Pride in paradise: 3 incredible reasons to head to sunny, welcoming Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale trans performer Misty Eyez blows a kiss to a crowd in front of an LGBTQ rainbow flag.

Greater Fort Lauderdale is Florida’s welcoming oasis where everyone, no matter their identity, whether local or visitor, celebrate a beach paradise caressed by the warm waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

The center of the scene is located in Wilton Manors, the area’s “gayborhood,” where pedestrians stroll, swim, lay by the pool/on the beach, paddleboard on canals, and shop ’til they drop.

Then, by night, eat, drink and party.

Here are three great reasons to visit Fort Lauderdale this year.

1. Pride in Fort Lauderdale

An aerial view of Fort Lauderdale pride by the beach in 2018

With such a large and diverse community, Greater Fort Lauderdale hosts one Pride festival each year, on the beach in February, followed by a Stonewall Festival in the heart of Wilton Manors in June. The Pride festival in February enjoys cooler weather, but the organizers of the Wilton Manors Stonewall Festival in June moved the parade to the nighttime, making it the perfect start to a very rowdy nightlife weekend.

If you can wait until October, the fun-loving residents of Wilton Manors have built their Halloween street festival into one of the largest parties of the year in all of Florida.

Related: 6 ways to enjoy beautiful Fort Lauderdale while staying totally beach-ready

The whole world is gearing up for the first-ever Pride of the Americas Festival in April 2020, lasting a full 10 days. North, Central and South Americans will descend on the city for a parade, beach party, arts festival, and a human rights conference.

Of course, every day is Fort Lauderdale Pride with the plethora of bars, clubs, and resorts. On the north side of Wilton Manors, stop by Lips for a chance to see local translebrity Misty Eyez (photo above) perform during the infamous Sunday brunch.

2. On the water

5 naked men hold a surfboard to cover themselves up while running into the water in Fort Lauderdale.


A 300-mile ribbon of waterways winds through the city, lined with lush palms, exquisite Mediterranean-style homes and yachts of the rich & famous. The short trips on the Riverwalk Water Trolley are free, and water taxis are a convenient and economical way to tour the canals. For the luxe treatment, charter a boat with a full crew to tour the canals in style while sipping cocktails.

In need of some R&R? Sebastian St. Beach is a popular place to lounge under the sun and show off that new skimpy swimsuit from one of the shops lining Wilton Drive. The waves are gentle enough for bodysurfing or riding a boogie board, and the warm currents make for the perfect temperature for a dip or a serious swim. Watch for the sea turtle nests in the sand, which are marked with wooden poles joined by yellow tape.

If you prefer to marvel at the beauty beneath the sea, dozens of dive operators offer excursions for all levels, from snorkeling to scuba. Explore marine life at over 100 wrecks and reefs, accessible by boat or from the beach.

3. Culture club

2 gay dads dance with their son in front of the Hollywood beach theatre in Fort Lauderdale.


Greater Fort Lauderdale is a unique beach destination in that it boasts the culture of a big city. The city is one of the cultural hubs for all of South Florida, with fine museums and theatres offering world-class programming.

In the Riverwalk District, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts hosts South Florida’s opera, ballet, and symphony as well as touring Broadway shows, lectures, and concerts. Down the street is the NSU Art Museum, with an excellent collection of contemporary art. Outshine Film Festival comes to Fort Lauderdale in October of each year with screenings of award-winning independent films.

Wilton Manors also has some major cultural offerings, a credit to the local community that supports so many venues. Two local theatres, Empire Stage and Island City Stage, stage plays that are sometimes serious, sometimes sexy (actors are often flown in from New York), and the historic Parker Playhouse hosts touring shows, such as music revues starring contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race. The World AIDS Museum features artifacts from the AIDS epidemic, and Stonewall National Museum and Archives hosts historical exhibitions and lectures; there is also a Stonewall Museum building that serves as a library and storage facility for the impressive collection.

With a vibrant combination of cultures, experiences, and activities, Fort Lauderdale welcomes the world, because, under the warm embrace of the sun, everyone is truly equal.

Create your own adventure at sunny.org/lgbt

Photos courtesy of VisitLauderdale

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