“No se. No habla.” I smiled at the older Black gentleman who had asked me a question in Spanish. It was the second time this had happened in Miami’s Little Havana, and I scrambled to find a response instead of just staring blankly, like I had with the first guy. People don’t often assume this born-and-raised Texan speaks Spanish, but it was oddly comforting. This city felt at ease with my Black, queer energy.
It was my first time in Miami, and I was amazed at how gay it all felt. My first stop was The Palace Bar, a restaurant on the Miami Beach oceanfront that I immediately recognized from TikTok. (palacesouthbeach.com) It was drizzling, but that didn’t stop the queens from doing backflips in heels — one even stopped under a falling stream and let it wash over her like in Flashdance. The table next to mine was filled with four Black women who reminded me of my mother. They must have been in their 50s but were screaming for the queens even louder than the twinks the table over. The scene was so commanding that passersby would stop and watch, including elderly couples holding hands, and a rather innocent-looking white family of four.
The city is beautifully diverse in its people and scenery. You can go brush up on your history at the LGBTQ Visitor Center right on the beach, enjoy a classy dining experience at Fish Called Avalon, then head over to Sunset Kayak & Paddleboard to discover hidden alcoves along the coastline.
An attendee at the annual Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade on Ocean Drive in South Beach
Hotels boast incredible views, whether lounging at the quirky W Miami hotel and admiring the downtown skyline from the rooftop pool, or chilling on the beach at The Confidante Miami Beach, which was full of eye candy. While we ate fruit in our cabana, an iguana climbed on top of it and perched, letting us ogle its beauty.
Lil Greenhouse Grill in Overtown was not only my favorite dining experience of the trip, but also the best meal I’d had in months. The menu boasts “edgy neo-soul cuisine,” such as deliciously smoked BBQ ribs, baked mac and cheese that melts on your tongue, and heavenly seafood cakes that I was tempted to take back with me. Just the memory of this meal makes my mouth water; leftovers didn’t make it farther than my hotel room later that evening.
Gems like that are found all over, and everywhere locals burst with pride over their city. The owner of Cerveceria La Tropical fulfilled his lifelong dream of bringing this Cuban restaurant from Havana to Wynwood, complete with a brewery in the back. Vendors strike up friendly conversations as they hand you street mojitos, and the city boasts some of the best drag shows I’ve ever seen, from casual weekday events like Drag Bingo at Time Out Market, to the jaw-droppingly spectacular brunch at R House Wynwood that snatched my wig so hard, it yanked out a bit of scalp.
And the nightlife! It was the weekend of Wynwood Pride and it felt like every gay in the city came to see Charli XCX hype up the crowd. Twist is a staple in South Beach and it’s easy to see why, each of its three floors boasting wildly different vibes. You’d walk out of one room playing Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” straight into a trap remix of “Driver’s License.” (twistsobe.com)
My friend and I left the bar and were shocked to realize we could hear the waves hitting the shore at the beach. We wandered down and took off our shoes. “This is the beach where Moonlight was set,” my friend pointed out. “Remember, that scene where they were teenagers?” I sat down, looked up at the moon, quietly admiring its beauty.
This piece initially appeared in Out Traveler print issue Summer 2022.