Best Theater Director

Director Victoria Collado knows Cuba. In the past year, the Miami native has directed two local stage productions, both of which dealt with the Cuban experience. Collado reprised her role as director when Vanessa García's The Amparo Experience was revived and expanded from a short 20-minute set to a full-length immersive theater experience in mid-2019. The production ran for eight extremely successful months in an event space in downtown Miami. Then, in early 2020, Collado worked with some of her Amparo actors again in playwright Michael León's Colony Theater debut, The Cubans. One show told the story of the Cuban experience from the perspective of the older generation, who dealt firsthand with their island being overtaken by Communist rule, while the other shone a light on what it's like growing up Cuban-American and living with parents who fled their country in search of a better life. Two uniquely Cuban stories, one powerhouse Cuban-American director.

Best Play
Justin Namon

All jokes about Lin-Manuel Miranda aside, the arrival of Hamilton at the Adrienne Arsht Center this spring was a huge moment in the history of live theater in the Magic City. It elevated our cred as Broadway-blockbuster hub thanks to the Arsht Center's increasingly popular Broadway in Miami series, and the political nature of the story couldn't have come to the swing state of Florida in a more pertinent year. There's no matching the electric energy of the original Broadway production, but the touring Hamilton company did an impressively solid job throughout the run. Although that run was shortened by the coronavirus in mid-March, attendance was still heavy as stay-at-home orders loomed at the onset of the pandemic.

Best Drag Performer

Kunst is the kind of drag artist we deserve more of. Ending last year with a number of protests through Miami's most gentrified communities, lambasting those with power in the art world who exploit their workers, Kunst presents a version of drag that is incredibly political in a refreshing way (though the museum that censored them might argue against that). Whether via their colorful Instagram feed (@kunsten_dunst) or their inventive live performances, Kunst provides us with a glimpse into a world of drag that isn't just death drops and pop songs, gleefully harnessing queerness as a weapon. It's as much about burning (or flushing) flags as it is about making a mockery of everything — even art itself.

Best Virtual LGBTQ+ Party

Octopussy Lounge started as an event at the North Miami bar affectionately known as the Club in 2018 before turning into a series of pop-ups. The party is the brainchild of Discosexo and Ar Kedabar, who sought to give queer people a space to be themselves in a city that's still lacking in dedicated LGBTQ+ spaces. It also put burlesque, striptease, and pole dancing at the forefront of its events as a way to "express queer sex worker joy and artistry." At the onset of the pandemic, Octopussy took to Zoom to titillate audiences with Sexotheque, a virtual strip club. For a fee, viewers tune in and watch performers tease them from afar, with tipping encouraged via Cash App at $octopusssylounge.

Gramps
Photo by Alex Markow

Look, a lot of people don't consider Gramps a gay bar, but queer people flock to it from all around the globe for a reason: It's one of the most chill and accepting places to be, and it hosts a number of queer events throughout the year. It's the spot where DJ Hottpants brings you nonstop bangers while you dance until the early morning with Double Stubble. It's the kind of place where drag queens not only bring you back-to-back shows, but host bingo nights, challenging the audience with trivia and getting straight people to enjoy a night of Drag Race. It's a bar that offers great drinks and lets you enjoy a delicious slice of pizza while you flirt with a stranger. And it has been the home to Wigwood — where some folks can proudly say they've strut their stuff in a jockstrap while standing next to Gloria Estefan — since its inception. Queer folks love Gramps because it's the kind of home that accepts us no matter how we show up, even if it's our first time dressing up or going out on a date.

Hole 19 Scratch Kitchen + Bar
Photo courtesy of Yannick Kemmache

Carlos Gueits goes to the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club every Friday, but even though he sits within swinging distance of the links, he's not a golfer. He's there for two things: meatloaf and a good song. That's because, despite its name, the country club isn't exclusive to members of the golf club: Anyone is welcome, and anyone can enjoy karaoke night at Hole 19 Scratch Kitchen + Bar, which is located at the entrance to the golf course. Pre-pandemic, every Friday was karaoke night at Hole 19, and locals from every social rung would get together to belt out classic favorites. The indoor dining area, where the karaoke equipment is normally set up, creates an intimate space for audience members to cheer on first-timers, pros, and moms over-enjoying their girls' night out. As a bonus, the kitchen and bar's gourmet-level food and drinks set Hole 19 far above the average sports bar. Once the county allows music above speaking level again, karaoke will be back, so don't be shy. Observes Gueits: "It doesn't matter how bad you are — people will applaud you even more and be supportive."

ATV Records
Photo by Monica McGivern

Remember what it was like to dance with other people? Not just with family members in your living room, using your phone speakers, but at an actual club, with real speakers and a DJ? That might seem like a million years ago, but once upon a time, Miami's hot-hot nightclub and dance club scene attracted visitors from around the world. One spot that was definitely popping off pre-COVID was ATV Records in Wynwood, the spiritual successor to the much-beloved Electric Pickle. After the Pickle closed, ATV Records rose from its ashes as a combo record store and dance club, hawking vinyl by day and transforming into the site of intimate pachangas by night. The sound system at ATV is unmatched in the city, and the iconic UFO disco ball lets visitors know that we like to get weird here. Whereas some other clubs can be sprawling, mosh-pit-like affairs, the 150-person ATV allows for a more condensed experience, the better to hear some of Miami's best music and take in the nighttime energy. ATV has recently reopened with limited capacity; what are you waiting for?

Best Electronica/Dance Act

The beats of Richie Hell are paved with the best influences. Since arriving in Miami in 2015 from his native Argentina, Hell has spun his chill yet infectious tunes all over town. His newest album, The Gumbo Limbo Experiment, released this year, includes some of his best work to date. It's a musical love child of '60s Latin psychedelic purveyors like Os Mutantes and '90s UK ravers like Primal Scream.If neither of those references rings a bell, you're in for a treat. Songs like "Amazonia" will take you to foreign lands, shaking your hips the entire way, while "Revelations" transposes soul into more modern production. Hell's wife, the artist Francisca Oyhanarte, provides the album's visuals and must-see music videos. During a June concert streamed live from the North Beach Bandshell, Oyhanarte's crazy animation and the especially groove-filled set made us excited for what dance floors will look like when Richie Hell can perform in front of a live audience again.

Best DJ

A native of Italy, DJ Tennis (Manfredi Romano) moved to Miami in 2013, and has been wowing the city's dance floors ever since. He can easily put you into a dancing frenzy via slap-your-face bass lines or embrace you in a daze of atmospheric melodies, but he's most rewarding when flipping through sound waves. Romano's label, Life and Death, which turned ten this year, has hosted numerous parties in Miami. A favorite is Rakastella, an electronic-music festival the label co-founded in 2017. During lockdown, however, DJ Tennis has played live-stream sets for Club Space Miami and on the roof of the Collins Avenue Soho Beach House for Secret Project, a music fest based in Los Angeles; he also played a set at the Huis De Voorst Estate in the Netherlands in collaboration with the Dutch event's organizers, Audio Obscura. In recent months, he's returned to Europe to play in the flesh as shows slowly come back. Some say he's techno, others say house; some might even suggest disco. In reality, though, DJ Tennis plays in the spirit of a wild stallion too odd to be tamed — and his genre-blending sets prove it. A good DJ makes us happy, but a great DJ keeps us guessing. Care to wager where Tennis lands?

Los Altos
Photo by Addison Smith

While not exactly a secret, this Little Havana speakeasy, situated above Taquerias el Mexicano restaurant, manages to make you feel like you've stumbled into a hidden adventure as you make your way up a narrow stairway and into a Mexican candy store full of hanging piñatas, sugar skulls, and assorted dulces coated in chili powder. Behind a false wall, you'll find a dimly lit room accented by velvet curtains, repurposed church doors, stained glass, and traditional décor inspired by Mexico's rich cultural heritage. Opened by Zack Bush, Ben Bush and Bill Fuller, the team that restored Calle Ocho's Ball & Chain restaurant, Los Altos boasts a killer cocktail menu heavy on mezcal and tequila. Pre-COVID, the space would easily transform into a sweaty dance floor on weekend nights. These days, it has been ingeniously rearranged into more of a cocktail-lounge setup, and guests can book a table on weekend nights. New lead bartender Ray Guzman has added new cocktails, like the "Canta Rico," a tequila-and-citrus blend inspired by a drink from Jalisco; and the "TLC" (Tamarind, Love and Chile), a mix of scotch, bourbon, tamarind, and habanero peppers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®