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This weekend is ours: Tips on how to make Pride fun, comfortable and safe

San Diego Pride is here, and finally, I am excited.

This weekend is ours. It is the one time of year where we celebrate everything gay - and turn Hillcrest into one giant rainbow mess. Everything from the rally, parade and festival, to the parties, bars, clubs, and chance encounters, all are exciting in their own way.

To me, Pride is like the Gay New Years. All avenues point towards Pride, and so much of life is dictated by “pre-Pride” and “post-Pride.”

However, for the last couple of months, I have often written about this “pride funk” I seemed to be in. All the way up through this past weekend, I still felt it. Something about this year felt different and I could not get into the usual overly gay, “Happy Pride” kind of spirit.

Yesterday, I got excited. I don’t know what happened, but I am absolutely feeling it now, and am so glad. Maybe it is because the weather magically turned “summery” yesterday; or maybe it was because I spent a good deal of my day yesterday putting together pre-Pride coverage for San Diego Gay & Lesbian News … or maybe, it was just timing. Whatever, the reason, it’s time!

Because it is such an intensely exciting weekend, I thought I would put together some of my tips for having a fun, comfortable, and safe Pride.

Every year, there are “newbies” attending their first Pride. San Diego also plays host to thousands of visitors over Pride weekend, many of who have never been to San Diego before. And finally, some Pride veterans just need a little bit of reminding every once in awhile. Oh, and feel free to add your own tips – we have a great little comments section at the bottom of every written piece on this web site.

This Week

  • Rest up! Pride weekend is exhausting. So exhausting, in fact, that I usually take off from work the two days after Pride recover. While there are some exciting events to attend this week, take it easy, and head home early.

  • Participate in Pre-Pride events and mixers. This is a great way to meet some of the community’s movers and shakers and get a real feeling for what Pride is all about. That handy guide I referenced above lists a few.

  • Eat! I know that many of my gay male friends are on liquid diets, or starving themselves this week in hopes of looking their best this weekend. I can guarantee you that this is not good for you, and will probably just end up making you look pale and worse than you think you did before. Take care of your body; it’s going to go through a lot this weekend.

  • Attend the Pride Rally on Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Festival Site. The new Pride Board of Directors brought this event back (it used to be an annual tradition) and it really is a great way to get into the “Pride spirit”. This event is often referred to as the “political” part of Pride and it feels good to spend a couple of hours celebrating the true meaning of Pride before the massive party begins.

  • Buy your festival tickets in advance. Not only will they be cheaper, you won’t have to wait in line at the festival to make your purchase. Visit www.sandiegopride.org before Friday to buy tickets.

The Parade

  • If you go out Friday night, mind the “No Parking” signs! While cars parked along the parade route are not towed until about 4 a.m., I know that many people do the smart thing and crash at a friend’s or take a cab if they drink too much … but if you are parked in one of these areas, your car may be gone on Saturday morning!

  • Again, eat. Have a light, but hearty breakfast in the morning. Whether or not you are in the Parade, because of parking, you will do a lot of walking. You will need the energy.

  • Remember that it is not a typical Saturday morning in Hillcrest. Over 150,000 people will be descending a 1.5 mile area of Hillcrest which means that parking will not exist. Give yourself extra time to drive into Hillcrest, find parking, and walk to the parade route.

  • Use the shuttle! Pride runs a free shuttle to and from the parade route (and festival), from a location with ample parking. Check out the handy guide referenced above for more information. In addition, the Park-2-Park Shuttle service is offering a special "Pride Line" route - visit the Park-2-Park website for routes, times and to buy your special Pride Line pass.

  • Wear sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring lots of water! The sun will be hot.

  • The city doesn’t look too kindly upon drinking or nudity in public. Hint: Red “Solo” cups are a dead giveaway that you ARE drinking. Make sure that your butt-crack and front parts are covered. Stay classy!

  • Parade viewing parties are always fun places to watch the parade from. SDGLN and SDPIX will be hosting a fun party at Jakes on 6th Wine Bar and Rich’s will open up their parking lot beer garden as well.

  • A fun way to end the parade is to grab hold of Pride’s 300 foot Rainbow Flag that will traverse the route and end up at Balboa Park. Ricky and I will be coordinating this and encourage you to grab hold of the flag or follow it to the park.

The Festival

  • The peak time is typically right after the parade ends. There will be lines to get in, but they move fairly quickly. Stay calm, don’t be rude or pushy, and be patient. Also, there are two entrances to the Pride festival. Aside from the crowded Main Gate, if you go over to Juniper Drive, there is a second, less crowded entrance.

  • Again, don’t forget the festival will be crowded. It takes some time to walk the entire loop because of this. There is no rush, so enjoy and take it all in.

  • Drink and party responsibly. It would be quite embarrassing if you had to be carted out of Pride on a stretcher because you had a “bit too much”. You know how much you can drink, so don’t overdo it just because it is Pride.

  • Don’t complain about “Beer Gardens”. I often hear friends complaining about the fact that in “LA and Long Beach, you don’t have to drink in beer gardens.” I am sure Pride organizers are well aware of this fact, and do not need the reminder. This is a county regulation that Pride does not control. Enjoy the beer gardens with friends.

  • Experience something different. Check out the women’s stage, the Latino stage, or some of the booths. Take an hour or two to learn about and celebrate different parts of our community. You will have fun and likely meet some new people.

  • Be polite to our visitors! There will be thousands of visitors in town this weekend and they are counting on us for our hospitality.

The Parties and Nightlife

  • Buy your tickets in advance. In most cases they are cheaper in advance, and saves you the hassle.

  • Designate a driver. Don’t you dare drive drunk, slightly drunk, or even buzzed!

  • If you are attending the Official San Diego Pride Parties presented by SDGLN/SDPIX, there is a great limo bus shuttle service you can ride for free! Again, check out the fabulous guide for the details.

  • The regular nightclubs and bars will have long lines – be ready for them. Plan on arriving early or waiting in line, sometimes for up to an hour. Also, some venues may have higher cover charges. Don’t complain, support these local venues, many of whom rely on Pride revenue, and be patient.

  • Again, stay classy. Don’t overdo it. Don’t get thrown it. Be polite.

  • After a night out, get some rest. I have many friends who were disappointed they missed the parade because they overslept on Saturday morning. Get home at a reasonable hour and crash.

The overall theme for the weekend is really to just have fun. That is what Pride is about- having fun and celebrating with each other. Patience is key – there will be a lot of people around, so just smile, take a deep breath, and make the most of every moment whenever you get the urge to be frustrated by something.

Celebrate safely and take care of yourself. Don’t let me catch you passed out in a gutter!

Happy Pride!

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".