Palm Beach County is home to a sizable LGBT population, especially in the area's largest city, West Palm Beach (population 104,000) and also in the smaller, laid-back beach community of Lake Worth (population 35,000), which is where Palm Beach County Gay Pride takes place in late March each year. Many of the gay folks you'll meet in this part of the state, which is just north of the hugely popular gay mecca of Fort Lauderdale, have moved here from cooler climates, taking advantage of the great weather and generally more affordable living than farther down the coast in Broward and Dade counties.
Although not a huge destination specifically for LGBT tourists, plenty do come down to this area to visit. The county is home, of course, the world-famous, ultra-posh Palm Beach community, which lies just across the Intracoastal Waterway from the city of West Palm Beach and is rife with oceanfront mansions and swanky resorts, from the world-famous Breakers to the Four Seasons Resort Palm... Beach. If you're vacationing in Palm Beach, you won't find any gay bars in this community, but it's a relatively short drive to the places listed below in this article.
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In the town of Lake Worth, just 6 miles south of West Palm Beach, the Mad Hatter (1532 N. Dixie Hwy., Lake Worth, 561-547-8860) is one of the most popular gay bars. The friendly neighborhood lounge has a good-size patio, a pool table and video games, light food (burgers, chicken wings), and a good mix of cocktails, beers, and wine. Low-keyed and catering mostly to a locals crowd, the Mad Hatter is easy to find - right on U.S. 1 (Dixie Highway) and close to Lake Worth's other gay hangout, The Bar, which is just a bit north.
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Havana Hideout, Lake Worth
A super-friendly bar and restaurant right on the bustling main drag in colorful downtown Lake Worth, gay-friendly and community-supportive Havana Hideout (509 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, 561-585-8444) appeals to a broad cross-section of locals and visitors, with its laid-back vibe, cheerful tropically landscaped patio, pet-friendly policy, and downright delicious Latin American-inflected pub food. The grilled fish tacos with pineapple salsa and chipotle slaw, veggie burritos, and garlic-roasted pork quesadilla are all terrific, and the bar serves a good selection of mainstream and craft beers on tap. There's a daily happy from 4 to 7 - a perfect way to end a day at the nearby beaches.
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Gay bars have come and gone in West Palm Beach and the surrounding county, and these days the GLBT nightlife options are down to just a few spots, but Rooster's (823 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach, 561-832-9119) has been going strong since the early '80s and remains the most popular gay nightclub in the region. It's an attractively decorated spot just a short drive southwest of downtown, just off Exit 69 of I-95 and close to U.S. 1. Popular events include Monday bingo, male dancers on Friday and Sunday evenings, and karaoke on Wednesdays. There are also some of the best drag shows in southern Florida on weekends, and the club is open late - till 3 am most evenings, and 4 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
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Just a 10-minute drive south of Lake Worth, next to C Liquor Store right off U.S. 1 in Lantanta, relaxed and easygoing Penny's at the Duke (902B N. Dixie Hwy/US 1, Lantana, 561-318-7359) caters to a mostly LGBT but fairly mixed bunch, offering karaoke on Friday nights, drag bingo on Tuesdays, and great drink specials pretty much all week long. A DJ spins tunes on weekend nights, making it a fun time to come dancing. There are a couple of pool tables, too. This is definitely one of the best places on a Palm Beach County bar crawl to meet locals and make new friends - you'll encounter zero attitude in this fun, slightly dive-y spot.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Sunset Grill, West Palm Beach
It's hard to argue with the "It Begins at Sunset" slogan of Sunset Bar & Grill (2500 Broadway, West Palm Beach, 561-832-2722), which is set along the main drag of WPB's historic and LGBT-popular Northwood Village neighborhood, a couple of miles north of downtown. This favorite spot with the gay community for drinks and dinner is indeed a fine place to start off the night (it offers some great happy hours in the late afternoon and early evening), or to enjoy a leisurely dinner (or lunch, if you happen by earlier in the day). Steaks and local seafood are among the specialties - consider the blackened Key lime dolphin, rib eye steak, or crab cakes with a balsamic reduction and red pepper aioli. Plenty of fans rank the burgers here among the best in town, too. There's an extensive wine list, and the bar serves a full complement of cocktails, too.