The all-too-fabulous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is the culmination of a month of camp fun and frivolity that includes everything from same-sex dance classes and tug-of-war matches to daytrips around the city and beyond.
Reasons to attend
1. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a 3-week festival featuring more than 100 events that culminate in the iconic Mardi Gras parade and party on the first Saturday of March. Bring your sunglasses to the party – it’s been known to wrap at 8am.
2. Revel in the buzz of the Mardi Gras parade – a cavalcade of fabulousness that includes dancing boys, marching girls, the famous Dykes on Bikes, floats, music, glitter, leather and more spray tans than Beverly Hills. The aim of the parade, which begins with the raising of the rainbow flag, is to lift the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities. Underneath all the fun, frivolity and feathers lies a serious message: it’s a statement of pride, diversity and acceptance.
3. Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade is among the world’s largest LGBTQI celebrations. The numbers are mind-boggling: 10,000 participants parade along Oxford and Flinders streets in a train measuring almost six kilometres long. Hundreds of thousands of spectators cheer on the parade and its glittering, music-pumping floats (there were 144 floats in 2014) for just over two hours, while 2000 volunteers ensure the event runs smoothly.
4. Keep an eye peeled for celebrities. Big names that have attended Mardi Gras parades and parties include Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, RuPaul, Chaz Bono and Kylie Minogue.
5. Arrive in Sydney well before the parade and party to enjoy other Mardi Gras happenings. Events have included everything from same-sex salsa classes and self-defence workshops to fun runs, bushwalks, tug-of-war at the popular Fair Day at Victoria Park, Camperdown (three kilometres southwest of Sydney’s CBD), and a cocktail party at NSW Parliament House. There’s also cabaret, burlesque, theatre, exhibitions, talks and more.
6. Explore beyond the city – many Mardi Gras events encourage visitors to enjoy lesser known parts of Sydney and beyond. Day trips have included a cruise along Parramatta River to a wildlife park, cycling around the suburbs, and a trip to a regional outdoor water park.
7. Make the most of your time in of one of the world’s global centres of culture and creativity – from the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art, the iconic Sydney Opera House and a range of performing arts experiences to suit every taste from theatre and dance to cabaret and comedy.
What to look out for
Instead of spending hours saving a spot along the parade route or trying to see past spectators standing on milk crates, snap up a ticket to one of the VIP viewing spots. Options range from grandstand-style seating with celebrity hosts to keep the fun times rolling, to an outdoor club in Taylor Square with raised viewing platforms, cocktail bars and DJs.
How to get there
Parking near the parade is difficult; spectators are encouraged to take public transport into the inner city. Hotels near the parade route are also heavily booked. Wear comfortable shoes and grab a viewing spot well before the parade starts.