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Beyond Pride: The best LGBTIQ+ events and festivals for 2021

Beyond Pride: The best LGBTIQ+ events and festivals for 2021

Pride, mardi gras, gay ski weekends and more – these queer events are unmissable for not just the LGBTIQ+ community, but allies alike.

While the recent pandemic has seen many Pride events in North America and Europe celebrated via online streaming around the globe, one thing is for certain: even a pandemic can’t halt a good celebration. Luckily, Pride events take place all year long, and in cities all around the world.

And while Pride is a wonderful excuse to celebrate, the fun doesn’t need to stop there. From colourful costumed parades to pool parties, theatre and puffy parkas with ski boots, these global queer-friendly events are worth travelling for. Start planning your 2021 itinerary around these incredible festivals.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Sydney, Australia (26 February – 8 March 2021)

On home soil, this annual event sees a surge in travellers arriving in Sydney to enjoy a fortnight of special events from mid-February to early March. Dance parties, art exhibitions, lectures, outdoor festivals and more all culminate in a mega-parade, drawing thousands of revellers along a route of colourful floats, marching groups, dancers, drag performers… and so much more. The parade finishes with a super-sized dance party where a line-up of local and international performers join guests as they party the night away.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras © Andy Tyler

Club Skirts Dinah Shore

Palm Springs, California, USA (16 – 21 September 2020)

Palm Springs becomes an oasis for more than sunshine with what’s now become known as Club Skirts ‘The Dinah’. Typically held in March or April, this year’s event was postponed until mid-September. As the largest lesbian-dedicated event in the world and running strong since the early ’90s, this multi-weekend event is full of pool and dance parties, not to mention an epic comedy fest – it’s so in-demand that it has attracted A-list celebrity performers such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Whistler Pride and Ski Festival

British Columbia, Canada (24 – 31 January 2021)

What began as a weekend winter gathering 29 years ago, has transformed into a weeklong event bringing together the LGBTIQ community for one of the biggest gay ski weeks in North America – packed with skiing and snowboarding alongside social and arts events, indoor pool parties and plenty of music and dancing. The festivities traditionally end with the Snowball closing party, which sees performers take to the stage to entertain crowds til the wee hours of the morning.

Whistler Pride and Ski Festival
Whistler Pride and Ski Festival

International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival

Dublin, Republic of Ireland (May 2021)

Each May, this festival celebrates the best of the LGBTIQ theatre scene in the home town of gay icon, Oscar Wilde. While the focus of this event is predominantly Irish, theatre companies from around the globe participate in showcasing their work at a variety of events. You’ll find everything from free to ticketed shows including musicals, drama, comedy and cabaret-style performances – hosted in creative spaces across Dublin over the space of two weeks.

Rainbow Ball

Vienna, Austria (23 January 2021)

If you love the refinement and beauty of the Viennese waltz, put on your black tie or ball gown and visit Austria for the Wiener Regenbogenball (aka the Rainbow Ball). The event kicks off the year each January with glace and glamour, and is ultimately the gay highlight of Vienna’s popular ball season. The Rainbow Ball brings together more than 1,500 guests (both the queer community and allies) in their finest attire to waltz the night away at the Parkhotel Schönbrunn – it’s not just a spectacular night out, but also sees funds raised for a variety of LGBTIQ charities.

Rainbow Ball
Vienna Rainbow Ball © Wiener Regenbogenbal

Gay Games

Various cities worldwide (November 2022)

Like the Olympics, the quadrennial Gay Games take place in various host cities around the globe, attracting thousands of spectators and competitors in a variety of sporting events. Politically, the games have been leading the way for many athletes exempt from qualifying and competing in the Olympic Games for being transgendered or HIV positive (Olympic anti-doping polices can often prevent athletes on a variety of medications from participating). The Games have also pioneered the way for many women in sport by expanding categories for female participants that (up until very recently) the Olympics did not offer.

In 2018, Paris hosted the Games, showcasing nearly 40 sports, an academic conference and cultural events bringing together more than 10,000 participants from 91 countries. For its 11th Games in 2022, Hong Kong (the first city in Asia to host the event) has been announced as the host city with 36 competitive sports confirmed. Brisbane is also currently making a bid to host the 2026 games.

GLAAD Media Awards

New York, USA (30 July 2021)

This ticketed awards night, now in its 31st year, recognises those in various areas of the media (television, film, theatre, music, publishing, sport) for their contributions to fair and accurate representation of the LGBTIQ+ community. GLADD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) hosts the event each year, traditionally in New York. But this year, the event took place online, streamed from Los Angeles with tributes to famous names such as director Ryan Murphy, musician Taylor Swift and actress Judith Light.

Read: The safest countries to visit if you are a LGBTQ+ traveller

Gay Games opening ceremony
Gay Games opening ceremony © Koji Kowano

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Lead image: A couple at the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival