Washington DC

How to Celebrate Pride Month in DC

Support LGBTQ nonprofits and local drag queens.

After celebrations were forced to go digital last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the LGBTQ community is more than ready for a full month of in-person celebrations. 

Luckily, we’re getting just that, as vaccinations continue to be distributed throughout the city and the doors to our favorite bars and restaurants begin to swing back open. For those who don’t yet feel comfortable in a crowd, plenty of online events will be taking place this month, too.

“As it becomes safer for us to gather together once again, we hope that everyone will join the Capital Pride Alliance in 2021, as we celebrate our community and continue the important work that we’ve committed ourselves to,” said Ryan Bos, the Alliance’s Executive Director. “Whether you plan on celebrating virtually or in person, our upcoming events provide safe and creative ways to honor our local traditions while taking into account varying levels of personal comfort.”

While fun events are popping up all month long, there are a few dates to keep your eye on, like Friday, June 11 when large venues in DC are able to resume normal operations at full capacity. Capital Pride is taking full advantage, hosting an in-person Capital Pride Honors event at Compass Coffee in Ivy City followed by a party. You’ll want to don your best rainbow fits for events like the Taste of Pride Brunch and the pup-friendly PAWrade, so keep reading to get the full scoop on the best DC Pride events taking place in 2021 and how to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month and beyond.

Grab drinks and celebrate

Noticeably absent from last year’s festivities was any opportunity for in-person drinking. Make up for lost time with some boozy Pride events this June, like those happening at local breweries. Red Bear Brewing is hosting Pride Month Movie Nights every Thursday, starting with the documentary Paris is Burning, and 3 Stars Brewing is throwing a party on June 13 with a live DJ and drag performances. For those looking to celebrate with their four-legged best friends, dog-friendly beer garden Bark Social in Bethesda is hosting a PAWrade and canine costume contest on June 12 with proceeds being donated to local nonprofit MoCo ReConnect.

Beloved tavern and beer garden Hook Hall stepped it up last year to distribute meals through Hook Hall Helps, and now they’re raising funds for the Capital Pride Alliance and other local organizations through their weekly Hooked on Capital Pride events every Wednesday. Expect drink specials, music and celebration of all things LGBTQ. 

Participate in classic Capital Pride events

The main event will still take in a different form than usual this year, with the introduction of the Pridemobile Parade. On June 12, a colorful trolley will roll through DC neighborhoods to celebrate Pride, followed by registered automobiles that individuals and businesses will most likely deck out for the occasion. 

The night before at Compass Coffee Ivy City will be the Capital Pride Honors, which honors activists in and for the LGBTQ community. Though the ceremony will take place in person, tickets are limited for safety and include hors d'oeuvres and dessert stations as well as a very reasonably priced open bar.

Enjoy queer art

For those looking to balance their bar nights with some other activities, there are plenty of opportunities around the city all June long to celebrate queer artists and their spectacular work. Installation artist Stephanie Mercedes will be speaking about her collaboration with Georgetown GLOW called “The Weight of a Rainbow” on June 12. The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria will also be hosting their own ALX Pride event on June 11, which will showcase new art including an installation called “UHAULED” by Virginia-based artist Cat Baker. Inside five U-Haul trucks, visitors can find artwork from local queer and lesbian artists. 

If you’re staying at home this month there’s still plenty of art to be experienced, like the 40th anniversary of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC. The choral group will be hosting a huge virtual concert featuring performances filmed in iconic DC locations such as the Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Supreme Court. The at-home celebrations continue on June 18th with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which is offering printable bingo cards featuring artwork by queer artists for a Virtual Drag Bingo night hosted by drag queen KC B. Yoncé. 

Check out drag performances around the city

Pride Month is simply not complete without celebrating the art of drag. Fortunately there will be plenty of opportunities this June, like at a brand new exhibition hosted by Dupont Underground and The Washington Blade, paying respect to the tradition of drag performances in DC and highlighting the history of drag. Experience the exhibition between June 4 and June 27 each weekend.

You can support your local drag queens and kings from home, too, at Flame: Rising From the Ashes of COVID presented by Queen City Kings Drag, which will feature sixteen "drag kings, queens, and in-betweens" on Twitch on June 6. 

We promise you won’t be hushed if you also tune in on June 12 to Drag Family Story Time organized by the DC Public Library, a family friendly virtual event for which local drag performers will read children’s stories to “celebrate Pride as a family.” Keep the ball rolling the next day with another virtual drag show put on by lesbian bar A League of Her Own, hosted by Ophelia Diamonds.

Brunch for a good cause

Sunday, June 13 marks the first-ever Taste of Pride Brunch, when a group of restaurants around the city will be celebrating Pride Month with drink and food specials and entertainment. Proceeds from the event will go to the GivePride365 Fund which benefits local LGBTQ charities.  

You can also get your brunch on at Dirty Habit DC all month long as they’ll be hosting a weekly series called Colors of the Rainbow featuring specific color-themed food and beverage options—we say why not celebrate every color? A portion of proceeds from the drinks and menu items will go to the Human Rights Campaign and a Place Called Home.

Educate yourself and support LGBTQ organizations

Aside from all the celebrations, Pride Month is also an important time to pay respects to the LGBTQ community members and activists who paved the way. Educational events are a great way to learn more about LGBTQ history, like the Washington Blade Describe-a-Thon on June 12, when they team up with the DC Public Library to discuss the library’s ongoing project of digitizing all past issues of the queer magazine. Rainbow Warriors: A Century of LGBTQ+ Womxn Activists is another virtual event, exploring “100 years of fierce LGBTQ+ womxn activists through primary documents from The Library of Congress, Lesbian Herstory Archives, and pop culture.”

Another way to get involved is by donating. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you decide to fork some of your own hard-earned cash over to contribute to a worthy cause, it matters where those dollars end up. Your best bet for really stretching those contributions, even the smaller ones, is by donating to a well-trusted local organization.

An amazing place to start is with DC-based nonprofits like Casa Ruby, the only LGBTQ bilingual and multicultural organization in the area that provides social services and programs catering to the most vulnerable.

Another local organization is SMYAL, or Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders. The organization not only provides leadership development opportunities for LGBTQ teens, but also after-school programs and counseling services designed to empower and educate. Additionally, SMYAL spearheads education and training programs for youth service providers working in schools, runaway shelters, local government agencies, and hospitals.

Don’t forget about the organization that’s putting all of these Pride events together, either. Donate to Capital Pride Alliance to help support its mission of diverse programming and events, not just during the month of June but year-round for the LGBTQ community.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen covers dining and lifestyle for Thrillist and InsideHook, as well as equality and accessibility for The Hill. She's just as proud to call herself a cat mom to Butter as she is to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
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