Held the last Sunday in June every year, New York Pride is the largest and most exciting LGBTQ+ celebration in the world. Every year, about 2 million people of all sexual preferences, genders, colors, ages, abilities, and orientations descend on the city. During World Pride in 2019, more than 5 million people attended. Whether you are LGBTQ+ or not, New York Pride is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.
Together, we have attended every New York Pride since 1998 (Sue’s first NYC Gay Pride was in 1980). Over the decades, we have learned a lot of tricks. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned attendee, these tips (in no particular order) will help you make the most of your time at New York Pride.
1. The Stonewall Inn
The Stonewall is where it all began. In 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the police. The patrons — mostly working-class, people of color, transwomen and men, and lesbians (drag queens and butch lesbians in the language of the time) — fought back. The Stonewall Rebellion sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
The first Gay Pride March was held in New York City a year later. A decade later, the Village and Chelsea became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic and AIDS activism in the early 1980s and ‘90s. While you are in the city to celebrate, take a moment to honor those that came before — stop by the Stonewall Inn, the Gay Liberation Monument across the street, and the NYC AIDs Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle a few blocks away.
2. June Is LGBTQ+ Pride Month
NYC Pride is not just the last Sunday in June in Chelsea and the Village. There is a whole month of events taking place all over the city. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on 13th Street serves as a hub for LGBTQ+ resources, programs, and events. Check their calendar for workshops, discussions, and performances happening during Pride Month. Expand your horizons and meet new people at Pride Island, Youth Pride, the Dyke March, NEWFEST, and so many more events.
3. Plan Ahead
New York Pride is massive. There is so much to do and see that it can be overwhelming. Planning is key. Events are spread out around the city. If you want to go to the dances and rooftop parties, and some of the other (non-free) events, you’ll need to buy your tickets early. You’ll find the list of events on NYC Pride. We also advise booking your hotel rooms or brunch/lunch/dinner spots in advance.
4. Do Not Drive Into New York
Mass transit is the way to go for NYC Pride for several reasons. First, you begin to soak in the atmosphere before you even arrive. Trains and subways will be packed with people dressed and ready to celebrate. You’ll get in the spirit before you even arrive in New York. Coming in by car will put you in a traffic jam and the hunt for parking. It’s expensive and will not have you arriving in a celebratory mood.
5. The New York Pride March
Did we say arrive early? Arrive early. If you want to snag a good spot along the parade route, arrive at 9 a.m. or even earlier for a prime location. The NYC Pride March starts at noon and goes on for hours, so you’ll need to figure out where the closest public bathroom is and bring some snacks. Some people line the parade route with chairs, umbrellas, and coolers with drinks.
Years ago, you could decide to march as an individual on the morning of Pride. This is not true anymore. If you want to march in New York Pride, you must join a registered group. There are hundreds of registered groups or you can create your own. For help joining a group, you can contact New York Pride (email@example.com).
6. The Dyke March And The Queer Liberation March
While the New York Pride March is seen as the “main event,” there are other marches that take place on that weekend. Every year, the Dyke March takes place on the Saturday evening before the New York Pride March. The Dyke March is a protest. You won’t find any corporate-sponsored groups at the Dyke March. It is a raucous event that begins at 5 p.m. in Bryant Park and goes down to Washington Square Park. We try to attend every year. Anyone can show up and march. It welcomes all people that identify as dykes regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, political affiliation, religion, ability, immigration, status, and more.
Similar to the Dyke March, in that it is not corporate-sponsored and is more politically focused, the Queer Liberation March is a protest that starts at Foley Square on the afternoon of the last Sunday in June. The March began in 2019 and draws thousands of people.
PrideFest, the LGBTQ+ street fair, has performances, food, activities, and lots of booths (LGBTQ+ organizations, local businesses, and much more). It’s a fun event with a lot of freebies and information handed out. We like to get to PrideFest at 11 a.m. (right when it opens) before it gets insanely crowded. After PrideFest, we go to a brunch spot to watch the march.
8. Restaurants And Bars Along The Route
The route starts at 25th and 5th Avenue, goes down 5th Avenue to 8th Street, across 8th Street to Christopher Street, passing Stonewall along the way, and then up 7th Avenue to 16th Street. One way to watch the march in comfort is to have lunch or brunch at any of the restaurants or LGBTQ+ establishments near the parade route. You’ll have food and drinks, access to bathrooms, and an excellent view. Our favorite spot is Rasa for delicious Malaysian food. The parade goes right by the restaurant on 8th Street.
9. Sunscreen, Water, Snacks, And Comfortable Shoes
June in New York City can be very hot and sunny. Looking fabulous is important. Sunscreen will protect you from the harmful effects of being in the Sun all day. All alcohol and no water (or no alcohol and no water) does not make for a fun experience. Bring water with you or expect to pay exorbitant prices for a small bottle. Since you are likely to be on your feet all day and dancing the night away, sensible shoes are advised. Your feet will thank you.
10. LGBTQ+ Owned Businesses And Neighborhoods
June is a great month to support LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations and to experience Pride in the many different neighborhoods that make up New York City. Go uptown to Harlem or Hell’s Kitchen, or take the ferry to Governor’s Island or Staten Island. Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens offer many possibilities. Eat at one of the LGBTQ+ owned restaurants, cafés, and ice cream parlors in the city.
11. NewFest, The Queer Film Festival
Showcasing numerous LGBTQ+ award-winning films, narrative features, and shorts, the annual NewFest often premieres documentaries made by queer filmmakers around the world. Hang around after the screening for conversations with the directors.
12. Stay Safe
While New York is generally a safe city, it’s essential to be mindful of your wallet and surroundings during Pride celebrations, particularly as you are celebrating. Stick to well-lit and crowded areas and stay aware of your belongings. Consider traveling with a friend or group for added security and support.
New York Pride, the Dyke March, and the Queer Liberation March are three of our favorite events of the year. We connect to the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, celebrate the advances we’ve made, and gain inspiration for the battles ahead. New York Pride is a fun and purposeful experience for all, especially at a time when LGBTQ+ and trans rights are under attack.