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South Beach is located at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. It?s home to the area?s gay community and where you?ll find most of the key tourist venues.
The saying "everything old is new again" definitely applies to South Beach. Decades ago the area was a glittering stretch of luxury hotels and fancy nightclubs. After a steady and steep decline, it became a sleepy bedroom community for poor retirees. In recent years, South Beach has once again undergone a huge renaissance. Buildings that once sat empty have been renovated at a dizzying pace, including all sorts of chic Art Deco hotels.
As a gay resort, South Beach is high-energy and high fashion. More trendy and party oriented than its sister resorts: tropical Key West and laidback Ft. Lauderdale. It attracts a fast-lane crowd, including plane loads of New Yorkers who commute down on winter weekends. The club scene is hot, and the beach scene is even hotter with muscle and bikinis (and sometimes both together) on parade.
The center of all the action in South Beach is the Art Deco District: a square-mile with 100s of beautifully renovated hotels, outdoor restaurants, bars and cafes and a view of the kaleidoscope of life driving, blading and walking by till the wee hours of the morning. For the highest concentration of gay locals, head to Lincoln Road.
South Beach offers a full range of lodging options, from freaky to fabulous, and everything in between. There are choices for all budgets that deliver real value for the dollar, and enough variety of styles to suit all types of travelers.
For gay and lesbian travelers, South Beach is unique. Nowhere else is the hotel industry so tuned into, and dependent upon, the gay market. The heavy presence of fashion and music industry types has also shaped the market, with a focus on fun and whimsy, and a casual dress code.
For sun and muscle worshippers, the perfect address is close to 12th Street (home of the gay beach), but the city has more charm near Lincoln Road.
If you?re looking for the classic Deco environment, The Hotel Astor is your choice. It?s sophisticated, casual and elegant. Casa Grande (www.casagrandehotel.com), a European-style inn with Balinese furnishings, is a calm oasis among its flashier neighbors.
the hotel is a supremely stylish choice. You?ll find a popular rooftop pool and Spire Bar offering an exquisite view of the beach.
South Beach's restaurant scene is constantly trying to keep pace with the feverish pace of restoration and renewal that is sweeping the area's hotels and shopping districts -- seemingly matching every newly refurbished hotel with another hot new eatery.
Start your day with breakfast at the Front Porch, attracting a very gay crowd for breakfast fare on the porch and sidewalk in front of the Penguin hotel facing the ocean. Open 24 hours a day, the News Caf? is a great see-and-be-seen place.
South Beach is located on the water and the seafood is delicious and fresh. A great place to sample some of this excellent seafood at affordable prices is the swanky Grillfish.
Many of the most popular restaurants are located along or near Lincoln Road. Our top choice is Balans, a popular and very gay restaurant on Lincoln Road Mall. Imported from London, the casual bistro serves a good, creative menu at very reasonable prices.
You?re in South Beach -- so grab a towel, some sunscreen and your best Prada shades and hit the beach! You?ll find gay and lesbian sun worshippers all along the beach but the largest concentration around 12th Street.
Though most gay visitors stick to sun, sand and water, there are plenty of other cultural activities to enjoy. Take an Art Deco architecture tour or grab a guidebook and marvel at the beautifully renovated buildings around Ocean Drive.
Also well worth a visit, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was a private palatial estate, although it is better known today as the home of the famous White Party, a shining star on the gay party circuit.
The Bass Museum of Art is a small museum with a great, varied permanent collection housed in a stunning building. It?s well worth a quick visit.
Also notable for its architecture, the Miami Art Museum is part of a huge Spanish-style complex designed by gay architect Philip Johnson. The Wolfsonian-FIU Museum houses an extensive collection of Art Deco and Art Nouveau decorative and fine arts.
Spice up your visit with a trip to the World Erotic Art Museum, a museum containing thousands of historical and contemporary pieces with a sexy slant.
South Beach is home to some of the hottest nightclubs in the world -- and some of the most rapidly changing. Even the weekly bar magazines have a hard time keeping up with the constant turnover of venues. Be sure to check local listings and ask that hot guy you saw at the beach where he?s going.
Twist remains constantly popular, and is a good bet during the week. Food, drinks and plenty of gay locals can be found whiling away the afternoon (and evening) at the Palace Food Bar (1200 Ocean Drive; 305/531-7234), a longtime beachfront hangout.
The main bar/club is Score on Lincoln Road Mall. The venue is very popular and really well designed. The sidewalk seating area is perfect for tipsy-people watching. It's open late every night, but we like it best for happy hour.
One of South Beach?s funkiest gay spots is Laundry Bar, located behind Score. As its name implies you can watch your clothes tumble and twirl while sipping a cocktail and meeting new friends.
Have a drink at the beautifully restored Albion, a wonderful, intimate space -- perfect for a romantic pre- or post-dinner cocktail. Tip a glass at the Spire Bar on the rooftop of the hotel, Todd Oldham's ode to fashion-conscious hipsters.
The Lincoln Road pedestrian mall was renovated the late ?90s, and is the place to ply your plastic. For swimsuits, sports and South Beach-emblazoned wear, you can't do better than Palm Produce. The vibe is Euro-cool and the clothes for men and women are fabulous at Base.
Every other Sunday during high season, Lincoln Road is transformed into a large, open-air flea market crammed full of gewgaws from the '20s through the '60s, and attracting a dedicated gay following.
Need something for a night of clubbing? Head south to Whittall & Shon for interesting, funky clothing, including racks of body-conscious tank tops in a variety of colors.
Die-hard shoppers will need a day for Sawgrass Mills, the world's largest outlet mall, located about an hour away.
Sophisticated travelers love South Beach?s unique combination of stunning architecture, pulsing nightlife, hot bodies, and diverse cultures. It is -- all at once -- urban like New York City, laid-back like the Caribbean and trendy like Los Angeles, with a European flair thrown in for good measure -- all this next to the almost-white sands and sparkling blue sea that have adorned postcards for decades.