From Alabama to Alaska, more and more communities across America are adding gay pride events to their annual calendars.
In the early days, LGBT pride celebrations mainly consisted of short marches or parades. Modern pride festivals have evolved into multi-day parties that feature a variety of events, sometimes including drag kickball, youth proms, outdoor dance parties, live performances, and fireworks.
While the most iconic gay pride festivities still take place in cities like New York and San Francisco, you can find lots of fun in unexpected places nationwide. Want to attend a huge beach party in Connecticut, admire a rainbow-lit waterfall in South Dakota, rock out at a pride fest on a bridge in Pennsylvania, or shout your pride on a roller coaster in Ohio? Now’s your chance!
Check out these six under-the-radar pride celebrations to learn about some cool events that you’ve probably never heard of before.
New London Pride
New London, CT
Pride in New London, Connecticut, is way more exciting than you’d expect from an event in a city of 27,000 people. That’s partly due to it being situated in the densely populated Northeast. The gay pride event’s late-August date draws in LGBTQ folks from nearby cities like Hartford, Providence, and Boston who are eager for one last summer bash.
Another reason for the success of New London Pride is the city’s coastal location, which makes it ideal for a beach festival. People gather to sun themselves at Ocean Beach Park, where they can also find volleyball, mini golf, and waterslides. There’s no better way to wind down summer than with a beach party with thousands of your closest gay friends!
The red t-shirts at GayDays Anaheim have become a familiar sight at the annual weekend event in October at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Though not an official Disney event, GayDays is a popular way for fans of these parks to enjoy them in the company of other gay and queer people in sunny Anaheim.
Since Disneyland is still open to the general public during this weekend, the red shirts help folks identify each other. While there aren’t any official gay pride events during GayDays, the sea of red throughout the park creates a huge level of comfort and visibility for the LGBTQ community.
If you’re already planning to visit Disneyland in the near future, why not time your visit with GayDays to connect with a bunch of like-minded Disney enthusiasts?
For years, Pittsburgh PrideFest was held on Liberty Avenue—the spot made famous on the gay drama Queer as Folk. The street party featured bar hopping, food and information booths, and dancing with multiple stages of live music.
Starting this year, the PrideFest celebration moves to the Andy Warhol Bridge, making it the first gay pride event in the world held on a bridge. That’s a fitting location since Pittsburgh claims to have more bridges than any city in the world—446, to be exact.
More than 100,000 people attend Pittsburgh’s annual pride festival, so if this event isn’t on your radar, it should be! The fest has a long history of attracting A-list entertainment. Performers have included Nick Jonas, Kesha, Troye Sivan, Walk the Moon, Jennifer Hudson, and Adam Lambert.
As the 62nd-largest city in Ohio, Sandusky may seem like an unexpected location for a vibrant pride event. But, as the home of the renowned Cedar Point amusement park, which boasts some of the fastest and tallest roller coasters in the world, Sandusky is a major tourist destination during the summer months. Sandusky held its first gay pride event in June 2018, and the city now plans to make the festival an annual event.
Organized by three women who each own a business in the city, Sandusky Pride is truly a grass-roots effort. The founders hold regular meetings and fundraisers to encourage community input on how the event should look as it continues to grow. Pride attendees can expect a wide range of activities, from a party cruise to a kids’ fun zone to a drag kickball game.
The Pacific Northwest is known as one of the most gay-friendly regions of the country. While the pride events in Seattle and Portland get a lot of attention, don’t overlook those in smaller cities like Olympia and Spokane.
Spokane’s Pride and Rainbow Festival began in the early 90s as a small march attended by 500 people. Today, it has grown into an all-day gay pride event with crowds 15 times that size. In addition to the parade, the fest includes live bands, festival booths with a family area, and an all-ages dance party. And, starting in 2016, OutSpokane began capping off its event with the ultimate pride finale—a festive fireworks display!
Sioux Falls Pride
Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls Pride has one of the coolest logos around—a rainbow-colored buffalo, which puts an LGBTQ spin on one of South Dakota’s most famous animals. Sioux Falls Pride began in the mid-2000s, and like many similar gay pride events across the country, its attendance has jumped dramatically in the past several years.
The highlight of Sioux Falls Pride is an all-day event at Terrace Park, followed by an evening celebration at Falls Park in which the waterfalls are lit up with rainbow colors. The rest of Pride Week in South Dakota’s largest city is filled with pride karaoke, a pub crawl, and a whole lot of drag-queen-themed events: drag bingo, drag trivia, and drag brunch.