14 February 2013
Sydney's Mardi Gras Festival has been running for more than 35 years, and there's no better time to be part of this colourful celebration in Australia's largest city.
While the Mardi Gras Festival represents nearly a month of celebrations – stretching from the second week of February to the beginning of March, the signature event is of course the iconic Mardi Gras Parade, which takes place in the closing days of the festival on the first Saturday in March.
From its humble beginnings as a parade calling for rights and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community in 1978 to mark the tenth anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1978, today's parade has evolved to include more than 10,000 participants, lavish floats and out-of-this-world costumes. Hundreds of thousands of people line the route in celebration of Sydney's biggest street party, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.
Every year, the Mardi Gras Festival has a theme – in 2013, for example, this was Generations of Love – and whether you plan to spend the evening dancing with friends in the Royal Botanical Gardens, joining the crowds along the parade route or even participating in the event itself, you are sure to have an unforgettable night in Sydney.
A vibrant celebration of colour and diversity, the parade route snakes along Oxford and Flinders Streets – and if you are planning to take it all in, you will want to arrive early to score yourself a great spot. There is plenty of entertainment scheduled ahead of the parade to keep you smiling as you wait for things to get started! The parade itself lasts from 19:45 until 22:00.
Because the Mardi Gras parade is the largest event on Australia's LGBTQI calendar – and one of Sydney's premier social events – it attracts quite a crowd!
If you can score yourself a ticket, the parade is followed by the Mardi Gras Party, which is attended by some 16,000 revellers dancing to the beats of superstar DJs. And if you still have the energy to carry the celebrations on to the next day, March 3 is the Laneway Official After Party.
Last year's event saw Kylie Minogue as ambassador and there are rumours of another big name this year – so you won't want to miss out on any of the fun and excitement!
Best of all, attendance at the parade itself is completely free – anyone can come to Darlinghurst and enjoy the festivities.
If you require accessible viewing or you are attending the event with children, there are three dedicated viewing areas you may wish to check out. Taylor Square offers excellent views of the parade as it turns from Oxford Street onto Flinders Street, although you may find the crowds to be slightly quieter at the Shell service station on the corner of Short and Flinders Streets.
Alternatively, Albion Street offers a flat, accessible viewpoint and is also usually less crowded than Taylor Square – although you should still be prepared to deal with plenty of foot traffic.
Of course, the Mardi Gras Parade is just part of the Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations – and if you happen to be in the harbour city over the next few weeks, there are a few other events that are also well worth checking out.
For example, the Sydney Frontrunners' Mardi Gras Fun Run at Centennial Park is free to join – this five-kilometre journey begins near the park's Paddington gates. The Bondi Beach Drag Races are another fun Mardi Gras celebration you won't want to miss!
You'll also want to keep your eyes peeled for evening parties – such as the Sydney Mardi Gras Pool Party – as well as several performing and visual arts exhibitions throughout the event.