Pride Month is typically marked by colorful parades, parties, festivals, concerts and other large, in-person events that celebrate the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have made in their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on these events in 2020, with many annual festivities canceled or forced to go virtual.
Thanks to the lifting of many pandemic restrictions, Pride is back in a big way in 2021—especially in California.
“It won’t be a single weekend this year,” said Sonoma County Pride President Christopher Kren-Mora, “but an entire month of fun, hope, and renewal that we’ve all been hoping for.”
California, of course, possesses a long and proud LGBTQ+ tradition and history. The first LGBTQ+ business association was founded here in 1962; 20 years after that Laguna Beach became the first city in the U.S. to elect an openly gay mayor; even the iconic rainbow flag was designed in San Francisco.
Here’s a fact-filled guide for anyone looking to celebrate LGBTQ+ history and culture at one of the many Pride festivals and events across the state. Keep in mind—social distancing and capacity limits will still be in effect at in-person events, and in many cases, tickets purchased in advance and proof of vaccination are required.
Sonoma County Pride
This year's Sonoma County Pride theme is “Beyond the Rainbow: Surviving, Reviving and Thriving,” and pays homage to The Wizard of Oz. Organizers have planned events throughout June in Santa Rosa, including a drive-through parade on June 5, Drag High Tea at the old-timey Tudor Rose English Tea Room on June 6, and a concert at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on June 26, headlined by LGBTQ+ rapper Todrick Hall.
Head to Santa Monica through June 30 to explore the family-friendly Rainbow Road Art Walk. Start your trek along a rainbow-lit Third Street Promenade to see interactive art installations by LBGTQ+ artists, including Instagram-worthy interactive floating dance floors. Meander over to Santa Monica Pier to see a mural by the Instagram-famous comedy duo Jenson Titus and Nic Scheppard (aka @verygaypaint). Finish with a selfie at the four-foot-tall LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally) sculpture.
“Thrive with Pride” is the theme for this year's Los Angeles-based celebrations. Though there are no parties or parades this year, LA Pride is sponsoring two ticketed in-person events. Baseball fans can head to Dodger Stadium on June 11 for the popular LGBTQ+ Pride Night. After the game, fully vaccinated fans can go on the field to watch a special Friday Night Fireworks show. On June 26, the Hollywood Forever cemetery will play host to an outdoor Pride Movie Night.
San Francisco Pride
Organizers of #SFPride51 made “All In This Together” the 2021 theme for this popular annual festival. And many who want to celebrate can be in Oracle Park together—the main event is consecutive movie nights at the ballpark June 11 and 12. Catch the premiere of In the Heights, the movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit Broadway musical, and a preview screening of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, also a film adaptation of a hit musical from London's West End.
Central Coast Pride
While the majority of the official Pride festivities already took place in May, you can still enjoy a walkthrough pop-up art installation in San Luis Obispo's Mission Plaza through August. Love Notes features a mosaic of Pride-themed tiles and wooden boards painted by local artists and community members. The artwork is punctuated by unique frames that allow viewers to see each other as they walk through the installation.
Sacramento Pride March and Festival
Two years ago, hip-hop star Lizzo performed for a crowd of thousands in downtown Sacramento. This year, Pride festivities in California's capital city will be a bit smaller due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. But there are still some in-person events planned for two days in June, spread across several locations. Festivities kick off with a dog parade June 5 around Southside Park and the Pride Celebration and Marketplace on June 6 featuring Queer vendors and tunes from DJ Anthony Romero. Later in the month, you can Take Your Pride Outside on a rafting trip along the South Fork of the American River (June 12); strap on your roller skates for a disco-themed night at Roller King rink (June 24); check out a family-friendly Pride party at the Sacramento Children's Museum (June 26); and watch Drag Queens play in a mini-golf tournament at the Flat Stick Pub (June 27).
Orange County has long been a premier destination for LGBTQ+ tourism, and while OC Pride is not planning any large festivities this year, you can celebrate Pride there all month (and all year) long. Costa Mesa is the epicenter for the limited roster of in-person Pride events this year, which culminate in a party at the Strut Bar & Club on June 26.
Palm Springs and San Diego—Later in 2021
These two communities traditionally celebrate Pride Month in a big way and both are planning in-person events—but you'll have to wait a bit. San Diego Pride is planning a slate of events in July, including art exhibitions, She Fest, a 5K, a block party, an SD Loyal soccer match, and a Pride at the Park dance party. Greater Palm Springs Pride will kick off its celebrations in November, marking the 35th anniversary of its iconic Pride Parade and Festival down Palm Canyon Drive.