Written by: Jaclyn Popola
New York City's annual gay pride celebration, held in Greenwich Village from June 17-24, is one of the largest in the nation. Surpassed in numbers only by San Francisco, NYC Pride attracts more than 600,000 patrons over the course of the two day event. But battling the crowds at Pride can quickly turn an enjoyable experience into a nightmare if you're not careful.
PREPARATIONS! If you're coming in from out of town, book your hotel room several months in advance. There aren't many hotels in the Village, so don't be afraid to stay somewhere in Midtown. There are many methods of transportation that you can ride to get to Pride (taxi cab, subway, bus, the PATH train if you're coming from Jersey). Roads all along the parade route will be blocked off, and it's easy to get lost if you're not familiar with the city. Even if you live nearby, you're better off taking public transportation instead of driving.
The parade on Sunday kicks off at 12:00pm. I recommend getting there at least an hour early to secure a spot to sit and watch. Some people bring lawn chairs, which is a nice luxury, but where are you going to put them once the parade is over? Probably you'll end up carting them around with you, and that won't be pleasant. Pick a place to watch somewhere along Christopher Street. The reason for this is that once the parade ends, the PrideFest Marketplace opens up on nearby 8th Avenue. You're going to want to get there immediately after the parade disperses if you have any hope of having a little time to browse the vendors comfortably before the mobs of other parade goers appear en masse. Bring your own water (unless you want to pay $5 per bottle at one of the vendors) and a couple of snacks. It's going to be hot and chances are you're going to be standing elbow to elbow with thousands of other attendees. You don't want to risk getting dehydrated, and standing for long periods of time without eating can cause your blood sugar to drop and make you dizzy. If you suffer from claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or agoraphobia (fear of crowds) you might want to skip Sunday's festivities, in which case you might want to skip Pride altogether -- Sunday is the most enjoyable day despite it's being a little too close for comfort.
If you're taking pictures, make sure you have your camera ready at any moment. Things happen quickly in New York, and you'll only get an instant to capture it. If you have a digital, make sure your memory stick is cleared out beforehand and your settings are compatible with outdoor, fast moving shots. I usually wrap my camera's lanyard string around my wrist and hold my camera in hand so I can snap a picture quickly and easily.
POINTERS! Wear sneakers, not sandals or flip flops. You're going to be doing a ton of walking and the grime of New York City streets will turn your toes black with all the unseen pollution. Carrying a backpack and traveling light is also a good idea. You can use it to haul around your bottles of water or to store the purchases you make at the Marketplace. Depending on the weather, you may want to bring a sweatshirt in case it gets cool or rain gear if the weather is calling for possible rain. (PrideFest goes on despite inclement weather; it will NOT be rescheduled.) Wear sunscreen, for the love of God, especially on your face and shoulders, and dress appropriately. Wear sunglasses and even a hat. There's virtually no shade in New York City so you're going to be subjecting yourself to constant sunlight.
PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR!
Henrietta Hudson's, a popular lesbian bar on Hudson Street, hosts a huge party on Saturday and Sunday night, as well as being open during the day on Sunday to serve alcohol. Whatever you do, don't try to go there, because you won't even get in the front door. The hotspot will be swarming with lesbians, and actually entering the building will be impossible. A better alternative if you're looking to party is to buy tickets in advance and check out Saturday night's "Rapture: A Woman's Dance" or Sunday night's "The Dance on the Pier" (primarily attended by men) on Pier 54 at Hudson River Park. Most people don't realize that Pride is actually a week-long event. There are parties thrown each night of the week leading up to the weekend celebration. They're much less crowded and usually more fun because of it.
Last but not least, if you live nearby or are going to be staying in town for an extended period of time, take advantage of the lesser known Pride week events like the AIDS Candlelight Vigil on Friday night or "The Engagement: A Snatch of Life in 3 Acts
" performance at the Wings Theater, held every evening. The Rally on June 17 at Bryant Park, featuring prominent GLBT speakers and performers, is a kick-off to the celebration that's ahead.