by Antoinette Bierman
While most Gay Pride festivals take place over summer, Atlanta is fixing to add a little spookiness to its LGBT festivities this year as it moves Pride to Halloween weekend. The festival returns to Piedmont Park after a dismal stint at the Civic Center in 2008, and the weekend-long celebration is sure to live up to high expectations. Below are my tips for the best events during Pride.
If you’re traveling from out of town there are numerous Atlanta hotels to choose from with gay-friendly accommodations located close to the festivities. The W Atlanta Midtown is adjacent to the park and offers a chic, urban atmosphere. If you prefer the quaint and unique environment of a boutique hotel, consider the Hotel Indigo located across from the Fabulous Fox Theatre. For travelers who want to stay in the heart of downtown Atlanta the Glenn Hotel features a rooftop bar and a short walk to the Georgia Aquarium.
PARTIES, PARADES & ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment is always exciting at Atlanta Pride, but the earlier you arrive, you can maximize your time checking out everything that the Pride Committee has planned. Check out Stride Into Pride, a weekly bar crawl Wednesday nights through Oct. 28; and be sure to check the updated bar schedule at atlantapride.org for the specific details on which bars the crawl will hit.
If you can’t get to Atlanta for the weekly bar crawls, you’ll definitely want to slide out of work early on Friday, Oct. 30, for the Official Pride Kickoff Party at The Georgia Aquarium from 6:30 p.m.to 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door and include special after-hours aquarium viewing, cash bar and music by DJ Martin Fry.
Numerous bands are scheduled to perform on the Pride stages throughout the weekend, including God-des & She, The Starlight Cabaret and headliner Blake Lewis. You can’t beat the price: Weekend entertainment at Piedmont is free during the festival.
Nightlife is sure to be interesting. With Pride and Halloween falling on the same weekend, the fashion forecast is totally up in the air and local bars will host their own parties and special events. Popular gay bars like Blake’s On the Park (www.blakesontheparkatlanta.com ) and Mary’s (www.marysatlanta.com ) are local favorites and likely to be even more entertaining during the busy Pride weekend festivities.
The Pride Parade always draws a crowd in Atlanta and is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1. Although the committee is still finalizing the route, rumor has it that the parade is likely to begin near the Civic Center Marta station and will end at Piedmont Park off of 10th Street. Check the Atlanta Pride Web site for route updates so you can be sure to find a convenient spot to take in the parade.
Be sure to take time to check out Pride Market, taking place both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the park. Local vendors and organizations representing the greater Atlanta LGBT community will be there and it will be a great opportunity to shop, mingle, network and get involved in the community.
Even though the festival is free, keep in mind that you will see volunteers asking for donations. Atlanta Pride partners with local non-profits to reinvest in the community and 50 percent of donations go directly back to these partners, while the remaining 50 percent is retained by Atlanta Pride to fund future festivals. So think about giving back—and don’t forget your spare change or spare cash when you head down to Piedmont Park for this year’s Atlanta Pride 2009.
Antoinette Bierman is a Market Manager for Orbitz Worldwide. She is “Southerner” at heart and a “West Coaster” by birth who loves to travel, especially on road trips where she can be joined by her very active and very high-maintenance 4-legged friends.