October may not be the month you associate with Pride, but in Orlando that’s when celebrations are in full swing. From an epic parade to show-stopping performances, there’s something for everyone to enjoy – but what happens when the party’s over? The reality is, most people visiting the Floridian city for Pride will have travelled a long way to do so, meaning it’s important to take advantage of how much Orlando has to offer. Here, GAY TIMES highlights some of the best things you can expect from Pride, as well as some of the sickening activities you can experience during your trip.
What can I expect from Orlando Pride?
As the LGBTQIA+ community faces an array of legislative attacks in Florida, the protest and celebration at the heart of Pride is more important than ever. This is entrenched in Orlando Pride, which serves as a safe space for queer people and their allies to come together in a powerful display of solidarity. Last year’s ‘Stronger Together’ theme kept unity at the forefront, reminding LGBTQIA+ people that they must stay strong in what continues to be a challenging climate.
The march, which is known as The Most Colourful Parade, gives community activists at a grassroots level the chance to have their voices heard as they walk through the gorgeous backdrop of downtown Orlando. It’s one of the most highly anticipated events during Pride in the city, so be aware that parts of the route get very busy so you should arrive early if you want the best view possible. The parade is family-friendly and free to attend, with the added bonus of being very well organised – so you shouldn’t expect to spend much more than an hour or two there.
Orlando Pride also offers up an array of live entertainment from a number of LGBTQIA+ icons and allies. Drag Race legends LaLa Ri and Monét X Change headlined the Diva Stage in 2023, with a number of Orlando-based entertainers including Darcel Stevens, The Les Vixens and House of Cavalli also performing. Meanwhile, the Club Pride Stage saw the crowd in attendance united through art, music and dance by local DJs, bands and artists – something that is sure to be a mainstay at future Orlando Pride celebrations.
One of the best kept secrets of Orlando Pride might just be its marketplace, which gives you the chance to browse goods and services from more than 200 vendors. If you’re visiting from out of town, this is an absolute must as you’re likely to come across food and items that you can’t get at home for very reasonable prices. No ticket is required and it’s walking distance from the day’s main events.
Every year, Come Out with Pride, Inc. – a non-profit that organises and hosts Orlando’s annual LGBTQIA+ celebration – runs an official after party that’s also worth checking out if you want the day to continue long into the night.
Any visit to Orlando for Pride would be incomplete without recognising the city’s LGBTQIA+ history, part of which can be found at Pulse nightclub. The venue has remained closed to the public since 49 lives were tragically lost there in 2016, but its exterior has become a symbol of hope for the city’s community. Tributes to the victims now cover the walls, with messages of solidarity and handwritten notes from loved ones on display. It is open daily and free to attend.
View this post on Instagram
Universal Studios, Walt Disney World and Volcano Bay
Orlando is best known for its theme parks, which people travel from all over the world to attend. The major ones each offer something different, so it’s important to look into each so you pick the best for you if you don’t have time to attend all of them. Remember, you’ll need to dedicate at least a day for a trip to one in order to get your money’s worth.
- Universal Orlando: The perfect destination for thrill seekers and film/television lovers, Universal has everything from rides to unforgettable experiences. If you’re in town for Pride in October, then Halloween Horror Nights will be in full swing and is an absolute must – especially for fans of all things spooky. Express passes save you a lot of time lining up and are definitely worth the extra money. Ticket information can be found here.
- Volcano Bay: If you love water, then Volcano Bay is the place for you. There are an array of attractions to visit, including a lazy river, a peaceful leisure pool (complete with waterfall) and various rides. The best part? Queuing happens virtually as you tap your provided wristband to check in, meaning you can enjoy the rest of Volcano Bay while you wait. Tickets are available here.
- Walt Disney World: Make no mistake, Walt Disney World has something for everyone – whether you’re a Disney gay or not. Magic Kingdom gives you the chance to meet your favourite characters while attending a number of attractions, all complete with unforgettable dining experiences. Epcot is made up of 11 different nations, with new attractions including Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Hollywood Studios features some epic rides, the best of which is the Tower of Terror. Click here for ticket information.
Spend an evening at Universal’s CityWalk
Just outside the gates of Universal Studios is CityWalk, which is an epicentre of all things entertainment, food and drink. These are just some of the things you can explore there:
- Hard Rock Café, a rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant serving American classics that doubles as a concert venue with a sickening roster of performers
- Rising Star, a karaoke bar like no other as you perform on stage with the support of a live band and backup singers
- The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, a restaurant, bar and confectionary where chefs create culinary alchemy with gourmet chocolates, artisanal milkshakes and sumptuous sundaes
- NBC Sports Grill & Brew, complete with almost 100 high-definition screens and more than 100 brews, this is the dream sports-dining experience made a reality
- Universal Legacy Store, a shopping experience where you can get your hands on retro wares and vintage props
Explore the gorgeous Winter Park neighbourhood via foot or boat
Winter Park is an upscale neighbourhood in Orlando known for its beautiful architecture and stunning design. There are plenty of cute boutiques, cafés and restaurants to explore and it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a relaxed morning. Having been founded in the 1800s, Winter Park is Central Florida’s oldest community and is steeped in history – which you can learn more about on a scenic boat tour. Hour-long guided cruises through three lakes and two man-made canals are available, starting at just $20 for adults and $10 for children. Learn more about these here.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Located in Winter Park, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art provides the most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Jewellery, lamps and pottery are scattered throughout the museum, which is complete with an elaborate chapel interior created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The museum was recently expanded and now includes the fully restored Daffodil Terrace from Tiffany’s world-famous Long Island home, which is an unmissable experience – especially for those with a passion for intricate artwork and architecture. The museum is relatively small but has an expansive collection, so you have the option of spending as much or as little time there as you want. There are plenty of lunch spots nearby, including the divine Hamilton’s Kitchen, making it the perfect afternoon excursion. More information can be found here.
Where are some of the best places to eat and drink?
Orlando is home to a number of bars and restaurants that have something for everyone, such as:
- Hamburger Mary’s, an inclusive bar and grill complete with daily entertainment such as drag shows, trivia nights and karaoke
- Southern Nights Orlando, one of the city’s most popular LGBTQIA+ nightclubs
- Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen, an innovative venue with a varied food and drinks menu that has the added bonus of serving the best espresso martinis in town
- SAVOY Orlando, a multi-roomed LGBTQIA+ bar that features dancers, drag shows, billiards and a gorgeous outdoor patio
- Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn, a sophisticated restaurant that fuses locally sourced ingredients with a rustic charm
- BACÁN, an intimate and unique dining experience inspired by the flavours of the Americas
- Pho 88, a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant serving traditional dishes including varieties of pho, bun bo hue, bun rieu, banh mi, stir-fried dishes, rice platters and rice vermicelli noodle bowls
Where should I stay?
There are a variety of places to stay in Orlando, including an array of resort destinations linked to the city’s most popular theme parks. That said, if you’ve made the journey just for Pride, it’s worth staying somewhere that keeps you close to the hustle and bustle of the festivities. With that in mind, GAY TIMES recommends the following hotels:
- AC Hotel Orlando Downtown: This stylish and bougie hotel is located downtown, mere minutes from the main Pride events. Local amenities are nearby and easy to find, as well as a number of bars and restaurants. Spread across eight floors located at the top of the SunTrust Plaza building, guests are also able to access the SkyBar Rooftop Terrace (complete with 360° city views and incredible cocktails), the Foxtail Coffee Café and the Bumby Arcade Food Hall with ease. There’s the added perk of a free gym, which is small but has everything you need and never appeared to be overly busy. Prices start from £159.54 per night.
- Lake Nona Wave Hotel: Despite being slightly further out, Lake Nona Wave Hotel offers a luxury stay like no other. Located near Orlando International Airport, it’s perfect if your visit to the city is a brief one and still offers easy access to theme parks and downtown via taxi. The hotel is the centrepiece of the immaculate Lake Nona area and is an experience powered by innovative technology, with the ability to control your room via a tablet or a downloadable app. You’ll have access to complimentary bicycle rental, as well as the Lake Nona Performance Club – a state of the art facility where you can do everything from rock climbing to fitness classes. Prices start from £239.37 per night.