When Super Bowl 2020 kicks off on Feb. 3 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., it will be the 11th time that the big game has come to South Florida–and that will make South Florida the most popular choice in the history of the NFL championship game. It is easy to understand the appeal, with the reliable gorgeous “winter” weather and lots of great choices for hotels, restaurants, and of course those beaches.
Although Miami Gardens has the word “Miami” in its name, this suburb is north of the city, almost the same distance from Miami Beach as it is Fort Lauderdale Beach. That gives visitors twice as many choices of places to stay, eat, shop, swim, and of course go out to celebrate the big win, or drink away the sorrows of defeat. (…or just watch the halftime show.)
Miami and Fort Lauderdale are close to each other, but they are very different cities, both with great options for a fun vacation. Here are our favorite tips for making the most of South Florida, in either city–or spend time visiting both!
Gay beach: Miami
Miami Beach has a beautiful, wide stretch of sand, with plenty of room to lay out and check out the Speedos all around. Although the gay neighborhood in Miami Beach has shifted over the years, 12th Street Beach has remained the center of the local scene.
Gay beach: Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale’s gay beach attracts lots of locals, and is a popular spot for visitors staying in some of South Florida’s best hotels, like The Ritz-Carlton, The Westin, and The W.
Gay guesthouse: Miami
Hotel Gaythering is a stylish gay guesthouse in South Beach, tucked into a quiet neighborhood that is within a few short blocks of the popular shops and restaurants on Lincoln Road. The hotel’s Bar Gaythering is popular with local residents and visitors from other hotels in South Beach.
Gay guesthouse: Fort Lauderdale
Pineapple Point brings a touch of that Key West spirit to Fort Lauderdale, with a famous clothing-optional pool that is popular with locals who visit with day passes. This guesthouse is into the elegant Victoria Park residential neighborhood, and is a short drive to attractions like Sebastian St. Beach, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and the bars in Wilton Manors.
See-and-be-seen restaurant: Miami
There is a tradition in Miami: if you go out to the bars, and you meet someone who lives in one of the nice homes in the Upper East Side neighborhood, and things go well for you two together, the next morning he will take you to breakfast at Jimmy’s East Side Diner. There are two reasons for this: first, the breakfast at Jimmy’s is great, but second and also important, he wants to show you off to all of his neighbors who are there for their morning omelettes. Jimmy’s was the restaurant used in that final, heart-wrenching scene in “Moonlight,” so this place has an excellent history of romance.
See-and-be-seen restaurant: Fort Lauderdale
Rosie’s is one of the social hubs of Wilton Manors, which is the gay and trans ‘hood of the Fort Lauderdale area. The indoor/outdoor seating is popular year-round, thanks to that South Florida sun, the drink specials are great, and vibe is friendly and fun. Plus the food is delicious. Try the burgers.
Destination shopping: Miami
There are shopping malls, and then there’s Brickell City Centre. This mall caters to many shoppers from Europe and South America, so it has stores that aren’t normally found in the U.S. Shopping at Brickell City Centre is fun even just for walking around. The mall itself is a beautiful building.
Destination shopping: Fort Lauderdale
West of Fort Lauderdale, Sawgrass Mills is the second most popular tourist attraction in Florida (the home of The Mouse is #1), and it is also one of the largest. Tour buses drop off tourists that come with empty suitcases, ready to fill them with clothes, shoes, and gifts that would be much more expensive in their own countries. Shops here run from bargain stores to high fashion outlets, and trying to see every store will take hours.
Wild night out: Miami
If you go to Miami, you have to go to Twist. This bar is a part of South Beach’s history, where multiple rooms each have their own DJs and “The Cabana” in the back has dancers who like to show off their muscles. Twist gets started late, and is open until very late, and many people have stories of leaving the bar and watching the sun rise over The Atlantic. Take a nap, drink some cafe con leche, and do it all again.
Wild night out: Fort Lauderdale
There are lots of great bars in Wilton Manors, which is the nightlife neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, with small bars for craft cocktails, to sports bars with a great selection of beers. Then there is The Manor, with its big dance floor and DJs spinning dance music, and a great upstairs balcony for taking a break before jumping back into the middle of everything again. The Manor has a stage where they host fantastic musical artists, making this one of the livelier nightspots anywhere in South Florida.