Move over, World Pride. Celebrating two continents and 53 nations with “one love,” Fort Lauderdale invites everyone under the rainbow for its first annual Pride of Americas. The April 21-26 event is expected to bring 350,000 visitors to Florida’s southeast coast.
What makes this festival different from other Gay Prides?
“Diversity and inclusion,” punctuates Richard WB Gray, senior v-p of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Known as the Venice of America, Fort Lauderdale, boasting stunning canals in its intercoastal waterways, is the perfect sunny backdrop to not only celebrate the LGBTQ+ community’s pride, but also to highlight those who might not get the lion share of the spotlight at other high-profile events.
“People with disabilities, the transgender community, non-binary people, sexually fluid humans, people in recovery, and our aging populations will be our focus,” says Gray. “At many Prides around the world, they are often forgotten about in favour of the mainstream LGBTQ+ world.”
Yep, this isn’t your drag mother’s Pride!
But it won’t be all serious. In addition to thought-provoking lectures, symposiums, and exhibitions on business, health, travel and conservation programs, the highly anticipated event promises concerts, plays, dining, shopping and, of course, plenty of parties. (The Toronto Sun has learned the organization is chasing some high-profile artists and politicians to help host — and one boldface name might even be Canadian!)
It’s no wonder that with more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and an average temperature of 24.2C, that Fort Lauderdale has been a popular destination for Canadians over the decades.
Just a half-an-hour drive from Miami, Fort Lauderdale is a cozier and chiller hot spot option, especially since its population is not even at 200,000, according to the 2018 census.
Below, we’ve composed your ultimate Fort Lauderdale cheat sheet:
Where To Stay: The Atlantic Hotel & Spa, Fort Lauderdale’s premier beachfront luxury boutique hotel, is intimate and highly sophisticated with its oversized guestrooms and suites. The gay-friendly hotel’s guestrooms feature fully equipped kitchenettes, private balconies and breathtaking views of either the Atlantic Ocean or downtown Fort Lauderdale and the Intracoastal Way. The Spa Atlantic is a luxurious, European-style spa featuring eight treatment rooms, a 24-hour fitness centre, sauna, steam room and whirlpool. Its resto, Wild Thyme Oceanside Eatery, is a must-dine-in option!
Hottest Entertainment: You won’t believe your eyes when you visit B Ocean Resort for The Aquaman & Mermaid show at Wreck Bar! This historic destination is one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy the beauty of living mermaids from a porthole view while enjoying a tropical cocktail and dining on fresh seafood. It must be seen to be believed. (For a snippet of the Aquaman performance, you can click on my tweet from that night.)
Best Museum: Stonewall Gallery National Museum & Archives is one of the largest gay archives and libraries in the United States, now almost 50 years old. It promotes understanding through preserving and sharing the culture of LGBTQ+ individuals and their role in American society. Many visitors expect the museum to focus mainly on the historic Stonewall Riots, but it’s more than that. When it was established in 1972, founder Mark Silber used the name “Stonewall” to recognize the fight for LGBTQ liberation that began at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. Their impressive collection consists of gay-inspired films over the years, magazines, books — and even a vault of books that were taken out of circulation due to cultural and factual errors. While I was there, I was memorized by the critically acclaimed photography exhibition: Transcending Love: Portraits of Transgender and Non-Binary Couples by superstar lens artist B Proud.
Best Food Ever: When you land in Fort Lauderdale, head straight to champagne and raw bar Bubbles + Pearls. Owned by Top Chef winner Josie Smith Malave and her partner Marcy Miller, I literally experienced a food orgasm when I devoured the most delicious piece of meat I have ever eaten. If you visit, you must order Off The Chain Rib Eye with kale, pesto, cauliflower puree (which is a huge trend right now in Florida) and cipollini onions. The evening I was there, the bar ran out of olives for my dirty martini. But they came to the rescue and made me something very original: A clam-infused martini — which was delicious!
Best Pool: You can’t go wrong at the W Hotel’s WET Pool aquatic masterpiece. Yes, the main demo is hipsters but the view of the ocean and sunrise are to die for. The WET Pool also has the most comfortable yet lux pool chairs and couches. Oh, and they served the most delicious Greek salad ever.
Best Areas To Explore: You’ll regret not hanging out at Wilton Manors (a small city where the mayor and all the councillors are gay!); Hollywood Beach Boardwalk will have enough eye candy and beaches to satisfy your naughty and nice side; and garnering national praise is the popular and edgy creative enclave FATVillage, which is located downtown. Oh, and check out Sebastian Beach, which was recently named the U.S.’s hottest gay beach!
Best Dance Bar: If you’re on the prowl for a hookup, looking to get your groove on, or just to imbibe with the hottest guys and gals of all age groups in Florida, pay a visit to the aptly titled Hunters. The completely renovated space features a large dance floor with the largest video screen on the drive, a video bar with eight screens for viewing your favourite videos, and an upstairs lounge overlooking the dance floor. First-class DJ’s, the most advanced light and state-of-the-art sound system, sexy go-go dancers, monthly theme parties, and special guests on the Hunters Stage will have you coming back the next night!
IF YOU GO
Make your plans to fly your flag high and proud at sunny.org/PrideAmericas.
Fort Lauderdale Social Handles:
Instagram: @visitlauderdale / Facebook: @visitlauderdale / Twitter: @visitlauderdale
Pride of the Americas Social Handles:
Instagram: @PrideOfAmericas / Facebook: @PrideOfAmericas