One of the most attractive and friendly small cities (population 55,000) along Florida's Gulf Coast, Sarasota is just an hour's drive south of St. Petersburg and 75 minutes' drive south of Tampa, but it's more laid-back and far-less developed than these larger cities. It's fringed by the gorgeous barrier islands of Siesta Key and Long Boat Key, both of them famous for their white-sand beaches, and downtown Sarasota has a growing number of hip and trendy restaurants, bars, galleries, and arts venues. Although the gay scene in Sarasota is less pronounced than in many other coastal communities in Florida, it certainly exists - the city hosts Sarasota Gay Pride each October, and there are plenty of lounges and eateries around the city with mixed crowds along with one gay nightclub.
Sarasota's lone gay disco, Throb Nightclub (2201 Industrial Blvd., 941-358-6969) is about 3 miles north of downtown, fairly close to the airport, in an industrial area. Theme nights here include karaoke on Mondays, trivia on Tuesday nights, drag shows on Wednesdays, a women's night on Thursdays, drag bingo on Sundays, and dance parties with plenty of cute male dancers in g-strings livening up the crowds.
Right in the heart of downtown, a short distance from the striking Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, a block from the Sarasota Opera House, and within easy walking distance of several great restaurants, Ivory Lounge (1413 Main St., 941-388-7869) is the city's swankiest nightspot, with a sleek interior, high-end cocktails, and state-of-the-art lighting that gives the space a bit more of a South Beach vibe than any other club in town. Although it's a mainstream club drawing a predominantly hetero crowd most nights, it's Ivory Lounge is very gay-friendly and hosts a weekly gay party, Cream, on Thursday nights - it's big with the see-and-be-seen, younger crowd, making it one of the better dance events in the city.
Ivory Lounge has also been one of the venues that's hosted G2H2 - Sarasota's Gay Guy Happy Hour, a hip and well-attended party held the first Thursday of each month, generally at upscale and sophisticated lounges and restaurants either in downtown Sarasota or in neighboring beach communities - venues that have hosted these gay happy hour socials, which, despite the name, also draw a fair share of lesbians - have included the contemporary downtown Peruvian tapas restaurant Jalea (1532 Main St., 941-955-8272), the trendy regional American eatery Louie's Modern (1289 N. Palm Ave., 941-552-9688), the Nuevo Latino grill Selva (1345 Main St., 941-362-4427), and the dapper Ocean Blues Sarasota (1936 Hillview St., 941-366-3010).