Washington DC

How to Celebrate Pride Month in DC

Support LGBTQ nonprofits and local drag queens.

Capital Pride
Capital Pride
Capital Pride

After celebrations were forced to go digital last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the LGBTQ community is more than ready for a full month of in-person celebrations. 

Luckily, we’re getting just that, as vaccinations continue to be distributed throughout the city and the doors to our favorite bars and restaurants begin to swing back open. For those who don’t yet feel comfortable in a crowd, plenty of online events will be taking place this month, too.

“As it becomes safer for us to gather together once again, we hope that everyone will join the Capital Pride Alliance in 2021, as we celebrate our community and continue the important work that we’ve committed ourselves to,” said Ryan Bos, the Alliance’s Executive Director. “Whether you plan on celebrating virtually or in person, our upcoming events provide safe and creative ways to honor our local traditions while taking into account varying levels of personal comfort.”

While fun events are popping up all month long, there are a few dates to keep your eye on, like Friday, June 11 when large venues in DC are able to resume normal operations at full capacity. Capital Pride is taking full advantage, hosting an in-person Capital Pride Honors event at Compass Coffee in Ivy City followed by a party. You’ll want to don your best rainbow fits for events like the Taste of Pride Brunch and the pup-friendly PAWrade, so keep reading to get the full scoop on the best DC Pride events taking place in 2021 and how to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month and beyond.

Courtesy of 3 Stars Brewing Company
Courtesy of 3 Stars Brewing Company
Courtesy of 3 Stars Brewing Company

Grab drinks and celebrate

Noticeably absent from last year’s festivities was any opportunity for in-person drinking. Make up for lost time with some boozy Pride events this June, like those happening at local breweries. Red Bear Brewing is hosting Pride Month Movie Nights every Thursday, starting with the documentary Paris is Burning, and 3 Stars Brewing is throwing a party on June 13 with a live DJ and drag performances. For those looking to celebrate with their four-legged best friends, dog-friendly beer garden Bark Social in Bethesda is hosting a PAWrade and canine costume contest on June 12 with proceeds being donated to local nonprofit MoCo ReConnect.

Beloved tavern and beer garden Hook Hall stepped it up last year to donate meals through Hook Hall Helps, and now they’re raising funds for the Capital Pride Alliance and other local organizations through their weekly Hooked on Capital Pride events every Wednesday. Expect drink specials, music and celebration of all things LGBTQ. 

Participate in classic Capital Pride events

The main event will still take in a different form than usual this year, with the introduction of the Pridemobile Parade. On June 12, a colorful trolley will roll through DC neighborhoods to celebrate Pride, followed by registered automobiles that individuals and businesses will most likely deck out for the occasion. 

The night before at Compass Coffee Ivy City will be the Capital Pride Honors, which honors activists in and for the LGBTQ community. Though the ceremony will take place in person, tickets are limited for safety and include hors d’oeuvres and dessert stations as well as a very reasonably priced open bar.

Courtesy of Georgetown, DC
Courtesy of Georgetown, DC
Courtesy of Georgetown, DC

Enjoy queer art

For those looking to balance their bar nights with some other activities, there are plenty of opportunities around the city all June long to celebrate queer artists and their spectacular work. Installation artist Stephanie Mercedes will be speaking about her collaboration with Georgetown GLOW called “The Weight of a Rainbow” on June 12. The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria will also be hosting their own ALX Pride event on June 11, which will showcase new art including an installation called “UHAULED” by Virginia-based artist Cat Baker. Inside five U-Haul trucks, visitors can find artwork from local queer and lesbian artists. 

If you’re staying at home this month there’s still plenty of art to be experienced, like the 40th anniversary of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC. The choral group will be hosting a huge virtual concert featuring performances filmed in iconic DC locations such as the Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Supreme Court. The at-home celebrations continue on June 18th with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which is offering printable bingo cards featuring artwork by queer artists for a Virtual Drag Bingo night hosted by drag queen KC B. Yoncé. 

Check out drag performances around the city

Pride Month is simply not complete without celebrating the art of drag. Fortunately there will be plenty of opportunities this June, like at a brand new exhibition hosted by Dupont Underground and The Washington Blade, paying respect to the tradition of drag performances in DC and highlighting the history of drag. Experience the exhibition between June 4 and June 27 each weekend.

You can support your local drag queens and kings from home, too, at Flame: Rising From the Ashes of COVID presented by Queen City Kings Drag, which will feature sixteen “drag kings, queens, and in-betweens” on Twitch on June 6. 

We promise you won’t be hushed if you also tune in on June 12 to Drag Family Story Time organized by the DC Public Library, a family friendly virtual event for which local drag performers will read children’s stories to “celebrate Pride as a family.” Keep the ball rolling the next day with another virtual drag show put on by lesbian bar A League of Her Own, hosted by Ophelia Diamonds.

Courtesy of Dirty Habit DC
Courtesy of Dirty Habit DC
Courtesy of Dirty Habit DC

Brunch for a good cause

Sunday, June 13 marks the first-ever Taste of Pride Brunch, when a group of restaurants around the city will be celebrating Pride Month with drink and food specials and entertainment. Proceeds from the event will go to the GivePride365 Fund which benefits local LGBTQ charities.  

You can also get your brunch on at Dirty Habit DC all month long as they’ll be hosting a weekly series called Colors of the Rainbow featuring specific color-themed food and beverage options-we say why not celebrate every color? A portion of proceeds from the drinks and menu items will go to the Human Rights Campaign and a Place Called Home.

SMYAL
SMYAL
SMYAL

Educate yourself and support LGBTQ organizations

Aside from all the celebrations, Pride Month is also an important time to pay respects to the LGBTQ community members and activists who paved the way. Educational events are a great way to learn more about LGBTQ history, like the Washington Blade Describe-a-Thon on June 12, when they team up with the DC Public Library to discuss the library’s ongoing project of digitizing all past issues of the queer magazine. Rainbow Warriors: A Century of LGBTQ+ Womxn Activists is another virtual event, exploring “100 years of fierce LGBTQ+ womxn activists through primary documents from The Library of Congress, Lesbian Herstory Archives, and pop culture.”

Another way to get involved is by donating. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you decide to fork some of your own hard-earned cash over to contribute to a worthy cause, it matters where those dollars end up. Your best bet for really stretching those contributions, even the smaller ones, is by donating to a well-trusted local organization.

An amazing place to start is with DC-based nonprofits like Casa Ruby, the only LGBTQ bilingual and multicultural organization in the area that provides social services and programs catering to the most vulnerable.

Another local organization is SMYAL, or Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders. The organization not only provides leadership development opportunities for LGBTQ teens, but also after-school programs and counseling services designed to empower and educate. Additionally, SMYAL spearheads education and training programs for youth service providers working in schools, runaway shelters, local government agencies, and hospitals.

Don’t forget about the organization that’s putting all of these Pride events together, either. Donate to Capital Pride Alliance to help support its mission of diverse programming and events, not just during the month of June but year-round for the LGBTQ community.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen covers dining and lifestyle for Thrillist and InsideHook, as well as equality and accessibility for The Hill. She’s just as proud to call herself a cat mom to Butter as she is to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Washington DC

15 Totally Free Things to Do in DC

A full itinerary, completely free of charge.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Washington DC is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and for those of us who call the District home, it’s easy to see why. With dozens of world-class museums, murals that transform streets into galleries, and sites brimming with history, DC offers a full agenda-completely free of charge. Whether you want to try a new farmer’s market, explore a new hike, or polish off your roller skating or canoeing skills, here are some of our favourite free things to do in the District.

Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco

Hike, bike, or stroll along the C&O Canal

The historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is one of the most accessible nature escapes from the District. Thanks to a multi-year restoration project, the first mile of the canal is an idyllic walk that’s easy to access in Georgetown. Stick to a short stroll there, or grab a bike or lace up your hiking shoes for a longer adventure along the 184.5-mile canal.

Jump on the pickleball craze

Pickleball is working its way up the ladder past kickball and softball as one of America’s favourite games. Jump on the craze and practice your paddling at one of the District’s pickleball courts in Takoma Park, the Palisades, and more. Plus, Washington DC Pickleball invites guests to drop in to beginner sessions to try their hand at the sport before signing up for a $30 annual membership.

Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion

Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is incredibly bike-friendly, and luckily that applies to the land immediately outside of the city as well. Start in the city and bike along the Mount Vernon Trail, a scenic route that hugs the water and cuts through the woods. It’s about a 10-mile trip from DC to Mount Vernon, but you can cut the trip slightly short and end at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront-just make sure to factor in time for ice cream before pedalling home.

Explore a sculpture park

While not located in the District proper, Glenstone, an expansive sculpture park in Maryland, is worth the 45-minute drive. Tickets to the park are free (just be sure to reserve several weeks in advance), and the 300-acre space offers stunning art, architecture, and open land. In addition to its indoor gallery spaces, you can spend hours walking on paths that wind through sculptures, meadows, and forests.

Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston

See the monuments at night

When the sun goes down-and the summer humidity somewhat dissipates-head to the National Mall for the rare chance to see the monuments without busloads of tourists. Moonlight will give you a different perspective as you traverse the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial or gaze up at the Washington Monument set aglow with lights.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Museum hop the day away

One of DC’s greatest strengths is its world-class Smithsonian museums that are open to the public free of charge. There is no shortage of options, from the intimate Renwick Gallery, to the sprawling National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonians offer something for everyone. Pro tip: Some of the museums are open late in the evenings, making for an ideal date night.

muralsdc
muralsdc
muralsdc

Explore the city’s murals

Washington is home to hundreds of murals that are becoming as much a part of the city’s landscape as the monuments on the National Mall. Take a self-guided tour of these colourful creations no matter which neighbourhood you happen to be in. MuralsDC, the organization behind 150 of the District’s public artworks, is a great resource for mapping out a route to explore the city’s street art.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Take in a birds-eye view of the city

Washington looks pretty stunning from up high, and there are few spots within the city that make for phenomenal vantage points. Rooftop bars and restaurants offer epic views for the price of a drink or two, but there’s no more iconic sight than seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, which is completely free. Book a ticket ahead of time and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the monument and step out on the 500-foot observation deck.

Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

Wander through a garden

DC is home to some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the country, and many of them are open to the public for free. There is nothing like an afternoon spent strolling through, or picnicking, at the expansive 446-acre United States Arboretum or wandering through the Botanic Garden on the edge of the Mall. For something a bit smaller, explore the grounds at Tudor Place or Dumbarton Oaks (free in the winter), both of which are in Georgetown.

Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

You can catch one of the District’s most popular hiking trails, the Billy Goat Trail, from the C&O canal. The full trail is 4.7 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous, so hike a section in and back or make the full loop for the variety.

Pay your respect at Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans. The cemetery is an expanse of 639 hallowed acres and the ANC Explorer allows visitors to locate graves, notable sites, and take self-guided walking tours to spots including the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

Lace up your roller skates

When was the last time you went roller skating? Chances are it’s been too long. So get back into this nostalgic activity at the Anacostia Park roller skating pavilion. You can rent skates for free, just show proof of a government-issued ID, and the skating pavilion is open from 9 to 5 every day.

Help clean up the Anacostia River

We all know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep our waterways clean. Do your part, and have some fun, by participating in the city’s Green Boat initiative. On select weekends, DCers can join a two-hour guided paddle along the Anacostia River to collect trash and monitor the river’s progress.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

Stroll your local farmer’s market

DC’s close proximity to the farms of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond mean that the city’s farmers’ markets always have something to offer. Check out the year-round markets like Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and the Sunday market in Dupont Circle or head to seasonal markets like the pop-up in front of the White House that draws vendors like Cucina al Volo and Call Your Mother Deli.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress

Play tourist all around the city

It’s easy to forget that all those traditionally touristy activities can be fun for locals too. If you haven’t been on a tour of the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or the Capitol, this is your sign. All are free with advanced reservations. Plus, tucked in the northern quadrant of NW, the Washington National Cathedral is free and open to all. Tour the cathedral’s impressive architecture, 215 stained glass windows, 112 Gothically-inspired gargoyles, and enormous pipe organ. See if you can spot the sculpture of Darth Vader.

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Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.

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