Florida's westernmost city, Pensacola is near the tip of the state's northwest panhandle and has long had a reputation as a religiously conservative Navy town as well as a popular family resort area. If this doesn't sound like an obvious destination for gay and lesbian travelers, it isn't - at least most of the year. But the area has developed an increased gay following over the years, and furthermore, in late May, during Memorial Day weekend, Pensacola is the site of one of the nation's larger GLBT gatherings, comprising an array of boisterous and fun parties.
The dates of the next celebration are May 25 to May 30, 2017. Events include the guy-centric five-day Gay Memorial Day Weekend party produced by Ambush Magazine and Emerald City gay bar as well as two events open to all but geared more to the lesbian community, Pensacola Unleashed and Sexacola Beach, the latter being a production of Atlanta's highly popular lesbian bar, My Sister's Room.
Upwards of 200,000 revelers attend the various Pensacola Gay Memorial Day LGBT events in Pensacola Beach, with especially strong attendance from the Atlanta, New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Orlando areas.
An important note if you're planning to visit and party in Pensacola over Memorial Day Weekend: Escambia County (in which Pensacola is located) has passed a Leave No Trace ordinance that requires that all beach gear (meaning chairs, tents, umbrellas, coolers, and so on) must be removed from all area beaches at Sunset every evening. The new regulations are expected to be a real adjustment for out-of-town revelers visiting over Memorial Day Weekend: do yourself and the community a big favor and observe these rules, and remember that you won't be able to camp out on the beach during the weekend.
Details regarding the 2017 will be posted here as information is made public. In the meantime, here's a look back at last year's Pensacola Gay Memorial Day Weekend.
Emerald City Pensacola Memorial Day Weekend
As it has for many years, the city's popular - and very fun - gay nightclub, Emerald City (406 E. Wright St., 850-433-9491), hosted a series of Pensacola Memorial Weekend parties, beginning on Wednesday night and lasting until Monday evening (these included everything from the opening party Drink & Drown party on Wednesday to the SWEAT party hosted on Saturday, by DJ Dani Toro to an underwear party on Sunday, helmed by famed DJ Joe Gauthreaux). A free shuttle bus ran from Portofino at Pensacola Beach to Emerald City each day.
You can learn more about these events here.
Sexacola Beach Memorial Day Weekend
Produced by Atlanta's favorite lesbian hangout My Sister's Room, the highly popular weekend-long women's party Sexacola Beach takes place over four days and consists of several great parties, which are held at Captn Funs Beach Club (400 Quietwater Beach Rd., Gulf Breeze, 850-934-3978), a 15-minute drive south of Pensacola proper, right on the water near Gulf Islands National Seashore. Highlights last year included performances by Shane McCutcheon, Kate Moennig, Bambu Jessica, and Camila Grey, with many other artists and top DJs appearing as well, plus the always-entertaining Sexacola GoGo Dancers.
Pensacola Unleashed Memorial Day Weekend
Also taking place over the weekend is the fast-growing women's music fest, Pensacola Unleashed, which started out as an impromptu party and has become a major part of the weekend, with four nights of concerts at Flounder's Chowder House (800 Quietwater Beach Rd., Gulf Breeze, 850-932-2003), right by the Sexacola Beach venue, Captn Funs Beach Club. Last year's performances were by Kristy Lee, Laci Wright, Anne Cline, Spikey Van Dykey, Mary Contrary, Amanda Jay, and several others.
Pensacola Gay Resources
Pensacola's other fun gay bars (such as the Roundup and The Cabaret), restaurants, hotels, and shops fill up with gay folks during Memorial Day weekend. The organizers of the Emerald City parties have GLBT-friendly hotel information on Pensacola (preferred properties include the Hilton Pensacola Beach, Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach, Paradise Inn Pensacola, and Pensacola Beach RV Resort), and you can also find more GLBT information on the region at Gay Grassroots Northwest Florida. Other resources of note include New Orleans-based Ambush Magazine.
Note that in June, the city and surrounding region also hosts Pensacola Gay Pride in mid- to late June.
For basic travel and tourism information on the region, you can also look to the official tourism organization of the region, Visit Pensacola, which has more about area events over Memorial Day Weekend here,