In cities where LGBTQ-welcoming establishments are sparse, planning a fun, romantic, and safe date night can be a real nightmare. But in Fort Lauderdale, Florida – perhaps one of the gayest cities in the United States – there is no shortage of queer-friendly options.
In fact, you may find that there are too many gay things to do in Fort Lauderdale. Gay bars, attractions, resorts, and events are a dime a dozen – you name it, Fort Lauderdale’s got it. And for the hopelessly romantic gay, the city is one of the best dating destinations in the USA.
If planning a date night in this gay mecca has got you feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret. We’ve carefully curated this travel guide of some of the best spots and activities to try on your next trip out.
1. Hit The Beaches
Miami and the Florida Keys may be the more popular summer spots in South Florida, but Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are just as stunning. If you’re planning a nice day in the sun with your beau, we recommend two gay-friendly beaches: Sebastian Street Beach and Haulover Nude Beach.
Sebastian Beach has been dubbed as the “Hottest US Gay Beach” by Out Traveler. This beach is as beautiful as the folks who frequent it – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The two-mile stretch of sand is also located just a few blocks away from some of the best male-only, clothing-optional resorts and inns in Fort Lauderdale. And once gay pride hits Fort Lauderdale, this beach gets packed with locals and visitors from all over the world!
If you’re feeling sexy and free, there’s Haulover Nude Beach. While this beach destination is technically not in Fort Lauderdale – it’s located between Miami and Ft Lauderdale – it’s well worth the short trip as Florida’s one and only legal nude beach. Haulover is open for everybody (and we mean everybody) but there is also a queer section in the Northern-end for those who want to get to know Fort Lauderdale’s gay community.
2. Go On A Gondola Tour
There are few things more romantic than gliding down a Venetian canal while an Italian gondolier serenades you and your partner. If you’re still saving up for your grand Italian getaway, Fort Lauderdale has the next best thing.
Thanks to the intracoastal waterway, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area boasts over 300 miles of inland canals that can be traversed via electric boat, paddle-wheel, and, yes, gondola. As such, the city has earned its nickname as the “Venice of America”.
If you want to go all out on the romance, book a private tour with Las Olas Gondola, where you can enjoy a 75-minute ride in your own cabin. They provide music, a cocktail table, ice, plates, and glasses, so all you have to do is to show up with your partner and a basket full of snacks!
They have night, sunset, and full moon cruise options, as well as a “message in a bottle” gimmick where you can insert a romantic message in a bottle for the gondolier to “find” at your destination of choice. That’s one epic way to propose!
3. Happy Hour At Wilton Manors
For something more low-key but still quintessentially gay Fort Lauderdale, you can head up to Wilton Manors. Home to dozens of LGBTQ-owned and -friendly bars, restaurants, shops, and businesses, Wilton Manors has definitely earned its reputation as the “Second Gayest City” in the 2010 US Census – and is a must-see for gay visitors and residents alike.
Before hitting up a gay bar, you have tons of options for daytime date activities at Wilton Manors. From soaking up LGBT history at the Stonewall National Museum and Archives (the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ museum) to enjoying art at The Yard and thrift store shopping at Out of the Closet, there’s something for everyone!
However, this gay Fort Lauderdale neighborhood (or should we say “gayborhood”) really comes alive at night. Make your way to Wilton Drive – known locally as “the Drive” – and take your pick from a long line of gay bars and clubs. Some of the most popular bars and nightclubs in the gay scene include Mind Your Manors, Rosie’s Bar and Grill, Georgie’s Alibi, the Manor Complex, Hunter’s Nightclub, the Village Pub, DrYnk cocktail lounge, and Scandals Saloon.
4. Breakfast Date At Voo La Voo Cafe
If the nightlife scene and gay clubs aren’t your thing, you could go for a wholesome breakfast date on Eucalyptus Drive. Located near Wilton Manors, Eucalyptus Drive is a block of artsy, offbeat gay-friendly cafes and shops.
One of our favorite spots here is Voo La Voo Cafe, a quaint little garden restaurant that serves heavenly French food – including some of the best crepes and omelets you’ll ever have. Voo La Voo is open daily from 7:30 am to 4 pm. If you’d rather schedule a dinner date, you can head to the cafe from Wednesday to Saturday, as they’re open for dinner from 5 pm till 1 pm.
And when you’re done with your meal, you can explore Wilton Manors by foot or kayak. Also known as Island City, the area is surrounded by water from the Middle River. As you float along the water, you can observe the city’s wildlife and natural mangroves.
5. Shopping At Las Olas Boulevard
If your idea of a perfect date is shopping for new digs, Las Olas Boulevard is the perfect place for you. And no, this is not your ordinary strip mall shopping spree.
Not only does the boulevard have a whole range of fashion boutiques, art galleries, and specialty stores, but it’s also got fantastic water views, impressive Mediterranean architecture, and some of the best restaurants this side of Florida. In fact, everyone from the area considers it a foodie haven.
Some bars and restaurants you should check out in Las Olas are Mango’s Restaurant and Lounge, The Floridian, and Chima Steakhouse.
The Bottom Line
There are few travel destinations in the US that are as welcoming to the LGBT community as the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area. With a thriving gay scene, stunning beaches, and beautiful weather all year round, Fort Lauderdale city is one of the best destinations for a quick gay getaway – be it with friends or your lover.
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