For more than 25 years, the first Saturday in June has been known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. This event is not organized by Walt Disney World, but by gay and lesbian people who have traditionally worn red shirts on that day to make their presence known. Over time, Gay Day has grown into a multi-day celebration in Orlando, and it is now one of the largest gay pride events in the world, according to Time magazine.
As such, today marks the kickoff of GayDayS (the official name and spelling), but the theme park events do not begin until Thursday. Because GayDays are not official events hosted by Disney, there are no special tickets or requirements to join the fun. Guests can decide the day of the event to show up and pay for a park ticket. However, plenty of people would like to extend their pride celebrations into weeklong vacations so GayDayS organizers have planned a variety of experiences.
The official hotel for GayDayS is the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld. Although vacation packages were sold for this hotel, visitors don’t have to be staying there to participate in activities hosted by the hotel. The Welcome & Information Booth is set up in the lobby, and everyone is invited to stop by and pick up a free welcome bag. Be sure to check the official schedule because the Welcome Booth hours change from day to day. The hotel also has a GayDayS Ticket and Merchandise Center where event tickets, pool party bands and exclusive merchandise including the “#RedShirtDays” official GayDayS 2018 red shirt can be purchased.
Speaking of pool parties, there are daytime and nighttime parties every day for folks who want to get outside and enjoy Florida’s great weather. And they all feature DJs. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can purchase pool wristbands to attend (as long as space is still available).
Another draw at the hotel is the Gay and Lesbian Expo that features businesses from all over the world and Miss GayDayS 2014 Harmony Breeze as emcee. There are more than 100 booths, giveaways and free prize raffles, and typical attendance is 20,000 attendees throughout GayDayS. The expo is open through Sunday.
Thursday, May 31 is the first theme park day for attendees. Guests are invited to go to Animal Kingdom or SeaWorld Orlando. On Friday, participants go to Hollywood Studios or Islands of Adventure. Saturday is, of course, Magic Kingdom day, but folks also can choose to go to Universal Studios. Sunday is reserved for Epcot, Discovery Cove or ICON Orlando 360.
These really are just the highlights. There are many other activities taking place throughout the week, so be sure to check the official website or Facebook page.