You don't have to look hard to see that the Tampa Bay area has much to offer the gay traveler. From the beautiful sunrises and romantic sunsets to the tropical weather with the occasional awe-inspiring electrical storm to the ever-changing nightlife, there is always something new to discover.
The Tampa Bay area is made up of two cities on opposite sides of the bay. On one side is Tampa, which has a long and interesting heritage. And across the bay is its sister city of St Petersburg. Not far away are Clearwater and other cities with visible gay communities.
Once a bit down at heel, St Petersburg has enjoyed a real renaissance in the past few years. It's now home to many theaters, art galleries, and museums. Here you'll find the incredible Salvador Dali Museum, now in it's brand new building, housing the largest collection of works by the artist outside of his native Spain. The area also offers several gay-friendly bed & breakfasts and a just-opened gay hotel.
Most gay businesses are located near Central Avenue in what has become known as the Grand Central District. There are plenty of bars on or near this thoroughfare. And historic Kenwood has become St Petersburg gay neighborhood. The housing is primarily bungalows from the 1920's with large front porches (the site of many gay "porch parties").
Both Tampa and St Pete have international airports, which makes for easy access to both sides of the bay. St. Petersburg has St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, but Tampa's airport is larger, and often has less expensive flights.
If you plan to drive, you will find easy access to both cities via the interstate highways. There is good public transportation, see Saint-Petersburg.com for an overview, but you're better off driving. The metro trains, trams and buses stop running fairly early, making them unpractical for those interested in exploring gay nightlife.
Tampa Bay's best beaches
It's nearly impossible to think of Florida without imagining palm-shaded beaches. And many of the best happen to be on the gulf coast. In fact, three in the Tampa Bay area are consistently ranked among the country's top ten.
It's no coincidence that one of the country's most beautiful beaches, Fort DeSoto Park, is located at the entrance of Tampa Bay. It's a stunning destination, made up of five interconnected islands. From many vantage points you have fantastic views of the soaring Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You will also find secluded areas that many find alluring.
How to find the gay spots? Upon entering Fort DeSoto Park, just follow the signs to North Beach. Park in the last lot and cross the "rainbow bridge" and wade across the shallow lagoon. Once at the beach, head to your right until you see the gay folks sunning.
Pass-A-Grille is located south of St Pete Beach. Although only a block wide, this island has a long history within the gay community. Decades ago, Pass-A-Grille was one of the first beaches in the area where gay men and lesbians could feel comfortable. Although long closed now, The Lighted Tree was one of the first gay bars in the area. Pass-A-Grille is still a favorite retreat among gays for the laid-back atmosphere and pristine shoreline.
The area also includes numerous other beaches popular with gays. Sunset Beach, on Treasure Island, is considered by many to be the gay beach. Gays congregate at the south end of the beach. Madeira Beach, with a reputation as being "kinda gay, kinda redneck and kinda touristy" has one of the oldest gay bars in Florida, the Back Room Bar.
Other beaches of interest include Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, just north of St Petersburg. The two state parks, featuring turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, are undeveloped nature refuges that are almost always rated among the top five in national beach rankings. Caladesi is the more secluded of the two, accessible only via ferry. Honeymoon Island's northern tip is also very remote and quite gay friendly.
St Petersburg Pier
Spend some time at the St Petersburg Pier for a delightful experience, offering shopping, dining and entertainment, along with breathtaking vistas of the bay and the gorgeous sunsets from the enormous deck.
You may be surprised to learn that the largest Pride celebration in Florida takes place in St Petersburg. Known as "Pride in Paradise," St Pete throws a party that draws 100,000 participants for the whole Tampa Bay area, at the end of each June. See StPetePride.
The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offers some of the best new films by and about gays and lesbians from around the world. There are screenings for the full festival over a 9-day period in early October, and a film series that runs throughout the spring and summer months.
Publications serving the gay community include Watermark, OMG, What's Happening and Hot Spots, all of which feature local news and information. The online-only GayStPete and the site of the local Visitors Bureau, Visit St Pete/Clearwater, are both useful too.
St Pete Bars and clubs
Detour (2612 Central) sports pub and party bar, patio, live music and shows, dancing, games, karaoke and free Wi-Fi.
Flamingo Resort (4601 34th St), poolside grill, restaurant, six bars including Code. Karaoke, jukebox, erotic male stage and cage dancers, poker night, talent and underwear contests, Friday Country Night, Saturday Pool Party and Cabaret, Saturday/Sunday brunch, Sunday T-Dance from 2pm.
Georgie's Alibi (3100 3rd Ave N, Kenwood) video/sports bar/ cafe, burgers, wraps and hot meals daily, Sunday brunch. Dancing, drag bingo, pool tournaments, cabaret shows, hot male dancers, guest divas and porn stars, HD satellite sports.
Haymarket Pub (8308 4th St N), old-style men's bar, dark and cruisy in pink blockhouse building.
Hideaway (8302 4th St. N), long-time women's neighborhood bar, big beer selection, next to Haymarket.
Lucky Star Lounge (2760 Central Ave), neighborhood bar, back patio seating.
Oar House Bar & Liquor Store (4807 22nd Ave S), a gay cocktail and karaoke neighborhood bar, has a digital internet jukebox, a WiFi zone, bingo and popular daily happy hours daily from 2-9pm.
Pepperz Bar & Nightclub (4918 Gulfport Blvd S) is another neighborhood drinking establishment, sister to and just a block away from the Oar House Bar.
Queens Head (2501 Central Ave), affordable contemporary lounge restaurant and pub, patio, diverse European menu, wines and Champagne. Sunday brunch, 11am to 3pm.
Accommodations, St Pete
The Flamingo Resort (4601 34th St S; 727-321-5000), gleamingly renovated 130 room hotel around pool, brand new cabana bar, the area's newest gay luxury resort. Non-stop entertainment, Palms Restaurant fine dining, poolside grill, six bars, nightly entertainment.
Gay St. Pete House (4505 5th Ave N; 727-365-0544), inexpensive, full-service facilities, large, lavish pool, hot tub with fun late-night action. Poolside rooms with private entrances, bath, DVD players, refrigerators and microwaves.
Grayl's Historic Hotel (340 Beach Dr NE; 888-508-4448), 1922 Spanish Mission style building, private courtyard, shore, city views, cocktail lounges, covered verandas. Gatsby's Restaurant. Close to beaches, aquariums, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and museums.
St Pete Shopping
All Sewn Up Boutique (621 Central Ave) Mens and Womens clothing from New York & Los Angeles designers, very manageable prices
Craftsman House (2955 Central Ave), coffee, fresh pastries, showcase of American crafts from over 300 local and national artists.
Comment has successfully been submitted.
Are you sure you would like to report this comment? It will be flagged for Guide moderators to take action.
Thank you. This comment has been flagged for moderator attention.