Mardi Gras in Sydney, Australia

by Hallie Engel

Attracting revelers from across the globe for more than 30 years, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras ( has been described by Planetout as "the best gay event in the world." The celebration takes place over three weeks and features a massive parade with thousands of participants decked out in crazy costumes, all celebrating gay pride and visibility.

The First Mardi Gras

The first Sydney Mardi Gras took place on June 24, 1978, and participants faced problems with local police. The event was organized as Sydney's form of participation in the Gay Solidarity Celebrations movement, counteracting anti-gay legislation and violence across the world. Participants organized a route, played music and wore costumes, but were hassled by police and arrested. Some participants were beaten in jail, but laws were changed the following year that allowed them to have a parade without incident.

The Parade

The center of the Sydney Mardi Gras events is a massive parade, which winds down Oxford Street, near the city center, through to Darlinghurst. The 2011 parade featured 185 floats, decorated to celebrate various themes, and participants dressed in flamboyant costumes, ranging from skimpy leather outfits to elaborate drag queen get-ups. More than 8,500 people marched in the parade in 2011, though the biggest ever parade occurred in 2009 and featured more than 10,000 participants.

Related Events

Other events make up the Sydney Mardi Gras experience. An opening celebration is held at the Sydney Opera House, a wonder of modern architecture that rests on the edge of Sydney Harbor. The entire celebration features musical performances, dance parties, art exhibits and fairs. Many events are targeted toward serious partiers, though family-friendly activities are scheduled.

Dates and City

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras takes place annually over three weeks, beginning in early February and stretching into mid-March, with the parade on March 8th. This is the end of Australia's summer tourist season, when temperatures have dropped from their peak, but the air is still warm, meaning participants can wear skimpy costumes comfortably. Sydney is home to more than four million people and is the capital of New South Wales. The city is also the largest in Australia.

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