Discover Gay Florida: Miami
There’s so much to see and do in Miami and so many unique neighborhoods, that it would be impossible to cover them all in one article. From Winter Party to White Party to many parties in between, Miami is known as THE place to let loose! For this week’s Discover Gay Florida, we will touch upon the highlights of what makes this city such a hot tourist destination!
South Beach - with its art deco buildings, gorgeous beaches, sexy residents, thriving gay scene, chic boutiques and hip restaurants - is known world-wide as the American Riviera.
A major gay mecca in the 1980s, the gay scene is still alive and well in South Beach with legendary bars Score, Twist, Mova and Bar 721. Also new to the area is Lords, a gay hotel. For the daytime gay scene, there’s 12th Street Beach which is full of scantily clad sexy men and Palace Food Bar on 12th and Ocean, which is open 7 days a week and has a drag brunch every Sunday.
Visitors can enjoy strolling on glamorous Ocean Drive, which runs along the beach and has several glamorous hotels and restaurants. On the corner of 11th and Ocean you’ll find Casa Casuarina (the Versace Mansion), which is open for tours. This 1930s mansion displays architectural and design work by artist Alden Freeman and designer Gianni Versace who renovated the home back in ’92.
There’s also an Art Deco Tour offered by the Miami Design Preservation League. This 90-minute tour offers an overview of the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern styles found in the area and explores hotels, restaurants, and other structures.
For those who want to shop, you can’t beat Lincoln Road Mall for its boutiques, bars and restaurants. There’s so much to do on this street which also has the Lincoln Theatre, Colony Theatre and Regal South Beach Cinema for those who want to take in a show or a film. This pedestrian mall between Alton Road and Washington Avenue features tons of outdoor cafes perfect for people watching. On Sundays, there’s an amazing Antique and Farmer’s Market along Lincoln and it’s the perfect time to find unique treasures and try fresh food items.
Washington Avenue also has some fantastic shopping and is the home of City Hall, the Jewish Museum of Florida, The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater and the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Also in this area is the Holocaust Memorial (1933-1945 Meridian Ave.), which is a huge cast-bronze hand reaching for the sky, surrounded by panels etched with the names of victims. It was open to the public in 1990 as a memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
In the center of South Beach is the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens (2000 Convention Center Drive). This 4.5 acre botanical garden features tropical plants, orchids, a Japanese Garden and a "living wall" vertical landscape.
Also in the area, you will find historic Espanola Way (north of 14th Street between Washington and Pennsylvania avenues). This Spanish village was the meeting place of artists, dancers, writers and musicians in the 1920s. It still has a bohemian vibe and has European-style buildings, art galleries, restaurants and shops to enjoy.
There are several art museums to check out in this area, including the Bass Museum (2100 Collins Ave.) which features art from the Renaissance period to the present. There’s also the Wolfsonian Museum which is located in a giant warehouse at 1001 Washington Ave. It became affiliated with Florida International University in the late 1990s and features art and furniture, industrial design objects, glass, metal work, paintings, sculpture, fine art prints, posters, rare books, periodicals and more from the period between 1885-1945.
The World Erotic Museum at 12th and Washington is fun, yet also educational. It has over 4,000 objects dating back to 200 B.C. all the way up ’til now. Expect to see statues of penises, paintings of penises, penises from ancient and modern times and lots of eye opening exhibits.
Just outside of South Beach is Jungle Island (formerly known as Parrot Jungle), which is definitely a sight to see. The zoological park features over 300 parrots plus monkeys, reptiles and flamingos.
Also closeby is the Miami Seaquarium (4400 Rickenbacker Causeway), which is a 38-acre tropical paradise with dolphins and killer whales. The marine-life park offers daily shows and presentations.
The area also is the home of several huge annual festivals. The popular Art Deco Festival takes place every January and the humungous South Beach Food & Wine Festival which takes place in late February.
South Beach is home to some of the hippest restaurants around. Here are three to sink your teeth into:
Joe’s Stone Crab
11 Washington Ave.
This legendary establishment is only open during stone-crab season (from October to May), so you know they take their menu very seriously. Known for their crabs and Key Lime Pie, Joe’s has been known to attract movie stars and is a favorite among locals.
Sushi Samba Dromo
600 Lincoln Rd.
The well-known Sushi Samba Dromo not only stands out for its colorful, modern look, it also stands out for its menu, which is influenced by Japan, Brazil and Peru. Located right on Lincoln Road, it’s a great place to see and be seen.
Mr. Chow at W Hotel
2201 Collins Ave.
The famous Mr. Chow opened in the W South Beach in 2009. Chef Xiao Leo Shao is known in China as one of the most talented chefs of his generation and he offers high-end Chinese dishes. The dining room is beautiful. It features a 123-foot gold leaf and Swarovski crystal chandelier designed by Michael Chow.
Located right in the center of Miami is Calle Ocho (8th Street between 12th and 27th avenues), also known as Little Havana. With the vibe of old-time Cuba, this area is the place for hand-rolled cigars, herbal stores, meat markets and so much more. There are memorials to poet and revolutionary Jose Marti, war hero Antonio Maceo, the Island of Cuba Memorial, and the Memorial Flame. The huge Latin street party, Viernes Cultural (Cultural Friday) is on the last Friday of each month and every March there is Carnaval Miami, a.k.a. Calle Ocho Festival, the biggest Hispanic festival in the nation.
One of the biggest draws to Calle Ocho is the legendary Versailles Restaurant (3555 SW 8th St.). This cafeteria, restaurant, and bakery is huge -- it seats 370 people! It is known for its amazing Cuban dishes and baked goods and has been featured on several shows on Travel and Food networks.
MIAMI DESIGN DISTRICT
The Miami Design District is an 18 block neighborhood of warehouses and gallery space that have been converted into shops, art galleries, furniture stores, restaurants and bars.
Every 2nd Saturday of each month is Art & Design Night, which is held from 7-10 p.m.
The area, originally known as Buena Vista, features some of the best restaurants in the city by local celebrity chefs. Here are a few to try:
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
130 NE 40th Street
Chef/Owner Michael Schwartz offers a fun and unique dining experience at Michael’s Genuine. It’s lauded for its fresh dishes and it’s amazing brunch which features homemade pop tarts on the menu!
4000 NE 2nd Avenue
Celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein’s first Design District restaurant offers scrumptious tapas and cocktails.
Crumb on Parchment
3930 NE 2nd Avenue
Chef Michelle Bernstein’s latest Design District restaurant offers inexpensive fare and simple, delicious comfort food for breakfast and lunch.
COCONUT GROVE & CORAL GABLES
Called "The Grove" by locals, this area has been featured in several movies (Scarface) and television shows (Dexter) and is known for its great shops and open air malls like Cocowalk. There are several outdoor festivals in the area, including the annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival which takes place over President’s day weekend and The Great Taste of the Grove Food & Wine Festival, which takes place each April. The area has several restaurants and open air cafes.
Coconut Grove was founded at the beginning of the 19th century by Bahamian seamen and is located on the end of Biscayne Bay.
Near Coconut Grove is Coral Gables, which is home to the University of Miami. This pedestrian-friendly area has 140 restaurants and well-known shops. It is also the home of the stunning Biltmore Hotel, which opened in 1926 and offers championship golf, dining, a luxury spa and gorgeous accommodations. The hotel is Miami’s only four-star, four-diamond hotel.
You won’t want to miss Zoo Miami at 12400 SW 152 Street. It houses over 2,000 animals on 740 acres and has over 100 exhibits.
A national landmark to check out is Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (3251 South Miami Avenue). From the beautiful surrounding forest to the stunning main house and beyond, Vizcaya will make you feel like you are in a mansion in Rome!
There is so much to see and do in Miami and way too much to mention here. Each area has its own flavor and there is definitely something for everyone.