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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 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.

Australian events


Albany Pride Festival

Albany, Western Australia (12 – 27 February)

Following the success of past Albany Pride festivals, this year, the event will bigger than ever (restrictions permitting). Running over two weeks and three weekends the Albany Pride team have an array of festivities planned for WA’s Great Southern region including parties, arts sports and a Fair Day. There are also three shows to look forward to from the Perth Fringe Festival – so if you missed out on the January event, you have a second chance to catch some of the acts. See the line-up.

Port Douglas Hot & Steamy Festival

Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland, Australia (19 – 22 February)

Running through Queensland’s ‘hot and steamy’ month of February, get ready for a jam-packed calendar of events including dance parties, pool parties and special entertainment guests. Think fo the festival as a warm-up to Mardi Gras. Soak up the warm weather on a Sunset Booze Cruise and pool party at Niramaya Villas & Spa. Get dressed up at a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or stay up late for the After Dark Cabaret at Court House Hotel. See the full line-up here.

Port Douglas Hot & Steamy Festival

Port Douglas Hot & Steamy Festival 2020 © Port Douglas Hot & Steamy Festival

Sunshine Coast Mardi Grass

Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia (20-21 February)

The inaugural Sunshine Coast Mardi Gras will be taking place in February to showcase the sunny LGBTIQ+ community and celebrate diversity. The family-friendly event will be hosted at Aussie World by some of the regions top personalities, with a range of performances lined up from drag queens and singers to the Police Marching Band. There will also be local market stalls and activities to keep the kids entertained from 4pm to 7pm. After 7pm, it’s adults-only until midnight. Find out more about the Sunshine Coast Mardi Grass. 

Broome Mardi Gras

Broome, Western Australia (24-28 February)

The Broome Pride 2021 Mardi Gras Festival is returning to WA’s Kimberley region with an exciting line-up of events and massive prizes to be won including the announcement of the annual Kimberley Queen. Taking place at the Mangrove Hotel, events range from dance parties, Drag Queen storytime, Cabaret, Drag Bingo, The Big Splash Pool party and Drag on Fleek where you can get makeup tips from the Queens themselves.

Broome Mardi Gras

Broome Mardi Gras 2020 © Abby Murray Photography

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Sydney, Australia (19 February – 7 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. This will take place on Saturday 6 March 2021.

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

ChillOut Festival 

Victoria, Australia (27 February – 8 March)

ChillOut is Australia’s longest-running regional LGBTQ+ pride festival, set in the pristine Central Highlands. The line-up for their 24th year promises nothing short of family-friendly fabulousness including parties, street parades, performances, wellbeing activities and the famous giant rainbow. The theme this year is, ‘Where the Magic Happens – What’s Your magic?’ so be sure to bring your own kind of magic. Some of the highlights include Enchanted Wine Tours, Queerstories and comedy, Drag Jamboree by Poof Doof, Daylesford Mindfulness and the Virtual Pride Parade. See the full line up here.

Midsumma Festival

Victoria, Australia (19 April – 5 May)

The Midsumma Festival in Victoria celebrates queer arts and culture with nearly 200 events held in over 100 venues across Melbourne. Get prepared for a pinch of lip-syncing, drag dazzling, stellar acts, fine food and a pop-up bar at the Midsumma Carnival. The iconic Midsumma Dog Show will also be making a return and of course, the Midsumma Pride March. The Midsumma Pride March will take place at Fitzroy St, St Kilda on Sunday 23 May 2021 – the event has been pushed back in accordance with the Victorian Government COVIDSafe guidance.

Newcastle Pride Month

Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia (6-29 August)

August will see Newcastle play host a plethora of events and parties dedicated to celebrating the 2021 pride theme “This is Me”! The line-up of events have been designed to have something for everyone, kids included. Activities to get excited about are the Big Gay Cabaret, AFL Pride Cup & Mas’queer’ade Youth Formal,  Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lake Macquarie Family Bike Ride & Pride, Pipers Music Trivia & Dance Parties and Eat to the Beat & Timberlina’s Drag Off.

International events


Club Skirts Dinah Shore

Palm Springs, California, USA (5-10 May or 16 – 21 September 2021 – depending on restrictions)

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.

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