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If the month of June is synonymous with Pride celebrations around the world, that has less to do with sunshine and beach-friendly weather than history. After all, it was the Stonewall riots in late June 1969 in New York City’s Greenwich Village that kicked off the modern gay rights movement in the US — and by extension (though it would take some time) around the world.
What started out as a purely social and political happening has, over the years, become a mix of parade, party and rally. And the Pride events have increasingly become a tourist draw, not just in New York, but in cities around the country and the globe that took their cues from the Big Apple.
“As Pride events have evolved into larger festivals, often lasting multiple days, they’ve become a magnet for travelers who want to connect with LGBTQ communities around the world and experience their celebrations,” International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association President and CEO John Tanzella told The Points Guy. “Scheduling a trip around Pride is an easy way to find like-minded people, even in places that don’t have many year-round LGBTQ offerings.”
The social dimension is still there, of course, and varies by location. But in addition to calling attention to the LGBTQ community’s ongoing struggle for equal rights, Pride is also a time to celebrate diversity, difference and tolerance.
In 2018, roughly 150 official Pride festivals and events will take place around the world. To help you plan your gay getaway, we zeroed in on events happening during Pride Month and the five months following (events in cities such as Sydney and Cape Town have already taken place).
We’ve included the granddaddy of them all, NYC Pride — even though scoring tickets to see Kylie Minogue at Pride Island on June 24 is getting trickier by the day — and turned a spotlight on some surprising, up-and-coming cities just beginning to generate buzz. In recent years, for example, some Pride celebrations overseas have come to great prominence — Madrid Orgullo and Tel Aviv Pride among them.
That said, being in just about any city during its Pride festivities can be uniquely rewarding. Whether you’re a part of the LGBTQ community or not, there is something special about watching a city come together to celebrate love and (naturally) pride. Consider this a small but significant rainbow-colored slice of the global Pride pie.
Tel Aviv Pride in Israel
Tel Aviv Pride (June 3 to June 10) is the biggest celebration of the LGBTQ community in the Middle East. Beyond that, it’s arguably Tel Aviv’s best party of the year, regardless of sexual orientation. Tel Aviv is something of a refuge for LGBTQ locals and travelers in the region, and the city is extremely proud of this fact. The main parade takes place on June 8, starting at Gan Meir park and culminating with a blow-out party by the beach. Men in Tel Aviv tend to take pride not only in their equal rights, but also in their chiseled bods (plus, Israel is pretty hot in June) so don’t expect to see many T-shirts. What you will see, however, is a special Pride performance by Netta, the Israeli winner at this year’s Eurovision contest who wowed audiences with the most cheerfully defiant lyric ever written: “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy!”
Where to Stay: If you book a room at the Hilton Tel Aviv, you will be staying above Tel Aviv’s semi-official gay beach, Hilton Beach. Rooms are going for $436 or 70,000 points per night during the festival — if you’ve picked up the Hilton Honors American Express Card with its 75,000-point welcome bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months, you’d have enough rewards for one award night. The city is small, but if you want to stay closer to the Pride party itself at Charles Clore Park (toward the Jaffa end of the seaside promenade), the InterContinental David Tel Aviv is also a smart bet. This could be a great opportunity to use one of your last uncapped free nights if you have an IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, or if you recently signed up for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you could use the 80,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $2,000 in the first three months) for a free night or to offset the cost of a longer stay (rooms cost 50,000 points per night).
Capital Pride in Washington, DC
Our nation’s capital is not just the home of political discourse and cherry blossoms: it also has a thriving LGBTQ scene. Admittedly, it’s more laid-back than Gotham, but the Capital Pride events (June 7 to June 10) might surprise you with their variety and verve. This year’s theme is “Elements of Us.” An opening party on June 8 will be followed by a block party and parade (presented by Marriott) the following day, both centered around the so-called Dupont Circle “gayborhood.” The Capital Pride Concert takes place on June 10 on Pennsylvania Avenue, featuring three music stages, beverage gardens and more against the backdrop of the Capitol Building.
Where to Stay: Hilton is the National Presenting Sponsor of Capital Pride and the Washington Hilton, within walking distance of Dupont Circle, is the official host hotel for 2018. Award nights are going for 50,000 points — you could book a two-night stay if you happen to have 150,000 Honors points in hand from the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express welcome bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
Zürich Pride in Switzerland
Gay-friendly Zürich, who knew? (Okay, we did.) If you’re looking for a well-organized Pride with plenty of music and good, clean fun — and the very real possibility of bumping into some of the most eligible gay hedge fund managers anywhere on Earth — then you can bank on Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city, during Zürich Pride Week. This year’s Pride, themed “Same Love, Same Rights,” runs from June 8 to June 17 with the march departing from Helvetiaplatz on Saturday, June 16 promptly at 1:30pm.
Where to Stay: The Zürich Pride Festival’s partner hotels include the Renaissance Zürich Tower Hotel, which is bookable for 70,000 Marriott points per night (remember you can transfer over Starpoints at a 3:1 ratio if you’re short on Marriott points). The cheeky 25hours Hotel Langstrasse is also a partner hotel, and is offering 15% off the current rate, late check-out and a welcome highball as part of a special Pride Package. You might, however, consider booking and paying via Hotels.com/Venture using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to get 10x miles on your booking (plus you’ll enjoy one free night for every 10 paid nights through the Hotels.com Rewards program). You can also book with your Citi Prestige Card through the Citi Concierge to get a fourth night free on your stay.
Thessaloniki Pride in Greece
No one’s going to argue that Pride bashes are almost always seeking ways to be bigger, bolder and more outrageous (case in point: New York City). But there are interesting things happening in smaller cities, too. Though Thessaloniki isn’t exactly petite, as it is the second largest city in Greece after Athens, its small but earnest Pride parade on June 23 is worth the detour if you happen to be in Greece this month. (Travel partner Aegean Airlines runs numerous daily flights between Athens and Thessaloniki, making it an especially easy side trip.) Thessaloniki’s first Pride was in 2012 and it has grown to become the city’s most popular human rights-related event.
Where to Stay: While the Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki is not a partner hotel for Pride, the brand has a solid reputation as LGBTQ-friendly, and award nights cost just 8,000 points. If you’re short on Hyatt points and have Ultimate Rewards from a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer them over to Hyatt instantly to book your award stay. A fun boutique hotel in the center of town is the Colors Urban Hotel (ask for a balcony room).
NYC Pride in New York
New York City has a special connection to Pride events all over the world, and that’s because the modern gay rights movement took off in the Big Apple in June of 1969. That’s when police raided the Stonewall Inn gay bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, setting in motion riots and demonstrations in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Like so much in Gotham, Gay Pride is a big affair with diversity in its DNA. The actual Pride march — now in its 49th year — will have a “Defiantly Different” theme for this iteration, and will be held on Sunday, June 24. Starting at noon at 16th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, the route proceeds through the West Village and Midtown, passing by the Stonewall Inn, and ends on 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. Another highlight is Pride Island, a festival at Hudson River Park’s Pier 97. With the likes of Tove Lo performing on June 23 and Kylie Minogue on June 24, tickets to Pride Island tend to sell out fast.
Where to Stay: There are two Arlo Hotels in Manhattan, one in NoMad and the other in Soho. Both are very welcoming and have a polished, modern aesthetic (and especially amazing city views from the NoMad property). Enter the promo code PRIDE when booking directly through their site and get a 15% discount. Though again, consider booking through Hotels.com/Venture and paying with your Capital One Venture Rewards Card to get 10x miles on your stay.
Madrid Orgullo in Spain
In recent years, European gays have flocked to Madrid for its high-octane Pride events, which this year stretch from June 28 until July 8. Kobi Hayat, an Israeli computer technology professional (and bonafide Madrid Pride aficionado), describes it like this: “Madrid Pride is seriously awesome because, corny as it sounds, it represents the essence of freedom that the city radiates all year round.” Orgullo is Spanish for pride, and this exuberant celebration of the LGBTQ community includes a full roster of outdoor parties and concerts in the Chueca gayborhood. Madrid Orgullo’s Pride Parade, passing along the Paseo del Prado, falls on July 7, with a closing party the following day.
Where to Stay: While Madrid has plenty of boutique hotel options, consider splashing out for the Westin Palace Madrid and earning bonus Starpoints starting with your third night. Award nights cost 20,000, though there’s limited availability for paying with points during festival dates.
Mexico City Pride in Mexico
Mexico City knows how to throw a party. This year’s Pride parade, now in its 40th year, takes place on Saturday, June 23, starting at the Monumento a la Independencia (El Ángel) and ending with a fiesta in the big central square, the Zócalo. Known locally as Marcha Del Orgullo LGBTTTI En La CDMX, the event’s 2018 slogan is, “40 years living in liberty, we will not give it up.”
Where to Stay: Opt for a small hotel in the Zona Rosa, or go for something grander such as the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City, located on the Paseo de la Reforma. In either case, paying with a Capital One Venture Card through Hotels.com or a Citi Prestige Card through the Citi Concierge to get your fourth night free could be a solid choice.
Pride in London, England
There’s no guarantee you’ll see either Meghan Markle or the sun during Pride in London‘s parade on July 7. But the stomping ground of Oscar Wilde and Boy George knows how to put on a great show, rain or shine, with free performances in Trafalgar Square and plenty of club events to keep night owls on their perches until the wee hours. It’s a great time to soak up the vibe at legendary London gay nightspots such as Heaven, Village Soho and G-A-Y Bar. Special events during Pride in London (June 9 to July 7) aren’t limited to the parade and concerts. There’s a talent show, self-defense class, “CaBiRet” and variety shows, among others.
Where to Stay: Treat yourself like the Queen of England at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Rooms are going from $925 per night, so you’ll definitely want to maximize your stay by booking with the Venture Card at Hotels.com or using the Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free benefit.
San Diego Pride in California
As a native Californian, I can take the heat I know the following statement will engender: San Francisco’s Gay Pride (June 23 to June 24) may carry more cultural cargo and LA Pride in West Hollywood (June 9 to June 10) may be more glamorous, but San Diego’s Pride could very well be California’s most fun party. From July 13 to July 15, the city goes all-out, starting with a Spirit of Stonewall Rally — with a keynote speech by the first transgender state legislator, Virginia Delegate Danica Roem — a Pride parade, two-day dance party, a 5K run and a women’s Pride brunch. Before or after the festivities, check out the up-and-coming, very LGBTQ-friendly Little Italy neighborhood. Or just grab a surfboard and hit the waves.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt Grand Manchester San Diego is a partner hotel for San Diego Pride, with award nights available near the parade date for 27,000 points, as is the Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton property (for a whopping 95,000 points or $464 per night).
Berlin Pride in Germany
When it comes to Pride celebrations in Europe, for many folks bigger is better and that brings us to Berlin. The German capital’s Pride — technically called Christopher Street Day in homage to the Stonewall riots and New York City’s key role in the gay rights movement — attracts up to half a million people who follow the parade route. Starting at 12:30pm on Saturday, July 28, it kicks off on Kurfürstendamm and Joachimsthaler Straße and ends at no less impressive a spot than the Brandenburg Gate. There’s no shortage of music and dancing along the way.
Where to Stay: The “hetero-friendly” Axel Hotel is about as gay as it gets, while the Soho House Berlin, in Mitte, is about as sexy as it gets (think: a rooftop pool and ensuite rainfall showers). If you’re opting for the Axel Hotel, book and pay via Hotels.com/Venture using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to get 10x miles on your booking, plus enjoy one free night for every 10 paid nights through the Hotels.com Rewards program.
Amsterdam Gay Pride in the Netherlands
You have to figure if the Pilgrims ditched Amsterdam because it was too sinful for their tastes, the city has to be doing something right — right? It’s no secret that Amsterdam knows how to have a good time, but its Pride has sometimes played second fiddle to better known events in burgs like, well, Berlin. Yet the city’s Gay Pride festivities (which run from July 28 until August 5) are finally getting the attention they deserve. Travelers can expect street parties and DJs galore, as well as the Canal Parade, which floats its way from Amstel to Prinsengracht. (It’s what gives Pride here a real Dutch touch.)
Where to Stay: Scoop up Hilton Honors points with a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, or redeem them for your stay at a rate of 95,000 points per night.
Reykjavík Pride in Iceland
Once, on a bus ride from the Blue Lagoon back to downtown Reykjavík, a girl who could not have been more than 10 years old, poked her head over her seat and asked me, “Are you gay?” Let’s just say that Icelanders can be a bit more direct than we Americans are used to. Also, I can confirm that they party harder than we do, too — particularly when Reykjavík’s Pride takes place: in the middle of summer (August 7 to August 12) with its long, endless days and midnight sun. This Icelandic show of solidarity has been held every year since 1999, and has ballooned into a six-day celebration with a Pride parade, so-called bubbly brunch, an official Pride party, a Drag-Súgar drag “extravaganza” and a queer literature walking tour.
Where to Stay: The Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre is a solid bet with a winning location in the center of town, and with award nights available for 70,000 points. For something more upscale, check out The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, which opened in April.
Taiwan Pride in Taipei
You’ve got plenty of time to plan for this one, but Taiwan Pride in Taipei is billed as Asia’s biggest LGBTQ event, with tens of thousands of revelers expected to attend the Pride parade on Saturday, October 27 in the Zhongzheng District. In addition to the main parade, expect plenty of special events and after-parties. Taipei is an amazing city to visit for any number of reasons, but it’s worth noting that the liberal-minded Taiwanese capital has a thriving gay scene. According to a Taipei gay guide, the capital’s “Red House district is home to more than 25 different gay bars, shops and restaurants.”
Where to Stay: Stay at the W Taipei in the central business district (23,333 Starpoints per night) and you won’t have far to go for one of the gay rooftop pool parties planned during Taiwan Pride.
Palm Springs Pride in California
Palm Springs Pride may well be the last event on the North American Pride calendar, but in early November the Coachella Valley is still one of the warmest places in the country. Speaking of warmth, Palm Springs is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly destinations in the world. (In fact, the current mayor and every sitting member on the city council is a proud and out member of the LGBTQ community.) Time your trip for the Pride parade down Palm Canyon Drive on Sunday, November 4. And for detractors who say Palm Springs has no beach, I’ve got two words for you: pool party.
Where to Stay: The hottest new hotel in town is the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel (available for 45,000 IHG points + $104 per night). Palm Springs also has plenty of gay inns — many clothing optional — and my personal favorite boutique pick is the Moroccan-themed Korakia property, which you can book through Hotels.com with your Venture Card for 10x miles.
Feature image by Anthony Devlin – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images.
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