Best City in Which to Live (2007)

Wilton Manors

Wilton Manors was not always a fabulous place to live. In the mid-'90s, it was just another neighborhood of the kind that flourished throughout South Florida in those days: brown lawns sporting the occasional junker car, houses from the '60s and '70s that would have been pretty if only somebody had painted them, mom-and-pop businesses flashing in and out of business along Wilton Drive — and, for some reason, two Bible/Christian-paraphernalia stores. All of this changed with the Great Homosexual Takeover of 1997 (and '98 and '99 and so on). Wilton Manors has been blooming for the past decade. Crime rates have plummeted, and the funky businesses on Wilton Drive have stabilized into a mix of stellar restaurants to suit all budgets (Rosie's at the low end, Food Amongst the Flowers up top), one-of-a-kind clothing boutiques (Edgardo's, Zoo Two), community coffee shops (Stork's, Java Boys), and a massively friendly bar scene (Alibi, Boom, Big Dog, Scandals, and so on). The town has morphed into that rarest of communities that actually feels like a community. Nighttime in Wilton Manors is unlike anything else in South Florida: You can see the denizens of the neighborhood walking slowly along Wilton Drive, chatting with one another, drifting into the occasional wine bar or exotic candy shop and then out again, happily digging the vaguely upscale, exquisite downhominess of it all.

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