May 16, 2019 at 11:15 am PDT | by John Paul King
36 Hours in Long Beach

Big Freedia will perform at Long Beach Pride. (Photo courtesy Long Beach Pride)

Since it began in 1984, Long Beach Pride has always been big. It’s an opportunity for LGBTQ folk to converge for a weekend by the sea, to enjoy drinks, food, more drinks, and a diverse variety of fabulous entertainment. Who could resist that?

Held every year during the next to last weekend in May, the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival and Parade now attracts more than 80,000 participants over the two-day celebration. If you’re planning on being one of them during this year’s event, which takes place May 18-19 at 450 Shoreline Drive, you’ll want to make sure you experience the best the festival – and the city – have to offer. Whether you like to plot out a detailed itinerary or you just want to go with the flow, here’s a list of highlights that might come in handy while charting your course.

1. The Parade. Since 1995, more than 200 marching groups and floats have participated in the Parade, representing various religious, human service, governmental and social organizations, and now attracts over 42,000 people along scenic Ocean Boulevard to view the array of performers and entries that support LGBT+ Equality.  It takes place on Sunday morning, stepping off at 10:30am to begin a march that begins at Lindero Street, passing by a review stand across from Bixby Park on its way to parade’s end at Alamitos Avenue. This year’s Grand Marshalls are Kate Linder, Delta Work, Megan Kerr, Karina Samala, Mario Ernesto Gonzalez, Oliver Nieto, and Equality California.  Announcers include Cory Allen, LaDawn Best and Missy Vee.  “Orange is the New Black” actor Brad William Henke will be riding in the parade in support of the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.  A pre-parade show will take place at the Parade Grandstand located on Ocean Blvd between Cherry Avenue and Junipero Avenue.

2. The Block Party. Sabrina La Blanc’s Block Party “Stonewall Edition” is a collaboration of multiple artists coming together to celebrate the LBGTQ community as a whole, but especially highlighting the transgender community and their contributions toward LGBTQ rights. Through uplifting and impactful performances, speakers and honorable mentions, Sabrina La Blanc’s Block Party “Stonewall Edition” will be a celebration you won’t want to miss. Taking place 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Nissan Stage, and featuring Ada Vox, Sean Vaughn Carter and DJ Spark, among a host of other performers and participants.

3. The Fun Zones. If you are coming to Pride with your family, you might want to know about the festival’s Fun Zones. The Family Fun Zone is open 11-5 both days, a special place inside the festival where families can come together to enjoy a fun-filled weekend with their children. Each year a diverse group of community partners and volunteers bring creative ideas that capture the imagination of the children in a safe and self-affirming environment, with activities ranging from face painting to arts and crafts, from photo ops to games.  An adult must accompany children. This year, for the second time, there will also be a Senior Fun Zone, a dedicated space where seniors will be welcomed, honored, respected and loved – and also dance, sing karaoke, play games or just relax and explore the opportunities to make new friends.  Senior guests are encouraged to park in the convention center parking area; seniors with mobility challenges will be picked up at the gate and escorted to the Senior Fun Zone area.

4. The Entertainment. If music and dancing are your thing, there’s no shortage to choose from. With performers scheduled across multiple stages throughout the course of the festival’s two days, you’re sure to find something that fits into your own personal groove. Ada Vox and Big Freedia are slated to headline on the Nissan Stage; Brandon Stansell and DJ Rick will appear on the country stage; DJ Lez Lee and the Alien Dance Band are on deck at the Dance Stage; and the Estrella Jalisco Stage will feature Pablo Montero and Diana Reyes. There’s also a continuing lineup of acts gracing the stages all day, each day, so be sure and check for a complete list and schedule of performance times.

5. Queer Long Beach. Locals are well aware, but many first-time visitors to the area might be surprised to find a thriving and visible LGBTQ presence in the city, even outside the festival grounds. From LGBTQ-focused shops and restaurants, to a diverse selection of local entertainment options, to historic queer spaces to visit and enjoy, there’s plenty to experience either before or after your daily visit to Pride. For instance, there’s Ripples, the iconic seaside dance bar once known for its “cruisy” parking lot (we can’t say if it still lives up to the legends), along with other longtime queer nightspots, like Mine Shaft, the Falcon, the Silver Fox, and the Executive Suite (now known as “The Suite”) on PCH; or you can take a walk down 4th Street’s funky “retro row,” where, among other things, you’ll find the Art Theatre, a beautifully restored Streamline Moderne movie house that sits next door to The Center, adjacent to a wine bar and a coffee bar that are both popular with LGBTQ patrons.

6. The Queen Mary. If you’ve never been to Long Beach before – or even if you’ve lived there all your life and never been – you owe it to yourself to take the time for a visit to the city’s best-known landmark. A retired British ocean liner that cruised the high seas from 1936 to 1967, the RMS Queen Mary is now a luxury hotel permanently moored in Long Beach. To set foot upon this magnificently maintained icon of Art Deco style is like stepping into another era, and you’ll feel sure you’re about to bump into a handsome young Cary Grant or strapping young Kate Hepburn as you walk around every corner. The dive into old-school glamour is only part of the attraction though – the Queen Mary plays host to an active schedule of attractions and events year-round, many of which are LGBTQ-themed or -friendly, so paying a visit there is also supporting a business that supports the queer community – a win-win situation, if there ever was one.

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