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An LGBTQ+ Travel Guide To Orlando

gay-orlando-travel-guide

Orlando is home to many American favorites, including Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios. But aside from its mainstream tourist draws, the city also a hotbed for queer travelers who want to indulge in some LGBTQ+ tourism. 

Named Gay Cities’ first City of the Year in 1991, Florida is famous for its flamboyant queer nightlife and LGBTQ+ dedicated events. If you’re booking a flight to Florida, don’t forget to check out our Orlando travel guide for queer attractions and places to stay.

How Gay Is Orlando?

When in Florida, Orlando is about the most LGBTQ-friendly place on earth. It’s known for being inclusive, regardless of your race, gender, or background, so expect nothing but warm welcomes from this LGBT-loving community!

High Queer Rankings

Orlando is undoubtedly one of the most gay-friendly places in Florida, but it also holds the title of being the fourth gayest metro area in the country. It’s also home to the most number of cohabiting LGBTQ+ couples! Ranking this high on the American Community Survey is a feat for Florida, given how politically divided its history is.

Excellent Local Policies

As part of Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer’s efforts to create a more inclusive community, local governments have passed several policies and ordinances:

  • Non-Discrimination Ordinance: Since 1973, the Orlando City Board has actively promoted equality initiatives, including adding gender identity as a protected class.
  • Marriage equality: On top of lifting Florida’s same-sex marriage ban, the Orlando City Council also introduced the Domestic Partnership Registry that grants couples the same rights regardless of gender identity.

Efforts By The Orlando Police Department (OPD)

In a society where police brutality is rampant, Orlando is making every effort to ensure proper LGBTQ+ sensitivity training within its police force. These initiatives include: 

  • LGBTQ+ Liaison & Law Enforcement Training: These programs aim to educate Orlando police officers on the common issues LGBTQ+ people face and how best to enforce public safety within the community. 
  • OPD Anti-Bullying Program: The OPD is the first in the Greater Orlando area to deploy the Anti-Bullying Program in elementary schools. The program teaches 5th graders how to recognize signs of bullying and provides access to help hotlines.
  • OPD Safe Space Initiative: In response to the Pulse massacre, the OPD has assigned safe spaces to assist LGBTQ+ individuals who are victims of hate crimes. It dispenses Safe Space decals for local businesses to indicate that they are protected spaces for LGBTQ+ community members who need police help.

Support For LGBTQ+ Communities

In support of LGBTQ+ community organizations, Orlando City has also set aside funds for the following groups and initiatives: 

  • Aspire Health & Zebra Coalition: Support and financing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth
  • LGBTQ+ Center Orlando: Mental health counseling, addiction resources, and STD testing
  • Two-Spirit Health Services: Comprehensive health services for LGBTQ+ community members 
  • Hope and Help Center of Central Florida: Feeding programs for LGBTQ+ individuals living with HIV or AIDS

Strong Workplace Ordinances

A year before the legalization of gay marriage in Florida, the Orlando City Council took its anti-discrimination chapter a step further by including gender identity as a protected class. Under Chapter 57, the city’s Recruitment, Employment, & Harassment policy prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ community members.

More On Orlando

Orlando is a magical place, and not just for Disney fanatics. While most vacationers know Orlando as a theme park haven, it is also home to world-class restaurants, luxurious resorts, bustling nightlife, and a flourishing art scene. This melting pot of cultures and experiences is a go-to holiday destination for singles, couples, and families alike. 

Other than its lively urban setting, Orlando is also home to over a hundred parks, is a top destination for avid golfers, and even hosts an annual swan festival.

Queer Things To Do In Orlando, Florida

Simply put, Orlando has it all – from theme parks to white-sand beaches and bustling nightlife. However, it is also a melting pot that draws in LGBTQ+ tourists from all over the world, thanks to its numerous queer-friendly activities and attractions. Consider putting these fun things to do in Orlando on your itinerary!

Orlando Pride

What’s a queer trip to Florida without pride events? As one of America’s gayest cities, Pride is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando. Book a trip and experience:

  • Come Out With Pride: Every October, Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community comes together to celebrate love and diversity. The weeklong event pays tribute to the Pulse Nightclub victims and culminates in a stunning gay display at Lake Eola. You can also book a ticket to the Gay 90s Musical, take part in a (literal) 5k drag race, and witness the angelic voices of the Orlando Gay Chorus. Are you part of the Jewish LGBTQ+ community? Attend the Pride Shabbat!
  • International Bear Bash: The IBB is the best place to bring out your inner furry. Every September, Orlando Pride hosts a masquerade ball where attendees can dress up, indulge in light bondage, and toast champagne flutes during Happy Hour. 
  • International Fringe Festival: While not strictly LGBTQ+-focused, the IFF welcomes queer artists and performers to show their best work. The festival takes place over 14 days. 
People enjoying Gay Pride Parade in Orlando and representing Disney. Photo by Andres Casallas

Disney Gay Days

In addition to its family-friendly fare, Disney also has dedicated pride events called Gay Days. This weeklong event in June welcomes almost 150,000 guests per year to a variety of dance shows, pool parties, and unique drag experiences exclusively for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Do you prefer a late-night dance marathon? Right after Gay Days is One Magical Weekend, a three-night dance party at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park that’s often graced by some of the country’s best queer DJs. 

Traveling with family? Visiting Disney World is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando for kids. 

Girls In Wonderland

Girls in Wonderland at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort is the ultimate event space for women who love to party. Masterminded by professional events planners Amy Alonso, Yesenia Leon, and Alison Burgos, Girls in Wonderland brings all sorts of entertainment to the table, from comedy shows to drag performances. 

Some events you can enjoy at the GIW Hotel are:

  • L-Lounge Happy Hour: This event is free for GIW Hotel guests and features live music by DJ favorite Lindsey Hinkle. 
  • Out for Laughs Comedy Show: Hosting this show is lesbian comic Jen Kober.

Not only do you get to party with like-minded people, but you can also give back to causes like: 

  • The National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • The Aqua Foundation for Women
  • Save Dade
  • National Voices for Equality Education
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Pulse Bar Memorial

Now standing where Pulse Bar once was is a memorial and museum honoring the 2016 massacre victims. Here, visitors can pay homage to the fallen 49 and sign up for seasonal programs. Depending on when you visit the Pulse Memorial, you can also attend short film screenings, panel discussions, and community talks.

The One Pulse Foundation offers scholarships based on the victims’ interests and career paths. Each year, the One Pulse Foundation rewards 49 scholarships, prioritizing immediate family members. 

Club Orlando

No, bathhouses are not a thing of the past. In fact, Club Orlando is one of the most popular spots in the country! Spruced up with contemporary interiors, Club Orlando is a welcoming high-end spa where gay singles and couples can enjoy group showers, hot tub time, and a full-steam sauna. Plus, Club Orlando is just a stone’s throw from Florida’s best theme parks and shopping centers.

Day Trip to Mount Dora

While Orlando may be the gayest place on earth (or at least in Florida), the people in Mount Dora are just as happy and welcoming. Only a 30-minute drive from downtown Orlando, Mount Dora is an LGBTQ-friendly small town. Stroll the streets and shop til you drop at dozens of local boutiques. There’s a gay-owned Christmas store, an LGBTQ-owned gift shop, and a lesbian-owned Central Florida real estate office along the main drag. The town even hosts Drag Shows at a cute coffee shop and brewery called Serendipity.

Other Things To Do In Orlando

Lake Eola

Are you traveling with your partner and want to indulge in something romantic? Visit Lake Eola, a permanent rainbow-illuminated fountain monument. It screams pride and could be the perfect location for your Instagram moments. 

Gatorland

Florida is known for its gators. So, if you and your partner are up for an unusual adventure, why not visit the 110-acre wildlife reserve in Gatorland? Other than getting up close and personal with some of the nation’s biggest gators, you can also try the Gator Gauntlet zip line, Trainer for a Day, or other exciting night tours.

Escapology

Escape rooms are all the rage in Orlando nowadays. For partners who love a good challenge, a day at Escapology can be an excellent way to test your communication skills and see how you react under pressure!

Forever Florida Eco Park

While it’s an hour’s drive from the center of Orlando, the Forever Florida Eco Park is a must-see for environmentalist couples. Here, couples can learn all about Florida wildlife and even catch a glimpse of the very elusive Florida panther! Other activities you can enjoy at Forever Florida are zip lining, horseback riding, and nature tours.

La Nouba By Cirque du Soleil

Orlando is no stranger to one-of-a-kind acts – that includes La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil. This extraordinary show is perfect for fans of drag and dance with a touch of storytelling. Watch La Nouba, and you’ll get a taste of the best aerial and acrobatic acts in the world.

Photo by talia-XTiutg from Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Nightlife In Orlando

When the sun goes down and the LGBTQ+ community is out, Orlando has the best nightlife any Florida city can offer. If you’re looking to get dirty on the dance floor, make sure you shortlist these nightclubs and bars in Orlando.

SAVOY Lounge

If you’re an LGBTQ+ community member with a love for nightlife, you have to make a stop at Orlando’s SAVOY Lounge. This upscale nightclub hosts a nightly erotic go-go dancing performance while queers mingle over delicious cocktails. Not to mention, the club neighbors Stardust Lounge where guests can feast their eyes on talented and flexible burlesque dancers. 

Parliament House

No gay holiday in Orlando is complete without a visit to one of the premier entertainment hotspots in the city – Parliament House. The club is home to seven different bars and the famous Footlight Theater, which brings in the best international drag performers. If you’re looking for somewhere to call it a night after dinner at the Rainbow Cafe, you can book one of the Parliament’s 112 motel rooms. 

White Wolf

The White Wolf Cafe and Bar is a gay-friendly eatery and night lounge famous for its delicious crab cake eggs benedict. This family-owned antique-styled bar also hosts a popular weekend brunch, welcoming guests from the neighboring bohemian community.

Southern Nights

One of Orlando’s oldest LGBTQ+ clubs, Southern Nights has been operating for over 35 years. It hosts special events every single night, from burlesque shows to college parties and drag bonanzas. After closing for renovations in 2014, Southern Nights came back to welcome even more international DJs and guests from all walks of life.

Stonewall

If you’re hitting up Downtown Orlando, you need to put Stonewall Bar on your itinerary. Operating since 2007, the Stonewall has hosted hundreds of themed nights for eager guests and also boasts a stunning view of the Orlando skyline. Other than its tropical-themed seating, what makes this gay Orlando bar unique is its state-of-the-art sound system – you won’t be able to stop dancing once the beat gets going!

Hank’s

Like the Stonewall, Hank’s has been a go-to in the Orlando gay scene for over 30 years. LGBTQ+ locals love its pool tournaments, lively trivia nights, and antique jukebox. For travelers on a budget, you can get a bottle of beer for just $2; college students even get their first draught free! 

Pom Pom’s Teahouse

Pom Pom, a Thai national and mastermind behind Lucky Cheng’s, brings a taste of fusion to LGBTQ+ Orlando natives through Pom Pom’s Teahouse. Here, guests can enjoy delectable pastries and an east-meets-west gastronomic menu. If you’re a fan of eclectic art or are an LGBTQ+ artist yourself, don’t hesitate to pitch your work to Pom Pom – your piece might just go up in time for the next gay brunch! 

Barcodes Orlando

Located in College Park, Barcodes Orlando is a lodge-like bar decorated with a koi pond and a stunning deck area. For the more adventurous, you can hit up Barcodes’ adult novelty shop or come by during Underwear Night. Otherwise, most guests hit up Barcodes on Thursdays for Latin Night.

Ember

Outdoor eatery Ember is an Orlando staple that transforms into a gay haven every weekend for Sunday Surrender. Other events at Ember include: 

  • Wine Down Wednesday: Unlimited wine and sangria 
  • Ember Fridays: R&B and soul tunes all night
  • Thursday Night Football: Unlimited wings for just $11.95
  • Sunday Brunch: Unlimited mimosas and fun action stations 
Orlando Dining Out
Photo by Jay Wennington from Unsplash

Gay Dining Orlando Hotspots 

For LGBTQ+ foodies, Orlando has no shortage of queer-owned restaurants that’ll make your palate sing. Hungry travelers have to drop by these food destinations.

Hamburger Mary’s

Since 1972, Hamburger Mary’s has been a welcome space for drag communities in Hawaii, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and, of course, Orlando. On Hamburger Mary’s menu are delicious pepper-jack cheeseburgers, spicy chicken tenders, and a fine selection of drag brunches. 

This restaurant is famous for its classic high-energy drag dance battles, cabaret dinner shows, and free-flowing mimosas. If you’re feeling a little competitive, you can even sign up for drag bingo.

Senor Frog’s

This in-demand queer-friendly Mexican restaurant welcomes plenty of guests, so make sure to book Senor Frog’s advance! It will be well worth it, as this premier Drag Brunch is an all-time favorite. You might even see some past Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants! Witness legendary lip sync battles by Coco Montrese, Yara Sofia, and more while you enjoy Senor Frog’s open bar.

The Hammered Lamb

Owned by environmentalist and LGBTQ+ community member Jason Lambert, the Hammered Lamb is a must-try for Orlando visitors who love specialty cocktails and a lamb-forward menu. As part of its efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community, the Hammered Lamb links up with charities like the Barber Fund and One Pulse Foundation.

Se7en Bites

Se7en Bites isn’t just a bakery and eatery – it’s an experience for the LGBTQ+ community. Owner Trina Gregory-Propst says the space is for “celebrating diversity and acceptance year-round. While “it isn’t for everyone”, its weekly specials and pop-up events bring people together. You might have even caught Se7en Bites on the Food Network hosting amateur cook-offs and family baking tournaments.

The Glass Knife

Inspired by delicious family traditions and unwavering love for the LGBTQ+ community, partners Steve and Lance launched the Glass Knife. This Orlando pastry staple serves delicious Saturday and Sunday brunches, and its seasonal Pride Petite Cakes are a hit every summer. The Glass knife also partners with the Center Orlando and Kissimmee, donating a portion of their proceeds towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Bites & Bubbles

Owned by partners Nick Olivieri and Eddie Nickell, Bites and Bubbles is the best place to celebrate any special occasion. Its spacious rooftop bar and main dining area is a picture-perfect setting for couples and friends who want to share a toast over an extensive Italian wine list. Bites and Bubbles is also famous for its French cuisine and its give-start, tapas-style selection of entrees. 

Island Time

If you’re on the market for something exotic, Island Time serves southern and Caribbean-style meals that will blow your palate out of the water. Owners Andrew Anderson and Devon Tillman are both classically trained, so you can expect to want to come back for their signature Cuban sandwiches and apple fritters. 

Still, what makes Island Time stand out isn’t just its delicious menu but also its lively Drag Brunch. Every first and third weekend of the month, brunch-goers get to enjoy an 80s bash hosted by the one and only Niomi Onasis Knight. 

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

If Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese, or other Asian dishes tickle your palate, there’s no better place to go on a date with your partner than the Hawkers Asian Street Fare. Here, you can explore a diverse Asian food bubble and try your taste buds at a Florida favorite: King Bao. 

Orlando Hotels
Photo by Juan Burgos from Unsplash

Where To Stay In Orlando

This wouldn’t be the best travel guide to Orlando without the city’s top accommodations. 

While you’ll be more likely to find LGBTQ+-friendly hotels in Orlando than not, some resorts take it a step above the rest. We recommend booking any of these glamorous queer-friendly resorts from our travel guide to Orlando. 

Four Seasons Resort At Walt Disney World

If you and your partner want to nestle somewhere luxurious, booking a room at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando is a no-brainer. After a long day at Disneyland, you can toast over fireworks at the rooftop or take a refreshing night swim. Alternatively, you can enjoy a more laid-back night by the resort fire pit or get a full-body massage.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

For Universal-goers who prefer to be closer to the park, book a stay at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This hotel is the epitome of luxury, with waterfalls and stunning landscapes lining its lavish exteriors. Don’t forget to make the most of its exotic spa experiences!

Plus, Universal Studios fans who stay overnight at the hotel can get a 2-day Express Pass and Early Entry to the park.

Aloft Orlando

This centrally located hotel is right next to Church Street, where LGBTQ+ guests can enjoy drag dinners at nearby restaurants and bars or enjoy a little bit of shopping. At night, the hotel illuminates its facade in stunning rainbow colors, so you’ll never lose your way.

Plus, Aloft Orlando is affiliated with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, which provides free travel resources for queer guests.

Grand Bohemian Hotel

If you prefer to nestle in Old Florida, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Grand Bohemian Hotel is the hotel to book. It’s an excellent choice for art lovers and just a skip away from Orlando’s most romantic parks – perfect for gay couples on honeymoon.

Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace

Just a hop and skip away from Orlando’s best gay nightlife is the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, an excellent option for travelers who want to attend the nearby Gay Days. This 27-acre lakeside property is also close to Lake Buena Vista, where queer honeymooners can enjoy a picture-perfect picnic during the day or take a romantic stroll at night.

Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas

Just minutes away from Disney World and Florida’s best gay clubs are the Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas. The resort is also conveniently located near queer hotspots like SAVOY and Southern Nights. 

If you’re not keen on Florida’s bustling nightlife, you can instead enjoy the hotel’s numerous amenities, such as its mini golf course and tennis court. Plus, the Sheraton has many things to do in Orlando for kids, including its well-equipped game room.

Hyatt Regency Orlando

Newly renovated and ready to welcome travelers from all over the world, the Hyatt Regency Orlando is located smack in the middle of the International Drive Strip. 

This resort is just minutes away from every gay club, diner, and entertainment center you can think of. It’s also in close proximity to locations such as Universal Studios and ICON Park, both rife with things to do in Orlando for kids. Here, queer couples or families can enjoy an entire afternoon of thrill rides and other gay events.

Orlando Shopping
Photo by Mike Petrucci from Unsplash

Where To Shop In Orlando

As the gayest city in Florida, Orlando is also home to some of the country’s best queer-owned businesses. For avid shoppers, we recommend visiting these LGBT-centric stores in Orlando!

Swan City

Swan City is an online-only store that inspires LGBTQ+ individuals to be loud and proud about who they are. Created by Andrew Chang, Swan City started out selling Pride t-shirts and is now one of the largest distributors of LGBTQ+ apparel in Orlando. Now, you can buy LGBTQ+ posters, pillows, pins, candles, and everything else you need to show off some Orlando pride.

MojoMan Swimwear & Clothing

Once just an April Fool’s joke in 2012, MojoMan Swimwear and Clothing evolved into a bestselling swim shop in Orlando. Today, the store carries over 250 designs and even hosts an annual swimwear show for gay men.

Ritzy Rags

For aspiring queens, Ritzy Rags is the best place to shop for wigs, accessories, makeup, heels, and boots. Bette Midler impressionist Leigh Shannon owns the shop and aims to make her products as accessible as possible to people of all shapes and sizes. Over the years, Ritzy Rags has serviced theater groups, impersonators, dancers, and even churches!

For LGBTQ+ community members undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from breast cancer, Ritzy Rags provides discounts on wigs and breast forms. 

Out Of The Closet

Out of the Closet is an LGBTQ+ favorite that has finally opened up a chain in Orlando. Not only can you shop secondhand treasures that complete your look, but you can also get access to free HIV testing.

Every Out of the Closet branch has an in-house AIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy, where shoppers can purchase pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medications. You can even get medications delivered straight to your hotel room via free AHF pharmacy delivery.

How To Get More Information

To learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and its programs in Orlando, you can always drop by the Center Orlando. Here, you can get access to:

  • Health services for visitors and permanent residents
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Upcoming LGBTQ+ events in Orlando
  • Help hotlines
  • Psychological assistance
  • Support groups for LGBTQ+ youth and elders

The Bottom Line

While famous for being the location of tourist hotspots like Disney World and Universal Studios, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Orlando has much in store for LGBTQ+ travelers. From Gay Days at Disney World to a loud and proud cabaret dinner show at Hamburger Mary’s, your itinerary is bound to look as colorful as ever. If you’re just getting started on your itinerary, we hope this Orlando travel guide has given you a few ideas!

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***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She is the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization, and CEO of OUTCOAST, an online marketing and concierge platform marketing the Gulf Coast as an LGBTQ-inclusive place to VISIT, CELEBRATE, and LIVE.

Rachel is also an avid event photographer and has captured photos for LGBT organizations around the world, including the IGLTA, NGLCC, NLGJA, and Out & Equal.


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