Mexico City, New York, Toronto, Madrid… at which Pride in which city are you celebrating?

Attention: We’ve arrived at peak party season

Time to lock down your summer weekend plans. Whether you’re jetting around the globe, doing road trips or staying close to home, we’ve got the best of Pride party season covered. 

Weekend by weekend, here are our picks for late June and July. For some of the most popular weekends—particularly the June 24 and 25 weekend, which is a nod to the anniversary date of New York’s famous 1969 Stonewall Uprising—we had a hard time deciding. We compare the offerings—you pick.

June 17 & 18

Chicago

Chicago forces a difficult decision upon us right off the top. The Windy City’s parade, which dates back to a march held in 1970, attracts as many as a million people. But that happens on Sunday, June 25, and so it competes with other big-league Prides we’ll tell you about in a moment. So we’re signing up for the two-day Pride Fest, hosted the weekend before the parade by the business alliance of Chicago’s Northalsted neighbourhood, aka Boystown. The street party is a riot and the bars are right there. This year 40 performers on three stages will slay the crowds, including headliners Heather Small (of M People fame), Slayyyter, Meet Me @ The Altar and JORDY.

Just so you know: Suggested donation is US$15. This year there’s a new youth space at Waveland and Broadway.

June 24 & 25

Mexico City, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Pattaya

Holy drag queen, Batman, this weekend is a tough call. Let’s review.

Mexico City’s Marcha del Orgullo LGBT. Capping off a full month of Pride events, spectators for the march, which starts in the city’s historic Plaza de la Constitución, completely take over the centre of one of the world’s biggest cities. They’ve got the numbers and the Mexican passion for partying. In addition to the Sunday parade, there are at least four big-ticket parties/festivals mainly targeting men: Karmabeat is a circuit-style house-music-driven festival unfolding over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday; El Mozo Yes to All is also circuit-style on the Sunday; the WE Party tour from Madrid hits on the Sunday; and BearMex presents its ode to big hairy guys for three events over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Just so you know: This year organizers intend to present a march free of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

New York, New York’s Pride has got the history—Stonewall happened here—and Christina Aguilera. The Grammy winner headlines Pride Island, a two-day ticketed party on the Sunday which takes place at Brooklyn Army Terminal on Manhattan Island. Bliss Days, formerly Femme Fatale, is a ticketed essential stop for LGBTQIA+ womxn who love to party, also on the Sunday. The parade and PrideFest street fair, in Greenwich Village, are both free events. New York has too many ticketed circuit-style parties to mention here. 

Just so you know: Pride Island tickets start at US$139.

This year San Francisco Pride decided to dump an unofficial rallying cry inspired by Twisted Sister’s song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” after the band’s frontman Dee Snider expressed support for a transphobic statement by Paul Stanley of the band KISS. The Bay Area chapter of Drag Story Hour is among the six grand marshals, demonstrating that San Fran remains as dedicated to politics as it does to partying.

Just so you know: The kickoff party at Castro Theatre costs US$20; Pride Pass packages, which provide access to grandstand seating, the kickoff party, the afterparty party and other events, as well as express-lane access for both days of Pride, start at US$200.

Pride Toronto, Canada’s largest Pride event, brings huge numbers of locals and visitors, perhaps more than a million, to an array of stages and beer gardens in the city’s Gay Village. Over the years organizers have tinkered with the parade to make it more political and less commercial, and the Trans March and Dyke March, held respectively on the Friday and Saturday, attract more and more participants and supporters each year. The circuit-style party festival Prism hosts events from Thursday to Sunday, while Pitbull hosts three parties for scruffier guys.

Just so you know: Though the various beer gardens in the Village are free, the lineups can get especially long, especially to the popular Green Space parties off Church Street.

Circuit Asia is a circuit-style multi-party event hosted by Spain’s famed Matinée Group and White Party Bangkok. Scenesters from as far as India, Taiwan and Japan jet into the gay-friendly-but-a-little-sleazy beach town of Pattaya, Thailand. The festival is so well-organized that there is a regular Circuit Bus shuttling revellers between the airport, the main venue and official host, The Zign Hotel, and the day-party venue Ramayana Water Park.

Just so you know: Ticket tiers available at press time start at US$210/6,900 Thai bhat.

July 1 & 2

Madrid, Spain

Credit: Courtesy of madridorgullo.com

Many cities boast that they’re one of the biggest Prides in the world, but Madrid’s, referred to as MADO or Madrid Orgullo, feels like it’s the biggest—the one that LGBTQ+ European party animals consider the mothership. And of course, it’s not just two days. The party starts the previous weekend, Friday, June 23, with Chueca Pride, a street-and-bar festival hosted by the businesses of the city’s gaybourhood. There’s the Mr. Gay Spain contest on Friday, July 30. Throughout the week there will be free outdoor concerts on six different stages, as well as artsy and community programming. The parade takes place on Saturday, July 1, marching down Paseo del Prado, one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares. The unofficial ticketed parties are many; the slickest and biggest are likely to be MyPleasure, with five days of events for electro-fetish lovers, and WE Party, with six days of slightly more inclusive circuit-style parties.

Just so you know: Little of this is for the crowd-adverse. 

July 8 & 9

Cologne, Germany

Best known for its over-the-top carnival parade, Germany’s fourth-biggest city has a knack for pageantry and flare. Cologne Pride is built around the three-day CSD street party which starts on Friday, July 7. “CSD” is an abbreviation of “Christopher Street Day,” named after what used to be New York City’s gayest street and focal point of queer counterculture—many European communities use it as another name for their Pride festival or an alternative to Pride. Three stages will present more than 60 hours of entertainment, all capped by the Sunday parade, which starts at noon sharp and regularly attracts more than a million visitors and features more than 140 floats. Ticketed events include the circuit-style World of Sexy Party on the Saturday and the more fetish-oriented Extreme! party on the Friday.

Just so you know: The street festival is free.

July 15 & 16

San Diego, California

San Diego’s Pride Festival is the city’s biggest summer party, taking place in Balboa Park on both the Saturday and the Sunday. The fest features community resources, booths and four stages of live entertainment. The more-political Spirit of Stonewall Rally and flag-raising takes place Friday, July 14, with the community gathering around the Hillcrest Pride Flag on University Ave. The more-celebratory parade is on the Saturday, starting at the Hillcrest Pride Flag and ending at the party in Balboa Park. The annual She Fest, which centres LGBTQ2S+ women and non-binary people, takes place Saturday, July 8, the preceding weekend. Of the ticketed circuit-style parties, the three-night LE Parties and the three nights of the Unite! Music Festival look like hot tickets.

Just so you know: One-day tickets cost US$32 if not bought in advance; the weekend pass is US$38 and the VIP access pass is US$225.

July 22 & 23

Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s Pride/Christopher Street Day festival month wraps up Sunday, July 23, with a parade/demonstration starting at Ku’damm and ending at Brandenburg Gate. But there’s a lot going on before it comes to that. On the Friday night, there’s the official CDS Flinta Party, presented by Girls Town, which bills itself as a shelter for women, lesbians, intersex, trans and bisexual women and non-binary people. Of the many big male-oriented ticketed parties, the scruffy monthly Revolver pulls out all the stops for four parties over five days, while the Euphoria Pride Festival, which has a capacity of 2,500 for its main event, promises the biggest Pride event… ever.

Just so you know: The motto this year is, in English, “Be their voice—and ours!” and, in German, “Für mehr empathie und solidarität!”

July 29 & 30

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Not the biggest or rowdiest celebration, Belfast Pride has a lot of heart and it’s the city’s “biggest cross-community event” (I think that’s a reference to the city’s Protestant-Catholic divide). The entire festival lasts 10 days, 150 events in all. The parade is on the Saturday, starting at Custom House Square, which is where the outdoor party and concert will be held, and finishing at Victoria Street. The Pride Village marketplace, also happening on the Saturday, is right across the road at Big Fish, Donegall Quay.

Just so you know: To control the ever-growing number of parade participants, organizers have implemented a system where a coloured wristband is required to march in the parade. While LGBTQ+ community and political groups of up to 30 people can march for free, corporations and government entries have to pay along a sliding scale.

This story is reprinted from our sister site Pink Ticket Travel. Why not sign up for one of two travel newsletters?

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine, CBC.ca, Readersdigest.ca and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

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