Gay Pride celebrations in Australia take a decidedly different tack than those in many parts of the world. In the country's largest cities, the premier GLBT annual event is actually a major queer cultural festival lasting two to three weeks - Midsumma Melbourne in January and Adelaide Feast Festival in November are excellent examples of this. But the most famous of Australia's GLBT cultural celebrations is unquestionably Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, which takes place from February 8 through March 3 in 2013. Spectators and participants from all over the world attend this multi-faceted, high-energy event consisting of parties, parades, performances, fairs, harbor regattas, and plenty more.
History of Sydney Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras was begun in late June 1978, in an effort to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that spurred the modern Gay Rights Movement in New York City in June of 1969 - 2013 Mardi Gras marks the events 35th anniversary. There's an excellent history of Sydney Mardi Gras on the official event site - it traces this initially modest event's beginnings to its development into one of the world's foremost celebrations of both gay culture and political solidarity.
Sydney Mardi Gras 2013:
As always, Mardi Gras will feature several first-rate performers and DJ talents at parties throughout the celebration, including Tina Arena, Maxine Kauter Band, Brendan Maclean, Megan Mullally, Bob Downe's All-Star Celebrity Roast, and much more.
All told, Sydney Mardi Gras is presenting a tremendous lineup of talent and exciting performances and parties over two weeks - for a complete list (with dates and times), check the interactive official Mardi Gras Events Calendar.
The two most famous must-attend events are the Oxford and Flinders Streets Mardi Gras Parade and the Mardigrasland Party. The Parade, which is a free event, takes place at 7:45 pm on Saturday, Marcy 2, along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, at Taylor Square, the heart of the city's gay bar and entertainment district.
The Mardi Gras Party follows the parade, commencing at 10 pm and lasting into the wee hours - around 8 am. This massive gathering, which takes place at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park (at 122 Lang Rd.). Wondering who's performing at the party this year? Performers include Heather Small of M People, Jake Shears (as DJ Crystal Pepsi), Wayne G, Bimbo Jones, Adam Love, Beth Yen, Sveta, Kitty Glitter, and many others. You can purchase tickets to the Mardi Gras Party online - the cost is from AU$117, but discounts are available is you buy early.
Other key events at Mardi Gras include the opening Fair Day, where some 70,000 participants congregate and visit with community organizations, watch live music, and people-watch at Victoria Park (City Rd. and Cleveland St.), on Sunday, February 10, from 10 am until 7:29 pm. This is a free event.
On Saturday, February 23, revelers will descend upon Sydney's waterfront for the Harbour '13 Party, where you can dance to views of the Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. The event takes place at Fleet Steps, Mrs. Macquaries Point, from 2 until 11 pm. The cost is $129, with early-bird discounts available.
Again, check the official Mardi Gras Event Calendar for the rundown on countless other parties and gatherings.
Of course, additionally, numerous gay bars as well as gay-popular restaurants, hotels, and shops have special events and parties throughout Mardi Gras in Sydney - take a look at my article on the best hotels in Sydney for gay travelers, if you're seeking lodging ideas. Right in the heart of Darlinghurst, the Mardi Gras Festival Bar will occur with a variety of nightly events - from cabaret to comedy, at the neighborhood's numerous gay bars. Check local gay papers, such as the Sydney Star Observer and SX News, for details, as well as such useful online resources as SameSame.com's Sydney section. Also take a look at the excellent site produced by the region's official tourism organization, Tourism New South Wales.