One Of Florida's Top LGBTQ+ Friendly Destinations Is A Vibrant, Walkable Paradise

Step aside Miami and Key West, Wilton Manors may actually be the most LGBTQ+-friendly destination in the southern U.S. Just north of Fort Lauderdale on Florida's southeastern coast, the vibrant enclave is an oasis of more than 40 LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, restaurants, and bars. It has twice been named "Best City" by the South Florida Gay News. Other claims to gay fame are that it has more gay bars than everywhere else in Florida combined, and in 1988, it became the first city in Broward County, Florida, to have an openly gay mayor. But according to locals, the city is "straight-friendly," too, welcoming resident and visitors regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite its large presence, Wilton Manors has a small footprint, occupying only 2 square miles of southern Florida turf. This compactness makes it so walkable that you almost don't need a car if you're not venturing out of the downtown area. What's more, residents say it's safe to walk around the hood anytime of day or night, even on the buzzing main street, Wilton Drive, which is referred to by locals simply as "The Drive." Outdoorsy types can also explore paths in the city's lush parks or hike along an elevated boardwalk through 7 acres of protected mangrove. These natural areas are home to a surprising variety of southern Florida wildlife and many species of birds, including ospreys, ducks, ibises, egrets, herons, and others.

Exploring Wilton Manors on foot

While The Drive is not a pedestrian-only area, its sidewalks are wide and dotted with trees to provide shade on hot days. Strolling down The Drive is a perfect way to experience the vibe of Wilton Manors. You can browse, eat, and drink yourself silly at a myriad of rainbow venues along the way. Naturally, the art scene has taken root in this gayborhood, showcasing the creative works of talented locals. Many of these galleries, studios, and showrooms are located right on The Drive itself. 

Downtown Wilton Manors also offers an impressive variety of bars and restaurants that are LGBTQ+-owned and-or cater to the community. Rosie's Bar and Grill, right on The Drive, is a local favorite for boozy brunches. A wonderful choice for indulgent dinners and funky evening entertainment is Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar, a restaurant-bar-nightclub that's one of the most iconic queer venues in all of South Florida. 

For dessert, check out Wilton Drive's most famous shop, To the Moon, which features many of America's favorite sweets from the 19th and 20th centuries, along with candy from over 87 countries and hard-to-find sodas. The shop stays open past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, so patrons can drop in for a sweet treat after their meal and then hit the clubs to burn off any unwanted calories. 

Other gay-friendly attractions, events, and beaches

While you're in the Wilton Manors area, check out queer-themed events, museums, and beaches that you won't find anywhere else. Wilton Manors may be one of the best places in the U.S. to celebrate Pride Month. Officially known as Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride, it's one of Florida's biggest Pride celebrations. The event takes place in June and draws 20,000 to 30,000 people. Attendees gather to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, enjoy the parade and live performances, and just party and chill. If you're visiting Wilton Manors and you missed Pride, check out the events calendar of the Pride Center at Equality Park for upcoming events. 

One of the most important LGBTQ+ attractions in the U.S. — the Stonewall National Museum & Archives — is located in the neighboring city of Fort Lauderdale. Visiting this place, which is now the largest LGBTQ+ museum in the U.S., is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about LGBTQ+ history. It's also a great way to honor the community's role as a shaping force in modern society and culture. 

Another meaningful (and heart-wrenching) stop in Fort Lauderdale is the World Aids Museum. It's the first museum and educational center established to chronicle the AIDS epidemic, which hit very hard in Florida and Broward County. You'll need some levity after this, so stop at Fort Lauderdale's famous Sebastian Street Beach on your way back to Wilton Manors. The beach boasts some of the finest sand in the U.S., along with gorgeous views.