(NE Portland bar by NashCO Photography)
Second only to San Francisco in percentage of LGBTQ residents, Portland has steadily developed into one of the nation’s most inclusive destinations. The City of Roses draws thousands to its pride parade each June, but the celebration doesn’t end at city limits. Five other communities around the state also honor the queer liberation movement’s history and progress with festivals that draw participants from near and far. Here’s everything you need to know about pride in Oregon, from Portland’s year-round queer offerings to LGBTQ festivities in cities from Ashland to Bend and beyond.
(Kevin Cook, aka Poison Waters, performing at Darcelle XV Showplace by H2Meyer Photography)
Keep Portland Queer
Portland draws LGBTQ travelers year-round due to its progressive culture and mix of queer-friendly clubs and attractions. Here’s what you need to know, whether your visit coincides with pride festivities or not.
The city has no specific “gay district” — folks live, work and play in virtually every neighborhood, although the West End (sometimes referred to as the “Pink Triangle”), Old Town, North Portland, Hawthorne/Belmont and the Central Eastside have a particularly pronounced LGBTQ presence.
It’s no surprise that you’ll find a diverse and vibrant queer-nightlife scene, including more than a dozen gay bars and dance clubs (Stag, Scandals, Crush Bar, CC Slaughters, Eagle Portland and Embers Avenue are among the favorites), many monthly dance events (Blow Pony, Lez Do It, Bridge Club and CAKE, just to name a few) and a slew of queer-friendly venues that draw mixed crowds. The city is even home to the oldest drag revue on the West Coast, named for America’s oldest and longest-performing drag queen: Darcelle XV Showplace.
The city is also home to dozens of businesses owned or heavily staffed by members of the LGBTQ community, from spots like tomboy-chic clothier Wildfang, trans-owned Portland Bicycle Studio, men’s underwear shop UnderU4Men, confectioner Donut Byte Labs and urban winemaking operation Hip Chicks Do Wine to numerous restaurants, including Irving Street Kitchen, Saucebox, Little T Baker and Departure.
Portland has long cultivated an inclusive and progressive artistic and political scene. You see this when considering a few of the LGBTQ notables who have called the city home, such as filmmaker Gus Van Sant, transgender writer Carter Sickels, indie rocker Beth Ditto, novelist Chuck Palahniuk, songstress k.d. lang, Pink Martini co-band leader Thomas Lauderdale, former mayor Sam Adams and “Portlandia” co-creator Carrie Brownstein.(Wildfang by NashCO Photography)
(Peacock in the Park by Lauren Palmer)
PDX Pride Events
Held June 17 and 18 in 2017, the Portland Waterfront LGBTQ Pride Festival and Parade draws thousands to the festival grounds at leafy Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Over the course of the festival, local and national musicians entertain the crowds, a number of artisan food and craft-beverage vendors provide tasty snacks and drinks, and dozens of supportive businesses, organizations and resources dispense information. On Sunday (typically at 11 a.m., but check the official website for up-to-date details), the Portland LGBTQ Pride Parade snakes through downtown, the Pearl District and Old Town.
Other key events throughout Pride Weekend include the Flare Pride Kickoff Party on Thursday evening; the 3-mile Pride Glow Run along the riverfront on Friday night; the Portland Trans Pride Rally and March and the Portland Dyke March (which both traditionally take place on Saturday); a rollicking block party on Southwest Stark Street outside Scandals gay bar on both Saturday and Sunday; and the hugely popular Gaylabration party on Saturday night. Usually on or near Pride Weekend, there’s also traditionally a special installment of Blow Pony, the city’s sassy and spirited monthly queer dance party at Bossanova Ballroom.
Later in the summer, the PDX Latinx Pride comprises four days of cultural and social programming — from poetry readings to a salsa dance party. This jubilant celebration usually takes place in July or August.
Other annual events in the city well worth checking out include the Portland Queer Film Festival in mid-September, with most showings at the indie-spirited Cinema 21, and QDoc, the world’s only film festival dedicated to LGBTQ documentaries, which is held in May at the historic Hollywood Theatre. Also in May, people of all genders and orientations don red dresses — often highly glamorous ones — to attend an annual fundraising gala, the aptly named Red Dress Party, proceeds of which benefit the Bradley Angle House and Q Center. And in late June, Peacock in the Park is a joyful, family-friendly dance and drag extravaganza and scholarship fundraiser held in the open-air Washington Park Amphitheater.(Courtesy of Pride Glow Run)
(Courtesy of Central Oregon Pride)
Oregon’s True Colors
Oregon’s reputation as a diverse and LGBTQ-friendly state extends to many communities outside Portland, from the Coast to the Cascades. Throughout the year, pride festivals provide a terrific opportunity to visit different parts of the state.
Head to the outdoorsy city of Bend in late June to attend the Central Oregon Pride festival. This laid-back and friendly festival features an afternoon of music, food and mingling at downtown’s verdant Drake Park, which fringes the Deschutes River.
Now heading into its second year, Astoria Pride comprises three days of gatherings in June throughout this historic and picturesque small city at the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Festivities typically include a parade along Astoria’s scenic river walk, an art show, a special LGBT Astoria Riverfront Trolley tour, an art show, dance parties and more.
The state’s third-largest city plays host to the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in August. After Portland, Eugene has the largest and most visible LGBTQ community in the state. It’s also home to one of the state’s only gay bars outside of Portland, the Wayward Lamb, which is a welcoming spot for drinks or a meal anytime — but especially during pride. The Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival takes place at the scenic Alton Baker Park along the banks of the Willamette River. Watch a diverse mix of bands and performers, chat with local LGBTQ-supportive businesses and organizations at a vendor expo, and sip craft brews in the beer garden.
Also held along the Willamette River, typically in early August, Capitol Pride draws locals and visitors to the state’s capital and second-largest city, Salem, for a lively day of entertainment at Riverfront Park.
Finally, in autumn, Rogue Valley Pride (organized by the nonprofit Lotus Rising Project) draws crowds to the cultural and culinary hubs of Ashland and Medford during the first week of October. The fun includes a kickoff party, pride dinners at local restaurants, drag shows, dance parties, a pride parade through downtown Ashland and a pride picnic at Ashland’s lovely Lithia Park. The region has a sizable LGBTQ community, drawn here in part by the world-class Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which takes place from late February through late October and is a must-see if you’re in the area during Rogue Valley Pride.(Rogue Valley Pride photos courtesy of traveljapanblog.com)