Miami: Beyond Sand and Neon

For a city that feels like it’s on permanent vacation, Miami has probably been in and out of fashion more than any other U.S. city. At the depth of its uncoolness Lenny Bruce called it the place where “neon goes to die.” At the top of its game, Lil’ Kim quipped, “It’s sweaty in Miami, but the diamonds will keep me cool.” The last decade has seen the snowbird Mecca through a surge of popularity that’s made it a de facto hot spot for sun-seeking hipsters, shoe-gazers (Winter Music Conference; wmcon.com) and serious art collectors (Art Basel; artbasel.com) alike.

GLBT visitors will want to headquarter themselves near the fabled South Beach and Art Deco District, which are not only architecturally unique, but extremely gay-friendly. The plethora of beautiful-people-filled clubs, luxury boutiques, high-end hotels and eateries have made the area a favorite with fashionistas from NYC, Paris and Milan. But in spite of this glitz campaign, Miami manages to retain an element of realness. Inviting outdoor cafes beg you to sit and nibble on grilled grouper sandwiches and sip on fresh juices and smoothies. Tasty pulled pork sandwiches and tequila-based drinks await you at down-and-out Cuban stands and charming tacquerias. And if it’s high-end food you’re looking for, the city is no stranger to caviar, lobster and exotic tropical flavors that dominate the language of the city’s menus.

But the party doesn’t stop at South Beach. The metropolitan area includes Boca Raton, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale (the place where gay Chelsea-boys go when they gray) and Coral Gables, and ranks sixth in the United States’ populated metropolitan areas, at 6 million residents, including hefty portions of Cubans, South and Latin Americans, New Yorkers, a handful of Europeans and a whole lot of happy homos. But ultimately, Miami is about relaxing, so sit back and unwind in this soothing and dynamic city that has moved far beyond its early days of sand, neon and early-bird specials.