Travel

Two Weeks of Pride in San Antonio Start Soon

Here are the events, plus the first-ever parade on the River Walk.

Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio

Vibrantly coloured papel picado flutters in the air high above many a street in San Antonio, often accompanied by a soundtrack of joyful mariachi classics. But in June, the traditional Mexican decorations get a little visual competition as rainbow flags pop up all over the city in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and instead of “Guantanamera,” you’ll likely hear Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Lil Nas X hits at nearby businesses.

As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio continues to evolve as both a tourist destination and place that welcomes diverse residents. The drag scene here is damn fun and the city’s collection of popular gay bars and nightclubs cater to a multicultural mix of both LGBTQ+ people and our allies looking for a fun time in a safe space.

Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio

Yet queer San Antonio didn’t happen overnight.

If you don’t remember “The Pansy Craze,” that’s probably because you likely weren’t in San Antonio in the 1930s. These drag show performances were some of the earliest instances of LGBTQ+ acceptance in the city, according to Visit San Antonio. By the 1940s and ‚Äė50s, mainstream bars and restaurants began catering to this clientele via special theme nights designed to make safe havens in a time when homosexuality was a crime and certainly not as welcome in Texas as in the west coast or New York City. During this period, Kline’s became a favourite gathering place for lesbians, while Paul’s Grove catered to gay men.

Of course, the 1969 Stonewall riots riled up many cities across the country. In San Antonio, queer people started to demand the right to gather openly. One nightclub, The San Antonio Country, became the de facto birthplace of the civil rights movement for LGBTQ+ people. Three years later, the city had its first Pride parade-a small affair, but the definitive start of something bigger.

Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio

Today, Pride San Antonio has grown into a full week of events produced by Gay Pride SA. This year, however, the Pride party gets started a full week ahead of the majority of other events with the city’s first-ever parade on the famous River Walk, officially called the Bud Light Pride River Parade & Celebration. By bringing a major LGBTQ+ event to the city’s primary tourist destination, San Antonio is boldly making a declaration that everyone is welcome here, a noteworthy move in a state that continues to pass and propose legislation rolling back the equal rights we’ve fought so hard over the decades to achieve.

“[Pride] highlights the critical role that the LGBTQ culture plays in San Antonio, both from a business and individual standpoint,” says Jeff Ivey, President of the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “The city has been very supportive of the LGBTQ community and a lot of work has been done in creating a positive feeling. The LGBTQ business community plays a key role in the overall economic success of San Antonio.”

Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio
Pride San Antonio

So if you’ve never been to the Alamo’s home city-or you’ve been several times but never in June-know that Pride Month is one of the most festive times to visit. And San Antonio is a place that loves to host a party.

Here’s how to participate in this year’s two-week-long fiesta (not to be confused with San Antonio’s actual Fiesta), plus places to stay, eat, drink, shop, and otherwise support the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

Pride San Antonio events

Get wild with the LGBTQ+ community at the San Antonio Zoo
Friday, June 17
Purchase tickets for the official Pride Week opening party at the zoo after it closes to the public. There will be a kick-off celebration, a night Pride parade through the zoo grounds, a fashion show, and a dance party-all while the animals watch from their habitats.

Head to the San Antonio River Walk for the first Pride Parade on the water
Saturday, June 18
The day-long event starts at the historic La Villita and its Arneson River Theatre, the home base for hours of live entertainment, including music, drag, and dance. It’s also the best vantage point for the parade’s first route along the downtown section of the River Walk. More than 17 barges will glide past spectators decked out in festive attire and waving rainbow flags. Later in the evening, the parade makes a second journey along a different section of the River Walk, travelling between the Lock & Dam and the Historic Pearl.

Raise money for Pride San Antonio at a soccer match
Saturday, June 18
Cheer on the San Antonio FC during the official Pride Night matchup against the Oakland Roots. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales benefit Pride San Antonio.

Party with a RuPaul’s Drag Race winner
Saturday, June 18
The first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and Cher impersonator extraordinaire, Chad Michaels, hosts a bevy of drag performers during a fundraising event for Woodlawn Pointe Center for Community.

Show off your golf skills at a debut Pride tournament
Friday, June 24
Grab a putter and hit the links for an inaugural golf tournament, Pride on the Green Texas Scramble. For $125 per person or $500 for a foursome, play a round of golf with a golf cart rental, a commemorative shirt, lunch, and a donation to Pride San Antonio. It all goes down at Cedar Creek Golf Course.

Cheer on the floats and participants at one of the largest Pride parades
Saturday, June 25
The Pride “Bigger Than” Texas Parade, the official Pride San Antonio event, kicks off near Crockett Park at the intersection of West Dewey Plaza and Main Avenue, continuing several blocks south to Lexington Avenue. Make life easier by purchasing your $10 ticket in advance. And make sure to get in the perfect Pride frame of mind ahead of the parade with live entertainment, food, beverages, a live wedding, and a health fair among the dozens of attractions and vendors.

Get your adrenaline pumping at the final event of Pride
Sunday, June 26
Officially sanctioned by Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Pride Day brings everyone together for one final celebration with thrill rides galore, live music, a midway dance party featuring The Perry Twins, Pride-themed cocktails and treats, and branded Six Flags Pride merch. For each incredibly discounted $34.99 ticket purchased, Six Flags Fiesta Texas will donate $5 to Pride San Antonio.

Where to stay, eat, drink, and shop

Set up your home base at a San Antonio hotel
The Alamo City is home to several superb hotels and resorts. But if you want to support ally companies in San Antonio, book a room at one of the following Hyatt resorts, which are all sponsors of the Pride parades on the River Walk: Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk, Hyatt Place San Antonio/Riverwalk, Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk, and Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk. You could also opt for the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, for those who want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city between events.

Celebrate good times (come on!) at an LGBTQ+ bar or club
San Antonio is home to several LGBTQ+ bars and night spots, with many located on The Strip SA, marked by rainbow crosswalks to let you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Among the popular hangouts are Pegasus, a friendly neighbourhood bar by day and dance club by night; Purgatory, a bar known for its male strippers dancers; Sparky’s Pub, an English-style watering hole; Luther’s Cafe (a restaurant and bar with burgers and all-day breakfast) that hosts drag shows every Friday and Saturday night; Knockout, a sports bar with pool tables and other games; and Heat, a dance bar with after hours. One of the oldest and best-known LGBTQ+ bars in San Antonio is the Bonham Exchange, a three-story bar and dance club in a historic building downtown.

Satisfy your hunger at an LGBTQ-owned eatery
When you feel that growl in your tummy, make it a point to patronize one of the city’s LGBTQ-owned culinary businesses. Can’t-miss options include Cake Thieves Bakery & Eatery, a vegetarian/vegan Restaurant; Cafecito, a charcuterie takeout and delivery service; Lick Honest Ice Creams, a cute shop that incorporates local ingredients when possible-and they even have a Pride Month flavour featuring an orange/vanilla ice cream loaded with all-natural rainbow sprinkles; and La Botanica, a vegan restaurant, bar, and community space. Meanwhile, ally business Bakery Lorraine has created a rainbow cookie in celebration of Pride Month, with proceeds benefiting Thrive Youth Center.

Spend your money at an LGBTQ+ shop
By supporting queer entrepreneurs in San Antonio, you help these businesses thrive and make a difference on the local scene. Shop for women’s and gender-neutral fashion from Project Runway winner Anthony Ryan at his boutique on Broadway, COULEUR + BLIND√Č. In addition to sourcing great merchandise, Karolina’s Antiques has become a safe space for the community. No. 9 and Statue of Design was inspired by a trip to New Orleans and features top-quality floral arrangements along with gift items made locally. Very That is quintessentially San Antonio with T-shirts featuring popular phrases often overheard around town, as well as candy and gift items, all with a wink and a twisted sense of humour.

Thank ally businesses by supporting their bottom line
San Antonio boasts hundreds of businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community, but those that ponied up to sponsor the River Walk Pide Parade deserve recognition. They include restaurants and bars Bistr09, Elsewhere Garden, Smoke BBQ + Skybar, The Dakota East Side Ice House, as well as MOV Tours and Next Day Custom Tees.

For more information on the local LGBTQ+ community, check out the Visit San Antonio LGBTQ page.

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Steven Lindsey is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Find Volcanoes, Wine Islands, and Thrills in Auckland

One minute you're on a ferry to wine island, the next you could be bungy jumping off of New Zealand's tallest tower.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

The city of Auckland is a free spirit. It is easily the most geographically blessed city in New Zealand. Within an hour, you could be tasting wines on an island, chasing more than 50 volcanoes, or leaving footprints on a black sand beach. Keep in mind, that Auckland is the country’s most populous city but certainly doesn’t feel cramped.

Instead, the city is buzzing with trendy eateries, boutique shops, quiet streets, and expansive green parks. Around every corner, you’re never too far from something beautiful to see.

From world-class wines to kickass thrills, here’s where to find what you’re looking for in Auckland.

things to do auckland

Seek the thrills

If you thought Queenstown was the home of the adrenaline rush, wait until you see Auckland. In the middle of the city, you can jump off a sky tower or a bridge, zip through the jungle, and scream on a high-octane jet boat ride. The Sky Tower, which can be seen from every corner of Auckland is more than just a landmark. Take a ride to the top and sign up for a Skywalk, where you can wander around the platform, which just so happens to be 192 metres above the ground. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you can always jump off it. It’s New Zealand’s highest jump, and can only be described as just like being a movie stuntman, or a superhero. 

The other iconic place to jump off of is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Unlike the Sky Jump, this one will have thrill seekers dipping their hands and head in the ocean. It’s a 40-metre Bungy, and a great experience. Although, if you’d rather still take advantage of the bridge views, book a climb, which takes you right to the top for sweeping views of the city.

Another way to take in the city is via Auckland Adventure Jet, which takes passengers for spins and tricks on the water.

Just a 35-minute boat ride from Auckland is Waiheke Island, where thrill-seekers will find Eco Zip Adventures. Across three separate lines, you will zip high above a working vineyard and lush, ancient forest canopies, soaking up incredible views back to the city and beyond.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Sip wine on Waiheke Island

Whether you want to spend a weekend or a day, Waiheke Island is a must-visit. It’s around a 35-minute ferry ride to the island from Auckland, and once there you can hop from winery to winery. The island is quite large and the terrain is rugged, so trust the experts and book a tour with Ananda Tours. The small, family-run business is owned by Jenny who has been on the island since before the vines were planted and she’s the best person to seek out when getting the Waiheke Island experience. You can book a private tour or group tour, and they can be catered to your preferences and tastes. A few standout stops include Kennedy Point, where they produce fully certified organic Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay wines. You can also state estate-grown olive oils, which the island has plenty of. Enjoy a tasting on the deck with views of Kennedy Bay, or enjoy a picnic under the olive grove.

For the best views on the island, head to Batch Vineyard. As the highest vineyard on Waiheke, you will be treated to panoramic views of the rolling hills, blue waters, and even Auckland city. Their sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs is a must-try.

When it comes to lunch, there are two spots to choose from. The first is Stonyridge, which is also where you can taste premium award-winning wines, including a Cabernet blend Larose‚ÄĒNew Zealand’s cult wine. The second is Mudbrick, a romantic spot, set amongst beautiful gardens with even more spectacular views, and a bar and bistro serving up some of the best dishes on the island.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Eat your way through the city

Auckland’s dining scene isn’t pretentious, but the food quality is good enough to rival the best restaurants in New York‚ÄĒbut the city doesn’t like to brag. Instead, it celebrates good food in every setting, from waterside restaurants to trendy Mexican eateries in a shopping centre.

Inca, is helmed by critically acclaimed chef, Nic Watt. Inspired by Watt’s travels to Peru, diners can expect to find Nikkei cuisine, including spicy chicken karaage, hand-pressed corn tacos filled with pork cheek and spicy tuna. You wouldn’t expect to find such a good restaurant in a shopping centre, but there it is.

Another great trendy restaurant is Hello Beasty, which is home to the famous, prawn and crab toast. This work of art starts with a slice of crispy deep-fried bread, smothered with prawn and crab mousse. On top, there are slices of wagyu, drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce. Although, there are plenty of other great dishes on the menu, including a Sichuan tuna tartare, Korean fried cauliflower, and potstickers swimming in chilli oil. Try the yuzu mandarin soda if you’re looking for something fizzy to go with dinner or lunch.

Deli De Bossi is a recent opening and already becoming a favourite breakfast spot. Apart from coffee, you can get all kinds of toasted sandwiches, filled with everything from mushrooms to hams and salamis.

Another iconic eat-hit list is Parade in Ponsonby. Here, the burgers are served in a pretzel bun and filled with chicken or beef.

Most of these restaurants are casual, but if you’re looking for something a little fancy, book a table at Kingi. Taking cues from Sydney’s own Josh Niland, the dishes at Kingi focus on sustainable seafood, caught locally by local fishermen. The blue cod wings are a must. They’re covered in burnt lime and served with a ranch sauce for dipping. The stracciatella with feijoa is also a standout dish, that’s light and a great start to a meal. Inside, the dining room is cosy with bench seats, fire heaters, and exploded brick walls.

After dinner, walk down the street and grab dessert from Miann. The flavour of the day is always chocolate, and they serve up seriously good desserts. Try the tasting platter for a piece of each pastry on the menu of the day, or pick one that is most desirable to you. Although, the tasting platter is only $23 and you’d be missing out on tasting a little of everything they offer if you didn’t get it.

things to do auckland
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Discover art, culture, and movie magic

One of the best ways to learn about a city or country is by visiting its top museums and galleries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum sits atop a hill in Auckland’s Domain, which also happens to be the city’s oldest volcano. This museum is one of the most important as it tells the story of New Zealand’s natural and military history. Take a self-guided walking tour to explore at your own pace. There are plenty of interactive features for the kids and adults. The museum also hosts exhibitions. An ancient Greek exhibition is currently on display and is one of the largest exhibitions the British Museum has ever loaned to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Art lovers, spend a few hours wandering around the Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O TńĀmaki. You will find artworks from around the world, including a Picasso or two. Although, the exhibitions are a real treat. Yona Lee’s, An Arrangement of Five Rooms is an incredible installation, spanning multiple rooms, which you can sit on and touch‚ÄĒto immerse yourself in the artwork. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, is another must-see exhibition exploring the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty), activism and social justice.

While art and history museums are insightful and a great way to educate a visitor, there are some other museum types that can be a lot of fun and interactive. Weta Workshop Unleashed is a new Auckland attraction and an incredible experience you don’t want to miss. Step into the world of filmmaking, explore how horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films are made and at times feel as if you’re in a movie. Comedic tour guides will introduce you to movies that are in production and explain every aspect, from prop making to effects, and more. There are even mysteries to be solved, making it fun for the whole family. It’s truly an unmissable experience in Auckland, and one of the best, unique tours you might ever experience.

things to do auckland
Photo: @sidwithlens

Walk on a volcano

Erupting over 100,000 years ago, Pukekawa is one of Auckland’s oldest and most popular volcanoes. Today, the Domain parkland is the remains of the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff ring of Pukekawa. Most days you will see people running around the park, families picnicking on the weekend, and tourists snapping photos by the pond or under a magnificent tree, grown from an experiment conducted by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. Enter from one end, enjoy a picturesque walk, and exit through the historic Parnell shopping and restaurant area. On a sunny day, the atmosphere is charged with romance, but even in the rain, it’s a moody, beautiful sight to see. The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s large neo-Greek architecture is also a standout, commanding top-of-the-mountain views.

where to stay in auckland

Where to stay in Auckland

If you’re looking to sleep on top of the world, you can’t beat a room in Cordis Auckland’s new Pinnacle Tower. From the pillowy-cloud-like beds, guests have sweeping views of the city from the Sky Tower to Rangitoto and Mount Eden. Enjoy a breakfast buffet in the Eight restaurant downstairs, and canapes and drinks in the Cordis Club lounge on the 14th floor. There’s also a health club, spa, and swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance to some of the best eateries in Auckland, making it a prime option.

Although, if you’re looking to stay in the heart of Britomart, Auckland’s hub of shopping, eating, and drinking, then The Hotel Britomart is where you want to be. From its exterior of hand-made bricks to its beautifully timber-lined rooms, The Hotel Britomart does detail like nobody else. Plus, the best of downtown waterfront Auckland is just outside your front door. With 5 Green Star Design and Build ratings from the NZ Green Building Council, The Hotel Britomart is the country‚Äôs ONLY 5 Green Star hotel, and has sustainability built in from the ground up.¬†

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