The Fort Myers region offers an LGBTQ-friendly escape away from the city. This Gulf Coast city, comprised of downtown Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach, is packed with culture, a sense of community, and an inclusive feel.
Background of Fort Myers and Its Beaches
Fort Myers is a bustling coastal town in Lee County. Set along the Caloosahatchee River where it meets the San Carlos Bay, the region was initially inhabited by the Calusa tribe of Native Americans before the Seminole Wars. The city became a settlers’ community in 1866 when Civil War Captain Manual A. Gonzalez moved his family to the area and opened a trading post.
Since its incorporation in 1885 as a city of 349 people, Fort Myers’ population and popularity have steadily grown.
Though Fort Myers offers a quieter atmosphere than its neighbors to the North and South, this beautiful city provides a plethora of activities for a variety of tastes. With an international airport and major highways nearby, accessibility makes both Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach perfect additions to your gay Florida travel itinerary.
Hurricane Update and Recovery Efforts
While Lee county suffered billions in damage from Hurricane Ian in September 2022, the community has rallied to help rebuild and restore local homes, landmarks, and businesses. Much of the Fort Myers mainland has reopened. Hurricane Ian recovery efforts continue for some areas closer to the water, as well as all surrounding islands.
Find out who’s open for business through the Fort Myers Beach Chamber.
As of January 2023:
Most mainland Fort Myers businesses are open. Some areas of state and local parks remain inaccessible due to flooding, especially close to the coast.
Fort Myers Beach and Estero Island
Estero island suffered a loss of over three-quarters of its structures and recovery efforts continue through the new year.
Residents and local supporters have shown an incredible spirit of hope for the future, with several restaurants and other businesses now reopened.
Fort Myers Beach never officially closed, though some accesses are still being rebuilt. County officials report many beachgoers have returned to sunbathe on the crystal shores.
Note: Hotels are currently only open to relief workers and displaced residents. There is a 12 am to 6 am curfew in place for visitors to the island.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Limited businesses are open in Sanibel and on Captiva Island, as are the beaches. Call first before visiting. In some areas there is still a 9pm to 6am visitor curfew.
How Gay is Fort Myers?
Though voter turnout makes Lee County politically conservative, the thriving arts scene and nightlife of Fort Myers make it an ideal LGBTQ travel destination. The area is home to three LGBTQ non-profits and several local arts organizations. Be sure to plan your trip around some of the lively annual Pride events.
Eden, Rascals, and The Standard are three local venues that host regular drag shows. Drag Queen Bingo Brunch at The Standard and Drag Nights at Eden come highly recommended by LGBTQ locals.
Unitarian Universalist Church
13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers is a welcoming and affirming place for anyone in the LGBTQ community. The church prides itself on accepting people of all creeds and offers many interesting and inclusive events, classes, and resources.
Spurred by the closing of their local PFLAG, two residents got together and formed this LGBTQ non-profit. Active for over a decade, Visuality SWFL provides support to the community through local resources and a variety of social and educational events.
The Resort on Carefree Avenue
This predominantly lesbian mobile home community offers a slice of heaven where you can Live the Dream. Founded in 1994 by a lesbian couple looking for a place to settle and inspired by an all-women RV park in Arizona, The Resort on Carefree Avenue has become a well-loved and popular LGBTQ residential neighborhood.
Thriving Arts Scene
Fort Myers is home to several cultural destinations including theaters, concert halls, and two large art centers. One major landmark is the Alliance of the Arts, which is known for its inclusive and expansive campus, as well as its partnership with local LGBTQ organizations. Fort Myers also provides multiple theatergoing options, including the renowned regional Florida Repertory Theatre company.
SWFL Pride and Pride Cape Coral
These two local nonprofits serve the LGBTQ community in many ways. Pride Cape Coral is responsible for bringing Pride events to the area. Since their inaugural Cape Coral Pride festival in 2019, turnout and support have grown immeasurably. Pride Cape Coral is typically held in March. SWFL Pride is Fort Myers’ equivalent organization and sponsors various Pride events throughout the year, as well as an annual Southwest Florida Pride festival in October.
Where to Stay
Luminary Hotel & Co
2200 Edwards Dr, Fort Myers
Located in the popular and historic River District, this Marriott family hotel is the ideal combination of comfort and elegance. Though Luminary Hotel & Co is convenient to Fort Myers’ main attractions and the neighboring islands, be sure to leave time to enjoy at least one of the six stellar dining options Luminary offers, ranging from a coffee shop that roasts its own beans to a rooftop bar with stunning views of the Caloosahatchee River.
Hilton Garden Inn
12600 University Dr, Fort Myers
In between the River District and the Boston Red Sox spring training facility, the Hilton Garden Inn hosts a comfortable central location for your explorations. Though out of walking distance from Fort Myers’ downtown attractions, this pet-friendly hotel offers a range of amenities like free wi-fi and an outdoor pool, plus fitness and business centers.
The Hibiscus House Bed & Breakfast
2135 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers
With its charming atmosphere, Southern hospitality, and convenient downtown location, The Hibiscus House regularly wins over the hearts of its guests. The historic property offers five unique guest rooms and a quaint garden area. Free wifi, parking, and homemade breakfast daily are welcome perks. The Hibiscus House also boasts the title of “only bed & breakfast in Fort Myers”. Enjoy a 10-minute walk to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates and the sights of the Caloosahatchee River.
Candlewood Suites Fort Myers – Sanibel Gateway
9740 Commerce Center Court, Fort Myers
If you’re looking for accommodations closer to the Gulf of Mexico, Candlewood Suites is an excellent option. This hotel is pet-friendly and close to shopping centers, sports complexes, and Fort Myers Beach. Candlewood Suites offers the convenience of kitchenettes in every room and an on-site laundry facility.
Where to Dine, Sip, and Socialize
4761 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
Bayfront Bistro was the first business in Fort Myers beach to reopen after Hurricane Ian, at an impressive pace of 6 weeks. Whether sitting in the open-air cabana bar or the dining rooms above, diners can expect elevated American-style cuisine and amazing views of Estero Bay. While at the bar, be sure to check out the water line marker from Hurricane Ian.
2122 Second Street (at Broadway), Fort Myers
Looking to impress your travel companion? Then The Veranda’s fine-dining fare is just the ticket. Nestled in two historic homes built by Fort Myers’ founding family, this award-winning venue offers a cozy dining room, a stunning courtyard, and an equally appealing menu. Enjoy the piano bar Tuesday through Saturday. Note: they are open evenings only and have a polished casual dress code. Reservations are highly recommended.
2207 First St, Fort Myers
Local favorite turned national franchise, the flagship location of Ford’s Garage has been feeding Fort Myers since 2012. Advertising a friendly atmosphere, diverse menu, and craft beers always on tap, this quickly growing gourmet burger chain is sure to please everyone in your dining party.
1520 Broadway Circle, Fort Myers
The Standard really, well, sets the standard for Southern comfort restaurants with their relaxed atmosphere and impeccable made-from-scratch kitchen. In addition to delicious food, The Standard also offers regular drag events. Both Drag Queen Bingo Thursday nights and Drag Karaoke Brunch on Saturdays come highly recommended by LGBTQ locals.
Origami Korean and Japanese Restaurant
8911 Daniels Parkway, Suite 5 Fort Myers
Origami is a family-run, casual Korean and Japanese restaurant. They offer an extensive lunch and dinner menu, featuring Korean BBQ and a highly-rated sushi bar. Head to South Fort Myers to enjoy this establishment’s informal atmosphere and delicious Asian cuisine.
Wisteria Tea Room
2512 Second St, Fort Myers
Established in 2011, in a historic Downtown home, and open just long enough for brunch and afternoon tea, the charming Wisteria Tea Room will whisk you away to another time and place. Enjoy an offering of more than 35 flavors of tea, served alongside homemade soups, sandwiches, and baked goods.
La Poblanita Deli
12145 S Cleveland Ave, Fort Myers
This small, family-run taqueria in a Central Fort Myers strip mall may look like an unassuming hole-in-the-wall but, for the Florida foodie in the know, it’s exactly the type of place where you’d find what multiple reviewers describe as “the best tacos in Southwest Florida”.
Eden: A Show Bar
2245 Winkler Ave, Fort Myers
According to their website, Eden is an “LGBTQ bar and restaurant featuring the best food and entertainment in South West Florida”. Judging by their online reviews and recommendations from the community, Eden is likely to hold a candle to its claim. The show bar offers events most nights of the week, including three nights of drag shows – a local favorite.
3758 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers
Rascals is a popular gay bar in Fort Myers with weekly drag events, dance nights, and drink specials. Don’t miss the Flashback Friday Drag Shows hosted by the “bearded comedy queen of SWFL”, Tara Newhole.
Cowboy Up Saloon
1611 Hendry St, Fort Myers
Catch a taste of the River District nightlife at this lively downtown bar, a popular spot for locals to drink and dance. They have hosted a Pride Pub Crawl every June for the last 5 years.
Beacon Social Drinkery
2200 Edwards Dr, Fort Myers
You’ll find Beacon Social Drinkery on the rooftop of Luminary Hotel & Co. With breathtaking views of the Caloosahatchee River, handcrafted cocktails, and delicious bites, this bar has become a favorite among hotel patrons and trendy locals.
Snappers Laugh In Comedy Club
8595 College Parkway #270, Fort Myers
Snappers Laugh In is a small venue featuring a variety of headliners, from stand-up comedians to hypnotists. There is a two-item minimum and all shows are 18+ unless otherwise specified.
Lightning Strikes Bowl
4140 Fowler St, Fort Myers
Featuring a billiard room, full bar, and restaurant, Lightning Strikes Bowl is a great place to spend a rainy Florida day. It’s also home to southwest Florida’s premier LGBTQ+ amateur bowling league.
Things to Do
Arts and Culture
Florida Repertory Theatre
2268 Bay St, Fort Myers
The historic 1917 Arcade theater, once a favorite haunt of Thomas Edison, now houses this renowned regional theater company. Though it was one of the landmarks hit especially hard by Ian, thanks to community support and generous donors, the main theater has reopened and the show goes on with an exciting new season.
New Pheonix Theater
13211 McGregor Blvd, Unit 1 & 2, Fort Myers
A progressive theater troupe, New Pheonix Theater’s motto states that it “creates entertainment to enlighten the community, celebrate diversity, and inspire imagination”. Since its inception in 2017, the theater has featured a variety of productions, including the popular musical Into the Woods.
Alliance for the Arts
10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Alliance for the Arts is a visual and performing arts center that has spent over 40 years supporting the creative community in Fort Myers. They offer youth camps, classes, art exhibits, theater, and more. They also partner with local LGBTQ organizations to host events.
Elegant Rumba Dance Company
1901 Brantley Rd. #7, Fort Myers
If you’re in the mood to move, owner Giana Montoya also offers private burlesque classes and occasional burlesque events along with her usual classes at her Salsa and Latin dance studio.
Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center
2301 First St, Fort Myers, FL
The SBDAC’s first draw is its building, the stunning Neoclassical style Downtown Fort Myers post office built in 1933. This landmark art center features a rooftop sculpture garden, art exhibits on the main floor, and even a recording studio. They offer regular events including Jazz and classical music series. Note: there is currently no elevator access to the rooftop due to hurricane damage.
IMAG History & Science Center
2000 Cranford Ave, Fort Myers, FL
IMAG History & Science Center is an expansive hands-on learning facility with fun for the whole family. Exhibits include a fossil hunt, amphibian lab, aquarium, live shows, and a walkthrough exhibit of Florida history.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers
Once the winter homes of inventor Thomas Edison and businessman Henry Ford, this lush estate along the Caloosahatchee River is now a museum open daily to visitors. Tour highlights include many historic 1929 buildings, Edison’s laboratory, a museum of inventions and artifacts, and 20 acres of gardens.
10801 Corkscrew Rd, Estero
Located in neighboring Estero, Miromar Outlets houses over 100 top brands and offers up to 70 percent off. Once you work up an appetite chasing deals, you can find typical food court eats, plus sit-down restaurants like a tequila bar & restaurant and Japanese steakhouse.
Bell Tower Shops
13499 S Cleveland Ave, Fort Myers
Not just a mall, Bell Tower Shops holds weekly events including fitness classes, artisan markets, family nights, and festivals. Expect hours of entertainment with a variety of retail stores, a movie theater, and a Dave & Busters arcade.
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
4940 Broadway Ave. W., Estero
Though areas of the park are inaccessible due to hurricane damage and flooding, four trails are currently open to hikers who want to enjoy coastal Florida’s salt flats and scrubs. These trails are pet-friendly (leashed).
The Butterfly Estates
1815 Fowler St, Fort Myers
Nestled in the River District and home to the Florida Native Butterfly Society, the Butterfly Estates is a 3,600 square-foot conservatory where visitors can enjoy communing with these peaceful creatures. Note: they are closed Mondays and close early if the heat index is too high.
The Great Calusa Blueway
190-mile marked kayak and canoe trail allows paddlers to explore the inland tributaries and coastal waters of Fort Myers. This aquatic trail is excellent for nature-watching. Download navigation maps and find launch areas through Lee County’s website.
Railroad Museum of South Florida and Miniature Train Ride
7330 Gladiolus Dr., Fort Myers
Located in the beautiful Lakes Regional Park, this 3200 square foot railroad museum also offers daily rides on its miniature train which travels through a 100’ tunnel, over a 20’ bridge and past the some of the park’s water features. Look for the annual holiday light displays and nighttime rides on select dates, October through December.
Koreshan State Park
3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero
Enjoy Florida’s natural beauty and quirky history at this state park which was the home of a small religious sect at the turn of the 20th century (whose legacy was perhaps cut short by its celibacy rule). The settlement is open for self-guided tours and hosts a farmer’s market every Sunday. Kayak rentals available are available at the ranger station daily. The park’s kayak and boat ramp gives access to the Estero River which leads to Estero Bay.
Shell Factory and Nature Park
16554 North Cleveland Avenue US 41
Known to locals as simply The Shell Factory, this North Fort Myers family-friendly entertainment complex is chock full of entertainment. With an animal sanctuary, petting zoo, rides, bbq restaurant, theater, and retail store teaming with seashells, it’s easy to see how one can spend a day in this unique Florida attraction.
Red Sox Spring Training
1500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers
The Red Sox find their spring home at Jet Blue Park which boasts an 11,000-fan capacity and many sustainable design measures. The park opened in 2012 and inspired much of its design from Fenway Stadium, including a replica Green Monster.
Minnesota Twins Spring Training
14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers
Hammond Stadium at Lee County Sports Complex not only sees the Twins’ spring season but is also home to two minor league teams.
Plan Your LGBTQ Fort Myers Getaway
If you’re ready to partake in all that LGBTQ-friendly Fort Myers has to offer, then it’s time to plan your getaway! With neighboring destinations like Sarasota and Naples beckoning, you’ll find no shortage of entertainment. Whether you visit for the LGBTQ nightlife, the cultural sights, or the tranquil nature, Fort Myers will not disappoint. So plan your Southwest Florida vacation today!
**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.