San Diego, L.A., and San Francisco might throw the largest and most famous gay pride celebrations in California, but don't overlook some of the state's smaller cities. San Luis Obispo and Central Coast Gay Pride is an impressive festival in early to mid-July, drawing significant crowds, offering plenty to see and do, and hosting some terrific entertainment, including actor and comedian Hal Sparks of Queer As Folk fame.
Central Coast Pride, which was begun in 1996, takes place in July - dates this year are July 8 through 10, 2016, and the festivities take place right in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo.
If you're looking for a fun road-trip idea, consider making the beautiful drive 80 miles down the coast to Santa Barbara County. The entire drive down the coast is lovely, and there are plenty of superb wineries to stop by along the way, especially around the small towns of Solvang, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos. Santa Barbara Gay Pride used to be held around the same time as SLO Pride, but it now takes place in late August (on August 27, in 2016).
The attractive, sunny college town of San Luis Obispo is a 3.5-hour drive south of San Francisco and a 3-hour drive north of Los Angeles. Pride celebrations here center around a handful of events in early to mid-July.
Several events take place the weekend before Pride, including a Pride Art Reception, and a Pride Dance Party.
SLO Pride is also usually centered around a big concert at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center, an event that's sure to draw plenty of LGBT folks to the area.
Some key activities taking place during Central Coast Pride in SLO this year include:
On Friday night, July 8, there are two Drag Divas Live shows at the Grange (2880 Broad St.), just south of downtown SLO. And on Saturday, there's a Platinum Pride dance party at the fabulous restaurant and bar, Luna Red, which is right by the downtown Mission at 1023 Chorro Street.
The big headlining performer in town this year for Pride is Hal Sparks, from Queer as Folk, and he'll be performing July 9 at 8:30 pm at the Fremont Theater, 1035 Monterey Street.
On Sunday, the official Central Coast Pride on the Plaza takes place at downtown's Mission Plaza (near corner of Chorro and Higuera Sts.), from noon through 5:30 pm. There were also local vendors and community organizations, as well as entertainment. The festival was followed by a Pride After Party next door, from 5:30 pm on, at the excellent Novo Restaurant and Lounge.
San Luis Obispo Gay Resources
There's a lot to see and do both in the town of San Luis Obispo County, and farther afield in the county, which includes enchanting coastal communities like Avila Beach and Cambria, fantastic wineries (most of them just outside San Luis Obispo or up in the valley surrounding Paso Robles), and one of the most famous house-museums in the world, Hearst Castle.
See the San Luis Obispo County Gay Guide for a more thorough description of the top attractions and activities for LGBT travelers to the region.
Other useful online guides include the San Luis Obispo Gay Bars and Gay-Friendly Restaurants Guide and the San Luis Obispo Gay Hotels Guide, both of which have additional coverage on Paso Robles, Cambria, Cayucos, and some of the other communities in the region.
Check the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce's online Visitor Guide for advice on where to stay and what to do while in town. For a list of GLBT-friendly businesses in the region, drop by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast webpage. And keep in mind that this is one of the nation's hottest emerging wine-growing areas - there are a number of great vineyards in the region. The San Luis Obispo Vintners Association has a great online map of wineries in the area.