools, two jacuzzis and a gym. Any of these three-star gems are excellent options if you want to stay in Fort Lauderdale near the gay beach but still close to nightlife.
Wilton Manors Men Only Resorts
Would you prefer to stay in a resort near the nightlife of Wilton Manors? You have a number of options for mens’ resorts in addition to the guest houses in the area. They all place you steps from the fun of Wilton Drive with a short stumble home at the end of the night.
Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors Gay Bar Guide
One of the main draws to Fort Lauderdale for gay travelers is the terrific gay nightlife. In fact, it’s so good that you hardly need to wait for the evening as many host guest throughout the day. It’s also common for the gay bars and pubs in Fort Lauderdale to serve food, so you have every excuse to visit them during your vacation.
There’s really something for everyone when it comes to Fort Lauderdale gay bars. From karaoke to cruising, here is out guide to the nightlife in Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale
1721 N. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
For over 30 years Boardwalk Bar has been entertaining visitors with music, drinks and nightly go-go boys. The bar also features a patio serving burgers and other pub food. There’s brunch on the weekends and great drink specials and happy hour deals. Like many bars with strippers, be aware of unethical tactics used to charge you for dances and more.
DrYnk Bar & Lounge
2255 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
If you want the best old fashioned in Southern Florida – head over to DrYnk Bar & Lounge. It’s an eclectic speakeasy with a playful staff and a bar full of locals most days of the week. The cozy watering hole makes fabulous specialty cocktails and has an unbelievable happy hour(s) from 2pm until 8pm.
Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar
2266 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Alibi is one of the most welcoming and fun bars in Wilton Manors. That explains how it’s remained one of the most popular spots in the village for so long. There are four bars inside and each has its own identity with great drink specials.
Alibi is known as one of the best bars for live entertainment like drag performances and guest DJs. There’s also an outdoor patio at Alibi and they serve food, so you can go there for a meal and stay for the party.
Gym Sports Bar
2287 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Gym is one of the coolest and most welcoming bars in Wilton Manors. It’s an upbeat gay sports bar with darts, an energetic crowd and great food! In fact, the daily food specials rival the drink specials and make it the best place in Fort Lauderdale to watch a game.
2440 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Lit is one of the newest bars in Wilton Manors, but they’re in the mix like old pros. It’s an indoor/outdoor space with a super fun and energetic vibe. There are games in the parking lot (you can also park there) and inside you’ll find even more entertainment. They host all types of events from drag performances to poker tournaments – oh and drinks of course. Pop into Lit for an iconic bucket drink and get… well… Lit.
Johnson's Fort Lauderdale
2340 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
An upscale speakeasy with go-go boys and craft cocktails? Yes please! You’ll find all that as well as an outdoor patio and great music at Johnson’s on Wilton Drive. The vibe is more burlesque than strip club, which makes Johnson’s a charming place to have a drink and enjoy the scenery.
Mona's Bar (and Lisa's Backyard)
502 E. Sunrise Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
Mona’s is an eclectic bar from the decor to the crowd. It’s been a staple of the community since 1997 and frequently hosts fundraising events with over-the-top entertainment. You can expect a good time at Mona’s with nightly happenings like karaoke and free billiards to elaborate theme parties.
The Pub - Wilton Manors
2283 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
The pub is a cool watering hole with a great atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to gather with friends or make new ones over a cocktail and conversation. The Pub is a great bar for tourists and locals alike with a fun and welcoming crowd. There are fantastic events, drag shows and daily drink specials. They also serve food, so it’s a great bar to start your evening out.
2400 E. Oakland Park Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
Smarty Pants is the oldest neighborhood gay bar in Fort Lauderdale. For over 50 years it’s been the meeting place for the members of the community and it’s still a favorite for drag, game nights, karaoke, trivia and more. The drink specials make it super affordable and any trip to gay Fort Lauderdale deserves a visit to this iconic landmark.
Gay Dance Clubs, Cruise Clubs and Saunas in Fort Lauderdale
Everyone loves to start their night at the gay bars, but when you’re on vacation in Fort Lauderdale you want to go big, right? That can mean something different for everyone, but whether you’re set to go dancing, cruising or even more – here’s where you’ll likely find yourself.
Fort Lauderdale Gay Dance Clubs
2232 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Hunters is a super fun video bar with a cute cocktail lounge and terrific atmosphere. The bartenders are friendly and the upbeat music is pumped onto the large dance floor. There are frequent guest DJs from around the country and globe. Hunters attracts a diverse crowd of all ages – for a packed dance floor head to Hunters by midnight.
2345 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
The Manor is personally my favorite gay club in Fort Lauderdale and probably all of Florida. It’s a multi-level club complex with a lounge and martini bar, dance floor, stage for shows and events and a full calendar of entertainment. There’s always a fun vibe at The Manor and it’s sure to be your favorite dance club in Wilton Manors as well as mine.
Fort Lauderdale Gay Cruising Clubs
321 W. Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
321 Slammer is a private club which you buy a one-time membership to at the door. There is no bar at 321 Slammer, but you can bring your own alcohol. It’s very busy on the weekends but get a good crowd on weekdays for themed events. There are public and private rooms to explore in a typical cruise club manner.
1508 NE. 4th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
Ramrod is the leather/levis bar with an “anything goes” vibe and kinky theme nights. It’s known for friendly staff and cheap drinks. The crowd at Ramrod is largest on the weekends and it’s the place to go if the scene is right for you and you’re looking for a cruise bar experience.
The Eagle - Fort Lauderdale
2209 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
There’s an Eagle bar is most of America’s gay cities and now there’s one in Wilton Manors. The Eagle is another men’s leather bar for guys in the scene. It’s a recent addition to the Wilton Manors community and boasts an underground, Berlin-inspired vibe. The music is good and the drinks are cold and cheap.
Fort Lauderdale Gay Saunas
110 NW. 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
The Club is a typical gay sauna located in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Facilities include a grotto, full gym, heated swimming pool, jacuzzi and private rooms and areas to explore. It’s clean and open 24 hours on the weekends with abbreviated hours during the week.
The Clubhouse II
2650 E. Oakland Park Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
The Clubhouse II has been open in Fort Lauderdale since the 1970’s. It’s a another typical gay sauna facility that features a whirlpool, steam room, dry sauna, maze and private rooms. There’s a video lounge and nightly/weekly specials and theme nights.
Guide to Fort Lauderdale Gay Events
When is the best time to visit gay Fort Lauderdale? South Florida weather is great all year long – so how will you decide when to go?
Like most LGBT travel destinations, the population swells during major events like Fort Lauderdale Pride. Fewer than 13,000 people call Wilton Manors home, but that number multiplies during Halloween weekend.
That’s why we want to make sure you know about the biggest LGBT events, parties and festivals in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors. These could be the perfect times to visit gay Fort Lauderdale if you want a raucous and entertaining trip. If you want a more low-key or romantic gay vacation, you may want to avoid traveling during these events.
Whatever your preference, here are some times of year where the tourists in Fort Lauderdale will outnumber the locals.
Stonewall Pride Wilton Manors
Held Annually in June | Website
For 20 years, the gay village of Wilton Manors has celebrated Pride Month and the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Sure, there’s Fort Lauderdale Pride a few months before, but what living, breathing homosexual wold turn down a second party in June?
The massive LGBTQ+ celebration of Pride attracts visitors from all over America and the world. It features drag, DJs, dancing and a celebration of queer history and Pride. While the emphasis is on the partying, this is still a fabulous week for entertainment and experiencing the community of Wilton Manors.
Fort Lauderdale Pride on the Beach
Held Annually in April | Website
The first Fort Lauderdale Pride was held in 1977 during protests over gay rights referendums of the time. Since then, the annual event has grown from protest to a massive parade and festival. It’s even held on the beach these days because of the crowds and events held during pride week.
The events include something for everyone including senior events, family activities, sports and sober celebrations. While many blocks around the beach are also blocked off for events, you can enjoy the action from the sand or even in the ocean as well. That alone makes it one of the most unique and special Pride celebrations in the entire United States.
Held Annually on October 31 | Website
Gay Halloween is an unrivalled event and if you’ve never experienced it in Wilton Manors, you just don’t know what you’re missing. Each year, Wilton Drive is closed off for a massive street party full of costumed queers in full Halloween glory. It’s brought to you each year by the Fort Lauderdale Pride Center, so the whole community is involved.
The Florida Sunshine Cup
Held Annually in mid-February | Website
If you love gay sports or your grindr tribe is jock, head to Fort Lauderdale for the annual flag football tournament, The Florida Sunshine Cup. It’s held each February – just the time of year where you’ll crave some South Florida sunshine. The event fills the city with gay athletes from all over the country and it’s a fantastic weekend full of events for both players and spectators.
Our Favorite Things to do in Fort Lauderdale
Enjoy the Fort Lauderdale Gay Beach, Sebastian Street
It goes without saying that the beaches of South Florida are an important part of any vacation to the region. It’s just as true for those visiting gay Fort Lauderdale, and your beach of choice is on Sebastian Street. It’s the well-known and popular gay beach in Fort Lauderdale.
On Sebastian Street beach, the crowd is mostly gay men but the environment is welcoming and laid back. It’s not a cruising beach like many in Europe, but you’re likely to make new friends as you soak in the sun.
To get there, access the beach between Sebastian Street and Castillo Street. Find the crowd of oiled-up, speedo-clad men and you’re there.
Eat at a Gay Fort Lauderdale Icon
Rosie’s Bar & Grille 2449 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
If you want a great burger on a patio that makes you feel like you’re gone out in Key West, head to Rosie’s Bar & Grille. This legendary eatery is located on the Drive in Wilton Manors and was formerly Hamburger Mary’s so it comes from an illustrious gay pedigree.
You can get a bite to eat in most of the bars, and there are fabulous seafood restaurants up and down the coast but if you dine no where else – eat at Rosie’s.
Explore the Fort Lauderdale Waterways by Boat
While the bars are great, there are other watering holes to visit in Fort Lauderdale. I’m talking about the literal waterways that famously flow through through and around the city of Fort Lauderdale. There are many options to get up close and enjoy the waters of the area by boat.
We recommend booking an excursion with GetYourGuide. They offer immediate electronic confirmation of your booking with full refunds on any cancellation up to 24-hours before your trip. Those guarantees make it super convenient to plan ahead with the option to reschedule your outing if the weather forecast isn’t ideal.
Here are some tours and trips available to get your on the water in Fort Lauderdale.
Tips to Plan Your Gay Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is fantastic, but it can be an intimidating travel destination to plan. Here are tips to help you along as you plan your gay travels. Also check out our page on United States travel for more trip ideas and things to know before you travel to the USA.
Getting to Fort Lauderdale
Florida is fantastic and often cheap to fly to from most of the United States. Even flights from Europe can be cheap with many discount airlines offering prices that make up for the inconvenience, even after paying baggage fees.
If you’re a savvy, budget-conscious traveler, search for discount flights using SkyScanner. We use them for pretty much every flight we book, and we fly a LOT.
World Nomads is our go-to source for travel insurance. We don’t mean to nag – but it’s important to travel with insurance, and for the small cost you pay, it’s worth the peace of mind. Emergencies come up all the time and if you wind up getting sick or having to change your travel plans for an emergency it’s crucial to be covered. This is especially true in a country where health insurance is mostly prayer-based.
As mentioned already, when we book excursions, tours, museums or attractions we always use GetYourGuide. The reasons why are simple: online booking, immediate confirmation, receiving tickets online through electronic vouchers and skipping the lines. Plus they cover almost every city in the world.
The tours above are all available through GYG, and you can search all their activities in Fort Lauderdale HERE.
You can always search for a property on Airbnb or try out Misterbnb – the gay version of Airbnb.
We like Misterbnb because we know we’ll have a gay or gay-friendly host that can give us good advice on the city we’re exploring.
In Fort Lauderdale and all of the United States, you are expected to tip. The tipping culture applies to a small tip for your hotel bellhop and maid to at least 20% for service in a restaurant bars. If you’re buying drinks at a bar with cash you should leave at least $1 for each drink you buy.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Fort Lauderdale
Coastal Florida weather is pretty great all year round, but expect shorter days and cooler weather from November through early April. You’ll still have plenty of sun and beach days and wear shorts, but don’t get caught off-guard. It can also be quite hot and humid in the peak of summer, so be prepared and make sure you find lodging with air conditioning.
You will, of course, find larger crowds in the summer months. We love to visit Florida in the shoulder seasons – you can find great flight deals, weather and crowd sizes in March or October.
Now You're Ready to Visit Gay Fort Lauderdale
There you have it – everything you need to know in order to prepare for your trip. The rest is up to you to make Fort Lauderdale the best gay travel experience for you! Luckily, you’re off to a good start with this knowledge and the incredible LGBTQ+ community that awaits you in Fort Lauderdale.
From the gay village of Wilton Manors to the gay beach of Sebastian Street – you’ll find safety and community everywhere. After all, those are the best parts of a gay vacation – finding your tribe in a place far from home. After many trips and travels to Fort Lauderdale, I assure you that you’ll find out you belong there too.