Dan Renzi’s Real Gay Miami

Dan’s interview is part of our Guest Reviewers series.
daninbed-tall1.jpg
Dan. Hotel in Dubai.
Mirrored Ceiling. Say no more.

As the winter cold sets in many northerners seek out the warmth of the east coast’s most southern city. Miami has a rep for hot weather and hot people, but there’s more to Miami than meets the eye.

One person who often comes to mind when thinking about Miami is Dan Renzi from MTV. Dan got his start right here in Miami for the Real World Season 5. Dan continues to host shows for MTV, writes a popular blog and is a “cyberjournalist”? for Miami’s NBC affiliate (check out this funny clip of him covering a ballroom dancing competition).

With winter in full swing and the upcoming Miami Winter Party in March, we thought this is was the perfect time to ask him where to go and what to do in Miami and South Beach.

So is this a good time of year [Jan/Feb] to visit Miami?
I think right now is when it’s best—the weather is amazing, it’s literally the perfect temperature–when you walk outside, you can’t even feel the air. And there is always something to do.

Summer is a tough time, itâ’s so hot; but that’s also a great time to visit, everything is really cheap. All the restaurants run “prix-fix” specials, called the “Miami Spice” program, and you can eat for half the cost.

How would you describe Miami’s gay life to an out-of-towner?
Gay life here is very integrated–there aren’t the humongous gay megaclubs that were here in years past. There are dance clubs downtown; Twilo is all gay, Club Space is mixed. But I don’t have any friends who go to those places, honestly.

Personally, I really like Club Azucar, which is further south–it’s very, very Latin, a total change of pace from South Beach. I think this place is a blast. The drag queens don’t speak a word of English, and when they play Latin music all the guys pair up and dance. I should mention my friends don’t like it, though, they think it’s cheesy, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

In South Beach, the “gay” clubs like Score and Twist have their moments, but they can be really tired. The owners don’t seem to think they need to put any effort into updating the interiors, or bringing in interesting shows, or cleaning once in a while. Instead, the best places to go are the parties on promoted nights, at restaurants or hotels or wherever. They change a lot. Go to www.gaymiami.org, you get a full list of happenings, night-by-night. And check out the reviews on GayCities too.

I’ve heard Ft. Lauderdale nightlife is pulling all the boys up north.
Fort Lauderdale versus Miami is the ‘quality vs quantity’ argument. Yes, there are more gay men in Fort Lauderdale, but I think the men in Miami are much better.

What’s your favorite part of town to hang out?

Lincoln Road
Lincoln Road
Photo from Flickr

I live 1 block off Lincoln Road, so I just walk out my front door and I’m in the middle of everything. It’s always busy, and at night it is packed. The best days are Sundays–they have the Farmer’s Market, where you can get fresh fruit and vegetables and stuff. On good days, you can get the best oranges, grapefruits and tangerines you’ve ever had in your life. (This is Florida, after all.) Just try not to think about the fact that the person working the fruit stand is 10 years old. Sometimes there’s slim pickings…but on a good day, it’s really good. They also have an “antiquesâ€? sale once every few weeks, which is basically a glorified flea market. I bought a chair. You can come by my apartment and I’ll show it to you, I’m very proud of my purchase.

What’s the biggest misconception about Miami & South Beach?
People seem to forget that Miami is a huge city, that stretches far beyond the boundaries of Miami Beach. Coral Gables is beautiful; Key Biscayne is great for a day of kayaking through mangrove swamps and other outdoor-ish kinds of things (and an amazing Ritz-Carlton hotel). And the best restaurants are not in South Beach, they’re further north.

Any lesser known spots that you’d recommend?
Well, my favorite place for lunch in South Beach is The Raleigh Hotel, by the pool. Truly fabulous, and it’s never crowded.

Also, Zeke’s Roadhouse is a tiny hole-in-the-wall on Lincoln Road, that is not gay–but in South Beach, it doesn’t matter much. They serve over 100 types of beer–and each bottle costs $3. This is UNHEARD OF in Miami. Water usually costs $4. Imported, micro-brewed beer from England? Shudder to think of what it would cost, but at Zeke’s it costs $3. (And the water? One dollar!! Amazing!) The great thing about it is the location right on Lincoln Road–you sit out there and watch the world wander by. If you’re not a beer drinker, try the “Efes,” a Turkish beer that is very light–the bartenders recommend this for beginners. (Pronounced like our favorite Dreamgirl, FYI.) For gay guys looking to drink somewhere that’s not such a “scene” as the patio at Score, this is perfect.

It seems like there are a million hotels in Miami, where would you tell a friend to stay?
Depends on how rich my friend is. If he is like most of my other friends, and is totally poor, I’d tell him to stay at The Clay Hotel on Espanola Way. It’s a hostel, but they also have regular hotel rooms—for, like, 60 bucks. And they’re nice—small, but clean. Just request a room that’s quiet, Espanola can get noisy at night; and some of them have shared bathrooms, but go with friends and rent two of those rooms, and you can share. Problem solved. And it’s right in South Beach!

“I’m realizing how many hotel rooms I’ve been in, and I feel like a trashy whore. Yikes.�

You can also get good deals sometimes at The Palms, which is cab-distance to South Beach; and there’s a hotel/condo called Sixty Sixty, it’s little north of South Beach (just a few miles, no big deal, you might want to rent a car if you’re staying up there). Both will rent rooms for under $100 sometimes, but you have to catch it on the right day. If you can’t get a good rate online, try calling the desk and asking them to work out a deal.

But it’s also important to remember, if you’re going to be hanging out in South Beach, you might as well stay down there and walk everywhere. The money you save on a cheap hotel room, you spend on cabs getting back-and-forth. So plan wisely.

If you want something in South Beach, my vote is for The National. It’s right next door to The Delano, but it’s much less expensive and I think the rooms are a lot nicer. You can just wander over to The Delano for their bar. The best buy here is definitely The Albion–it’s one short block off the beach, right next to Lincoln Road. You can get a great room for around $250, much lower than if it were directly on the sand. And it’s nice! Very low-key, and big bathrooms.

If you’ve got lots of money to spend and you want to be glamorous, The Setai and Hotel Victor are both great—the Victor is much trendier, while The Setai is more refined and quiet. If you want something a little bit out of the craziness of South Beach, stay at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, it’s BEAUTIFUL (the one in South Beach is nothing special). If you’re rich to the point of having no concept of money, stay at The Tides for a zillion dollars a night and have butlers wait on you. And now that I’m thinking about this, I’m realizing how many hotel rooms I’ve been in, and I feel like a trashy whore. Yikes.

It should be said that pretty much all hotels in Miami Beach are very gay-friendly. Nightclubs are a different story, gay couples often get harassed by bouncers at the wrong places; but hotels, you can stay pretty much anywhere and share a bed, and no one gives a damn.

Dan, thanks for all the great tips, we can’t wait to book our trip. Before we let you go, we love travel here at GayCities and you’ve traveled to a lot of places, if you could recommend one place to visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I would suggest a drive across the US. So many people have been to Europe, yet they wouldn’t be able to name the states in the country they live in. I’ve made the drive a few times, taken different routes each trip, and it’s always been amazing.

One of those trips started when my friend and I were on the beach in North Carolina—which are the best beaches, I think—and we decided to drive back to Los Angeles where we lived. So we bought a Cadillac Brougham for $800, got a month of cheap insurance for $50, and spent three weeks wandering west, city-by-city. Nashville and Louisville were really fun; western Texas, not so much, but you just make the best of it. (PS: The day we got back to California, I was in a wreck—totaled the Cadillac. So sad. But the insurance money was more than what we paid for the car! It was like a free trip.)

Another good drive is up the Pacific Coast Highway, along the cliffs of Big Sur [about two hours south of San Francisco]. Amazing! Amazing amazing amazing. And that’s a short easy trip, a day or two. On many occasions I almost drove off the road and plummeted to my death, from saying “Oh my God!� over and over and not paying attention to the road.

Thanks!

2 Comments

  • nycguy

    Hey boy I always like you on the real world…..my name is Omar and live in NYC, send me a line.

  • Boracay Island

    Albion Hotel Miami Beach is a clean and beautiful hotel. We spend vacation there and they friendly and nice accommodation..