Under the Radar Places to Celebrate Pride This Year

Image: PHOTO: The days and weeks leading up to Vancouver's Pride parade and festival are packed with plenty to do. (Photo via Tourism Vancouver/Vision Event Photography)
Image: PHOTO: The days and weeks leading up to Vancouver's Pride parade and festival are packed with plenty to do. (Photo via Tourism Vancouver/Vision Event Photography)
Mia Taylor
by Mia Taylor
Last updated: 3:44 PM ET, Mon April 8, 2019

From San Francisco to New York City and Los Angeles, Pride season has arrived and the celebrations in these major cities are legendary.

The annual extravaganzas, which typically take place between April and June, were started in urban centers to improve the visibility, acceptance and legal protections for LGBTQ people.

Today, in addition to offering an important chance for the LGBTQ community to demonstrate for rights such as same-sex marriage and equality, the parades and festivals are a chance to come together and celebrate the LGBTQ culture.

For travelers who'd like to avoid some of the most crowded of these events, there are plenty of secondary cities hosting Pride gatherings each year. Here are some of under the radar destinations to celebrate the LGBTQ culture.

Sacramento, California

California's capital hosts Sacramento Pride every June on the city's Capitol Mall.

The event is put on by the Sacramento LGBTQ Community Center and this year's festivities are dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The city's offering includes two major activities: the SacPride Festival and the Pride March.

The festival (June 8 and June 9) includes a lip sync battle, live music, dancing, food, vendor booths and more. The June 9 parade features floats and a grand marshal. Individuals can participate in the parade directly or observe as a spectator.

Those headed to Sacramento's lesser known, but equally fun and important celebration of LGBTQ culture, should be sure to check out the city's historic Lavender Heights, also known as the Rainbow Chamber. The area is the heart of Sacramento's thriving LGBTQ scene and is notable for its variety of gay-friendly clubs, restaurants, shops and galleries.

Orange County, California

Orange County hosts a variety of LGBTQ events throughout the year including pageants, runs and cruises. But it is the annual Pride Week Festival, held every June for the past 30 years, that is perhaps the most notable.

Just a short drive from its notable LGBTQ-friendly neighbor Los Angeles, Orange County offers a great alternative to the chaos and crowds in West Hollywood every June.

The count's weeklong celebration of LGBTQ culture and acceptance is imbued with many deeper messages, as the festival was renamed "Blaze it Forward" last year following the death of Blaze Bernstein in Orange County.

Throughout the week, participants can watch live music performances, engage with community leaders and enjoy a parade.

In addition to offering incredible weather, beautiful beaches and strong surf culture, Orange County is a very LGBTQ-friendly destination. Laguna Beach, in particular, is known for its rich LGBTQ history. Many parts of the city are influenced by the LGTBQ community, such as West Street Beach, the unofficial gay beach and the Main Street Bar & Cabaret, which has a longstanding history of being an all-welcoming nightclub.

Sonoma County, California

While Sonoma County may be best known for its world-class winery offerings, the area also has a bustling LGBTQ scene. Just a short drive from San Francisco, Santa Rosa hosts one of the state's most notable Pride festivals, Sonoma County Pride, from May 31 through June 2. The event features wine tastings (naturally), parades, film festivals, parties and speeches.

Sonoma is legendary for being LGBTQ-friendly. Various wine tasting tours and events are geared towards the gay community including Out in the Vineyard.

The rustic town of Guernerville in Sonoma Valley, meanwhile, has been a gay hot spot for travel since the 1970s with quaint accommodations and campgrounds, bars, and more surrounded by beautiful California Redwoods.

St. Pete, Florida

Drawing in more than 250,000 people, St. Pete Pride, features art, music and performances at exciting locations throughout the area. The festival weekend, June 21-23, aims to promote unity, visibility, self-esteem and positive image among the LGBTQ community throughout the state.

The parade takes place on Bayshore Drive outside The Vinoy, a hotel that is offering a "Couples Getaway" package in honor of Pride month. The package includes an upgraded Bay view room, complimentary valet parking, champagne upon arrival and breakfast for two.

Providence, Rhode Island

Providence holds many events year-round focused on engaging local and out of town members of the LGBTQ community. However, the main attraction each year is always Providence's annual pride celebration. This year's festival will be on June 15 and marks the 44th annual RI PrideFest, an event that typically attracts more than 60,000 people.

One of the highlights of the weekend is the After-Dark Illuminated Parade, one of a handful of after-hours pride parades in the country and the only one of its kind in New England.

Providence's tight-knit LGBTQ community also hosts an annual LGBTQ Film Festival, which not only showcases independent films but also offers seminars, expanded walks and tours and outdoor screenings. The festival takes place from August 6-11.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Go where the (rainbow) buffalo roam and experience Pride in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Having grown from 4,000 attendees to more than 10,000 in the past four years, the June 15 Sioux Falls Pride festival celebrates the LGBTQ community from all over the mid-west while maintaining its small-town community feel.

The family-friendly festival showcases the abundance of LGBTQ talent in the region, emphasizing artists, musicians and drag performers. There will also be local food and artisan vendors.

Dallas, Texas

After more than 30 years of celebrating Dallas Pride in September, the festival is moving to June to align with National Pride Month in 2019.

The two-day celebration includes the Miller Light Music Festival on June 1 and the 36th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on June 2.

Named after the long-serving executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade is family friendly with a family Pride Zone, local vendors, food and beverage stands and live entertainment.

This year's theme, "Stonewall STRONG, Dallas PROUD," recognizes the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.

Dallas is home to the nation's sixth-largest LGBTQ population and is bursting with bars, restaurants, and neighborhoods that celebrate diversity.

Travelers may want to extend their stay after Dallas Pride to explore The Oak Lawn area, which has been the heart of the Dallas' LGBTQ community and nightlife for more than three decades.

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