When I think about Orlando, Florida, visions of family holidays come to mind, but it turns out that Orlando is more than just theme parks and beautiful beaches (and deep-sea fishing with my Grandpa). There’s actually a grea, thriving LGBT scene there too. This corner of the Sunshine State has plenty of welcoming spots, nice bars and cool special events, so I’d say it’s well worth checking out if you’re looking for a fun and friendly holiday. Here are a few of the things I hope to check out in my next visit to Florida:

Intimate or arty events

If you’re looking for smaller, more intimate events or are particularly interested in art and culture, never fear, it’s not all big, bright lights and loud dance music. You’ll find plenty of smaller shows, more intimate events and comfortable bars for chilling out in Orlando.

I think one of the best resources for spotting one-of or special events has to be Watermark, particularly their events planner. No one is likely to love everything on their exhaustive list of LGBT events, but you’re sure to find at least one or two nights out worth investigating. It’s also a good place to pick up local news and offers reviews for arty goings on and it can be handy to have a look at what days out are coming up when you’re thinking of booking your flights to Orlando, Florida.

Big nights out with big names

For a totally surreal party experience, you have to get yourself along to one of the Gay Days at Orlando’s Disney World Resort. Right in the heart of cartoon cuteness, you can enjoy some spectacular dance parties, comedy nights or stunning parades at Disney World itself.

But it’s not only the Disney resort that’s home to Gay Days in Orlando, other top destinations like Universal and Seaworld host events too. These big events also tend to have host hotels attached, so you can potentially save money on your accommodation and stay right at the heart of the action.

For a female take on the fun, have a look at Girls in Wonderland. There you’ll find a breakdown of their events, the chance to buy tickets and accommodation and travel recommendations especially for women.

Bars and hangouts

All kinds of tastes are catered to in Orlando, from the flashy Mannequin’s Dance Palace with its spinning dance floor, thousands of glittery lights and crazy special effects, to the Bear Barn, the local go-to bar for furry bears and men of leather.

Sometimes though, all you want to do is chill out, and Hanks on Edgewater Drive is a legendary place to do it. It’s a friendly neighborhood bar with a very casual atmosphere and a good mix of customers. The Lava Lounge and Café is another welcoming spot, where you’ll find entertainment as well as DJs, but it can get pretty busy when the weekend rolls around.

Finding great places to stay

To be totally sure you’ll be staying somewhere good, it’s worth checking out LGBT friendly hotels and accommodations. Gay Cities seems to have a pretty good list along with some customer reviews, but if you’re looking to stay in a legendary gay resort, try Parliament House.

Get researching and start booking your cheap flights asap, there’s plenty of LGBT fun to be found in Orlando, Florida when you know where to look.

Photo credit: Jeff Kern
Thanks to James for providing some of the travel tips in this post.