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6 travel-worthy Miami festivals that turn up the heat

Four shirtless men at Miami Winter Party Festival.
Photo courtesy of Miami Winter Party Festival

Queer travelers hardly need convincing to buy a plane ticket to Greater Miami & Miami Beach. Sunbathing. An oceanfront culinary scene stretching for miles. Bountiful nightlife, shopping, and sports cars. The spirit of Gianni Verscace. Gorgeous, tanned people everywhere. 

Yup, we’re ready to pack our bags, too. 

But nothing rallies queer friend groups like an event, and the 305 knows how to throw rainbow parties like no other. GayCities uncovers some of Miami’s best LGBTQ+ festivals to put on your calendar and where to stay, eat, and dance to maximize all of Miami’s metropolitan glory. 

Winter Party Festival

BFFs flashing smiles at the Sunday Beach Party at Sands of South Beach.
BFFs flashing smiles at the Sunday Beach Party at Sands of South Beach. Photo by Silvio Maranhão.

If there was ever a time to take a week off work, don’t wait any longer than the Winter Party Festival. The annual event is the who’s who of circuit parties and charity fundraisers: a revolving door of pool parties, beach parties, A-list DJs and performances, art exhibitions, and queer celebrations, all in the name of LGBTQ+ rights and philanthropy. 

Since 1994, queers have put on their festival gear for the multi-day event. To date, the Winter Party Festival has given back more than $3.3 million and supported nearly 90 community organizations in South Florida.

Aqua LGBTQ+ Family BBQ

Who says barbequing is just for the boys? Enter Aqua Foundation for Women’s annual LGBTQ+ Family BBQ hosted at the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park. Yes, Miami is the “It Girl” of queer party towns, but don’t be fooled to think you won’t find family values. 

Gather the kids, family, and friends because this event prioritizes fun for everyone, including waterslides, music, a Kona Ice Truck, and plenty of food. (Don’t forget to bring your lawn chairs, towels, and sunscreen!) 

Miami Beach Pride

The Pride Parade during the Miami Beach Pride Festival in Lummus Park, South Beach, Florida.
The Pride Parade during the Miami Beach Pride Festival in Lummus Park, South Beach, Florida. Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images. 

Miami Beach Pride should be on the bucket list of every queer person, but Latinx folks, in particular, will discover their ethnicity celebrated like nowhere else in the country. The march sees flags from all over Latin America waving in unison with the rainbow. Miami’s demographic is over 70% Hispanic, shining a vibrant cultural spotlight on events, including the Miss Miami Beach Pride Pageant, queer art showcase, festival and parade.

OUTshine Film Festival

OUTShine Film Festival prides itself on putting the “FEST in FEST-ival.” In addition to debuting soon-to-be iconic movies and documentaries from all over the world, attendees get the unique opportunity to mingle with film creatives via a medley of seminars, workshops, and parties. 

You won’t just be diving into an international melting pot of cinema, but you’ll have the bragging rights of experiencing the largest LGBTQ+ cultural arts event in South Florida. It’s vacation, baby, so go big or stay home. 

SweetHeat Miami

SweetHeat Miami has grown into a global event attracting thousands of queer women from around the world.
SweetHeat Miami has grown into a global event attracting thousands of queer women from around the world. Photo courtesy of @RADskillZ.

SweetHeat Miami gives queer women (21+) a rare chance to let their spirits run free in a safe environment. Created by DJ Dimples in 2008, the sapphic celebration emphasizes live spectacles and fosters an environment inclusive of all ethnicities and body types. 

Travelers should get ready to experience South Beach through the pinkest lens possible; of course, we mean so much more than the color with the arrival of tens of thousands of queer women. 

Sizzle Miami

Sizzle Miami is a five-day smorgasbord of captivating day-time events, celebrating and catering to Black gay men and allies (21+). Created over 20 years ago by Dwight Powell, the Sizzle is a predominantly urban male event, though all races are welcomed and encouraged to attend. 

The organizers promise that “adrenaline-pumping events will leave you breathless.”

Where to eat, drink, and stay in Miami

Greater Miami’s LGBTQ+-friendly accommodations and businesses make it one of the US’s top queer destinations any time of year.
Greater Miami’s LGBTQ+-friendly accommodations and businesses make it one of the US’s top queer destinations any time of year. Photo courtesy of Hotel Gaythering/Alex Guerra.

AxelBeach Miami

The Axel is a gay hotel chain sought after by gay tourists worldwide, but its Miami Beach location remains the brand’s exclusive US property. Located in the center of the action on Collins Avenue, the property also offers a peaceful escape at the Sky Bar, pool, and spa. Solo travelers will appreciate the friendly staff and crowd. 

Hotel Gaythering

Gay-owned and operated, Hotel Gaythering is a staple for locals and visitors. Discover Bar Gaythering inside the property’s colorful walls and a range of accommodations to suit any budget, from the Fun King Room (use your imagination) to the Crate Shared Room (64 square feet with shared bathroom). Silence the dating apps upon arrival; IRL is the way to go. And if you just want to pop in, Hotel Gaythering also offers sauna day passes.


Twist has been the face of Miami LGBTQ+ nightlife for over 30 years and a must-stop on every visitor’s night out. Twist’s two levels, three dance floors, multiple DJs, go-go boys, and drag queens provide plenty of eye candy no matter where you look. 

Mirrored walls surround all the dance floors, so feel free to snap a selfie having the time of your life. 

The Palace

The Palace has been a Miami fixture since 1988.
The Palace has been a Miami fixture since 1988. Photo courtesy of Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau –

If a drag queen lands a triple cartwheel in a split, another hangs from the ceiling singing Whitney Houston, and a cute waiter serves you a delicious entree, you must be at The Palace. Forget what you think you know about drag brunch (or dinner or midday cocktails) and prepare for performances rivaling RuPaul’s Drag Race

Located on Ocean Drive, the Palace is also steps from the 11th/12th Street Beach, marked by a rainbow-painted lifeguard tower.

Nathan’s Beach Club

Started by longtime South Beach bartender and resident Nathan Smith, Nathan’s Beach Club adds a new dimension to Miami’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene. Rebranded and renovated in 2023, the upscale venue presents themed programming throughout the week and an adjacent champagne room for a bubbly good time.

Villain Theater

The LGBTQ+-inclusive Villain Theater brings a fresh sense of theatricality to greater Miami with a revolving roster of entertaining shows and screenings. Check out an improv show, variety acts, comedy, and Drag Race screenings — and if you’ve got an in to perform, scratch it during open mic night. 

Whatever your LGBTQ+ family looks like, Miami has something to offer. Head to the Miami LGBT Visitor Center for local recommendations and insider tips. 

Ready to start planning? Visit

AxelBeach Miami

Adults-only 1500 Collins Ave · Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 531-1251

Hotel Gaythering

Miami’s first “straight-friendly” gay boutique hotel 1409 Lincoln Rd · Miami Beach, FL 33139
(786) 284-1176

Palace Bar & Restaurant

Every queen needs a castle 1052 Ocean Dr · Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 531-7234


‘Never a Cover, Always a Groove’ 1057 Washington Ave · Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 538-9478

Nathan’s Beach Club

Never-ending party 1216 Washington Ave · Miami Beach, FL 33139


Miami Beach Pride

One Chance. One Heart. One World. One Love.

12th Street Beach, 1200 Ocean, 12th Street, Miami, FL

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