Gay Florida Travel Road Trip Guide to Fort Lauderdale

The Greater Fort Lauderdale region includes 23 miles of beautiful golden beaches. The region has become a top tourism destination for international travelers, northerners and Florida residents. Although COVID-19 has put a damper on travel in general, it is still the perfect time to experience a Fort Lauderdale road trip.

During my Big Gay Florida Road Trip, I enjoyed two nights in Fort Lauderdale. I spent half of my time with Richard Gray, the SVP of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the other half on my own. Between my tour guide time and solo adventuring, I packed my two days with LGBTQ research, delicious food, beach and pool time, and museum visits. I even managed to squeeze in a few hours of sleep.

From the energetic “gayborhood” of Wilton Manors to the calm beauty of the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, here is my take on what to see, where to sleep and what to eat while on a Fort Lauderdale road trip.

But first thing’s first….let me answer the most important question…

How Gay is Fort Lauderdale?

After traveling all over Florida, the one thing I can confirm, without a doubt, is that Fort Lauderdale is gay – very gay! Although several regions of Florida pride themselves as being LGBTQ-welcoming, Fort Lauderdale “takes the rainbow pride cake” as the gayest of all.

In fact, Fort Lauderdale was the planned host for the first Pride of the Americas Festival this year. Due to recent events, the festival has been rescheduled for 2021.

And if you’re looking for an LGBTQ-welcoming or clothing-optional gay hotel or resort, you’re in luck! Fort Lauderdale is home to many.

Wilton Manors is the hub of LGBTQ life in Fort Lauderdale. Not only is the town home to several LGBTQ organizations, a new LGBTQ senior residence and the region’s LGBTQ business chamber, but most of the businesses in Wilton Manors are also LGBTQ-owned. In fact, nearly 100% of the stores, bars and restaurants that line Wilton Drive (the main drag of the city – and we’re not talking queens), are LGBTQ-owned and operated.

As a result of the 2010 US Census, the City of Wilton Manors was named the “Second gayest City” in the United States. And in November 2018, Wilton Manors became the first city in Florida with an all LGBT+ City Commission – second only to Palm Springs, California.

When visiting Fort Lauderdale, and more specifically Wilton Manors, connect with the LGBTQ community by visiting these organizations:

The Pride Center at Equality Park

2040 N Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors, FL 33305

The Pride Center at Equality Park provides a welcoming, safe space – an inclusive home that celebrates, nurtures and empowers the LGBTQ communities and their friends and neighbors in South Florida.

This organization will celebrate 27 years of service in 2020 and meets the distinct health, social, educational, socio-economic and safety needs for the LGBTQ community and its allies. The Pride Center focuses a significant amount of energy and resources on supporting LGBTQ seniors and HIV residents.

In a normal world (pre-COVID) the Center hosts more than 65 regularly-scheduled meeting groups each month. Due to COVID-19, however, many have been suspended and others are held virtually. Support, social and educational groups focus on seniors, youth, women, men, transgender individuals, recovery, health, the arts, athletics, spirituality, games and more. Outreach activities over the past year directly impacted over 125,000 residents and visitors to South Florida.

By the end of 2020, The Pride Center property will also house The Residences at Equality Park. The Residences will offer affordable housing to the region’s senior adults, with a special focus on LGBTQ+ individuals.

To learn more about The Pride Center and The Residences, click here.

Stonewall National Museum and Archives

1300 East Sunrise Blvd Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Stonewall National Museum and Archives (SNMA) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501 organization that promotes understanding through preserving and sharing the culture of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their role in society. SNMA is dedicated solely to LGBT history, civil rights, art and culture.

The Stonewall Library is the largest lending library of LGBTQ materials in the United States with more than 28,000 books, CDs and DVDs, organized and cataloged under the Library of Congress classification system. The collection incorporates most winners of gay literary awards, including the prestigious Lambda Literary Award.

The library normally hosts artist and author speaker events, a monthly book club, history discussion group, exhibitions and other programs and events. And during COVID-19, Stonewall offers several Virtual Exhibitions.

Note: Stonewall National Museum and Archives has no connection to the famous Stonewall of New York City, although photos and articles about said event may be documented within its archives.

Learn more about the Stonewall National Museum and Archives.

IGLTA

1201 NE 26th Street Suite 103, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305

Although the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) office is not a place to pop in at any time, I wouldn’t be doing this road trip guide justice without mentioning the organization.

Founded in 1983, IGLTA is the world’s leading network of LGBTQ+ welcoming tourism businesses. The global organization, based in Fort Lauderdale, provides free travel resources and information while continuously working to promote equality and safety within LGBTQ+ tourism worldwide.

To learn more about IGLTA, click here.

Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber / LGBTQ Visitor’s Center

2300 NE 7th Avenue, Wilton Manors, FL 33305

The LGBT+ Visitor Center opened in June 2018 and is co-located with the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber promotes business and economic opportunities for the LGBT and LGBT-friendly community. As advocates and resources for all member businesses, the organization strives to promote tourism with a unified approach by working with related and appropriate organizations.

The LGBTQ Visitor’s Center is a partnership between the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. The two organizations work in collaboration to showcase attractions of interest to LGBT+ visitors. When in the region, stop over at the Visitor’s Center to find out which local businesses to support.

Equality Florida’s regional office is also located right next door.

LGBTQ Nightlife in Fort Lauderdale

Since COVID-19 has closed most of the bars in Florida and curfews are in place, I was not able to enjoy a nightlife experience while visiting the region. I chose, instead, to relax by the pool, enjoy my room and catch up on sleep. For an overview on South Florida’s LGBTQ nightlife, click here.

Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale

Are you ready to plan your Big Gay Fort Lauderdale Road Trip yet? Then let’s talk about sleeping accommodations! After all, you’ll need plenty of rest and recovery while you’re enjoying all the area has to offer.

Good news! You can be rest assured that nearly any hotel, resort, Bed & Breakfast, or AirBnB will be welcoming to LGBTQ travelers. If they aren’t, they’re located in the wrong town. With that being said, there are a few places that go out of their way to promote themselves as LGBTQ-welcoming.

During my Fort Lauderdale road trip, I stayed at the B Ocean Resort and will provide a full review of the property and my experience below. I’ve also highlighted a few other options that may be of interest. For more accommodation options, including clothing-optional resorts, check out our Where to Stay in South Florida travel guide.

The B Ocean Resort

B Ocean Resort drone photo by Rachel Covello

The B Ocean Resort is an exciting oceanfront hotel located directly on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The property offers stylish, remodeled guest rooms with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Featuring the most desirable amenities, including FreeB™ WiFi, direct private beach access, a 24-hour fitness center and delectable dining at the world-famous Wreck Bar and seafood concept, the Naked Crab. 

I had the pleasure of staying in an ocean-front suite, and I highly recommend doing the same if the opportunity presents itself. The sunrise views were spectacular and the evening views relaxing and beautiful. From the fruit and champagne room service to the giant soaking tub, and the comfy beds to the adorable turtle stuffed animal, the details of the resort and the rooms are unbeatable.

Originally built in 1956 as the Yankee Clipper, B Ocean Resort has been a favorite hot spot for American icons throughout history including Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and Robert De Niro, to name a few.

The B Hotels & Resorts own three Florida properties (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Florida Keys) and one in New Orleans. I have experienced both the B Ocean in Fort Lauderdale and the B Resort and Spa in Orlando. Both are beautifully unique with modern amenities. But the beach views at B Ocean makes this a top resort choice for me.

B Resort Coronavirus Guidelines and Procedures:

B Distant sign promoting 6 feet between guests. Photo by Rachel Covello.

While the hotel is open during COVID-19, the resort is doing everything possible to keep guests safe and healthy. Valet service is still offered, but bell service is not. Guests are asked to stay 6 feet apart, and the giant stickers on the floor serve as a reminder. Housekeeping services are on hold, but guests can request fresh sheets and clean towels as needed. And room services is still offered. The pool and beach are also both open. For more information on the new Coronavirus cleaning procedures, click here.

To book your Fort Lauderdale road trip beach escape at the B Ocean, click here.

Other Accomodations

W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale

Le Cabanon Motel, Pompano Beach

Grand Resort and Spa

Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

Booking.com

Where to Eat in Fort Lauderdale

The rumors are true. South Florida, with its New York and Latin American influences, serves it up right – and fresh! I can’t remember a time when I visited a town with such a delicious variety of food. Not only does the Greater Fort Lauderdale region offer a plethora of dining options, but, from what I tasted, the food is creative, fresh and fabulous.

And the LGTBQ traveler is in for a treat! There are dozens of LGBTQ-owned and inclusive restaurants throughout the region, many of which are packed into Wilton Manors. So grab a fork and let’s dig in! This Fort Lauderdale Road Trip is about to get flavorful!

The Naked Crab

Crab and Avocado Toast at the Naked Crab, Photo by Rachel Covello

1140 Seabreeze Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL (located on the first floor of the B Ocean Resort)

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Naked Crab is located in the iconic Yankee Clipper building which is now B Ocean Resort.

Executive Chef David Morales combines his 20 years of experience and Latin heritage to create a one-of-a-kind menu, influenced by the flavors of Europe, North and South America. The contemporary Mediterranean menu features locally sourced, fresh ingredients and spices.

Whether you’re craving surf and turf or fresh seafood, The Naked Crab offers something for every palate. And the picturesque beachside setting along the famous A1A make this a must-visit restaurant during your Fort Lauderdale Road Trip.

The restaurant is currently open for dine-in seating, although The Florida Bar is currently closed. The Naked Crab also offers to-go and outdoor seating options.

My tip – Visit the Naked Crab for breakfast of lunch during your stay at the B Ocean Resort. I loved the crab and avocado toast.

To make reservations, click here.

Steak 954

401 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 (located on first floor of the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel)

A smart, modern update of the classic steakhouse template, this is South Florida dining that is effortless in its elegance.

Nestled into the waterfront W Fort Lauderdale, Steak 954 takes full advantage of its breathtaking natural surroundings. Sweeping beach views during the day and luminous starlit nights set the scene at this luxury boutique steakhouse.

The restaurant is designed with a fresh, clean nautical feel that draws deep inspiration from the ocean. The centerpiece reef aquarium, home to live jellyfish that gently undulate as you eat, provides an exquisite back drop to this beachside restaurant.

As its name implies, Steak 945 caters to meat and seafood lovers. The menu features dry-aged prime and American Wagyu beef, locally caught fish, decadent side dishes and a global selection of fine wines and spirits.

My tip – Start your meal with the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and enjoy the Ora King Salmon, Branzino or Grilled Tuna Steak for dinner.

To make a reservation at Steak 945 click here.

Lona Cocina Tequileria

321 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd #4204, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 (Located on the first floor of the Westin Hotel)

Another waterfront favorite, the Lona Cocina Tequileria Restaurant menu highlights the skills of Pablo Salas. This upscale restaurant with a laidback feel perfectly mimics a casual Mexican waterfront cantina. The restaurant prides itself on quality customer service, superior cuisine, and beautiful views.

Open for lunch and dinner, the menu at Lona is as diverse as its customers. It offers meats from the grill, ceviches, tostadas, tacos, and classic and modern sides for you to enjoy. You can also stop by the outdoor patio and bar, which offers a special menu of small plates, tacos, and snacks, as well as freshly made margaritas, sangrias, cocktails, Micheladas, and agave flights. The best part of the outdoor patio is the breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean.

My tip – Order the chips and lump crab guacamole to start! YUM! Then dive into the Salmon Mole or Drunken Grouper. You also can’t go wrong with the enchiladas or tacos. And if you’re moaning for mimosas, plan your visit for Bottomless Beachside Sunday Brunch.

To reserve a table, click here.

Rosie’s Bar & Grill

Rosie’s Bar & Grill, Photo by Rachel Covello

2449 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors, FL 33305

Craving a super gay experience? Then pull out the rainbow flags and head to Rosie’s Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors. This LGBTQ hot-spot isn’t just the hub of the Wilton Manors community, but they have award winning food, too! There are always events going on at Rosie’s, although several have been cancelled for now. But that hasn’t stopped this fan favorite from doing what they do best – serving the community. They even have their own softball team – the Silverhawks!

My Tip – Lunch is a perfect time to enjoy Rosie’s. The portions are huge, so either come hungry or plan to head home afterward to store your leftovers in the fridge. I recommend the Cobb salad and giant pretzel!

For more info, click here.

LGBTQ-Owned Restaurants to Support

Bubbles and Pearls

Tee Jay Thai Sushi Restaurant

Apt 9F

le Patio

Georgie’s Alibi & Monkey Bar

Rosie’s Bar & Grill

Shawn & Nick’s Courtyard Cafe

For a full list of LGBTQ-owned and welcoming bars and restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, click here. (Note: we feature all LGBTQ-owned establishments along with our partner listings).

Don’t see your LGBTQ-owned Fort Lauderdale restaurant listed? Contact us!

Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale

Has your mouth stopped watering from the deliciousness above? Probably not. But before you grab your keys and jump into your car for your Fort Lauderdale road trip, it might be a good idea plan out a few things to do while in the area.

There are an endless number of activities, attractions and excursions to experience while in the region. I’ve highlighted a few that I enjoyed and listed several others below. So, take your time, review the list, and then get to planning!

Fort Lauderdale Beach

Fort Lauderdale Beach at the B Ocean Resort. Photo by Rachel Covello

Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, from Sunrise Boulevard to Las Olas Boulevard

This might sound like common sense, but if you’re visiting a coastal town, you might as well enjoy the coastal experience – beach included!

One of the iconic characteristics of Fort Lauderdale Beach is the visibility of both beach and water from the main road – A1A. Today, most of Florida’s coastal beaches are blocked by condos, hotels and corporate buildings. And if the beaches aren’t blocked, the waters are blocked by sand dunes, like in Miami’s South Beach or Saint Pete’s Pass-A-Grille. In Fort Lauderdale, you can either enjoy the Atlantic Ocean waves beachside or sip a drink at a local restaurant while taking in the views.

Unlike the West Coast of Florida, where waters are slightly calmer, Florida’s East Coast beaches are perfect for boating, swimming and surfing. Whether you enjoy wading in the tides or cruising on a boogie board, Fort Lauderdale Beach is perfect for all beach bunnies. And if you’re up for an adventure, then try parasailing, jet skiing or deep water fishing. Fort Lauderdale even offers sunset cruises. I’m still scratching my head on that one, but the skies are beautiful during sunset, even if the sun is on the other side of the state.

Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

900 N Birch Rd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

If the water is rough or you’re just not up for washing salt and sand from your body, then head over to Bonnet House Museum and Gardens for a relaxing walk through the largest and most scenic coastal property in Fort Lauderdale.

Bonnet House Museum and Gardens preserves the unique historic estate of Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, a gift from early settler Hugh Taylor Birch to Frederic’s late wife, and Birch’s daughter Helen. Through enjoyable and enriching cultural experiences, the museum connects today’s community to the Bartletts’ architectural, artistic, and environmental legacy.

Together, the house and its surrounding naturescape create the perfect place to socially isolate. And if you’re a photographer, than bring the camera, because there are plenty of photos ops. Check out a few of mine below:

Bonnet House is an idea spot for weddings and events, too, although most events have been postponed due to COVID.

To learn more, click here.

Segway Fort Lauderdale

Segway Fort Lauderdale Tour along Las Olas Boulevard. Photo by Rachel Covello

Not into water or walking? Then try a Segway! Committed to creating fun and entertainment for visitors to the region, Segway Fort Lauderdale offers small group tours that provide a beautiful overview of Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront living.

And don’t worry! If you’re new to the Segway, you’ll get used to it in no time. Trust me! It only took one spin around the block for my balance to kick in. And wear what makes you most comfortable. I wore a dress and rainbow sneakers. (No, I’m not gay at all…LOL)

To book your Segway tour, click here.

Other Recommended Adventures

Sawgrass Recreation Park Everglade Tours

Pompano Beach Water Taxi

Seaquest Fort Lauderdale

Sun Trolley

Museum of Discovery & Science

Hugh Taylor Burch State Park

My Fort Lauderdale Road Trip Video Overview

Sometimes words aren’t enough to capture an experience. For that reason, I’ve compiled my experience into a three minute minute video recap to highlight the best parts of my Fort Lauderdale Road Trip experience.

Video Sponsored by the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB

Fort Lauderdale’s Safe & Clean Initiative

The Greater Fort Lauderdale region and its tourism industry partners are doing everything they can to keep you (the traveler) safe. They are also dedicating marketing efforts to promote travel to Florida residents and those planning Florida road trips.

In support of Broward County’s hospitality industry and business community, Visit Lauderdale launched the Safe + Clean pledge in collaboration with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA), the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. 

More than 250+ hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants and businesses in Greater Fort Lauderdale are providing a unified message that health and safety standards and protections against the spread of COVID-19 are a top priority.

As part of the destination’s unified promise, pledgees vow to follow CDC and government guidelines, among taking other measures:

Martine BienAime, Senior Group Sales Manager, Riverside Hotel

Businesses that sign the pledge agree to:

  • Follow CDC Cleaning Protocols
  • Wear Masks
  • Provide Hand Sanitizer
  • Practice Social Distancing
  • Train Staff How to Be Safe + Clean
  • Work Toward Contactless Payment

To learn more about Greater Fort Lauderdale’s commitment to offering guests a Safe + Clean experience, visit https://www.sunny.org/travel-resources/safe-clean-pledge/.

Plan Your Fort Lauderdale Road Trip

Whether you live a few hours away and need a long weekend getaway, or live further up north and are dreaming of sun and salty air, there are plenty of places to eat, shop and stay in Fort Lauderdale. So pack up your car, book your hotel and plan your visit.

For more ideas on planning a road trip to Fort Lauderdale, click here.

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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