Sneak Peek: 5 Pride Festivals Worth Traveling For in May

by Kelsy Chauvin
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Apr 8, 2018

Pride season is officially kicking into high gear, and 2018 is a great year to explore queer celebrations further afield. Here's a rundown of the top U.S. and international Pride festivals happening in May.

Houston Splash
Something about land-locked Houston making a big gay "Splash" is intriguing. As it turns out, the event was wet and wild when it began long ago on Galveston beach, soon outgrowing small-town capacity.

Come May 3-7, LGBT revelers will mark 23 years of a much bigger Splash. As the website proudly proclaims, "Houston Splash caters to African-American and Latino LGBT men and women from across the country" -- thousands of them, many of whom join the event expressly for its diversity. The long weekend brings five days of parties, including the welcome reception, "Satur-daytime" throwdown, "Sunday Funday," and distinct lesbian and gay male parties.

Organizers work with local sponsors and partners for the event, like the Hilton Houston Post Oak, which offers visitors great rates through the weekend. (Check out the Houston Splash website and Facebook page for the promo code.) The city is famous for its dining scene, and My Gay Houston is a prime resource for LGBT-friendly restaurants and bars, plus shopping, cultural stops, other local tips.

Long Beach Pride
Fun fact: Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival & Parade is now America's third-largest Pride event, drawing more than 80,000 attendees and more than 200 marching groups-making it the city's largest event overall. Better still, as part of the mission launched in 1983, LBLGP operates year-round philanthropic projects as well.

This year's big event happens on May 19 and 20, with $25 tickets ($20 in advance) into the enclosed party zone where rockin' percussionist Sheila E. will headline the main stage that Sunday at 8 p.m. More music, dancing, food tasting, and flirting will flow through the rest of the weekend, with the parade taking over Ocean Boulevard starting Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

The city itself is an LGBTQ enclave and even elected its first gay mayor in 2014, Mayor Robert Garcia. Travelers will enjoy the abundance of queer-friendly businesses, from drag brunch and nightly events at Hamburger Mary's, and cocktails al fresco at iconic Art Deco nightclub the Silver Fox (which you may recognize from "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" series).

Belgian Pride
There are many reasons to be out and proud in Belgium, one of the world's most progressive nations. Maybe that's why its Pride celebration runs two full weeks, May 4-20, and brings its community events, exhibits, parties, and more to towns across the country. It overlaps with Brussels Pride, which hosts a colorful parade through the heart of town on May 19th.

Pride Village is among the many free events, and transforms the historic Mont des Arts into a celebratory scene of music, food, performing arts, and local LGBT organizations sharing their good work.

Brussels queer scene offers lots of variety, and the city's tourism website shares a great roundup of gay-owned or -friendly cafés, clubs, shops, drag shows, and cultural points of interest. Many of the local queer hotspots are in the city center along Rue du Marché au Charbon, like the fun cabaret La Boule Rouge, and chic lounge Dolores. Rainbow House, the local LGBT center, is a thorough resource for upcoming community events, from sports to arts to organized conversations on a range of topics.

Vallarta Pride
It's easy to reach, both beachy and cosmopolitan, and home to an amazing Pride week. Bienvenido a Puerto Vallarta!

Mexico's top LGBT destination this year hosts Vallarta Pride May 20-27, bringing a full week of film festival screenings, an art walk, health fair, various women's events, and many many parties to the Zona Romantica (downtown) and beyond.

This year's highlights include the ever-astounding Drag Derby and fundraiser, with queens racing through cobblestone streets; the mega block party on May 24th; and the International March Against Homophobia, featuring Grand Marshal Lorena Herrera, the beloved Mexican singer and actress.

There are plenty of great boutique accommodations to pair with your Pride visit, like gay-owned Casa Cupula, and the historic Casa Kimberly. Head to Café des Artistes for creative Mexican cuisine, and roam downtown's weekend farmer's market for homemade food and handmade souvenirs.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride
Rainbow realness takes over the city's Shibuya district for a week of festivities from April 28 to May 6. Crowds will gather at Yoyogi Park's outdoor stage for the celebration's final two days for programming packed with drag divas and other queer revelry.

For those that want to elevate their Japan journey to five-star fabulous, the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton Tokyo offers stellar views from the metropolis's Midtown district along with three newly revamped dining concepts, including the Michelin-starred Azure 45, Towers (contemporary grill), and sweet treats from La Boutique.

While there's plenty to discover on your own, consider hiring a guide for more bespoke access to some of Tokyo's best offerings from Out Asia Travel. A member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, there's no better way to experience an insider's perspective on this bustling city.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBT interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.


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