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Top three… places to cruise

1. Memorial Day Weekend officially kicks off gay festival season with a mélange of queer events including the mother of all fetish fests,...

1. Memorial Day Weekend officially kicks off gay festival season with a mélange of queer events including the mother of all fetish fests, International Mr. Leather Weekend. IML, as it’s affectionately called, takes place mostly indoors—and in the dark—but IML’s infamous Leather Market at the Hyatt Regency (this year’s host hotel) is where the eye wanders. Row upon row of kinky consumers dressed in assless chaps and getting strapped and beaten against a mock chain-link fence is a visual extravagance that pales only in comparison to the throngs of clueless hotel guests running to the door in abject horror.—May 22–26

2. Nothing makes gay people feel gayer (and by that we mean happier, of course) than hordes of shirtless men and hot women drinking cheap beer out of plastic cups and acting stupid. It’s as good an opportunity for us to go into checking-out mode as it gets (and those are just the straight fests). Gay festival Northalsted Market Days cuts right to the chase—the two-day, one-mile outdoor marathon features shameless cruising, missed connections and drunken hookups. —August 9, 10

3. Now for the ladies. Andersonville Midsommarfest puts the lesbianification of the North Side ’hood front and center. This two-day party kicks off with heterosexual family fun around noon—Scandinavian customs and cover-bands—but slowly begins to morph into ’mo central by around 3pm. Gay men and women cruise comfortably in the same space (probably because they’re oblivious to one another) until converging into a drunk heap at neighborhood watering holes.—June 14, 15

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