Atlanta is the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement, and today that spirit is strong in its support of gay rights and the LGBTQ community. There are a number of stores, restaurants, clubs, churches and businesses that are owned by members of the community or actively support them, especially in the Midtown area.
While inclusiveness and tolerance are every-day values in Atlanta, during Atlanta Pride Festival the gay community and its supporters celebrate openly and march proudly. The festival is one of the largest and oldest pride festivals in the U.S. In fact, the first pride parade took place in Atlanta in 1971 with no media coverage or any known documentation. A year later hundreds marched and many wore paper bags over their heads to cancel their identities. Today, about 300,000 person actively and openly participate — including national and international companies.
The Pride festival takes place October 11-13 and features a variety of events and parades. The largest parade takes place Oct. 13 starting at noon from the Civic Center MARTA station and goes onto Peachtree Street, turns east on 10th Street and ends up at the entrance of Piedmont Park. The parade features colorful floats, bands, extravagantly dressed marchers and, along the way, supporters hand out water to marchers and cheer them on.
In addition to the main parade there will be a Trans March on Oct. 12 beginning at 1:15 at the Charles Allen Gate at Piedmont Park; the Bi & Pan March on Oct. 12 at 3:30 at the 14th Street entrance to Piedmont Park and the Dyke March starting a 5 p.m. at the Charles Allen Gate.
If you think that Piedmont Park is the center of many of the activities, well, you are right. The park will host live entertainment, cultural exhibits and a marketplace with more than 200 vendor booths. Many of the restaurants ringing the park are owned by members of the gay community and many offer restaurant and nightlife promotions. In addition there are films, beauty pageants, outside activities and auctions.
There are many LGBTQ-owned restaurants, especially in Midtown, but all are welcomed and everyone feels right at home. Among the restaurants owned by members of the LGBTQ community within walking distance of Piedmont Park are: Metro Fresh, a fabulous fresh foods in a fun casual atmosphere. Metro Fresh was started by Mitchell Anderson, who in addition to being a chef was a star in “Party of Five” and “Doogie Howser”, The Flying Biscuit, Ten Atlanta, 10 & Piedmont, Amsterdam Cafe, Henry’s, Blake’s on the Park, Einstein’s and Joe’s on Juniper.
Other areas where gay nightclubs and restaurants are located are the Ansley Square Shopping Center, where nondescript storefronts mask the fun inside such as Felix’s, and Cheshire Bridge Road. Other well-known gay hot spots include Richards, a male strip club, Bulldog’s, which largely attracts an African-American GLBT crowd, Atlanta Eagle, an authentic leather-and-Levi’s bar, Woofs, a gay sports bar, and Mary’s, a popular lesbian bar in East Atlanta with great music and karaoke.
While in Atlanta, be sure to see a performance at the Out Front Theatre Co., which is a theater company whose goal is to tell the stories of the LGBTQIA experience and community, giving a voice to these artists through theatre. The plays are include new productions as well as well-known plays such as La Cage Aux Folles.