Celebrating Gay Pride in Phoenix

Phoenix Pride takes place in the city's modern, and increasingly bustling, downtown. photo by Andrew Collins

One of the earliest major gay pride events in the country, Phoenix Pride takes place in early April. It's perfect timing, given the mild, sunny weather of central Arizona at this time of year.

To give you an idea of what you can expect during the city's Pride celebration, here's a look back at last year's event:

The city's Pride event has become a major draw in recent years, especially as it draws participants and spectators from throughout the fast-growing metro area, including Scottsdale, Mesa, and Glendale, not to mention quite a few LGBT folks from Tucson (which has its own stellar Pride in the Desert parade and celebration in mid-October). About 35,000 people attended Pride last year. Phoenix is also abuzz these days with a rejuvenated downtown that includes a beautiful, efficient light rail service (it runs all the way from northwest Phoenix through downtown and on into Tempe and Mesa) and a number of new or newly renovated restaurants, hotels, and gay bars and nightclubs.

Looking for tips on where to stay during Pride? Check out the Phoenix and Scottsdale Gay Hotels and Resorts Guide

First, although the main events take place Pride weekend, organizers also present the 10 Days of Pride, a series of gatherings and parties that lead up to Pride weekend, beginning a week before. These include a family day, pet pride, the Echo Magazine Reader's Choice Awards, a showing of the movie Homestretch at the Mesa Public Library, and several other prominent events.

Phoenix Pride weekend includes a Pride Parade, held on Sunday, and culminating at the Pride grounds in Steele Indian School Park 10 am along (3rd Street from Thomas Road south to Indian School Road). If you're arriving by light rail, you're best bets are the Thomas Road or Indian School Road stops along Central Avenue.

There will be more than 150 live performances on five stages entertainers at Phoenix Pride performing on several different stages: Bug Light Main Stage (with the main headlining acts), Tish Tanner Community Stage (local speakers, youth performers, and community members), Pride Dance Pavilion (think club tunes), Bistro Stage (a bit mellower on the music - jazz and acoustic), and Pride Metro Stage (a mix of music styles provided by local DJs). You can buy tickets online or, for a bit more, at the gate.

On a related note, during the weekend prior to Pride, the adult porn and erotica emporium Castle Megastore holds the Erotic World festival - the schedule includes waxing demos, "Romantasy Cabaret", exotic dancers, and more. This is a free event, open to those ages 18 and older.

The many gay bars in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as gay-popular restaurants, hotels, and shops, have special events and parties throughout Pride Week. Check local gay papers, such as Echo Magazine for details, as well as the handy AZ Gay Pride Guide. Also take a look at the excellent GLBT site produced by the city's official tourism organization, the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Also note that Phoenix hosts a big LGBT event in mid-October, the Rainbows Festival Street Fair, which takes place in downtown Phoenix's historic Heritage Square Park.