In just over a quarter century, Gay Days in Orlando, Florida has grown
into perhaps the largest and most famous annual gay gathering in North America.
Despite its recent tragegy, Orlando is still one of the most popular UK holiday destinations, and the massive Gay Days
celebrations at Disney World stretch way beyond the theme park itself.
Downtown Disney is home to Pleasure Island, the site of several Gay Days parties.
Photo - Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc.
This year the Gay Day celebrations take place from May 30th - June 5th. The first Saturday of June always includes Gay Day in the Magic Kingdom.
The event is really the signature event of the week, where an estimated 50,000 red-shirted Gay Days attendees pack Walt Disney World's original park.
While not officially sponsored or promoted by Walt Disney World, those attending also designate another day during the celebration to visit
the other Disney theme parks. Animal Kingdon - Thursday 1st, Hollywood Studios - Friday 2nd and Epcot on Sunday 4th. The website
gaydays.com has loads more information.
So what are Gay Days exactly? Where do you
sign up, how much does it cost, and who attends this celebration?
Andrew Collins has a look at the Gay Days experience, complete with handy tips on how best
to make the most of this festive event if you're going to be in Central Florida
In the Beginning
A single Gay Day began as a modest gathering of local Orlando gay guys and girls who set
out on low-key outings, from bowling parties to social get-togethers.
In 1991 this group chose a day during the less touristy summer season
to meet at Disney's Magic Kingdom - they spread the word throughout the state,
and the very first Gay Day kicked off with decent attendance and tremendous
Success was immediate, and a classic grassroots movement took hold. Within 10 years the
single-day, single-park get-together had drawn more than 100,000 people.
Now there are 6 Gay Days kicking off on a Tuesday. They consists of more than 60
events or gatherings, the highlight of which is the
actual Gay Day at Magic Kingdom (always the first Saturday in June), and
the event concludes with more parties and pool parties on the Sunday, including a Leather & Fetish Expo
and a Mr Gay Days Leather Competition.
Gay Days at The Magic Kingdom
Photo - Ben Van Hook / VisitOrlando.com
During the Gay Days from Tuesday to Sunday, the daytime events take place not only at the Magic Kingdom, but at
Disney's three other theme parks - Epcot, Animal Kingdom and
the Disney-MGM Studios.
Nightly parties are to be found at several Disney venues but also at several
additional clubs throughout the city of Orlando.|
There's a GayDays Welcome and Information Booth
open daily from 11am - 6pm from the opening Tuesday to the Sunday at the
DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld in their Caribbean Ballroom and
there's a Merchandise and Ticket Centre too.
Attendees come from all over the world. For a lot of folks, attending
Gay Days has become as cherished an annual tradition as much as celebrating New Year's
or a major holiday. Additionally, Gay Day-inspired events have started up at
theme parks all over the world, including the other Disney resorts, as well
at Paramount, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens parks from California to Ohio
to New Jersey.
First Things First
If you've got your sights set on attending the mother of all gay
theme-park gatherings, take heart in knowing that there are several effective ways
to approach your visit to Orlando for Gay Days. Much of the hyped-up
literature and Web information on Gay Days would have you thinking that if you're
unable to book a room at one of the hotels that works closely with an official
event or party, you're apt to miss out on all the fun. This may be true if
your goal is to stay smack in the middle of things, but with more than
60 events spread over six days - you couldn't possibly attend even half
of them no matter where you stay.
If you like doing your own thing, or you're simply unable to get a room
near or at Disney, you can still enjoy Gay Days by staying at one of the
many chain properties throughout the city. No matter where you stay,
having to drive or take cabs is unavoidable; numerous night-time events are
held at gay bars in Orlando proper, a 15- to 30-minute drive from Disney. So
don't fret a whole lot about where to stay, especially if you've never been -
just get yourself to Orlando and you'll have plenty of opportunity to attend
many events. Our Online Hotel Booking
app can easily help you find somewhere to stay that's right for you and at a good price.
A Day at the Park
Orlando Gay Days
Photo - Ben Van Hook / VisitOrlando.com
Contrary to popular belief, there is no general ticket to Gay Days. This is partly
true because Disney itself neither sponsors nor discourages the event - at best,
it makes a genuine effort to accommodate the throngs of lesbian and gay visitors,
and, unquestionably, it enjoys the astounding economic windfall - this is, after all,
Florida's off-season for American visitors.
What you'll need are the standard tickets that everybody must buy for admission
to Disney's resorts.
Technically, you'll have to buy a separate ticket for each park you plan to visit
each day, although to get the biggest bang for your buck, it's a good idea to
purchase one of Disney's multiday, multipark passes in advance. Disney tickets don't sell out -
you can always buy tickets on arrival at the gate. The only exception is that Disney
has the option of closing a park, such as Magic Kingdom, for a time, if it fills to
capacity. The park immediately reopens as soon as enough people have left to accommodate
If you've never been to Disney World, or you haven't been since you were a kid, you
may be a little surprised just how much tickets cost. The price on the day, for a one-day one-park ticket is over $100 and
its slightly more for The Magic Kingdom. Park-Hopper multi-park tickets are more than $170 for a day.
However, you can buy combination tickets for as many days as you like up to 10, for either one park a day or a park-hopper
and then the prices really start to come down. The 10 day park-hopper version for example works out at just over $50 a day, but you
are spending $500. The pass includes admission to all four
Disney parks, the three water parks, and the Pleasure Island entertainment complex
(site of several Gay Days parties). A nice thing about these multiday passes - the unused
days will never expire, so if you can't squeeze everything into one trip, just save your pass
for a later visit. If you stay at a Disney property, packages are available that
include park admission. Check in advance on the theme park websites as they frequently post new ticket offers.
A Night on the Town
Beyond park admission, you also need to budget for any night-time parties
you're planning to attend. Some of these - like certain nights at gay clubs
in Orlando - have no cover charge, but others can be pretty pricey.
The pool parties are $10 in advance, but $25 on the door for the first couple of days, but $25 and $35 by the
time you reach the weekend. The very popular Taste of GayDays is an evening filled with socialising, samplings
of small bites to eat and drinks from the Orlando area restaurants, plus a variety of live entertainment!
It's $40 in advance or $50 on the door.
There's a Gay Days Weekend at the Parliament House for $10 that
features the PH Explosion Dancers, Countdown at Midnight, Indoor and Outdoor dancefloors, Latin Revue Show and a Comedy
Don't forget the Adults 18+ only Gay Days Leather and Fetish Expo at DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando
at SeaWorld with some amazing demonstration classes!
Orlando's Parliament House
Photo - OutUK
At the same venue on Friday you'll also find the
Annual Miss Gay Days Pageant in which contestants compete for a chance to win $5000 in Cash & Prizes
and an opportunity to represent GayDays with a 12 month spokeswoman contract!
If you plan on making it to a party every night, you'll
probably end up spending a few hundred pounds, not including drinks. For
plenty of Gay Days loyalists, however, it's not de rigueur to party sundown to
sun-up. One of the best things about this get-together is that it appeals to a
huge range of ages, tastes, nationalities and styles. Gay Days is the perfect opportunity
for friends from different backgrounds to holiday together - whether male,
female, or transgender; bi, gay, lesbian, or just keen on hanging out with a
bunch of gay buddies. So grab your Mickey Mouse cap, or leather chaps if attending the
Mr Gay Days Leather Competition, and start your planning.
authored the recently updated and expanded Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA and six
regional gay guides for Fodor's.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
The Official Gay Days information site Website.
The LGBT Center of Central Florida (946 N Mills Ave., 407-228-8272, Website).
Visit Orlando (407-363-5872 or 800-972-3304, Website).
Walt Disney World (Walt Disney World Resort, 407-939-5277, Website).
Parliament House (410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-7571, Website).
Orlando's Destination Guide
Pulse Nightclub Memorial
Online Hotel Booking
Revised May 2018.