Greater Miami and Dade County, one of the premier nightclubbing and partying spots in North America, has long cultivated a highly visible gay and lesbian scene. That said, Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, just north, have steadily become better known as South Florida's top LGBT destination. The number of gay bars in Miami has actually declined a bit over the years, but most of the ones that remain still draw huge crowds, especially on weekends, and are definitely top spots for dancing into the late-night and early morning hours. Also, whether you're in trendy South Beach, historic Coconut Grove, or the hipster-favored Wynwood Arts District in Midtown Miami, you're likely to find a strong LGBT presence at many of the area's mainstream clubs, bars, restaurants, and coffeehouses.
One thing to keep in mind as you venture out clubbing in Miami: distances in 2,400-square-mile Dade County are vast. So while on the one hand, all four of the major gay nightspots in South Beach are concentrated in a relatively compact area (an area easy to walk to from many Miami Beach hotels), the handful of gay clubs across Biscayne Bay in Miami proper are located somewhat far from one another. These Miami bars also tend to draw more of a locals crowd, and they're also some of the top Latin gay clubs in the country.
If you're more into a crowd that's mixed with locals and tourists, and that tend toward the see-and-be-seen, glamorous side, South Beach's bars will probably work for you. But if you make the effort to get into Miami proper and head to GLBT Azucar or the mixed but gay-popular Club Space, you'll encounter some great (especially Latin) music, fun crowds, and a diverse vibe—these are among the top dance venues in Florida.
The only gay club close to Miami proper's historic gay enclave, Coconut Grove, Azucar Nightclub has long been one of the hottest LGBT Latin dance palaces in the country, drawing huge crowds of men and women for its spirited parties featuring top DJs, amazing music pumped through a state-of-the-art sound and light system, and some highly colorful drag entertainment.
The cabaret shows on Sunday nights are great fun, and the dancing on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings pull in a diverse, energetic crowd. The club is typically closed Monday through Wednesday. Azucar is between downtown Miami and Coral Gables—it's about a 20- to 30-minute drive if you're coming from South Beach.
Although not a gay establishment per se, Club Space stands out among dance venues as one of the biggest and most popular places to party on the entire Eastern Seaboard, and you'll always see lots of LGBT revelers here among the huge crowds.
The 25,000-square-foot venue with an incredible sound system is home turf of DJ superstars like Oscar G and Roland, and it often draws big-name celebs, including Paul Van Dyk, David Guetta, Deep Dish, and Paul Oakenfold.
The club is open only on weekends, but it pulses 24/7 on both days, with prime time usually occurring well after 2 a.m. Expect to pay a steep cover—in fact, it's best to buy tickets in advance on the club's website when top DJs are booked.
The club is just across MacArthur Causeway from South Beach in Miami proper, just a few minutes' drive north of downtown Miami—it's a couple of blocks west of Museum Park and American Airlines Arena.
With an enviable location on Ocean Drive, just across the street from the 12th Street Gay Beach, the Palace Bar (1200 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-7234) lures plenty of fun gay guys and lesbians (and everybody else, really) with its large patio overlooking the parade of bronzed bodies strolling to and from the beach.
The Palace, whose slogan "Every Queen Needs a Palace" seems quite fitting, is both a bar and restaurant, serving three meals daily (casual American fare, such as steak and eggs, chicken wings, Cobb salads, mahimahi wraps, burgers, spaghetti Pomodoro) plus there are wildly popular drag brunches on Sundays. It's been a fixture in South Beach since it opened in the late '80s, and it's one of Florida's enduring GLBT hangouts.
This is one of the few gay bars in South Florida that's actually just as popular during the day (and especially early evening) than at night. That being said, the Palace does keep rocking till 2 a.m. and has lots of fun events, including Sunday T-dances, Friday queer cabaret, and plenty of other lively gatherings, many of them hosted by Miami's most elegant and eligible drag queens.
There are fewer gay bars in Miami these days than there used to be, but Score, along with Twist, a few blocks away on Washington Avenue, has held its own for many years, even though it's moved to a different location.
It continues to be one of the hottest gay and (and to a lesser extent lesbian) dance clubs in southern Florida. The swanky and slick space is along lively Washington Avenue, a couple of blocks from Lincoln Road Mall, which is where it used to be located.
Dozens of great restaurants are nearby, so it's easy to enjoy dinner first before venturing out clubbing. Score has popular events, usually related to dancing and DJs - Saturdays and Sundays are top nights in terms of crowds (with the dancing going strong until 5 a.m.) but Tuesday's Latin dance party, Planeta Macho, is always a huge draw.
The bar has expanded over the years and has plenty things going for it: it's open daily till 5 a.m., the staff is cute and flirty, there's a beautiful garden with lush landscaping, and the bar is steps from dozens of stylish Miami Beach restaurants and hotels.