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Plenty of Reasons to Enjoy Springtime in Orlando

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday April 28, 2022
Originally published on April 19, 2022

Plenty of Reasons to Enjoy Springtime in Orlando

There's never any shortage of fantastic reasons to visit Orlando — and as its top spot on ParkSleepFly.com's 2021 US LGBTQ+ Travel Index attests, Florida's global theme park capital is also a tolerant and accepting city with a large LGBTQ+ population. This spring, Orlando is serving up even more to love for LGBTQ+ travelers, from plentiful Pride Month parties to copious queer cultural attractions.

Gay Days in Orlando
Gay Days in Orlando  (Source: GayDays)

More Than Proud

Even prior to Pride Month in June, Orlando hosts a number of inclusive spring events geared specifically to LGBTQ+ folks. On April 28th, the 11th annual Big Boy Pride comes to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld, an annual four-day event celebrating "urban debonair Big Brothas of color and the men who admire them," and featuring a full slate of club nights, pool parties, live entertainment and workshops.

Orlando starts celebrating Pride Month a day early on May 31 with the launch of its wildly popular GayDays, a huge roster of great LGBTQ+-specific events running through June 6 at various theme parks and locations around town. Debuting more than three decades ago as an unofficial meetup of gay visitors to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, GayDays has blossomed into one of the most vibrant yearly events on the American queer calendar. Numerous GayDays parties, expos and games will be centered at this year's host hotel, the Avanti Palms Resort Orlando, in addition to LGBTQ+ outings to the area's most popular theme parks.

Since GayDays is mostly for the boys, Girls in Wonderland now caters to female members of the LGBTQ+ community with a long weekend of parties, special performances and celebrity appearances that run from June 2 to 6.

Attendees at One Magical Weekend in 2019 in Orlando
Attendees at One Magical Weekend in 2019 in Orlando  (Source: EDGE Media Network)

Happening over those same dates will be One Magical Weekend, an always-popular lineup of early June gay Orlando party nights that this year includes Friday's Riptide at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Waterpark, Saturday's RED Volume V VARSITY at House Of Blues at Disney Springs, and Sunday's Wig Party at Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort. For bears, cubs, chubs and chasers, the Tidal Wave Party roster from June 2 to 5 is centered at B Resort and Spa, and includes pool parties, dances, Beararaoke and a Bear Market, as well as the aforementioned Riptide party.

June 4 is commemorated at Magic Kingdom as RED Shirt Pride Day, inspired by the original few dozen "kindred spirits" who met at Magic Kingdom in 1991, founding the juggernaut that's now known as GayDays. Also on June 4, the 6th annual CommUNITY Rainbow Run and Family Festival will benefit the onePULSE Foundation and the National Pulse Memorial & Museum, honoring the lives of those affected by the Pulse nightclub tragedy. That heartbreak will also be commemorated on June 12 with the annual Pulse Remembrance Ceremony, traditionally taking place at the Pulse Interim Memorial, and designed to spread messages of love, unity, acceptance, courage and strength throughout the community.

A sample of treats and offering from SeaWorld
A sample of treats and offering from SeaWorld  

It's a Spring World

Orlando's theme parks host a number of special events throughout the year, and this spring is no exception. Universal Studios Florida's Mardi Gras will run through April 24, a family-friendly version of the iconic New Orleans bash including a nighttime parade and star-studded live concerts. Every weekend through May 8, SeaWorld Orlando presents its Seven Seas Food Festival, with more than 50 fresh global cuisine choices offered throughout the park to pair with over 75 wine and cocktail selections and 75 craft beers, alongside live performances. Through July 4, Walt Disney World Resort welcomes spring with the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, featuring elaborate gardens, incredible topiaries, living sculptures, outdoor kitchens, and nightly musical entertainment.

Melissa Etheridge and Wanda Sykes, part of the line-up at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this spring.
Melissa Etheridge and Wanda Sykes, part of the line-up at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this spring.  

Spring into Culture

Though it sometimes surprises visitors, locals know that Orlando is a hotbed of great culture — and much of it will especially appeal to LGBTQ+ visitors this spring. The fantastic Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, located in downtown Orlando, will host concerts by Melissa Etheridge on May 1 (at Steinmetz Hall) and Wanda Sykes on May 12 (at Walt Disney Theater), among its vast lineup of spring offerings.

The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival — aka Orlando Fringe — is the longest-running Fringe theatre festival in the United States, and will take place this year from May 17 to 30 in Loch Haven Park just north of downtown. Numerous queer-themed shows are already on the 2022 Orlando Fringe roster, including "The Gay 90's Musical," "God Is a Scottish Drag Queen," "I Favor My Daddy: A Tale of Two Sissies", "Spooky & Gay Cabaret," and "The Complete Works of Stephen Sondheim [abridged]."

Also in Loch Haven Park, the Orlando Museum of Art is currently hosting "Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat," "The Thaddeus Mumford, Jr. Venice Collection," a rare showing of 25 paintings created in 1982 while Basquiat was living temporarily in Los Angeles.

Famed for its art nouveau holdings, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in downtown Orlando is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows, and his chapel interior from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The museum's spring calendar includes free admission and live music on Friday evenings throughout April.

More info about LGBTQ+ attractions in Orlando and events throughout the year can be found at VisitOrlando.com/LGBTQ, as well as Visit Orlando's frequently updated calendar of events.

Dan Allen covers travel and LGBTQ culture for numerous outlets around the world including NBC Out, CBS Watch!, the Los Angeles Blade, Passport and Fodor's.