11 Best Gay Pride Trips
Summer 2016 marks the 47th anniversary of the first gay pride event, which was held a year after the riots at NYC's Stonewall Inn kicked off the modern gay rights movement. Since then, Pride has evolved into a year-round celebration of the worldwide LGBT community. Here, JS contributor Ben Solomon rounds up the top Pride celebrations, from Amsterdam’s colorful barge processional to Toronto’s concert-fueled beach parties.
Pride in the German capital reflects the city’s LGBT citizens’ frank open-mindedness. During this week of parties and festivals you’ll get a glimpse of every fetish and kink the city has to offer, all on proud display. Berlin Gay Pride is capped off by the boisterous Christopher Street Day March on July 23 (thank the European Football championship for this year's later date), when double-decker buses surrounded by visitors from all over Europe wind their way through the Tiergarten to the historic Brandenburg Gate. The night ends at the District Pride party, which features a lineup of more than eight DJs, three dance floors and a party-within-the-party at the Badeschiff Berlin pool .
Minnesota flexes its LGBT muscle during Twin Cities Pride, a week of celebrations bound to make any PFLAG parent proud. The family-friendly events, which skew more mommies-and-me picnics than psychedelic-powered danceathons, are prominently marked by the transformation of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge into a rainbow over the Mississippi River. This year's main festivities are kicked off by firecracker Kathy Griffin on June 23 with a headlining comedy show, followed on June 25 by a rousing concert in Loring Park starring such gay favorites as three-time Grammy winners, The Pointer Sisters, and RuPaul's Drag Race and American Idol contestant, Adore Delano. The week ends on the 26th with a Rainbow Run 5K and, of course, the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade.
Two years after hosting the gigantic World Pride — the Olympics of Gay Pride — Toronto shows no signs of slowing down. For the first time ever, Toronto is hosting Pride Month, running from June 1 - July 3, culminating in the 35th-annual Pride Parade. With more than 30 days of concerts, screenings (Tomboy and Pride), panels (George Takei and Margaret Atwood are in the house) and parties (the RuPaul girls are ready to go) organized by every part of the city's progressive and artistic LGBT community, the whole thing feels much more like Coachella than Christopher Street. Another first this yerar? Newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be the first ever PM to march in a gay pride event.
New York City
The granddaddy of Gay Pride celebrations, New York’s event honors its role as the LGBT rights trailblazer by marching through the West Village (with grand marshals Jazzy Jennings and Syrian LGBT magazine founder Subhi Nahas), past the Stonewall Inn, on the last Sunday of every June (this year it’s the 26th). You won't catch many locals lining up for the march (unless they've found a roof with a sick view), but New York City's impeccably muscled hotties will turn out for one of Pride's most famous parties, Dance on the Pier. This year, the sunset bacchanalia on the Hudson River on Pier 26 celebrates its 30th anniversary. The capstone event is headlined by Fergie and a DJ lineup including Ben Baker, Honey Soundsystem, the Hoxton Whores, and Alain Jackinsky.
It wouldn’t be San Francisco without a few birthday suit outfits — and they fit right in during the city’s annual SF Pride celebrations, June 25th and 26th. Though the weekend includes a lively parade full of San Francisco’s eclectic and unabashedly gay locals down Market Street, and a takeover of the Civic Center that features performances and vendors from LGBT groups, it’s par for the course in a city with a penchant for rowdy parades and edgy festivals (see Bay to Breakers and Folsom Street Festival). You can also soak up the home of Harvey Milk by partying in the sure-to-be-insane Dolores Park and letting go of labels (and maybe even your pants) with progressive party favorite, Peaches.
Held in the Seattle Center — with its appropriately phallic Space Needle — Pride in the Emerald City is probably the only LGBT celebration in the world you can take a monorail to. Seattle's official celebrations are organized by two separate groups, Seattle Pride and Seattle PrideFest. The first brings performances from Hell's Belles and Boyfriends, and plenty of food trucks, beer gardens and lawn games, while the latter hosts five different events including a queer art walk, a film festival featuring a glamrock Ziggy Stardust memorial (and Bowie costume contest, of course), and family-oriented pride events with drag queen story times and a queer youth parade. Catch the majority of the festivities from June 24-26.
Looking to party hard, shirtless, on a dance floor with the top DJs in the world? Madrid Pride, held June 19th to July 2nd, answers your call. The largest Pride celebration in Spain, and one of the most popular in the the world, Madrid Orgullo (as it is known in Spanish) is packed with impossibly handsome Europeans who favor all-night pleasure-seeking over sleep. A particular highlight? La Carrera de Tacones (falling on June 30th this year) in which locals race down Pelayo Street in stilettos. If you think that's wild, you're in for a treat as some of the world’s biggest circuit parties — including WE Party, which is hosting five nights of parties this year — descend on the Spanish capital with their over-the-top production value, muscled go-go dancers and all-night DJ sets.
Amsterdam Gay Pride, held from July 23rd to August 7th, is full of Dutch charm, with the city’s iconic canals hosting a floating procession of huge barges in lieu of traditional floats. And in a city known for its red light district, debauchery is hardly kept behind closed doors. Anything goes when night falls, with large outdoor parties, primarily in Rembrandtplein, that draw crowds more mixed than one might expect at a Gay Pride celebration. Visitors also won't want to miss the Drag Queen Olympics on August 5th – sporting events include the 100m Stiletto Sprint and a Handbag Throw, and all participants need to compete is a wig and trusty pair of heels.
People outside Western Europe might not realize that the Belgian city of Antwerp has become one of the gayest places on the continent. So, understandably, it has developed the rather regal Antwerp Pride and set it against some of the city's most historic locales from August 10th to the 15th. Thursday kicks off with the Midsummer Party (#MidsummerParty2016, for those who tweet) – the free-opening soiree that brings live music and champion pole dancers to Antwerp's Draakplaats mainstage. Friday unfolds with a number of partner events like the Padam party, and LGBT choir versions of Shakespearean sonnets. Saturday it's all about Wave, a free afternoon dance party on the the banks of the Scheldt River. (The party's backdrop, the medieval fortress of Het Steen, practically begs you to act like a queen!) Then on Sunday, Pride takes over the Grote Markt (Antwerp's answer to Times Square) for an afternoon of performances that mark the closing festival. Not to be forgotten, Monday ends the week on a conservative note with a Pride brunch.
After years of Pride festivities made unbearably hot (and not in the right way) by unforgiving Southern summers, the organizers moved the celebration to October, when more temperate temps and less competition have helped the events in and around Midtown flourish. Pitch a tent in Piedmont Park October 8th or 9th, for a day of leisurely frat boy activities (read: cornhole aplenty) and music festival-style performances (Meghan Trainor was a previous headliner). Skip the rather standard parade on Sunday and instead crawl the historic homes along the route that play host to viewing parties packed with bow tie–wearing Southern gentlemen.
Unlike the city’s big LGBT festivals, White Party and Dinah Shore, Palm Springs Pride, held November 5th and 6th is a more intimate affair. The retro acts held throughout the Palm Springs Pride Festival reflect the tastes of the town’s more mature LGBT residents (previous headliners have included Berlin and the Psychedelic Furs). Meanwhile, Saturday’s twilight Block Party focuses on younger pop musicians of interest to the weekend warriors who flock to the desert oasis for rays and Midcentury Modern style. In between, they collide at private pool parties hosted by some of Hollywood's biggest power players.