Your 2019 Guide to the Best under-the-radar Pride Destinations
by Brian Moniz
Across America the weather is getting warmer and summer is getting closer, and that can only mean one thing — Pride Festivals are coming! It’s no secret to everyone in the LGBTQ community that Pride has become a little mainstream among straight people who just want to party and drink. Some Pride parades around the country have become so flooded with sponsors and advertisers, (which is not a bad thing), that parties every year are much higher in attendance and prices, making it harder for you to attend.
According to Orbitz.com, the top 10 most booked cities for Gay Pride festivals around the country in 2019 are:
Provincetown, Massachusetts (May 31-June 3)
St. Petersburg, Florida (June 21–23)
Atlanta, Georgia (October 11–13)
Long Beach, California (May 18–19)
New York City, New York (June 1–30)
Minneapolis (June 22–23)
Columbus, Ohio (June 14–16)
Miami, Florida (April 1–7)
Houston, Texas (June 22nd)
San Francisco (June 29–30)
These major cities, along with Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are the cream of the crop when it comes to Pride parades and celebrations, but we want to shine a light on some cities that are also going to be fun this year and have their own parties and celebrations worth noticing, especially if you want to celebrate without the huge crowds and skyrocketing prices for access to the best gigs.
Orlando, Florida (October 12–13)
The best thing about celebrating Pride in Orlando is that while most Pride parades take place in June, this one takes place in October when airplane tickets and hotels are much cheaper than in the booming summer months. Orlando will only be celebrating their 15th Pride Festival, but they know how to party. Even in October, the weather in Orlando is still warm and beautiful. Betty Who and Crystal Waters will headline the festival’s Main Stage and there will be many celebrity appearances from LGBTQ actors and drag queens, including American Horror Story & Pose star Billy Porter. Head over to Lake Eola Park and get a ticket to Club H2O for a night of DJ’s, dancing, and fireworks! Visit the Pulse Nightclub Memorial and pay respects to those we lost in that horrific shooting, dance the night away at the Parliament House, or you can buy a ticket to Picnic Under the Stars, an outdoor event where every attendee is given a food basket and bottle of wine to enjoy under the stars.
Las Vegas, Nevada (Oct 11–13)
Like Orlando, Vegas Pride will take place in October, and while Vegas will be one of the more expensive cities, the late date gives you time to start saving now! When choosing a hotel in Vegas, we recommend the Luxor Hotel and Casino not only for their insanely cheap prices and great location on the strip, but because every weekend the Luxor hosts Temptation Sundays — a gay beach-themed pool party packed to capacity with gays from all over the country. As a previous guest myself, I can assure any reader that this party is the place to be on a Sunday in Vegas, and the pool staff is great at making sure everyone has a frozen drink in their hand and a smile on their face. Unlike most Vegas hotels that only have one large pool for all their guests to squeeze into, the Luxor features four large pools, a whirlpool, twenty-one private cabanas, and 125,650 square feet of space to cruise around, mingle and make new friends. Is there a better way to enjoy a Sunday morning than tanning under the hot Nevada sun while sipping a two-foot-tall frozen strawberry margarita or sharing mimosas with your group of friends, looking over and seeing thousands of beautiful people dancing in the pools to live music next to the giant pyramid hotel, feeling like a million bucks in a royal palace? Don’t think so!
Another major reason we include Las Vegas on this list is because of the vast selection of nightclubs that will be hosting gay-friendly parties and concerts by LGBTQ-friendly A-list artists. Visit LasVegas.com and you can scroll through the hundreds of shows at every major nightclub, gay bar, and concert venue. Britney Spears unfortunately had to cancel her Vegas shows earlier this year after her father nearly died from a medical condition, but Lady Gaga and Celine Dion both have residencies while Cardi B is currently in talks with major hotels to start one of her own for 2019–2020.
*If you want to visit Vegas for the concerts, but don’t want to wait all year for Pride in October to do so, we recommend going in August when Cher also has a month-long residency. Imagine seeing Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Cher and Cardi B all in the same week, now that’s a vacation!
Nashville, Tennessee (June 7–23)
Excited about the idea of going to music-filled shows and dancing until the sun comes up, but not crazy about the sky-high prices of Las Vegas? Nashville has you covered. Nashville has such a vibrant, booming music and nightlife scene that it has earned the nickname “NashVegas”. You could spend an entire weekend exploring Broadway Street, home to “Music Row”, and still not have enough time to enjoy every live-music bar and nightclub the city has to offer. Looking for some good eats? Visit LGBTQ-owned and operated hot spot Mockingbird, which delivers some of Nashville’s best, affordable southern American cuisine and pair it with their specialty drink, the “Punchin’ Bag”, which is literally served in a bag for easy carry while you explore the rest of the city. Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, owned and operated by head chef and drag queen Arnold Myint, is a restaurant that serves authentic Asian cuisine while hosting drag shows every half hour on the weekends. Come Friday, Saturday and Sunday night for Drag’n’Dinner, or eat in the mornings during Drag’n’Brunch. On Friday June 21st, attend the Pink + Purple Party, an art benefit to help LGBT youth in Nashville, then on Saturday, June 22nd, head to the Nissan Equality Stage for a day-long music festival with performances this year by TLC, Neon Trees, Madame Gandhi, Cakes Da Killa and many more.
Denver, Colorado (June 14–16)
If guzzling down dozens of craft beers from countless breweries while watching the sun set behind the Rocky Mountains is your mission this year, head over to gorgeous Denver, Colorado. Enjoy brunch with your buddies at one of the hundreds of comfort-food restaurants before renting bicycles and cruising around the city or having a nice picnic at Cheesman Park, walking distance to every gay-friendly coffee shop, pizzeria, craft brewery and Botanic Gardens. While the Pride Festival takes place during the weekend of June 15–16, Denver hosts special LGBTQ events throughout the week leading up to the parade as well. Special guests at this year’s Denver Pride include drag queens Lady Bunny, Peppermint, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, and YouTube sensation Todrick Hall — singer, dancer, actor and comedian who often appears on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a choreographer and guest judge.
Denver might not have the major pool parties of Vegas, but they definitely have the hot sun, and for every thrilling nighttime event Vegas hosts, Denver has one to match it. The hottest lineup of parties in Denver takes place at the LGBTQ nightclub Tracks. Every night from the Tuesday before pride all the way through the Sunday finale, Tracks is hosting “Prismatic,” a series of eye-popping parties each with their own exciting theme from drag to neon black lights to pink party to leather, you name it. The themes for each party this year has yet to be announced but check in early when it is because tickets will sell out in minutes!
Saugatuck, Michigan, (June 7-July 3)
I know what you’re thinking, “Where is Saugatuck?”, and that is exactly what Michiganders love hearing because this country spot is the best kept secret in America during Pride month. Saugatuck is the perfect city for anyone, like me, who has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality when it comes to vacations. It features adorable mom-and-pop B&B’s and lodges, gorgeous landscapes, relaxing walking trails, and has two charming outdoor shopping centers. There are over 140 LGBTQ-owned and operated restaurants, cafes, and bars with friendly locals that give the city a very safe, welcoming vibe. Between Lake Michigan and Sand Dune Forest lies Oval Beach, a gay-friendly beach perfect for catching a beautiful view with your special someone before having a night out on the town.
Saugatuck has their own outdoor LGBT camping lodge called Campit Resort, which functions much like the r3 Hotel in Guerneville, California. Throughout the month of June and into July, Campit Resort will be hosting pool parties during the day with special events at night:
- June 7–9: Cubs and Daddies Weekend featuring the “Bear Naked Pool Party and Bubba Burger Cook Out” and the Most Beautiful Cub Contest.
- June 14–16: Leather, Fetish, Kink Weekend featuring the Best Leather Contest, Castro Leather Bar and Dungeon, and the Leather Mart and Swap.
- June 21–23: LGBT Music Fest, with live music of all types, sing-a-longs and parties each night of the weekend.
- June 28–30: Wild West Cowboy weekend with a Sexy Cowboy Underwear Auction on Saturday night.
- July 1–3: Spa themed week complete with a “Booze Cruize [sic] Beach Day and Sunset Party”.
No matter where you decide to celebrate this year, whether it be in one our picks above or another city of your choice, Pride 2019 is sure to have a record number of attendees in every major city, so make sure to get your reservations booked and tickets purchased early and no matter what you end up doing, make it memorable, be safe and have fun!
About the Author:
Brian Moniz is from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner.