Hampton Roads Gay Pride 2016 - Norfolk Gay Pride 2016

Hampton Roads Pridefest Boat Parade
••• A signature event during the Hampton Roads Pridefest in Norfolk, Virginia is the annual Pride Boat Parade. photo by Andrew Collins

Held in the vibrant and diverse city of Norfolk, which has one of the largest LGBT communities in the state, but also serving and drawing folks from the nearby Chesapeake Bay cities of Virginia Beach, Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake, Hampton Roads Gay Pride takes place in mid- to late June - the date this year, which is a week earlier than last year, is June 17 and 18, 2016.

Held primarily in and around the historic maritime city of Norfolk, Hampton Roads Pridefest is unusual in that it's one of the only such gatherings in the world to host a Pride Parade on the water.

Taking place at noon on Saturday, June 18, the Hampton Roads Pridefest Boat Parade is a huge crowd-pleaser, during which thousands line the waterfront to watch boats of all shapes and sizes, most of them festooned with rainbow flags, form a waterfront procession. Other events on this main day of Pridefest include an afternoon festival at the Norfolk waterfront's Town Point Park (W. Main St. at Waterside Dr.) that includes performances by a wide range of music acts throughout the day and early evening. This year's headlining act is synthpop singer-songwriter Betty Who. 

The other huge major event of Hampton Roads Pride is the Friday-night (June 17) Pride Block Party, held from 7 pm until midnight and taking place in Ghent around 20th Street and Llewellyn Avenue. There's dancing to a DJ, great food, and plenty of revelry. 

Throughout the week leading up to the big events, there are also several other related Hamptons Pride events, including a kickoff party on Sunday, June 12, followed by a movie night, Pride interfaith celebration, at least one other gathering each night.

Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach Gay Scenes

Hampton Roads comprises the area of coastal Virginia where the Elizabeth, Nansemond, and James rivers all empty in Chesapeake Bay as well as where the bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It's one of the Mid-Atlantic coast's largest metro regions, with a combined population of 1.7 million people, and its key cities include Virginia Beach (450,000), Norfolk (250,000), Chesapeake, (235,000), Newport News (185,000), and Hampton (140,000).

Of these, although Virginia Beach is larger and has one of the state's more popular LGBT bars, the Rainbow Cactus Company, Norfolk has by far the largest and most conspicuous and connected gay scene as well as several gay bars. In particular, the historic Ghent neighborhood is a particularly popular place for LGBT folks in Norfolk to live and play.

Norfolk, Virginia Gay Resources

Although the Chesapeake Bay region isn't served by a specific LGBT newspaper, the Hampton Roads Pride organization does have a very handy page listing an extensive network of resources and groups around the area. There's also Hampton Roads Q-Matrix, an LGBT Resource Directory on the area. Another helpful site is the directory of Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR), the region's LGBT chamber of commerce. Last but not least, VEER Magazine is a great alternative arts and entertainment publication on the entire Hampton Roads area that's filled with tips on dining, nightlife, concerts, and more - it's quite strong on LGBT coverage, too.

One very useful site is Visit Norfolk Today, which is produced by the city's official tourism organization and includes tips on where to stay, top attractions, and so on. Of broader use, if you're planning to explore the region, are the state tourism office's web pages on Hampton Roads.

Less than two hours away in Virginia's capital city, you'll also find a quite sizable and lively LGBT scene. Check out the Richmond Gay Nightlife Guide for ideas about where to go out and socialize in that city. Other helpful resources there include GayRVA.com, an LGBT website on the city, and the Gay Community Center of Richmond