Gay Florida: From Harry Potter to ‘Tropical Heat’

Post by GayCities Florida editor Dan Renzi

Harry Potter has taken over Orlando! The Obamas made a splash on the gulf coast! Big news has been swirling around Florida this summer, and it’s not over yet. Here’s a round-up of some of the bigger happenings around the state:

courtesy gaykeywestfla

Key West: August in Key West means one thing: Tropical Heat, the all-male “adult-oriented” event that stretches for four days and nights. Theme parties, fetish parties, get-naked-in-public parties, the schedule is filled with chances to get yourself into trouble. Key West’s famed guesthouses are mostly sold out, but last-minute lodging can be found around the island.

Fort Myers/Sanibel Island: After your weekend of fun and filth in Key West’s Tropical Heat party, hop on the Key West Express ferry and sail to Fort Myers, a quiet town along the Florida gulf coast. Fort Myers, and nearby Sanibel Island, offer some of the most pristine white-sand beaches in America. Ocean currents carry the ocean’s rarest seashells to Sanibel Island and deposit them in piles on the water’s edge, perfect for collectors.

The southwest coast of Florida has taken an economic beating by the gulf oil spill, as fear of polluted beaches kept away vacationers. But the sludge never flowed this far south, the beaches are still open—and the lack of tourists means hotels are slashing rates.

Nightlife here is more subdued than in other Florida hotspots like South Beach or Ft. Lauderdale. Yet there’s plenty of daytime fun to wear you out before night falls. Most hotels are comfortably gay friendly and the local gays enjoy mixing with everyone in town. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the adorable Bennett’s Fresh Roast for coffee with a side of gossip (we also recommend their fresh-made donuts).

The big news in Orlando this summer has been the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, which has attracted millions of visitors clamoring for a chance to buy magic wands and drink butterbeer. But now that school is back in session, the hordes of kids are thinning and making room for adult fans of the park.

Loews Portofino Bay and Hard Rock hotels are both on park property, which puts you at the front door of the action—and in some cases, also supplies you with a pass to skip the lines of some rides—but several other hotels in the area have spent big bucks on renovations, which provide wonderful alternatives that are only minutes away from Hogwarts.

Properties to watch:

The Peabody, Orlando’s fabulous (and enormous, with over 1,600 rooms) luxury hotel near the convention center, is currently unveiling a $450 renovation and expansion. Because construction isn’t complete and some services aren’t available quite yet, the hotel offers discounts. Distance to Universal Studios: approximately 9 minutes.

Doubletree Orlando sits directly across the street from Universal Studios (10 minute walk to the gates), and recently received a facelift: the huge guest rooms rooms decorated in cool blue and  cream hues provide a welcome respite from the commotion of the parks. With excellent amenities (flat screen TVs, refrigerators) and rates at only a fraction of the hotels on Universal Studios property, this is one of the best deals in town.

Wyndham Orlando is slated for a remodel to be completed this summer, adding some updated style to one of the larger properties in the city. The hotel already boasts beautiful grounds, with acres of lagoons and nature trails for jogging (perfrect for trips when you’re not walking miles through theme parks)—and it’s about five minutes from Universal Studios.