Metro Weekly

Gay Day at the Zoo 2019: Pandas and unicorns and cocktails, oh my!

From animal enrichments to an after-party, there's no shortage of activities at the annual Gay Day at the Zoo

Participants of Gay Day at the Zoo — Photo: Randy Shulman / file photo

“This is the third year I’ve been involved with Gay Day at the Zoo, and I’m just really happy how the event has grown over the years,” says Jonathan Gilad, co-chair of the annual event designed to raise money for The DC Center. “This will also mark the second year in a row that the Smithsonian will officially recognize International Family Equality Day, which brings together people of all ages.”

This year’s event is Sunday, May 5, and the Smithsonian National Zoological Park will offer four hours of various family-friendly activities, including free concerts by Rainbow Rock Band, temporary tattoo stations, selfie booths (one inside the zoo, and another across the street from the zoo outside Baked by Yael) where participants can take pictures with a 6-foot tall inflatable unicorn. There will also be a free ice cream social around 2 p.m.

One of the trademark features of Gay Day at the Zoo and International Family Equality Day is a series of “animal enrichments,” where participants can watch various zoo occupants, including pandas, sea lions, seals and elephants eat rainbow ice treats or play with rainbow-colored toys.

“It’s a fun event, and it’s always great to see the different groups within the community come together,” says Gilad. “We typically get a lot of women, families, and youth who attend, and there’s always a significant trans population.”

While admission to the zoo is free, people can show financial support for The DC Center by purchasing and wearing Gay Day at the Zoo T-shirts, which will be sold online at The DC Center’s website, or at Number Nine, Trade, and Baked by Yael. This year’s T-shirt color is “red panda red.”

Trade will host an after-party at 5 p.m. featuring a drag performance by Madam Schewitz, a face painting booth where attendees can get painted as their “inner gay animal,” free food tasting by Galley Kitchen, and a specialty “Zebra” cocktail, with a portion of sales benefiting The DC Center.

“I love the idea of Gay Day at the Zoo,” says Trade co-owner Ed Bailey. “It’s a chance to see families in our community and give them the chance to find other LGBTQ families who can serve as a support group or a shoulder to lean on. And of course, there will be people who don’t have families who just want to keep the celebration going. So let’s get together and have some fun. And if you want to get a babysitter, put the kids to bed, and come out afterwards, you can do that as well.”

Gay Day at the Zoo is on Sunday, May 5, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. The after-party starts at 5 p.m. at Trade, 1410 14th St. NW. For a full schedule of IFE Day animal enrichment activities, visit

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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