By Bill Malcolm*
Now is the perfect time to plan a visit to Fort Lauderdale (and the Island City of Wilton Manors, which is the gayborhood). I spent two weeks there recently and had a COVID-safe vacation by doing most stuff outside or on the beach. With temperatures in the high 70s to 80s, it is the perfect escape from the dreary winter weather in many parts of the country.
I snagged a low fare to Miami and the Tri-Rail goes right to Fort Lauderdale from MIA. On the way back I flew out of Fort Lauderdale (FLL) where the Broward County Transit Bus takes you to Fort Lauderdale Airport. Getting around is a breeze on Broward Country Transit. Skip the rental car and parking hassles (and the traffic). Or take Uber or Lyft. The new Brightline high-speed passenger rail serves Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm and is also a great option.
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed in the new Home2Suites by Hilton just north of downtown (315 NW 1st) in the Flagler Arts and Technology District (FATVillage). You get a full, furnished apartment. Across the hall is the more affordable TRU by Hilton rooms. Either way, you’ll enjoy the outdoor bar/pool/laundry room/gym on the fifth floor. Two food trucks are right outside if you get hungry and they also sell food and drinks at the check-in area. You are steps from FATVillage, Sistrunk Marketplace & Brewery (a food hall), the C&I Next Door Brew Coffee House, and Henry’s Sandwich Station (a sandwich shop with great cookies). Just down the street is the Broward County Transit Center where you can take the #50 bus to Wilton Manors or catch another bus to Sebastian Street Beach. A short walk away is the GreenWise Market, which has a great salad and hot food bar, plus you can pick up some super sweet Florida strawberries.
WHAT TO DO
Walk around FATVillage and take in a Saturday evening art walk.
Walk along the Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Run or walk with the Fort Lauderdale Frontrunners, which meets three times a week.
Hang out on the LGBTQ+ beach at Sebastian Street.
Enjoy the Sunday farmer’s market in the MASS District, aka Music & Arts South of Sunrise (Blvd.), sponsored by the Sunnyside Up Market.
Take the new Brightline train down to Miami for the day to check out the Wynwood Arts District as well as the Design District. Or take the express bus to South Beach and visit the free Botanical Gardens as well as the Holocaust Memorial on your way to the beach.
Wilton Manors is up the road from downtown Fort Lauderdale. The “Island City” is Palm Springs east, with lots of bars and restaurants in the LGBTQ+ village along Wilton Drive. There are no chains—just independent boutiques. Try the salmon at Rosie’s Bar and Grill and enjoy the outdoor seating. Hamburger Mary’s across the street has Sunday drag brunch. Sit outside and enjoy a cocktail at Hunters. Happy hour runs from 6-8 pm at Johnson's and I hear they have dancers. The Pub is a lot of fun as is Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar. The Gym Sportsbar also is another option.
Most of the bars and restaurants have outdoor seating.
Keep in shape by working out at the Powerhouse Gym at The Galleria mall in Fort Lauderdale.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
HOTspots! Magazine has the latest on bar specials, upcoming events, restaurant reviews, and more. Read it online at HotspotsMagazine.com. OutClique magazine is another LGBTQ+ resource, published monthly. Visit Lauderdale, the official tourism marketing agency for Broward County/Greater Fort Lauderdale, provides insights and tips for visiting the area: sunny.org.
*Bill Malcolm is America’s only value LGBTQ+ syndicated travel column. He received no compensation of any kind from anyone during his visit. His opinions are his own.