Fort Myers and the adjacent Sanibel Island region lie along Southwest Florida's pristine Gulf Coast. While the "City of Palms" doesn't even compete with bigger cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or St. Petersburg for the title of Florida's most gay-friendly neighborhood, it does have a steadily growing LGBTQ+ community to boot. Likewise, it boasts a handful of fun and lively gay nightspots.
There are a couple designated gay bars in Fort Myers and a number of places to grab a late-night bite and brush shoulders with someone you saw on Grindr, too. When you're not out painting the town red, you can visit the hugely popular beach resort of Sanibel Island, 40 minutes away, or nearby Cape Coral, home of the annual Southwest Florida Gay Pride celebration.
Bars & Clubs
Don't come to Fort Myers expecting a gay nightlife scene like Miami's. That being said, there are a few bars about town where you're likely to find a high concentration of LGBTQ+ people.
- Rascals: This is one of only two designated gay bars in Fort Myers. Rascals is where you'll find the local gays and lesbians sipping Coronas in flip flops during happy hour, or drag queens hosting bingo parties on Monday nights. Thursdays are dubbed "Thirsty Thursdays" in light of weekly drink specials and trivia. The attractive space is conducive to dancing and themed shows like regular Leather and Lace nights.
- Cruisers Lounge: Located in neighboring Cape Coral, Cruisers Lounge is the other local gay bar, this one erring on the club side late at night. There are games, pool tables, and virtual bowling to entertain pre-gamers as well as karaoke, bingo, and talent shows on special nights. Come for a well-mixed martini and a weekend drag show.
- No. 3 Craft Brews & Beer Bar: This Cape Coral watering hole beckons a mixed bunch, but is extremely gay-friendly. This is the place for folks who have a special appreciation for inventive craft brews (cherry key lime and salted caramel flavors). This place is extra fun during trivia and open mic nights.
- Celsius Night Club: For a real night club experience, head to this bi-level dance floor. It's a late-night stop (it doesn't even open until 10 p.m.) so come after you've knocked back a few beers at Rascals or Cruisers. Celsius isn't technically a gay club but it is super inclusive and you're not going to find a more lively (or more neon) party in town.
There are no gay-specific restaurants in the Fort Myers region, but these eateries have a reputation for being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.
- Blu Sushi: This sushi spot serves inventive rolls, including some vegetarian options, and specialty—"outrageous"—cocktails in a trendy, aquarium-themed setting.
- Lazy Flamingo: Speaking of seafood, the Lazy Flamingo is a raw bar and grill with a slightly more casual vibe than Blu Sushi. It, too, has a nautical theme, but with more sports pub flair. Think fried shrimp and beer.
- Bleu Rendez-Vous French Bistro: This Sanibel Island French bistro is perfect for a date night over a couple of steaks and a glass of red. It's probably not the best fit for vegetarians, but you can bring your pet and sit on the outdoor terrace.
- Turtle’s Pool & Beach Bar: Kick off your Saturday night on the town with umbrella-topped frozen cocktails and pizza by the swimming pool at this sun-drenched tiki bar at Sanibel's Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Expect the standard bar fare (burgers and wings abound), but the tropical-inspired cocktails are worth it.
Pride SWFL is Southwest Florida's celebration of all things gay, taking place in Fort Meyer's sister town, Cape Coral. Every year, it attracts about 6,000 people to the otherwise quiet waterfront town, turning it into an all-out, rainbow-colored spectacular.
Pride SWFL features drag queens, DJ-led dance parties, family-friendly activities, and tons of food and drinks. It's a one-day event that takes place every October at The Alliance for The Arts and admission costs $5. Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic blanket or chairs for the entertainment.
On the Sunday following Pride SWFL, the organization hosts a big Pride Brunch and subsequent Tea Dance (a gay-themed disco-slash-happy hour event) at the Society Restaurant & Lounge.
Punta Gorda, about 30 minutes from Fort Myers, also has an annual pride event called Peace River Pride that takes place in January. It's organized by All Rainbow and Allied Youth and it's brimming with entertainment, vendors, food, and more.
Tips for Going Out in Fort Myers
- Last call in Florida (except for a few cities including Miami, a "24-hour entertainment district") is 2 a.m., so that's when you can expect most bars and clubs to close in Fort Meyers.
- While Uber is available, the climate is typically nice enough to bike around on a beach cruiser (which revelers have been known to do). Just be careful of the unexpected Florida downpours.
- For shopping and other Fort Myers resources, check out the online directory of businesses put together by the city.
- Fort Myers is mostly safe, but avoid neighborhoods east and southeast of downtown at night.
- While you're in the area, you can do day trips to Naples—just 45 miles south with great gay nightlife options—or gay-popular St. Petersburg and Tampa, which are within a two-hour drive. Sarasota is 90 minutes away and Port Charlotte is only 35 minutes down the road. Here, enjoy the nice white sand beaches that attract many a gay retiree.
- For more gay events in Fort Myers and around Florida, check in with Visit Florida's LGBTQ+ calendar.