If there were ever a high season for gay travel, it would almost certainly be summer. From June through August, hundreds of communities around the world host various types of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride events.
For many LGBT travelers, these events are a great excuse to visit a new city while also supporting the local community.
So check out this lineup of the Pride events you don’t want to miss, and check back tomorrow for our roundup of the most unexpected places for pride marches.
If Americans had to choose which was the gayest city in the country, it would not be surprising if most chose San Francisco.
The city has played a major role in the development of LGBT culture, from pioneering one of the first “gay villages” (the Castro district) to electing the first openly gay man to a major office: LGBT rights pioneer Harvey Milk. And it was here in 1978 that the iconic rainbow flag was first created for the city’s gay pride events.
As for San Francisco Pride, while in the past the parade route was centered on the city’s Castro district, the festivities have simply grown too large in recent years and the parade now takes place along one of the city’s main boulevards— Market Street—from Beale St. to 8th Street. But at this point, the parade is just one of the many events that make up the San Francisco Pride Celebration. The San Francisco Civic Center hosts an eclectic array of themed areas, from country-western dancing to HomoHipHop to ElderSpace, and a Family Garden, and even a space designated for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Parade: Sunday, June 27, at beginning at 10:30 a.m.
Events: Saturday & Sunday, June 26-27, from noon to 6 or 7-ish, SF Civic Center
It’s not really a gay event unless brunch is involved, is it? Don’t miss: Three Days, Nine Meals: San Francisco. For more basic travel information, try the Off the Brochure Travel Guide: San Francisco, California.
Begun in 1970, just a year after the Stonewall Riots that many historians argue was the galvanizing event of the modern American gay rights movement, New York City’s Gay Pride March is held annually in June to commemorate those events.
And if you you want to sound like a local, remember that this event has never officially been a “parade”—organizers maintain that it is a political “march” … at least until the LGBT community receives equal rights.
Fittingly then, this year’s grand marshals include outspoken prom-integrating Mississippi teen Constance McMillen, Judy Shepard (mother of Matthew, the namesake of the hate crimes bill recently passed by Congress) and Lt. Dan Choi, a gay activist best known for his efforts to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. These public figures will be leading a march that is shorter than recent years, running down 5th Avenue, beginning from 36th Street and, as usual, ending in Greenwich Village near the site of the original Stonewall. Events run throughout the month, ramping up most in the week preceding the march and continuing through the weekend the march is held.
March: Sunday, June 27, beginning at noon
Events: Throughout the month of June
Headed to New York? Everything you need to know is in our Manhattan Vacations & Complete New York City Guide.
The Netherlands has a reputation for being among the gay-friendliest countries in the world, having been the first to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. So as you might expect from the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam‘s gay pride festival is among the largest and best-attended worldwide.
Among the various parties and events are street parties, a Drag Olympics, Latin & Caribbean-themed events, a women-only dance party, special zoo tours that include a guide who points out the “gay animals,” and of course, the all-important parade.
Another LGBT-friendly city is Providence, Rhode Island. Peter’s radio show broadcast recently from Providence and Peter interviewed openly-gay Mayor David Cicilline, for his favorite hotspots in his city (interview starts 21:00 in).
The parade, of course, takes places on Amsterdam’s famed canals, with floats that actually float through the city’s waterways.
Beginning at 2 p.m. at Prinsengracht at the Westerdok harbor, the three-hour parade will wind its way onto the Amstel River, by the city’s famous white Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) and end at Oosterdok. Many of the festival’s major events, however, take place in the central Amsterdam square called Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square).
The center of Amsterdam’s gay(est) district is Reguliersdwarsstraat, a street filled with trendy gay-friendly bars that conveniently makes up one of the square’s borders. Of course, there are other gay districts to explore, including the old-school Kerkstraat, the laid-back bars along (and near) the Amstel River in Halvemaansteeg, and the cruise-y, leather-centric Warmoesstraat in the red-light district.
Canal Parade: Saturday, August 7, starting at 2 p.m.
Events: August 5-8
More travel info: Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Start planning this one for next year. With more than 3 million attendees every year since 2006, including an estimated 400,000 tourists annually, Sao Paulo Gay Pride (Parada do Orgulho GLBT de Sao Paulo in Portuguese) is almost certainly the best-attended gay pride event in the entire world.
Local police basically stopped trying to count participants after 2006, when they estimated 2.5 million participants. So it might be hard to believe that it began just 14 years ago with about 3,000 people. But perhaps it’s not too surprising: as most Brazilians will tell you, there are few things they like more than a good party.
Like most LGBT pride events, it’s a colorful experience. Of course, it being Brazil, it’s a bit more … well, colorful. Most other gay pride festivals probably pale in comparison to the sheer size and cheerful outrageousness of Sao Paulo Pride.
Headed to Brazil? Don’t limit yourself to Sao Paulo & Rio de Janiero , explore the rest of Brazil. Try our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Florianopolis, Brazil.
Though the official start of the parade is noon, in front the city’s Museum of Modern Art, the millions of participants mean that for many pride-goers, much of the “marching” part of the parade more closely resembles milling about or dancing in one place with gradual forward movement.
One upside of the crowds is that the relatively tiny contingent of anti-gay protesters is overwhelmed, if they bother to show up at all at this point (and really, signs quoting Leviticus are likely to get lost next to a contingent of scantily clad go-go dancers with 6-foot-wide shimmering gold headresses). A downside is that you need to be very careful about guarding your wallet, camera, phone and any other valuables as the crowds, jostling and general craziness make it relatively easy for pickpockets to work.
Events: Early June, 2011
More travel info: South American travel section
While the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras cannot compete with Sao Paulo in attendance numbers, it surely beats it in scope.
It started in 1978 as a modest march, but the 2010 Mardi Gras event spanned two weeks during the Australian summer (a great winter escape for Northern Hemisphere inhabitants) and includes nearly 100 cultural, sporting and social events.
Fair Day kicks off the spectacle with a daytime community picnic that attracts over 70,000 attendees with food and music, with booths from local businesses and community groups. Film showings, pool parties, dance lessons, sport competitions, art installations, dinners, zoo visits and more all keep attendees busy in the weeks leading up to the main event. This year even saw the emergence of a new program called Queer Thinking, which provides an intellectual take on the festival through academic and literary discussions.
Go Down Under in our Australia & New Zealand travel section. And you’ll find quirky fun in Destination Sydney: Exploring the Surry Hills Neighborhood.
An audience, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, crowds the cosmopolitan Darlinghurst neighborhood to watch nearly 10,000 parade participants put on a larger-than-life, choreographed show through the streets.
The multi-week event closes with one of the most famous dance parties in the GLBT scene. In past years, the post-Parade Party featured international stars such as George Michael, Cyndi Lauper, and Kylie Minogue as headliners to the all-night festivities that span four venues.
Parade: March 5, 2011
Events: February 19 – March 5, 2011
Tune in tomorrow for a look at some of the most unexpected cities celebrating Gay Pride, as well as hints on how LGBT travelers can save on their next vacation.
For more information about LGBT travel, check out:
- News Analysis: Gay Marriage Could Be Worth Billions
- LGBT Travel Basics
- Airport Incident Angers Gay Travelers, But Fort Lauderdale’s Still Friendly
By Matthew Calcara for PeterGreenberg.com