Winter Party Festival :: The Hottest Winter in the World
Life, they say, is a bitch, but if you are heading to Miami for the Winter Party, it's a beach -- a giant oceanfront dance floor in ultra-glamorous South Beach.
To the east, the gentle waves of the Atlantic Ocean lap up to the shore only a few yards from you; to the west is the deco-and-neon skyline of Ocean Drive; and all around you are thousands of hot, muscular men packed into tiny swimsuits or gym shorts -- along with a generous smattering of equally scantily clad bodacious women.
As the music wafts over you, you close your eyes and tell yourself, "This has to be a dream. A dream, or I've died and gone to heaven, because no place and nothing on earth is this good." Then you reopen your eyes and realize that the dance floor sprawling over the beach is real, and all of those men are very, very real.
For those who live in northern climes, the long weekend (events stretch from Wednesday, March 5, through Monday, March 10) provides the best of both worlds: a respite from the cold and an array of dance parties in the city that is America's club capital.
Anyone who has experienced this mammoth event, which includes not only the dance floor, speakers and DJ booth but bars, kiosks, stage areas and shady resting spots, understands why people from all over the world consider it a "must." Beyond the Winter Party itself (which this year takes place Sunday, March 10, from noon to 7 p.m.), a week's worth of activities comprise a shopping trip, an art excursion, a jazz brunch - and, oh yes, plenty of dance parties.
ArtScape, an exhibition and auction on March 7, befits a city that has become known for its galleries and gargantuan art fair, Art Basel. The next night highlights another cultural sphere in which Miami has become justly world famous. A shopping spree naturally focuses on Lincoln Road, the South Beach pedestrian-exclusive street where chic boutiques sell only-in-Miami Art Deco-inspired merchandise.
It's important to keep in mind that attending the Winter Party is more than a lot of fun. It's a major fundraiser for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and local LGBT organizations. The Miami Foundation, an umbrella philanthropic group, distributes the money generated, with about two-thirds going back to the community and the other third to the Task Force.
The Winter Party has become a cornerstone for the Task Force, one of the most important national LGBT groups fighting for our rights. If the Task Force isn't as well known as some other organizations, it's probably because it focuses on building grassroots involvement. You could say "think nationally, act locally" is its mantra. Local, Miami-based organizations that have benefited from the Winter Party include LGBT youth groups, AIDS organizations, programs for seniors and a whole lot more.
This is the Winter Party's 21st anniversary. In a difficult economy that has forced many nationally based dance parties to fold, it's nice to see one of the finest, most fun and most beneficial to our community continue to thrive -- and attract some of the hottest bodies on the planet.
If you want to save money, check out the hotels on the mainland in Downtown Miami or environs. They tend to be cheaper than the hotels in South Beach. Another alternative is Ft. Lauderdale and its many gay resort complexes. These are a lot of fun and fairly reasonable. During off-peak hours, the drive from Downtown Ft. Lauderdale to South Beach is only a little more than half an hour. Just keep in mind that parking on the beach can be a nightmare, with even the municipal lots filling up on winter weekends.
You should definitely consider buying a pass. The Winter Party offers passes based on the number of events. Don't wait too long, however: Prices are expected to rise after Jan. 14, 2014 -- and events do sell out.