ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Happiest Place on Earth will get a little happier - or gayer - this weekend as thousands of people head to the Disneyland Resort for the 14th annual Unofficial Gay Days Anaheim.
The event, which is a social event for members of the LGBT community and friends to come together and celebrate at Disneyland, will attract over 30,000 to the park and surrounding areas for three days of parties, performances and other special events - on top of spending time exploring the Disneyland Resort.
Since the weekend is considered a "mix-in" event -- meaning that the park is open to the general public during Gay Days -- it is tradition for attendees to wear red shirts while visiting to identify each other and make a strong showing of support for the LGBT community.
With the surge in popularity of Gay Days Anaheim, the event has grown to attract a number of celebrities and other VIPs, such as the legendary Carol Channing, who will perform this year.
Organizers want everyone who attends their event to have a great time so the weekend includes activities for men, women, youth, party animals and those who prefer quieter activities alike.
Gay Days Anaheim is "Unofficial"
One thing that attendees will notice this weekend is that while at Disneyland Park, it will be business as usual.
Certainly, there will be an influx of gay people (and unsuspecting non-gay park visitors) donning red shirts, but Disneyland will not become "The Gayest Place on Earth” - at least not officially.
And event organizers are OK with this.
According to the Gay Days Anaheim website, Disney does not endorse any group that comes into the park during regular park operating hours. In order to make the event "official" Gay Days organizers would have to rent out the entire park, which is not done during regular operating hours.
Gay Days Anaheim does, however, rent out numerous facilities throughout the Disneyland resort (as any group could do) and say that Disneyland staff have been incredibly helpful and supportive of the events.
Gay Days Anaheim was created in 1998 after a private evening gay party that had been held in the park for many years prior was cancelled. Organizers modeled the weekend after the popular "Gay Day" held at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
With a regular day at Disneyland being busy enough, the special Gay Days schedule can seem overwhelming -- but chock full of fun and Disney magic.
Starting at noon today, attendees are welcome to check-in at the Gay Days Welcome Center in Disney’s Grand California Hotel. The welcome area will have gift bags, T-shirts, and an opportunity to meet the staff and sponsors and get information.
Friday’s schedule also includes the opportunity to watch a live broadcast of Sirius XM’s the Derek and Romaine Show; a cocktail party; and a premiere screening of the new reality show, "The A-List: Dallas."
Saturday: Gay Day at Disneyland
Saturday is the big day, with the official "Unofficial Gay Day" at Disneyland taking place from 8 am to midnight (regular park operating hours). Participants are encouraged to wear their red shirts and enjoy the magic of Disneyland all day long.
Activities will include a cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat; various group lunch outings; a cocktail party; a book signing by Jane Lynch of her new book "Happy Accidents."
The famous group photo will take place at 2 pm in the Festival Arena behind Big Thunder Mountain. Participants are encouraged to take part in this "ginormous" photo which will be used to show the world just how gay Gay Days can be!
The Saturday night dance events are huge on the party circuit, and include an option for men and women.
"Kingdom" is the centerpiece event of the weekend, taking place at House of Blues Anaheim in Downtown Disney.
DJ Kimberly S will be on the turntables and a number of special entertainers, including Frenchie Davis from The Voice and the up-and-coming singer Ben Roman of West Hollywood will perform.
Tickets to the Kingdom party, which is a 21+ event, are $35 in advance and $45 at the door for general admission tickets. A VIP option is available.
Women may be more interested in attending the "Ladies Lounge" party Saturday night starting at 9 pm at The Anabella Hotel. The poolside gathering will take place immediately following Suzanne Westenhoefer’s performance of her show, Semi-Sweet.
Westenhoefer is known by many as "the funniest lesbian alive."
The event, hosted by Raquel Castaneda of The Real L Word, will include treats and cocktails.
Sunday: Gay Day at Disney’s California Adventure
With the addition of Disney’s California Adventure a few years ago, Gay Days Anaheim split up the two days to encourage attendees to visit both parks. Red shirts are encouraged at California Adventure.
The fun continues Sunday, with a number of events including a Gay Brunch at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney; a gathering for "bears" and their admirers; lunch specials; a scavenger hunt; and a cocktail party.
Sunday's main event is the Plunge!, taking place at The Anabella Hotel from noon to 4 pm.
This cocktail-pool party will include DJ Zach Moos, undergear models and a barbeque lunch.
Tickets to Plunge! are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the event. The event is for those 21 years and older only.
Later on, the legendary Carol Channing will speak at "An Intimate Conversation with Carol Channing" happening at 6:30 pm at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. The 90-year-old star will talk about her life and career and take questions from the audience.
Tickets to the event are $20 and will benefit the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijjian Foundation for the Arts.
Sunday evening will close -- not at Disney -- but at the nearby Knott’s Berry Farm theme park’s Halloween Haunt from 7 pm to 1 am. Specially priced tickets are available online.
For the younger set
While most attractions within the theme parks are open to all ages, many of the evening parties are for those 21 years and older. Gay Days organizers have created a few events specifically for younger participants.
The "Youth Scavenger Hunt" will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 10:30 am at the Carnation Plaza Gardens, just left of the Castle. The activity is sponsored by the Orange County chapter of PFLAG and will include an opportunity to win prizes.
Organizers ask that only those 21-years and younger take part in this activity and RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Trevor Teen Dance Party will also take place Saturday from 7 to 10 pm in the Frontierland Tower at the Disneyland Hotel. The event is free and is only open to those 20 and younger.
To sign up for the dance, click HERE.
If you go
Because Gay Days Anaheim is an "unofficial" event, park-goers will need to purchase tickets as they normally would for admission to Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure.
There is a fee for parking at the Disneyland Resort, but Gay Days organizers recommended parking in Downtown Disney lots as parking is free for a certain number of hours with validation.
Those who wish to stay overnight are encouraged to checkout the Gay Days "Places to Stay" web page.
Additional tickets are required for the evening dance parties and the pool party; the Suzanne Westenhoefer show; and the evening with Carol Channing and can be purchased online. Most tickets have lower price points if purchased in advance.
Gay Days Anaheim T-shirts, pins and other memorabilia are also available on the site.
The Gay Days Anaheim website includes an extensive amount of additional information, history and frequently asked questions. Click HERE to visit the site.