Each Disney park now has a designated ”gay day.” This year, it’s Animal Kingdom on Thursday, May 30; Hollywood Studios on Friday, May 31; Magic Kingdom, on Saturday, June 1; and Epcot on Sunday, June 2.
And while visiting the parks remains core to Gay Days, participants have the option to partake in dozens of parties and events outside of the parks.
Much of Gay Days’ non-Disney activities center around the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld, which recently completed a $35 million renovation. Set on 28 lush acres, it has served as the host hotel for the past three years and has an agreement to continue for at least the next three.
The pool parties at the host hotel are nearly as popular as the Disney parks. Open to hotel guests and non-guests alike, the parties go on well into the wee hours of the morning at three separate pools – divided between men, women and bears – and are headlined by the circuit’s top DJs. This year’s schedule includes Randy Bettis, Joshua Atom, Nancy Starr, Grind, Barney Philly, Mary Mack and Chi Chi LaRue.
The hotel is also the sight of an extensive multi-day expo of organizations, businesses and destinations seeking to capture the attention of the thousands of attendees.
A newer addition to Gay Days that has proven very popular is a comedy night. This year, Judy Tenuta will perform. No stranger to gays, the accordion-playing comedian received her first Grammy nomination for Attention Butt Pirates & Lesbetarians and appeared in the cult-classic film Butch Camp.
With bookings for the Doubletree already running ahead of last year’s numbers, Manley expects more than 160,000 people will take part in this year’s festivities.
With so many people coming to Gay Days from all over the world, others have jumped on the Mickey Mouse express with ancillary events. The organizers of One Magical Weekend are hosting a party on Friday, May 31, at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park with DJ Manny Lehman, and a ”Retro-T” at Epcot with DJ Wendy Hunt on Sunday, June 2. And its host hotels include two Disney properties, the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Coronado Springs Resort.
Promoter Mark Baker has planned a series of pool parties and dances at Downtown Disney’s Buena Vista Palace, which is also offering special room rates. He is also hosting a party at Universal Studios that will headline Kevin Aviance on Saturday, June 2.
Daniel Truitt, another Gay Days veteran, loves the fact that Gay Days has stayed true to its Disney roots, but also evolved.
”I rode every ride, from It’s a Small World to the teacups. My favorite was taking the Jungle Cruise with a boat full of bears, which was laugh-out-loud fun times,” says Truitt. ”I also played in the pool at the host hotel. I did the party at Typhoon Lagoon. I danced my butt off at Parliament House. And I had a blast.”
Gay Days Orlando is May 28 to June 3. For more information visit gaydays.com.