Washington DC

How to Celebrate Pride Month in DC

Honor the return of the Capital Pride Parade, get decked out in rainbow for parties throughout the month, or donate to an LGBTQ nonprofit.

Capital Pride
Capital Pride
Capital Pride

June ushers in backyard barbecues, afternoons lounging in the sun, and a whole host of other summertime activities-but most importantly, it’s Pride Month. Celebrated annually in June, these 30 glorious days are dedicated to celebration, education, and action in the name of the LGBTQ community.

While some of the more over-the-top Pride Month activities have been on hold for the past few years as a result of the pandemic, all of your favourite parties, parades and more are finally back in stride this year, providing the community with the ample opportunities to get out and celebrate.

In DC, with its numerous queer bars and parties, there are tons of ways to participate in Pride Month celebrations this year, from the main events taking place from June 10-12 to one-of-a-kind drag shows, rainbow-themed runs, and so much more. So no matter how you want to get in on the fun, we’ve got it all in this guide to celebrating Pride Month in DC this year.

Capital Pride
Capital Pride
Capital Pride

Hit the town for the main events

Considering this is the first Capital Pride Parade to take place in a couple of years, it’s guaranteed to be a bash. It all starts with RIOT!, the official Pride Month kick-off party on Friday, June 10. Make your way to music venue Echostage that night for a opening ceremony like no other with performances by local, national, and world-famous queer talent.

Saturday will mark the return of the Capital Pride Parade, starting at 3:30 pm, with a modified route planned to “honour our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighbourhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality.”

Also taking place on Saturday is the third annual Pride on the Pier and fireworks show, bringing activities and entertainment to the Southwest Waterfront all day long. Stick around until 9 pm to be treated to a fireworks show that will light up the sky over the Potomac.

The Pride Festival and Concert takes place on Sunday, and will feature more than 300 exhibitors from artists and local businesses to social groups and amateur sports leagues. Grab a bite from one of two designated food courts and an ice-cold drink in the beverage gardens, then get ready to dance to DNCE, the headliner of this year’s Capital Pride Concert. Not one but two Drag Race winners will also be performing: Willow Pill and Symone.

Red Bear Brewing
Red Bear Brewing
Red Bear Brewing

Turn up at Pride parties around the city

Pride Month is a fabulous excuse to pop the proverbial (and literal) champagne, and bars and clubs around DC are making it easy to do so with planned parties and events happening all month long.

Kick things off on Saturday, June 5 at lesbian bar A League of Her Own‘s Queer Prom Night. Intended to replace any bad memories you might associate with your high school prom, this will be a rainbow-themed night of celebrating your authentic self. The next day, sail down the Potomac with Washington Heights and other fabulous queens during a Pride Boat Party, where they’ll be bumping the sounds of Kim Petras, Cardi B, and more.

Be careful not to spill your pint as you buckle over in laughter at Red Bear Brewing, DC’s only fully queer-owned brewery, which is hosting a Queer AF comedy show on Thursday, June 9. If dancing is more your thing, spend that night at the next iteration of HAUS PARTY, a live music dance event hosted by Bosco from season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. On Friday, June 10, the Howard Theatre is hosting FUSE, a Pride Womxn’s Party with multiple DJ sets and drink specials all night long.

Those in need of a dip in the pool can make their way to the rooftop at VIDA on Saturday, June 11 for an afternoon full of music, appetizers, and swimming. The popular gym is well known for inclusivity, and that night they’re hosting a Trans Pride Pool Party that is equally guaranteed to cool you down as it will help heat your night up.

If you’d rather stay dry (sweat doesn’t count), head over to an Alice in Wonderland-themed dance party in Navy Yard instead. Hosted by Scorpio Entertainment, WONDERLAND will take in an enormous, 25,000-square-foot space with three floors for a joyous night that includes a five-hour-long open bar, DJ sets, party tents, and immersive art projections.

Those who don’t want the night to end will be happy to learn that it doesn’t have to, thanks to Flash. The Pride Afterhours event doesn’t swing its doors open until the wee hour of 3:30 am, when DJs Isaac Escalante and Nina Flowers will be lighting up the dance floor until well after the sun comes up.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington

Celebrate queer art

For those looking to balance their bar nights, there are plenty of opportunities around the city this June to celebrate queer artists and their spectacular work.

On Saturday, June 4, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC will be performing a musical about queer history at the Lincoln Theatre. The performance will only take place twice, both on the same day, and call upon different music genres, presenting to the audience important stories from American LGBTQ history, from The Lavender Scare to the AIDS crisis.

At Dupont Underground, queer art events will be taking place all month long, from a new art exhibition called “The Gender Within” to Queer Tango dance classes every Tuesday in collaboration with the Embassy of Argentina. On June 18, the venue is hosting an immersive concert experience featuring local musicians.

SAD Brunch
SAD Brunch
SAD Brunch

See 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 the return of Drag Underground events at Dupont Underground. Every Friday this June, the venue is hosting drag performances in collaboration with the Washington Blade.

The night of Friday, June 10, Drag Race fans will get a chance to meet alum Kameron Michaels and other queens at Hotel Zena. The Sky Drag Show is a special event for Pride Month, with drag performances, drink specials by JuneShine, and an exclusive meet and greet with Kameron Michaels for an extra charge.

Hook Hall will also be hosting several Drag Bingo events and a Drag Queen Story Hour throughout the month. DC Brau is offering a WERQ drag brunch on Saturday, June 11, and fans of Queen of the Universe can catch the first-ever winner, Grag Queen, in concert at City Winery on Wednesday, June 22.

DC Dyke March
DC Dyke March
DC Dyke March

Attend a family-friendly Pride event

Just because you have kiddos running around doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the Pride Month fun. There are plenty of family-friendly pride activities that you’ll enjoy just as much as your little ones, like the second annual Growing Pride at The Garden in Alexandria on Sunday, June 26. Peruse handmade goods by local makers while the kids participate in crafts, dance around to music, and eat snow cones by Anita’s Frozen Cotton Candy.

Celebrate Pride at your local library all month with a highlighted selection of children’s books that “share the different facets of the LGBTQIA+ experience.” Library locations around the city will also host family-friendly events such as author talks and craft activities, from flower crown making to tie dye.

Get your steps in and make your voice heard at the annual Dyke March, returning this year on Friday, June 10 (keep an eye on the website for more details). If you feel like picking up the pace, the DC Front Runners annual Pride Run 5K returns the same day to the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and registration is currently open.

Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center
Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center
Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center

Educate and donate

Behind all the celebrations, Pride Month is also an important time to pay respects to the LGBTQ community members and activists who paved our way. For more information on ways to give your time through volunteering, check out the Capital Pride Alliance website, or fork some of your own hard-earned cash over to a worthy cause.

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. Started in 2012 by Ruby Corado, it’s a tight knit community of kind, supportive people with the slogan of being “everyone’s home.”

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. 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 is a freelance food and travel writer, who lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend and two fur babies.

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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