(Courtesy Joey Wharton)
Travelling to Virginia this year? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be trying to fill your itinerary with the best festivals in the region. Since Virginia hosts an extraordinary array of events year-round, we decided to narrow our search down to what we all know to be the best party of the year: Pride.
Whether you’re looking for low-key community vibes and scenic escapes or dance parties, drag shows, and urban raucousness, these five events have got you covered. Just be sure to snap a selfie with one of the many LOVE photo ops scattered throughout the state while you’re there.
1. HAMPTON ROADS PRIDE WEEK
(Courtesy Wirt Confroy)
Dates: June 21-30, 2018
Location: Town Point Park, Norfolk
Travelling during Pride month? Check out Hampton Roads PrideFest, which is celebrating 30 years of Pride this June. This festival is prefaced by an entire week of events covering everything from a Drag Brunch, to a beach concert, to a Pride Block Party on Friday night. And of course, it all culminates with PrideFest on Saturday.
At PrideFest, partygoers gather for the country’s only Pride Boat Parade—a fitting event considering Norfolk’s 300-year maritime history. Watch the parade from shore or party on board the American Rover three-masted sailing schooner.
Aside from Pride, visiting Hampton Roads in the summer also guarantees a glimpse at Virginia’s coastal culture. Whether you want to bask in the sun and white sands of Virginia Beach or discover nearby Colonial Williamsburg, festival season offers the perfect opportunity to explore.
2. SHENANDOAH VALLEY PRIDE FESTIVAL
Date: July 21, 2018
Location: Court Square, Harrisonburg
Next up is Shenandoah Valley Pride Festival, located in picturesque Harrisonburg. This event is smaller than the Hampton Roads PrideFest, taking place on one Saturday afternoon, but don’t let its size fool you: this festival showcases local music and vendors, attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year, and has a positive community vibe—not surprising, given Harrisonburg’s charming reputation.
Once you’ve gotten your festival fix, head to Harrisonburg’s vibrant downtown district, which is home to the commonwealth’s first Arts and Culture and Culinary Districts. There’s no shortage of adorable boutiques and locally sourced meals in the area, so whether you’re craving a mouth-watering cheesesteak or creative cocktails, this city’s got you covered.
While in the region, take a trip to Shenandoah National Park. A VA bucket-list must, this park is home to 300 square miles of stunning valley views and woodland trails, including the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive. If you’re staying overnight, there’s a ton of camping throughout the park; for a more upscale experience, book a room at the rustic Big Meadows Lodge.
3. 7th ANNUAL CHARLOTTESVILLE PRIDE FESTIVAL
(Courtesy Jacob RG Canon)
Dates: Sept. 8-15, 2018
Just south of Harrisonburg you’ll find the city of Charlottesville, which provides an escape into the land of golf and wine. A small city (the kind where everyone knows your name), Charlottesville is known for its gay-friendly reputation, offering a wide range of resources, events, and support for the LGBTQ community.
Last year, Charlottesville drew over 8,000 partygoers to its week-long celebration of sex positivity. This year, Cville Pride Festival will include a variety of events such as the Miss Gay Charlottesville pageant, film screenings, and drag and musical performances. In terms of where to stay, look no further than Montfair Resort Farm. Located 15 miles outside of Charlottesville, this sprawling property includes nine quaint, eco-friendly cottages (such as Holly Cottage) that offer a romantic vacation experience for every couple.
4. PETERSBURG PRIDE AND PROUD FESTIVAL
Date: Sept. 16, 2018
Location: DJ’s Rajun Cajun, Petersburg
The Petersburg Pride and Proud Festival is all about grassroots community, so if you’re jonesing for an intimate, community-driven Pride party, this is the one for you. Launched in 2017 by David “DJ” Payne, owner of DJ’s Rajun Cajun, this festival celebrates the strength and support of Petersburg’s LGBTQ community.
The festival will be followed by the Out & Proud After Party at Benny’s Tavern. While in Petersburg, book a day to explore the art, architecture, and boutiques of Old Towne, a neighborhood well-loved by film makers for its cobblestone streets and historical sites. Stay at the Omni Richmond Hotel for an elegant Southern experience in a modern setting.
5. VA PRIDEFEST
(Courtesy Joey Wharton)
Date: Sept. 22, 2018
Location: Brown’s Island, Richmond
Last but certainly not least, VA PrideFest is the largest annual celebration of the LGBTQ community in the commonwealth. Organized by Virginia Pride, the 39th annual VA PrideFest expects over 30,000 attendees this year. This festival always attracts a ton of outstanding local vendors and musicians to entertain the masses, making the event an epic party not to be missed. To add to its status as a top LGBTQ travel destination, Richmond will also play host to the state’s first Black Pride festival this year from July 20-22. If you do happen to visit during VA PrideFest, check out the Quirk Hotel’s Pride weekend packages.
When you’re making your way through the country’s Pride events this year, be sure to include Virginia on your list of stops. This naturally beautiful state will be throwing 13 of the liveliest and most welcoming Pride events around this year (nearly double last year’s number!), which serve as the perfect jumping off point for exploring Virginia’s charming, historic cities. For more information on other events and LGBTQ-friendly places to stay, check out Virginia Tourism’s website.
This article is sponsored content paid for by Virginia is for Lovers. Love is one voice that speaks to us all. And love is here — just waiting for you to find it.