Rainbow paint and feather boas at the ready – it’s time for Pride season. From queer capital San Francisco to non-stop party town NOLA, stateside festivities are big, bold affairs.
Celebrate Pride in style in these LGBTIQ-friendly cities, as recommended by our Lonely Planet Locals.
Portland is a particularly LGBTIQ-friendly US city © Png Studio Photography / Shutterstock
Portland has a thriving LGBTIQ scene year-round, but the highlight is the annual Pride parade and festival, started in 1977. The parade draws around 150 different participating groups and 60,000 spectators. It starts at West Burnside Street and Park Ave., loops through the Pearl District and Old Town, then ends at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where the weekend-long festival continues with live music, entertainment and information booths. There are also rallies and parties to attend, including the Portland Trans Pride Rally and the all-night dance party Gaylabration. See pridenw.org for more.
Becky Ohlsen has lived in Portland since 1995; follow her on Twitter @beckyohlsen
'Make America Gay Again' – one of the popular slogans of recent years © bakdc / Shutterstock
DC’s Capital Pride is one of the nation’s oldest, with the first event organized in 1975 as a one-day block party and street festival. Today, Capital Pride is a huge four-day event, drawing thousands of people. The main celebrations are the parade on Saturday and the festival on Sunday. That said, there are many additional LGBTIQ festivities, including rallies, parties, concerts and more. And that doesn’t even include all the other events that take place in the week or so leading up to the big weekend. Find the full list of events online.
Where to stay: The major locations are Dupont Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue, with both offering excellent accommodation options. Try the Kimpton Palomar in Dupont, and several Marriotts (an event sponsor) near Pennsylvania Ave. If you need peace and quiet, opt for Georgetown instead (try the quirky-yet-sophisticated Graham).
Barbara Noe Kennedy happily jumped into freelance travel writing in 2015 after working 23 years as a senior editor with National Geographic Travel Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @bnkennedy10
New York's mayor attends the NYC celebrations © lev radin / Shutterstock
New York, New York
The first Pride event in US history was the Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970 – a protest march spurred by the 1969 Stonewall Riots that signaled the beginning of the gay rights movement. 50 years later, Pride in NYC has become a city-wide celebration that’s evolved way beyond its party-hard reputation of previous decades. In addition to the march and rally, there are events for all ages – including films and concerts – which draw a fascinatingly diverse crowd. A smaller, low-key event, Brooklyn Pride, will also take place on 9 June.
Where to stay: New York is pretty gay-friendly wherever you go, but if you want to be in the thick of it, book a room at The Standard East Village. After the parade, many revelers head to where it all began – the West Village – bar-hopping at stalwarts like Stonewall Inn, Julius Bar (one of the oldest gay bars in NYC), Cubbyhole and Henrietta Hudson.
Mikki is a writer, editor and photographer with a penchant for wandering the globe. Follow her on Instagram @mikkibrammer
All kinds of crazy costumes are on display at Chicago's Pride festivities © Cafebeanz Company / Shutterstock
Pride month is a major affair in Chicago, centering around vibrant Boystown, an enclave of welcoming clubs, restaurants, and shops that forms one of the country’s longest-established gayborhoods. The parade on 24 June is the main event, drawing around a million raucous revelers annually, but over 100 happenings – from leather pageants to LGBTIQ comedy troupe shows – keep the party going all month. A highlight is Pride Fest, a weekend-long street fair featuring food, booze, live music and drag performers.
Where to stay: Lively Best Western Hawthorne Terrace compensates for somewhat unremarkable interiors with a smack-dab central Boystown location. Book well ahead for parade and Pride Fest weekends.
Cate Huguelet is a travel and food writer based in Chicago. Follow her latest adventures on Instagram @catehuguelet
LA was one of the first US cities to hold a Pride parade © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
Los Angeles, California
Centerpiece of a month of events, the LA Pride Parade and Festival attracts crowds in the hundreds of thousands along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Grammy-nominated recording artists headline the diverse entertainment lineup, on three stages. And LA Pride 2019's theme, #justunite, is a reminder that all are (still) welcome in the City of Angels.
Where to stay: West Hollywood is chock-a-block with places to sleep – or not. At the center of the action, stay right on the parade route at the Ramada Plaza. The party is nonstop at the Standard Hollywood, offering plenty of eye candy poolside and views across the LA basin. Or for a quiet retreat, boho chic Petit Ermitage offers all-suite rooms and topless bathing.
Andrew Bender is an award-winning travel and food writer. Follow him on Twitter @wheresandynow
Love has no labels © lazyllama / Shutterstock
Denver’s LGBTIQ scene is fit, fabulous and present – you’re as likely to find folks running marathons as dancing the night away. The community celebrates big during Denver PrideFest, a two-day event drawing over 350,000 people to Civic Center Park. Started in 1975, highlights include a huge parade, the Denver Dyke March, the Big Gay 5K (costumes encouraged) and family-friendly activities. Proceeds benefit The Center, the largest LGBTIQ community center in the Rockies.
Liza Prado is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. Follow her on Instagram @liza.prado
Watch parade groups sashay along the route in New Orleans © lazyllama / Shutterstock
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans has welcomed the LGBTIQ community for longer than many American cities have existed. The first recorded pride celebrations date to the 1970s, but there have been publicized gay Mardi Gras events since 1949. Pride in New Orleans largely takes place around the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny neighborhoods. The weekend centers on the annual French Quarter Pride Parade – similar to other pride parades, but this being New Orleans, the pageantry, spectacle and costuming are all kicked up a level.
Where to stay: All French Quarter hotels are gay friendly, and there are many explicitly gay friendly B&Bs in Faubourg Marigny, including the Burgundy Bed & Breakfast, Lion’s Inn and Bywater Bed & Breakfast.
Adam Karlin is a freelance writer and resident of New Orleans, and author of several editions of Lonely Planet’s guide to New Orleans. Follow him on Instagram @AdamWalkOnFine
What's Pride all about? Let's spell it out for you... © Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock
San Francisco, California
When it comes to celebrating Pride, there are few cities that rival the spectacle and community commitment of San Francisco. While Castro is the city’s oldest pro-gay neighborhood, Pride takes place on San Francisco’s main stage: Market Street and Civic Center. It’s a two-day event with 22 stages and venues, a massive parade, and an art and music festival called ‘Under the Rotunda’ that ends the weekend’s festivities.
Where to stay: Parker House is B&B chic; Inn on Castro makes you feel like you’ve stepped straight back into the 70s; and Beck’s Motor Lodge, which underwent a makeover in 2016, is not specifically LGBTIQ oriented but is in the heart of the Castro and perfect as a base for exploring SF. Book in advance.