Florida's westernmost city, Pensacola is near the tip of the state's northwest panhandle and has long had a reputation as a religiously conservative Navy town as well as a popular family resort area. If this doesn't sound like an obvious destination for gay and lesbian travelers, it isn't - at least most of the year. But in late May, during Memorial Day weekend, Pensacola is the site of one of the nation's larger GLBT gatherings, a combination gay circuit party and regional gay pride event. The dates of the four-day Gay Memorial Day Weekend party are May 24 to May 27, 2013, and as many as 150,000 attendees from throughout the South are expected to attend this year, which features some brand-new parties and events in Pensacola Beach.
Here's a look at 2013 Pensacola Memorial Day Weekend - check out the official calendar of events for more details:
As it has for many years, the city's popular - and very fun - gay nightclub, Emerald City (406 E. Wright St., 850-433-9491), hosts a series of Pensacola Memorial Weekend parties, beginning on Thursday night and lasting until Monday evening (these include everything from the opening Foreplay Party on Thursday to a "black light underwear party" on Sunday). The main daytime events are the Splash Beach Fest celebrations, held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am until 7 pm at an 11,000-square-foot pavilion in Pensacola Beach at Park East, a little over a mile east of Portofino Resort and Spa. Admission is free (you must be over 18), and guests are advised to bring tents, cabanas, and beach gear, but food, cocktails, and beer will be available. Each of these three days, there are parties during the day led by top DJs. The biggest nighttime event is be Saturday night's WAVE Beach Party, led by famed DJ Roland Belmares - it takes place from 10 pm until 4 in the morning. You can purchase the $50 tickets to WAVE Beach Party online or in person at the gate or the Memorial Day Weekend welcome center.
Of course, additionally, other gay-popular bars (such as the Roundup and The Cabaret, restaurants, hotels, and shops fill up with gay folks during the week. The organizers of the Emerald City parties have GLBT-friendly hotel information on Pensacola (the preferred properties are the Hilton Pensacola Beach, Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach, and Pensacola Beach RV Resort), and you can also find more GLBT information on the region at Gay Grassroots Northwest Florida. Other resources of note include New Orleans-based Ambush Magazine.
For basic travel and tourism information on the region, you can also look to the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. But think of his organization as a general guide to the area, not as a supporter of the event - the organization makes no mention of the Memorial Day Weekend party on its site, nor does it provide any information specifically geared to gay and lesbian visitors.