While you prepare for ALA Annual this summer (or any summer), it’s always worth taking a look to see what other events are going on in the city that you can enjoy before, during, and after. This year, the conference will overlap with one of my favorite annual events in the city, the Chicago Pride Parade. The parade will kick off for the 48th year on Chicago’s north side, where it will wind its way through Chicago’s famous Boystown neighborhood and out towards Lake Michigan. For less mainstream festivities, you can also check out the Chicago Dyke March, taking place on Saturday the 24th in the Little Village neighborhood. Whether or not you attend one of these events, this is the perfect weekend to enjoy LGBTQ Chicago.
If you do plan on attending the Pride Parade, you can find a map and more information at Chicago Pride Parade website, and should keep a few things in mind. First, the middle of the parade in Boystown (along Halsted and Belmont) will have the biggest crowds – up to six or seven people deep on the sidewalks. If you prefer a more laid-back viewing experience, try Broadway near the beginning of the parade route or Diversey near the end. Second, it’s long! Be prepared for about two and a half hours of fun, and another half an hour or hour of staking out a spot before the parade. For me, this usually means bringing a camp chair, cold drinks, snacks, and lots of sunscreen. Lastly, this is always a joyous event, so be prepared with smiles, cheers, and a camera.
If you want to skip the parade crowds but still enjoy the LGBTQ scene in Chicago, there are a few ways to do that. Chicago’s Center on Halsted offers critical services as well as fun events for the city’s LGBTQ population, and will be celebrating Pride weekend with a party. Or get busy thrifting at one of the Brown Elephant locations – proceeds support the Howard Brown Health Center, which provides crucial health services for LGBTQ individuals. If you’re looking to avoid the Boystown crowds entirely, head north to Andersonville, where you can get a great meal at Hamburger Mary’s and enjoy their Dining with the Divas drag queen performances. And of course, there’s always Chicago’s various flavors of LGBTQ bars, in Boystown or throughout the city.