Sydney is famous for it’s awe-inspiring Mardi Gras parade. More than 300,000 people gather to watch almost 10,000 LGBTQI+ community members and supporters dance, march and ride floats down the 1.7km parade route. There is more to Mardi Gras than the parade though, and here’s everything you need to know about the event.
When is Sydney Mardi Gras 2019?
The Mardi Gras festival is held in Sydney every year on the first weekend of March, so the official parade will take place on Saturday, 2 March in 2019. The Mardi Gras season starts much earlier though, with plenty of LGBTQI+ inspired events happening around the city from mid-February.
Despite the official World Gay Pride month being June, late February/early March dates are in line with many Mardi Gras parades around the world, including those in New Orleans and Cape Town.
Where is Mardi Gras held?
The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is held all over Sydney, but it all culminated in the main parade on Oxford and Flinders Street in Darlinghurst, an LGBTQI+ friendly neighbourhood. Other events are held at major entertainment hubs like Carriageworks or Ivy Pool, and with city-wide a line up including daily events, parties, concerts, salsa dancing workshops, performances by Indigenous queer artists and exhibitions, there’s sure to be something happening near you.
What can’t I miss at Mardi Gras?
The main event, of course, is the public parade that makes its way down the rainbow route of Flinders and Oxford Street in the city centre. It’s a great chance to lend your support to the community as you watch “Drag Queens, Dykes on Bikes, Sydney Lifesavers, community heroes and much, much more, come together to produce what has become the parade that stops the nation.”
After the parade, there is the epic after party—aptly named The Mardi Gras Party which is Australia’s biggest LGBTQI+ event of the year. Every year it gets bigger and better and you have to get in early if you want tickets (so add it to the to-do list for next year if you missed out). Previous years have seen the likes of Cher and Britney take to the stage, but this year there will be themed fantasy worlds to party in (such as The Neon Playground, Black Palace and The Powder Puff), and headliners include PNAU and Kim Petras.
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Speaking of sold-out parties, the Sissy Ball (held in late February before the parade) is one of the ultimate LGBTQI+ events around. It’s Australia’s biggest Vogue Ball, inspired by the iconic NYC vogue ballroom scene—it’s a night of entertainment that will blow you away while entertainers battle it out for the award in dance, movement, fashion, and flair.
Besides the parade, Fair Day is one of the most fun days out you’ll ever have. Held on the opening weekend, it’s a huge community event in Victoria Park with stalls, live entertainment and food trucks where you can come and connect, chill and celebrate love.
The city really comes alive during Mardi Gras and you can find ways to get involved on every corner. Check out the full program on the website here.
How do I watch the parade?
It gets super busy early in the day as everyone gathers to find the best spot to watch the parade pass by. We recommend meeting your friends elsewhere in the early afternoon and then heading into a spot together before 7pm when the parade starts. Plan out your night with toilet breaks in mind; you don’t want to walk too far when nature calls so choose a spot where you can access bathrooms easily.
Remember, you won’t be able to cross the street once the parade starts, so find a spot and stick to it. After the parade is over you can run into the street to take pictures and dance (although you’ll be dancing on the sidelines too). You can also book a dinner or drinks package at one of the many bars along the route if you don’t like the idea of jostling for a good vantage point, however, you can bring your own food (no alcohol is permitted). Only bring the essentials with you, there are A LOT of people so this isn’t a place for backpacks – just your phone, wallet, keys and a water bottle (as always, it’s super important to stay hydrated).
What shouldn’t I do at Mardi Gras?
It’s pretty obvious and applies to everywhere you go at any time, but be respectful of others. Be kind, be open-minded, have fun and never shame another festival goer. Also, another good standard of behaviour to remember is your manners! It can get very crowded at the parade so be mindful of other people’s space and take any rubbish you brought back home with you.