Parliament House Orlando is an all gay resort and entertainment complex. It is located in downtown Orlando at 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, just south of the intersection of Colonial Drive and Orange Blossom Trail. The location welcomes visitors with a neon sign out front declaring “Parliament House Motor Inn.”
Since 1999, the resort has struggled to overcome its fair share of negative press. Prior to new ownership taking over, it had a seedy reputation and was usually in the news because of arrests and complaints from the community. Things have changed though and the resort offers a combination of silly fun, kitsch and adult-oriented gay entertainment.
The Parliament received a facelift of sorts when a heterosexual couple, Susan and Kenny Howard, took over just before the turn of the twenty-first century. The Howard’s spent more than a million dollars to clean things up during their first year in residence. They were originally planning to buy the property around Parliament, but decided instead to take over the gay landmark and bring people back to party and enjoy a great getaway.
The resort’s lobby is staffed 24 hours and offers a warm, inviting destination when guests arrive, as well as serving as a great place to hangout during their stay. The resort’s 130 guestrooms recently underwent renovations and include cable television with free HBO channel, telephones, fully-equipped bathrooms, keycard entry, bedding, bed-side tables and balconies. Efficiency rooms are also available.
Some previous guests report the rooms are still out-dated and run-down, while others believe the room quality is in line with the cost. Prices range from $64 to $104. Room reservations can be made online.
Guests can dine at The Rainbow Café. The Café features a variety of typical diner-style menu choices including full breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, soups, steaks and pasta. The Café also features a late night menu and can provide room service during their hours of operation.
The resort offers a variety of entertainment including live performances by female impersonators. Every weekend the resort’s Footlight Theater comes alive with talented performers. Included in this mix is Darcel Stevens, a Florida native whose impersonations of Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin are well-known in the female impersonator community.
The Footlight is one of Orlando’s most respected local performance venues. Guests enjoy an eclectic mix of drag shows, theme parties, plays, contests, karaoke, cabaret, dance performances and bingo games. The theater is known for giving up-and-coming performers a place to get their feet wet and it sponsors fundraisers for many local organizations.
The Howards used the Footlight to attract straight visitors, in addition to the resort’s usual community. Prior to tearing down the trailer park next door to make way for the time share property, the owners asked the resident playwright at the Parliament to write a play about the residents. Carolina Moon was presented for seven months in 2003 and was a big hit in the community.
The play was so successful the playwright struck a deal with the Howard’s to use the theater on the regular basis. His theater company, Wanzie Presents, shares the space with Susan Howard, who frequently hosts charity events in the space. Various artists such as Luerne Herrera, Jason Wetzel, John DeHaas, Becky Fisher, Carol Stein, and Andrea Canny have all been part of cabaret performances in the lounge. Other shows at The Footlight have included Ladies of Eola Heights, which is a drag show about local Southern mavens and Two Men Trapped in Women’s Bodies.
There are several clubs and bars right onsite at the resort. Le Club Disco and Dance Bar is open every day and is one of Orlando’s favorite gay nightspots. The live DJ begins performing at 9 pm everyday except Sunday when the show starts mid-afternoon. The resort’s New Video Bar opens at 4 pm everyday and offers a place to hang out, play games and enjoy a few adult beverages. The lounge and game room open earlier.
Guests also have access to the Footlight Theater Piano Bar. Located near the theater, guests can enjoy live piano performances beginning around 9 pm. The Western Bar opens at 6 pm everyday except Saturday and Sunday when it opens at noon. It is located on the first floor of the hotel.
One of the hottest destinations at the resort is the swimming pool and pool bar. Guests can enjoy parties, swimming and drinks everyday beginning at 10:30 am. The bar offers happy hour pricing until 6 pm, as well as a variety of fun poolside games.
The resort frequently hosts special events including live performances, beauty pageants and celebrity performances. These fun events and shows are part of what made the Parliament House famous.
The Parliament House is located next to The Gardens, which is a brand new luxurious, alternative-lifestyle, lakefront resort. It features South Beach-style condos near a million-gallon lagoon-style pool with water falls, lush gardens with koi ponds, multiple spas, outdoor tiki bars, private cabanas, and a 3,200 square foot state-of-the-art health and fitness center.
The Gardens are surrounded by a 12 foot privacy fence and provide ownership opportunities just steps from the fun and excitement of Orlando’s most well-known gay resort.
Overall, traveler’s reviews are mixed. Some describe it as unkempt and seedy, while others view the resort as an historical landmark and all around crazy, fun place.
The party atmosphere is what most people come for and enjoy. However, the theater performances and drag shows bring in a mix of people from all over the Orlando community.
Though the reputation of the Parliament might be hard to live down, today, it serves as a second-home Orlando’s LGBT community where they are comfortable and can really be themselves.