There are few places in South Florida as colorful as Wilton Manors. Tucked 10 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale’s core, this city is home to more than 11,000 residents, but it exudes a small-town feel. Its limits are marked by boat-filled canals (earning it the nickname of the Island City) while its main thoroughfare, Wilton Drive, is dotted with towering palms, vibrant nightlife, restaurants offering international cuisine, and shops that span from touristy to trendy. There are plenty of modern mansions and preserved abodes to gawk at in the residential areas, too. But the vibe binding it all together is visible inclusivity and LGBTQ+ pride. To make the most of a Wilton Manors adventure, pin these experiences to the top of your itinerary.
Catch a Show
Now in its eleventh season, Island City Stage often infuses its productions with LGBTQ+ themes. Among its 2023 scheduled performances are the transgender comedy Rotterdam by Jon Brittain (January 19 to February 19) and Tracy Jones by Stephen Kaplan (May 18 to June 18), which focuses on a party that the title character is hosting in which every other woman on earth named Tracy Jones is invited. The intimate venue has six rows of stadium seating, so book your tickets in advance.
Be One with Nature
Yes, there are still plenty of places for a quiet retreat in South Florida—and Wilton Manors’ Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve is one of them. Among the tranquil settings to enjoy here are a river boardwalk and an observation pier on the Middle River. There are also kayak rentals and oodles of picnic nooks, making for a dreamy day in the park. For your next larger gathering in Wilton Manors (because let’s be real, you’ll want to tell your friends all about it) there are stately manors and carriage houses for rent, too.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Billed as Wilton Manors’ “all-in-one” market, To the Moon is a novelty and candy shop to the extreme. Lovers of nostalgic candy, snarky greeting cards, and throwback figurines will get their fix at this community hub. With more than 90 types of dark chocolate bars and 100 types of black licorice, the question becomes: How much of a sugar high can you handle? For freshly baked goods—including strawberry rhubarb pie and a lemon white chocolate mousse tart—stop by Stork’s Bakery. Tucked well off Wilton Drive, this spot also offers a full café and coffee menu.
Stroll and Snap
The stories of ingenuity stemming from the pandemic are plentiful. Among them, Wilton Manors local Hunter Stephens and graphic artist Andrew Spina embarked on creating a map and guide to the town’s eclectic array of public art. The result is the In Plain Sight map, which identifies and details outdoor sculptures, murals, quirky architecture, art galleries, and other Insta-worthy design highlights throughout the community. You can pick up a print copy at city hall or pull up an interactive version on your phone or computer.
Grab a Drink
Boozing it up can go in many directions in Wilton Manors. For a sleek and intimate lounge ambience, Drynk is a great communal destination. Its craft cocktail menu (espressotinis and old-fashioneds with smoked cedar bitters, anyone?) keeps the masses coming back. If you’re looking to get lit, don’t miss Lit Bar. In addition to a large indoor bar setup with dartboards, Lit’s patio is equally as raucous, complete with cornhole and giant Jenga.
If a plain old cup of joe simply will not do, The Alchemist promises to dazzle. Anchoring a super bohemian and garden-infused complex, The Alchemist boasts an extensive menu. Highlights include a signature iced coffee (with a 24-hour cold brew, condensed milk, brown sugar, and whole milk), a syphon-prepared coffee, and a Bulletproof Brew with organic coconut oil and ghee. When hunger calls, the Chef’s Breakfast (an oversize waffle made of tater tots) is sure to do the trick.
Explore the Dining Scene
Union Kitchen & Bar opened in 2021 and has South American–meets–Northern Italian fare down pat. Count on homemade pastas nightly, a perfectly stir-fried lomo saltado, and some apple and ricotta doughnuts to round things out. The spot has extensive patio spaces for outdoor dining, too. If you’re perusing possibilities on Wilton Drive, end your search at Apt. 9F. At this “drinking den and social eatery,” the jalapeño corn muffins and turkey meatballs give home cooking a run for its money. On the weekend, go with the banana nut pancakes. They’re nuts—literally.
Shop for a Cause
Have you spotted that massive teal and magenta building on the south end of Wilton Drive? It’s a thrift shop and it’s awesome. Ninety-six cents of every dollar made at Out of the Closet goes to HIV treatment and prevention with AIDS Healthcare Foundation—so don’t feel guilty for scooping up those vintage shirts, dresses, and tchotchkes. If you happen to be Wilton-ing it up on the first Saturday of the month between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Pride Center at Equality Park Flea Market is the place to be. Bring cash and prepare for the rarest of eccentric finds.