New York City’s Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade

New York City’s Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade is a huge event that draws a huge crowd – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight! It is actually one of the final events in an entire week of pride activities. Because the event is crowded, and involves the vagueries of dealing with New York at its most chaotic, here are some tips on getting through and enjoying the day.

  1. If you are planning to march in the parade the formation area begins at 52nd and 5th. If you are already involved with a particular group, they will be able to tell you in advance where their formation area is for the parade. If you are looking to find an appropriate group to march in the parade with, you can visit the Heritage of Pride website (linked at the end of this article) to see where various groups are marshalling. Most groups are very open to those that share their affinity marching with them. There are a huge number of groups, and they include marching bands, “dykes on bikes”, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups of every spiritual and ethnic affiliation you can imagine.
  2. If you wish to volunteer the day of the parade, it is important you do so in advance so you can beasigned where you are most needed and get proper training. You can find out how to volunteer at the Heritage of Pride website.
  3. New York’s Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade kicks off from 52nd and 5th and continues down 5th Avenue until 8th Street, at which point it zigzags through the west village (again, the parade route can be found on the Heritage of Pride website). Generally, if you are looking for a good vantage point to watch the parade from, it is best to be north of 14th or even 23rd Street. This part of the parade route tends to have fewer spectators, so you can get a better view.
  4. At 2pm there is always a moment of silence that envelopes the whole parade route to remember those lost to AIDS. Please be aware of this moment and respect it.
  5. When choosing a place to watch the New York’s Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade from, try to position yourself near a store that will let you use their bathrooms. Au Bon Pain will only let you use their’s with a purchase (save your receipt; they will let you go back later). McDonalds, Barnes & Nobles and Starbucks tend to be less strict. All however, run the risk of running out of toilet tissue, and you may want to pack your own.
  6. At the parade expect a long hot day in the sun, so pack and dress accordingly. You’l definitely want sunblock and a hat. And if you’re wise you’ll bring babywipes (or else, you, like me, may wind up with sunblock in your eyes which is not fun at all).
  7. This being New York, food and drinks from street vendors of course get more expensive when events like the Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade are going on. Consider bringing some bottled water and snacks in a napsack or cooler bag. And be sure to bring singles with you for vendors who may run out of change.
  8. After the parade, many people head down to PrideFest, which is largely, but not entirely, where you get to witness major corporations trying to earn gay dollars. There are lots of freebies and samples handed out, and occassionally you’l run into something really cool (like a team of women boxers selling fabulous t-shirts to raise money for their training), but it’s not a must do part of the day, especially if you are attending the Dance on the PIer (save your energy for that! And be sure to have bought your tickets far in advance).
  9. Realize as you enjoy the end of the day in the West Village, that the parade will have caused many streets to be be blocked off. This can be both chaotic and aggravating, especially when trying to get to the subway. Once in the neighborhood, you’re better off finding something to do (there are lots of fabulous restaurants) until most of the parade crowd has cleared out (around dusk).
  10. While many people do bring their pets to pride, do keep in mind that it’s a long, hot crowded day for them too, and it might not be the best place for them.

New York’s Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade is a fun, festive event with a long and important history. Any New Yorker should check it out at least once, and it’s a must-do travel experience for the queer community in general. Realize though it is only one day of a week-long series of events which also includes a rally and women’s dance.

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