7 Best Gay Festivals Beyond the Summer

June’s LGBT Pride celebrations are long gone and beach season is coming to a rapid close. So that unfortunately means that gay-friendly destinations such as Provincetown, Fire Island, and others across the country will soon go into hibernation for the winter...but don’t panic! These seven LGBT festivals can cure even the worst case of Seasonal Affective Disorder and satiate your wanderlust (and other forms of lust) at the same time.

Southern Decadence in New Orleans, LA

Image courtesy of EgOiStE.

Image courtesy of EgOiStE.

Dates: September 4-7

Party-hearty New Orleans doesn’t take Labor Day weekend sitting down. Since 1972, the city has hosted Southern Decadence, one of the country’s largest gay bashes. Culminating in a massive Sunday parade, the party takes over the legendary French Quarter for the weekend, and much of the action centers on the Bourbon Pub & Parade. If you miss this year’s events, the bar is New Orleans' only gay establishment that stays open 24/7 all year long.

Hotel Pick: The Saint Hotel Autograph Collection has sleek, urban-chic rooms right off of Bourbon Street, plus a rooftop bar with sweet views across New Orleans. It’s one of our top luxury picks in New Orleans.

International Bears Week in Sitges, Spain

Image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo

Image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo

Dates: September 4-13

Want a dose of fuzzy Catalan flavor to kick off those longer autumn nights? Sitges -- Spain’s iconic, seaside gay resort town -- hosts International Bears Week. “Bear Village” overtakes the town’s beachside paseo with 5,000 visitors embracing the furry side of LGBT life. Even if bears and leather aren’t your thing, the beach and scene in Sitges are alone worth the trip. As a bonus, Barcelona is an easy one-hour train ride away. 

Hotel PicksSince the party can be found at the clubs, on the beach, and in the streets, a comfortable, simple room will do. Try the Hotel Galeon, or its sister property, the Hotel Platjador, both of which are right in the center of town and offer boutique charms at reasonable rates.

Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, CA

Image courtesy of Tim Bartel

Image courtesy of Tim Bartel

Date: September 27

Spread over 14 city blocks, this outdoor bash isn’t for the faint of heart. Nearly half a million revelers flood Folsom Street, from Eighth to 13th Streets, every year for this often explicit, fetish-heavy outdoor party. This is a clothing-optional event and that allowance is whole-heartedly taken up by attendees and performers alike. There’s plenty of food and booze available, not to mention sex toys, and adult film stars are on hand to remind the world why they’re famous...or, often as the case may be, infamous.

Hotel Picks: For a playful place to rest try The Buchanan, which has quirky Japanese pop culture-inspired rooms. The W San Francisco is also one of our top San Fran picks. It’s a bit closer to the Folsom action in the city’s trendy SoMa District.

Whistler Pride and Ski Festival in British Columbia, Canada

Image courtesy of Ruth Hartnup

Image courtesy of Ruth Hartnup

Dates: January 23-31

One of North America’s premier ski resorts, the mountains at Whistler are thrown open for LGBT partiers in January. The week-long party draws over 3,000 ski and snowboard enthusiasts, and there are nightly events for all tastes within the LGBT spectrum. The celebration also features culinary festivities, winter sports lessons, and, of course, plenty of time on the slopes.

Hotel Pick: The Aava Whistler Hotel is the event’s official hotel and its cozy, contemporary rooms (and heated outdoor pool and hot tub) make for perfect spots to rest pre- and post-party.

Miami Winter Party in South Beach, FL

Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes

Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes

Dates: March 2-7

10,000 barely clothed bodies dancing on the beach? Yes, please. This event started in 1994 and is a major fundraiser for South Floridan and national LGBT causes. With a roster of super-famous DJs and six nights of events, the Winter Party is the perfect way to bid adieu to the cold weather. Plus, South Beach has plenty of entertainment, art, and sunshine for those who need a break from the party.

Hotel Pick: For a major splurge, the Asian-inspired, minimalist elegance of The Setai Miami Beach is about as gorgeous as it gets. It’s one of TripAdvisor’s top Miami hotels.

Sydney Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia

Image courtesy of Charlie Brewer

Image courtesy of Charlie Brewer

Date: March 5

What started as a protest in 1978 has turned into one of the most unique LGBT parades in the world. The party starts when the sun goes down, as bright lights, cheers, and pounding from over 10,000 marchers and floats begin to make their way up Oxford Street, through the Sydney's Darlinghurst neighborhood. The bars up and down Oxford Street spill over all weekend, and the post-parade party -- which sells out in advance -- hosts up to 20,000 revelers until the sun rises the next morning.

Hotel Pick: For a bright boutique option right in Darlinghurst, check out the Medusa Hotel.

The White Party in Palm Springs, CA

Image courtesy of Jason King

Image courtesy of Jason King

Dates: April 8-11

This iconic bash draws nearly 30,000 partiers every year. One of the world’s top circuit parties, events run all weekend and yes, white is the preferred dress code at most of the events. Sunday’s T Dance is one of the world’s largest afternoon dance parties and features a ferris wheel and fireworks. 

Hotel Picks: For a tranquil, sexy break from the fun, try the Mediterranean villa-style rooms at the Korakia Pensione. To embrace your inner hipster, check out the ever-trendy and party-hearty Ace Hotel and Swim Club.

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