Charlotte Pride’s annual festival and parade are just around the corner. Taking up a full two days of Uptown fun, the event will feature over 150 vendors, the Sunday parade, hours of main stage entertainment and more. If you decide to venture out — and, duh, why wouldn’t you, it’s Pride for gosh sake — you’ll be among tens of thousands of revelers and community members soaking up the sun, networking with local non-profits, taking in the sights and sounds of the event’s performers and showing the Queen City exactly what it means to be a proud member of the LGBTQ community. But before you go, check out our essential list of 10 must-have items you must bring to Pride. Leave home without them and you’ll be wishing you hadn’t.
Sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen. Preferably the water-resistant and non-greasy kind. Might as well pack the 100 SPF. August is a hot time of the year, with plenty of sun beaming down all day long. You’ll be in your finest tank top — or maybe even shirtless, who knows!? — and you’ll want to protect your silky smooth skin from all that damaging UV radiation. Same goes for your body. Be sure to drink plenty of water. If you decide to imbibe on adult beverages, mix it up every other drink with a bottle of water. If you bring your furry family friend, be sure to plan on giving them plenty of water, too. And, keep in mind: Uptown street pavement can be blisteringly hot on your dog’s feet.
You’ll never see as many rainbows in your life as you will at a Pride event. Come decked out in your best and favorite rainbow-hued Pride wear. T-shirts, hats, bandanas, sunglasses, face paintings and more — anything and everything you can think of comes in our radiant symbol of Pride, triumph and community. Don’t be left out of the club!
Charlotte Pride’s festival runs nearly half the length of Tryon St. If you go to the parade on N. Tryon St. on Sunday, too, odds are you’ll be walking quite a bit. When you get to the stage, you’ll want to make sure your feet and legs aren’t too tired — because it’s dance time! Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes to keep your feet in tip-top shape throughout the weekend.
With so many vendors — from the event’s national corporate sponsors to local small businesses and non-profits — you’ll get to load up on tons of free stuff! Cups, water bottles, keychains and other cool giveaways, along with all your Pride merch purchases, need a safe space to chill while you’re walking through the festival. Bring a handy bag to carry it all in. And no worries if you forget one — some vendors give away bags, too!
Condoms and lube
Yup — we’re not shying away from the obvious. Pride is fun, empowering, uplifting, inspiring. It’s also one of the only times each year you can be surrounded by tens of thousands of people just like you. Forget Grindr, Scruff, Lavendr or Tinder. Just take a look around! And whether you find that perfect Ms. Right or hot-as-all-get-out Mr. Right Now, you’ll be glad you came prepared. But if you forgot your condoms, lube or other safer sex items at home, have no fear. Plenty of vendors will likely be giving away condoms, lube and other safer sex tools, toys and tips. Stop by one of the several HIV/AIDS service organizations for resources and, while you’re there, take a quick 20-minute, free and confidential HIV test! Knowledge is power, y’all.
I mean, really? It’s Charlotte. ATMs on every corner. Why do you need cash? You’d know that answer if you ever stood in an ATM line at Pride. Things have gotten better over the years — with mobile ATM machines set up during the event — but it’s still a good idea to stop by an ATM on your way or the day before. Some vendors might only accept cash; plus, it’s a lot quicker than waiting on a credit card swipe.
Your transit plans
Uptown is big. Lots of parking decks and such. But with so many people flocking to the event, it’ll be good to know your transportation plans before you head out. Where do you think you’ll park? How much will it cost? (Prepare for special event parking prices.) What kinds of public bus or light rail routes can you take into Uptown instead? Got your local cabbie’s number programed in your phone? Uber or Lyft apps downloaded? Five minutes of planning before heading to the party will make getting to and from Uptown a breeze. Also — don’t drink and drive. Bring along a trustworthy friend who volunteers to be your designated driver if you plan on letting loose. No need to ruin your absolutely fabulous weekend with a DWI or worse.
You can’t be left without a phone or a camera at Pride. Stay in touch with friends. Check in on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But, most importantly, take lots of great photos! You’ll make lots of memories with your best buds at Pride. Capture all those smiling faces and share with the world!
An open mind
Pride parades and festivals are our community’s chance to come together — united, empowered and affirmed. The LGBT community is as diverse as the rest of the world. You’ll meet people from neighborhoods or even other states or countries you might not have ever visited before. You’ll see big and small, black and white, rich and poor. And our brilliantly diverse community will shine in other ways, too. You’ll see leather-clad men and women, folks letting it (nearly) all hang out in speedos and bikinis, burly bears, lipstick lesbians, women who surely ought to join Dykes on Bikes and everything else in between. Pride is a place where all can be affirmed. So bring an open mind, be prepared to give that leatherman a hug and get to know someone, learn something new about your community and make new friends!
A good spirit and good people
Most importantly, Pride is meant to be fun, enriching and inspiring. You can’t have any of those without a good spirit and good people. Bring your friends, your family, your co-workers. Bring good people, good energy and good vibes. Let out your feel-good spirit and show the world why you’re proud to be LGBT or a straight ally. Leave an indelible mark of positivity, affirmation and acceptance right smack dab in the heart of Charlotte.
If you go: Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade
Quick facts to get you where you need to go, when you need to be there.
Charlotte Pride Festival
PNC Bank Festival Zone
S. Tryon St., between Trade and Stonewall Sts.
Aug. 15, Noon-10 p.m., Aug. 16, Noon-6 p.m.
Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade
N. Tryon St., between 9th and Trade Sts.
Judges stand located at Independence Square, Trade & Tryon
Aug. 16, 1-3 p.m.
Wells Fargo Stage
S. Tryon St., near Stonewall St.
Opening ceremony, Aug. 15, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday entertainment: 1-10 p.m. / Sunday entertainment: 3-6 p.m.
Charlotte Pride VIP Lounge,
presented by Time Warner Cable
S. Tryon St. and Fourth St.
Open to pass holders during normal festival hours