Best cities to celebrate LGBT pride
June sees a host of Pride-related events throughout the steamy southern city, but the real action in Hotlanta is tied to National Coming Out Day (NCOD) on October 11, with this year’s events going down the weekend of October 13-15. Atlanta Pride is the largest Pride event in the Southeast and one of the oldest in the country—the first march occurred in 1971. The huge public party (the crowd tops 200,000 people) is anchored in Piedmont Park just northeast of the downtown area. Head to the Old Fourth Ward and grab a beer (and the mic) at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium for some full-on Southern gospel kitsch and organist-accompanied karaoke.
Texans celebrate Pride for an entire week in August in well-integrated Austin. This year’s Pride parade is on August 26, ending at Republic Square State Park. A week earlier, on August 19, is the annual WERK fashion show featuring previous Project Runway contestants. Revelers hit the dance floor year-round at Oilcan Harry’s, one of Austin’s largest gay clubs, which also hosts the Mr. and Miss Pride pageant. Dudes can sweat it out with bikers and burly men at the Iron Bear downtown, while a mixed LGBT/straight crowd congregates at vegan-friendly Cheer Up Charlies on the East Side.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Alexander Shenkar
Beantown becomes Queentown during its annual Pride Week. Queer culture is everywhere throughout the week, but particularly concentrated in the South End, where you’ll find several of the city’s best gay bars. At the long-established and still popular Club Café, satiate your appetite for drag queens, cabaret and contemporary American grub, or head downtown to the more down-to-earth Alley Bar for cheap drinks and pool. This year’s parade, held on June 10, will congregate at Copley Square before making its way to City Hall Plaza. You can follow all the action by tracking #wickedproud (of course).
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Allison Gofman
Plays, musical performances, Lake Michigan cruises, parties, food truck roundups and farmers’ markets dot the LGBT social calendar for the entire month of June in the City of Broad Shoulders. But even before Chicago Pride officially starts in June, an early kickoff party, Furball, takes place every Memorial Day weekend—perfect for the hirsute and shirtless. Pride Fest revs up in Boystown June 17-18, with performances by to-be-announced pop stars and actors the week before the 48th annual parade on June 27, which draws around one million people standing, er, shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity.
The Mile High City carves out a weekend in June for the Denver PrideFest, when over 350,000 celebrants come out to play. This year, renowned Cher impersonator Chad Michaels—also the winner of Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars—headlines the main stage on Saturday, June 17, and a variety of acts fill the U.S. Bank Latino Stage all weekend. Athletes can run the Big Gay 5K race and women can show their solidarity in the Dyke March, both on Saturday. The younger crowd (11–21) will find plenty to do in Rainbow Alley, a safe resource space that features a health and counseling center, games and even a drag closet. On any Sunday you can partake in the beer bust at the Denver Wrangler, an 18-year tradition that benefits local LGBT charities and sports teams.
One of the country’s largest and most well-organized pride events, Houston Pride dates back to 1978. Each year, the city’s events grow in scope and size, and 2017 will be no exception: Houston’s LGBT community will celebrate for an entire week, from June 19-25. The centerpiece celebration will take place on Saturday the 24th, when an expected 70,000 revelers will gather downtown to rally and parade down Smith Street. Throughout the week, look for fun Alice in Wonderland-themed parties like the two-level, DJ-spun “Beyond Wonderland” afterparty on Saturday and Sunday’s “Mad Tea” closing party, both held at Rich’s Houston.
It’s no surprise that L.A. Pride is centered on West Hollywood—home to the Abbey, the nabe’s big gay heart, and Hamburger Mary’s, which serves classic diner fare and drag shows. Glittery, well-known pop stars typically headline the big stage in West Hollywood Park; this year’s June 10-11 roster hasn’t yet been announced, but previous performers have included Kesha, Carly Rae Jespen and Hailee Steinfeld. If WeHo isn’t your bag, head to Silver Lake, where you’ll find a more alternative vibe at nightspots like Akbar on West Sunset.
In the sizzling South Florida city, Pride is observed in April (7-9 in 2017) with a fiesta flavor all its own, with the April 9 parade headed by celebrity Grand Marshal Ross Matthews. The three-day celebration takes place along Art Deco-fabulous Ocean Avenue—expect finely sculpted beach bodies to shame you back to the gym all year long. Check into Hôtel Gaythering, the city’s gay boutique hotel, and plan on grabbing cocktails at gay clubs like the enduring Twist, where you can dance until the sun comes up. If you want to keep the party going, embark on a five-day Pride Cruise that departs after the Sunday festivities.
Vying for the title of Pride Mothership with San Francisco, NYC pulls out all the stops. This year’s events kick off on June 16 with a rally at Foley Square in support of LGBT rights that’s directed squarely at our country’s new administration. A week later, on the 23rd, get decked out for Fantasy, a masquerade and burlesque extravaganza at the Highline Ballroom in gay-friendly Chelsea. Before or after the show, take your pick of numerous Chelsea gay bars. This year’s parade, held on Sunday June 25, is headlined by the ACLU alongside Grand Marshal Brooke Guinan, a 29-year-old trans woman, advocate, civil servant, firefighter and native New Yorker. Of course, a visit to gay NYC wouldn’t be complete without grabbing a cocktail at The Stonewall Inn, the place where gay liberation began.
Canadians are expected to show up in force for Toronto’s Pride Month, the city’s second annual celebration of LGBT solidarity that lasts the entire month of June. Centered in and around Gay Village, splashy events will kick into high gear during the last week of the month, when the area closes to traffic to become a pedestrian-only zone. The festival weekend of June 23-25 culminates on Sunday the 25th with the 37th annual parade. If 2016 was any indication—wild parties throughout the month included the Alternaqueer dance party, DJ sets and a special appearance by Joe Jonas—then the 2017 event, to be announced, won’t lack for top-notch entertainment and can’t-miss happening. In between the revelry, kick back with a cocktail or a cold pint at one of Toronto’s best bars and clubs.
Orlando will come out in force this year for its 13th annual October Pride celebrations, flying the rainbow flag of unity and defiance in the wake of last June's tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub. Kicking off on Saturday October 14, the celebrations centered around Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando will feature more than 100 vendors in the Pride Marketplace area, more than 100 groups in the “Most Colorful” Parade, and a variety of to-be-announced entertainment on multiple stages throughout the day. Free to the public, the day’s events are expected to draw more than 150,000 revelers.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Grow By Love
While 100,000 people come out to view the Sunday morning parade, estimates put the total celebrants at 1.5 million over the entire weekend of the mother of all Pride celebrations, SF Pride. It all starts at Civic Center Plaza on Saturday, June 24 with a daylong celebration that typically attracts more than one million attendees who turn out to rally for rights as well as take in music and entertainment distributed across 20 stages and venues. The Sunday parade down Market Street will feature six Grand Marshals, including the beloved San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and other community leaders. Running the gamut from family-friendly activities to fetish fairs, Pride is a can’t-miss weekend for any San Franciscan—gay, straight or other. As you revel, cruise the Castro for drinks at iconic gay bars, or head to seedier SoMa for some off-the-beaten-path entertainment.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Travis Wise