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Miami - USA

The main big attractions in the state of Florida are Disneyland, of course, and the J F Kennedy Space Center. When we talk about gay Florida we are talking about the three main gay areas in the south of the state plus the occasional gay day at Disneyland further north in the centre of the state. Each of the three areas has its own distinct character. Fort Lauderdale is spread out making hiring a car de rigeur (unless you find a friendly native to hang out with) but it has a great variety of bars and clubs from leather to twink bars and dance clubs. There are also plenty of gay and gay-friendly businesses and guesthouses. Thirty or forty minutes away by car is a different scene, South Beach, Miami.

South Beach or SoBe, is full of tanned muscled guys living an outdoor life on the long white-sanded beach, or in and around the incredible pastel art deco houses with hundreds of bars and clubs and smart restaurants. Unfortunately most of these places seem to be the same catering for the same crowd of muscle maries whose body fascism makes the ordinary shaped person feeling a bit left out. If you like (and have) muscles and enjoy house and techno then this is the scene for you. Finally again a contrast is the wonderful Key West, the southernmost point of the United States.

Key West is a small and relatively sedate scene but it does have a variety of bars within walking distance including a leather bar, a couple of drag clubs and a Sunday afternoon tea-dance. There are plenty of guest houses and this resort is favoured by couples wanting a holiday together and the older guy. Apart from the relatively gay scene here it’s a must to take a five hour tour of the coral reef and look in on the famous Ernest Hemingway House where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and To Have Not. You can also see some six-toed cats who live here named after Hollywood legends. Finally there is a sunset celebration where everyone gathers to watch, er, the sun, er, set. Originally a hippy (surprise, surprise) ritual it is now a very commercial operation so either take no money or a lot.

Further Reading: A great guide to gay life of southern Florida is OutAround Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West by the London Evening Standard’s columnist David G Taylor. Thomas Cook Publishing publishes it at a very reasonable £7.99. This compact 160-page guide (light and easy to carry around in a pocket) is packed with plenty of up-to-date maps and colour snaps. The three areas are treated with their own sections and the author’s recommended list of shops, hotels, discos, beaches and bars and so on is a convenient quick reference for any visitor. Highly recommended. www.outaround.com

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