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  WINDY CITY TIMES

A visit to the gay capital of South Florida
by Bill Malcolm
2018-11-20

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Witon Manors, Florida, is perfect for a car free, carefree holiday—and it has arguably the best walkable LGBTQ village in the country.

The small city is just north of Fort Lauderdale, in the southern part of the state.

But Wilton Manors is now the unofficial gay capital of south Florida. It is also the first Florida city with an all-LGBT city commission and only the second in the country, according to the Riverside Times ( the other city being Palm Spings ).

Indeed, Wilton Manors reminds the visitor of a cross between Palm Springs and West Hollywood. There's lots to do in an around the area.

GETTING THERE

I took Amtrak down from Orlando through the beautiful countryside to Ft. Lauderdale. I flew back on Southwest.

You won't need to rent a car, much less Lyft or Uber.

The #1 bus serves the FLL airport from the rental car airport for $2 and you can connect to the #50 for a short trip to Wilton Manors.

You can also fly into Miami and take the Tri Rail commuter rail to Ft. Lauderdale.

WHERE TO STAY

I stayed one night at the Best Western Oceanside Inn near the Fort Lauderdalebeach area.

They have bikes to rent and you are just a block to the beach area. The Swimming Hall of Fame is a half mile away and offers public lap swims for $4.

Other nearby beach hotels include the Atlantic and the Sonesta.

The #40 bus serves these hotels from the downtown Broward County Transit Center.

Wilton Manors itself has only inns and bed and breakfasts. I stayed at the Calypso Inn for $99/night. It was steps to the bars and restaurants on Wilton Drive. The Inn on the Drive, Ed Lugos Resort and Cabanas are other options as is the nearby Ramada in Oakland Park. I have also stayed at the Hampton Inn in downtown Fort Lauderdale, which is very nice. Some of the inns are male only so inquire when you call or check all the options at Sunny.org, the Fort Lauderdale visitor information site.

NIGHTLIFE

The bars and clubs are all on Wilton Drive and they are all walkable from the inns I mentioned.

Georgie's Alibi ( of P Town fame ) at 2266 Wilton Drive has 2 for 1 drink specials, a lounge act, and dancers and dancing on the weekend.

Hunters ( of Palm Springs fame ) also has drink specials and a great crowd of locals.

The Pub is also fun as is Drynk.

Johnsons features dancers and has happy hour until 9 pm ( and no cover until 8 pm ). You will find them at 2340 Wilton Dr.

Rumors Bar and Grill, at 226 Wilton Dr., was just rated the best bar for lesbians by South Florida Gay News. ( See page 13 of their Best of LGBT South Florida edition. )

Wilton Drive is the most concentrated area of LGBTQ nightlife in the country and there is something for everyone and everyone is welcome.

WHAT TO DO

Don't miss the Stonewall National Museum and Archives at 2157 Wilton Dr. Details are at Stonewall-museum.org . It details the rich LGBTQ history of the area.

The beach is a must and there are several nearby in Fort Lauderdale.

Being a transit fan, I took the new Brightline train from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. It is a privately run train which serves cocktails in the waiting area and on board ( as well as snacks ). Look out Amtrak. Once there, you can hop on the Miami Metro Mover.

The Miami Financial District features lots of interesting new architecture or you can hang out along the harbor.

Check out Bayfront Park along Brickell Avenue where you can hop on the Brickell Avenue Trolley to check out downtown Miami.

Take the Metro Mover from the Brightline Station. It is a free people mover that runs around downtown on three separate routes—a mini-version of the L without the noise nor the fare.

On the way home, I took the Metrorail subway to MIA Airport station to hop on the Tri-Rail commuter rail back to Ft. Lauderdale. Details at miamidate.gov/transit or at the Tri Rail website. ( You can also catch the 150 bus to Miami Beach from the Airport transit center in Miami. )

A free bus from Tri Rail take you back to the transit center where you can hop on the #50 back to Wilton Manor.

WHERE TO EAT

Start your day at Java Boys Coffee ( 2230 Wilton Dr. ). Rosies is very good for a bite as are the other retaurants like Tee Jay Thai in the area that includes at the Shoppes of Wilton Manor.

PLAN YOUR TRIP

Sunny.org is the official Fort Lauderdale trip-planning site and has a LGBT section.

Hospots is your LGBT magazine ( hotspots.com ). They carry my column. Check out the ads for drink specials and upcoming events.

The Mirror Magazine and South Florida Gay News are also great resources. The latter publishes a nifty guide ( www.sfgn.guide ).

You can't beat south Florida for a wintertime visit. Temperatures rarely dip below the 60s and highs are routinely in the 80s. Using my tips, you can enjoy the area without the hassle of a rental car nor even having to use Uber or Lyft.


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