Hello, Sunny! Fort Lauderdale Pride and Beyond

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday February 20, 2019

While most of the country has been battling major weather cycles this winter, Fort Lauderdale boasts plenty of sunny days and an annual epic Pride Festival each February. This year's carnival-themed event moves the parade to Fort Lauderdale Beach, but that's just the beginning for what the city has planned.

"Diversity is in Greater Fort Lauderdale's DNA; it's who we are," says Richard Gray, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I'm so proud that Pride Fort Lauderdale's colorful theme represents how diverse our destination is, and demonstrates to the world how welcoming and inclusive we are."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which kicked off the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Fort Lauderdale carries the torch of that legacy by welcoming Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a transgender activist who was there in 1969 when it all began, as one of the parade's grand marshalls.

Of course, no Pride celebration is complete without some knockout entertainment. Fort Lauderdale won't disappoint with entertainer extraordinaire Todrick Hall ("RuPaul's Drag Race" judge) and former "American Idol" contestant (and the first drag queen to advance to the final 10) Ada Vox. And as a statement of inclusiveness, admission is free for all main events on Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24.

Event highlights include:

Stonewall National Museum & Archives Gala — Actor and "social action hero" Kathy Najimy will be the keynote speaker at this opening event, and says, " "We are all equal, connected by our sense of common humanity, and able to achieve great things together." Friday, February 22

Drag Brunch — Pride Fort Lauderdale teams up with South Beach Wine and Food Festival for this delectable afternoon of deliciousness and divas. Kitty Meow hosts a dozen chefs and nearly as many drag queens. Saturday, February 23

Carnaval Parade — More than 80,000 spectactors are expected at Fort Lauderdale's first-ever beachside parade. 5:30 p.m., February 23

Beach Festival — Bring sunscreen! It's going to be an epic day on Fort Lauderdale Beach, with two stages, performances by Todrick Hall and Ada Vox, and fireworks. 12 p.m. - 8 p.m., February 24

Pride Any Time of Year
Even though we love fun in the sun, Fort Lauderdale offers more than prisitine beaches. Its thriving LGBTQ community is an epicenter dedicated to queer history and advocacy.

Stonewall National Museum & Archives — This living legacy is the largest LGBTQ circulating library in the United States and holds a collection of more than 28,000 books and DVDs. A unique collection (by appointment only) includes works by Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, Truman Capote and more. The organization's educational efforts also include the 2019 Symposium on LGBTQ Youth, documenting and archiving the 2016 Pulse Nightclub attack, and LGBTQ curriculums on diversity and inclusion.

Fort Lauderdale by Day

Las Olas Boulevard — Bring a credit card! Las Olas is packed with retail, restaurants and art galleries. Fans of National Geographic will love The National Geographic Fine Art Galleries Fort Lauderdale where you can see gorgeous, large format prints from some of the world's most exotic locations.

Beach Time — Head to Sebastian Street Beach to catch some rays and, hopefully, some eyes, at this sandy hub for gay locals and travelers alike.

Hollywood Mural Tour — Head to Hollywood (Florida, that is) and discover dozens of public works of art. One of our favorites is Brazilian artist Fabio Onrack's photo-realistic depiction of Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Fort Lauderdale by Night

Venice of America — Fort Lauderdale boasts miles of sandy beaches, but it also features a network of waterways, which some have compared to our Italian neighbors. You won't find centuries-old architecture, but there's plenty to take in among the newly erected homes of the one percent, lush gardens, and other sites.

Plan a cruise to see the sights during the golden hour (that peek time just before sunset). For no-frills, hop on/hop off transportation, the water taxi will get you where you want to go. If you're looking for a more intimate experience, consider Ecoboats Fort Lauderdale. Charter your own, they're "as easy to drive as a golf cart" and all you need is a valid driver's license.

Bar Crawl — Twenty-one is your lucky number! According to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, that's the number of LGBTQ-friendly bars in town. Most of them are in Wilton Manors, where you'll find longstanding Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar and a happy hour that runs long past sunset. Head to The Manor, a multiplex nightclub, lounge, and special event space, where you can dance the night away.

"AQUAMEN, Underwater Burlesque Show" — B Ocean Resort has just launched this weekly water show, where hot men take the plunge.

Where to Stay

The Grand Resort and Spa — This men-only, gay-owned and operated enclave celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2019. Thirty-three rooms and suites offer accommodations for a variety of budgets, but it's the welcoming, low-key staff that makes the quaint property sparkle.

On-site amenities include an outdoor pool, hot tub with plenty of room to mingle with other guests, complimentary parking and continental breakfast, a tropical courtyard that provides the perfect backdrop for an afternoon nap, and an on-site spa to melt away your stresses.

The Grand Resort and Spa has deep roots in the LGBTQ community and was recently featured on an episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars." In addition to hosting a private barbecue for guests during Pride Fort Lauderdale (Saturday, February 23), the resort will also host Naked Week (March 25 - April 1) when the entire property is clothing-optional, as well as Bearsurrection (April 15 - 21) when the resort becomes the official hotel for hairy good time.

Conrad Fort Lauderdale — If luxurious ocean views are more your style, you may want to ensconce yourself at the Conrad. The all-suite hotel offers soaring ocean views, natural woods, crisp white bed linens, and several on-site dining options, including Terra Mare, where you can indulge in a variety of globally-inspired dishes such as crispy pork belly with kimchee, hearty chicken tagine, or locally caught stone crab.

Mark Your Calendar

Looking for another LGBTQ-centric event as an anchor to your Fort Lauderdale getaway? OUTSHINE Film Festival returns October 10-20, 2019. Last year's edition included screenings of "Boy Erased," "Studio 54" (2018 documentary), "Every Act of Life" (a documentary about Tony Award-winning gay playwright Terrence McNally), and more.

Head North or South
The recent opening of commuter rail Brightline makes it easier than ever to head south to Miami or north to West Palm Beach. The beautiful stations and friendly staff make it a no brainer to turn your weekend trip into a longer stay by adding another stop to your itinerary. Expect a rebranding as Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group recently entered into a partnership and will rename it Virgin Trains USA in 2019.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.