The Stonewall Street Festival and Parade in Wilton Manors, on June 21, is a long, fun day of Pride festivities for the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. The event closes down the central street in the gay ‘hood, Wilton Drive, and the street festival officially starts at noon, attended by thousands of gays, lesbians, transfolk, and the people who love them.
The parade starts at 7 p.m., although punctuality is always a topic of debate whenever drag queens are involved, so be patient. Watching the parade is easy: the section of street called “Wilton Drive” is just around one mile long, from NE 19th St. to NE 26th St. (outside of the Wilton Manors city limits, it is called NE 4th Ave). The crowds will be feistier near the bars and restaurants on the northern end. Then the festivities technically ends at 11 p.m. when the bars along Wilton Drive will just be getting started.
All this in one day?
You can do it! A little planning and organization is all it takes to make a big day like this a success. Here’s a survival guide for folks who want to make their visit to Stonewall Pride as fun as possible, and live to tell the tale.
1. Get yourself invited to a balcony party.
Wilton Drive is dotted with several marvelous new condo buildings, which feature big beautiful balconies facing the street.
Don’t you feel like Eva Peron already? Stand above the masses and wave as you sing, Don’t cry for me, Wilton Manors… Besides feeling superior for a day, partying on one of these balconies is practical. You’re in the shade, you have access to a bathroom, you have cover if it rains, and there will undoubtedly be beverages galore for you to enjoy provided by your host who may expect you to put out in exchange for his hospitality but that’s up to you. Plus it’s a great place to see the parade roll by.
The catch, of course, is finding your way up there — and of course those parties are invite-only. The condos along Wilton Drive are generally inhabited by trendy, upwardly-mobile gays of a desirable financial status, who bought their units as short-term real estate investments. Do you need it spelled out? They got M-O-N-E-Y, honey.
To find Wilton Manors’ Condo Gays, look in their natural habitat: swanky lounges, the intimate nightlife spaces staffed with mixologists who prepare fancy martini-adjacent beverages. Try Infinity Lounge and 13 Even.
If you can’t find a guy with one of these condos, don’t fret. 99% of us never do. Proceed to Step 2.
2. Hook up with a guy who is staying at a hotel or guesthouse. The various gay and gay-friendly hotels and guesthouses in the greater Fort Lauderdale area provide easy access to Wilton Manors. (Parking during Pride will be awful, so it’s best to take a cab to the action.) When you are online and looking for guys who are going to Fort Lauderdale for Pride weekend, ask them where they are staying. For instance, Ed Lugo Resort is walking distance to Wilton Drive, and although it’s open to the general public and not a “gay guesthouse,” it is a popular choice among the boys simply for its location and its excellent quality of service. There are several big-brand hotels, like W Fort Lauderdale, that are on the beach and a short cab ride away from Wilton Manors. Men-only guesthouses, like Pineapple Point, Grand Resort, and Cheston House are also very nice and also a short cab ride away. Of course, at the gay guesthouses there are always gentlemen at the pool who are looking for a little adventure, so that’s a bonus.
3. When you get to the Pride festival, cruise in a time-efficient manner. Unlike many other Pride events around the country, Stonewall Pride occurs in the middle of the LGBT neighborhood, to engage the businesses that actively support the local community. This means after the parade, the locals will simply walk to their favorite nightspots. The gays of Greater Fort Lauderdale tend to travel in packs, so all of the bars will be very busy with different theme parties. There are too many bars to go to all of them, so you need to pick your targets based on your favorite flavor of men:
- Thirty- and forty-somethings drink beer and wear tight T-shirts at Village Pub.
- Twinks take off their shirts and dance at The Manor.
- Bears play pool and engage in occasional public displays of affection at Bill’s.
- Older gentlemen enjoy piano music and conversation at Tropics.
4. Keep up your energy. Don’t forget to eat! Luckily there are lots of restaurants along the drive. Rosie’s will be packed, because they have the best patio for the see-and-be-seen scene. Alibi, which is a beer-slinging bar, also has an excellent restaurant with hamburgers that have won Best Of Fort Lauderdale awards many times. Seriously, it’s not just bar food. Yum.
4. Be prepared for the fact that you might end up at The Ramrod, too drunk to know your own name. By the end of the night, every walk of life comes back together at The Ramrod, reunited by a universal love of debauchery and a delightful lack of judgment.
The Ramrod has a nice dance floor and great music, so it is popular for late-night revelry. It is also home to leather men who attend the monthly Pig Dance. So be prepared: when a friendly gentleman named Master says he wants to do things to you that you do not think your body can tolerate, it is time to call a cab.
The number for Yellow Cab is:
You will need to tell the dispatcher the address of The Ramrod:
1508 NE 4th Ave.
(The Ramrod is technically two blocks outside the boundaries of Wilton Manors, but remember, NE 4th Ave. is the same street as Wilton Drive. Don’t get lost.)