Celebrate Who You Are in Pensacola
We know that the LGBTQ+ community is welcome on Pensacola Beach for Memorial Day weekend, but did you know Pensacola offers something for every letter in LGBTQ+ the rest of the year as well?
When I was 15, before I really even embraced that I was one of the letters in the LGBTQ alphabet soup, I knew about Pensacola Pride and the colorful array of speedos that adorned the sculpted bodies of Pensacola Beach every Memorial Day weekend. We all know that side of Pensacola.
What I didn’t know was that, fast-forward to 26 and falling in love with a handsome doctor in New York City, I would one day be living and thriving in that same colorful community.
My now-husband introduced me to Pensacola while visiting his family. It was then I knew we, too, would call this bright, sandy shore home. In all my homes, from small town Mississippi to Savannah Georgia, I never experienced the perfect proportion of quaint and historic with progressive and cultured; that is, until Pensacola.
I invite you to experience Pensacola, as I did, which is why I ultimately made my visit permanent.
Which Suit Suits You?
In addition to the populated Pride festivities we boast every spring, the cultural diversity and acceptance in Pensacola extends far beyond May. As an executive at a local nonprofit, I trade my swimsuit in for a business suit the majority of the year. Whether the arts scene, the culinary brilliance exploding Downtown, the unique festivals, or that good ole shopping spree – Pensacola offers a fabulous array of shops and getaways for every letter in LGBTQ+.
The Arts Mean Business
The amount of quality arts organizations in a town the size of Pensacola is absurd and beautiful – and perhaps the most crucial influencer of its accepting, inclusive nature. The city boasts a symphony orchestra, opera, ballet, museum of art, professional and community theatre, and other arts organizations that make Pensacola a hub of culture and artistic excellence.
When you frequent such LGBTQ-friendly titles as La Cage aux Folles, Sordid Lives, The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show, and 525,600 other fabulous productions at Pensacola Little Theatre – you begin to see a theme of bold, inclusive intention, which is why our visitors pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into cultural tourism annually.
The Fabulous Festival City of the South
The Stamped: LGBTQ Film Festival occurs every August in Pensacola. It’s a three-day gathering to embrace diversity and show support for the films submitted from around the world.
Foo Foo Festival is another vibrant two-week LGBTQ-friendly festival each November put on by the city to encourage visitors to “Vacation Artfully.” With performances like The Skivvies – a talentedly tasteful pair of singers who strip down their musical arrangements (and their clothing), and exhibits like the Sunday’s Child Unity Wall – the curators of FooFooFest portray every color of the rainbow.
FemFest is another weeklong local festival that brings intersectional feminism to Pensacola by creating spaces for people of all backgrounds to share their voices, advance equality and education, and raise funds for organizations which advance the cause of feminism.
Eat Your Heart Out, Boys
While no gay considers brunch to be a drag, you can certainly experience a drag show brunch at The Vineyard at 12th Avenue. (Bottomless champagne included, of course.) Other delicious open-advocates of the community include End of the Line Café (vegan), Craft Gourmet Bakery (sweet), Chizuko (savory), Cactus Flower, and George Bistro and Bar. But a simple stroll down Palafox Street will lead you into the inclusive fine dining of Carmen’s Lunch Bar, Jackson’s Steakhouse, Restaurant Iron, and an array of other delectable culinary experiences. Stop in for sips at the local gay bar, The Cabaret, for drag performances and karaoke.
Visit our family-friendly local shops like Duh for Garden & Home, Don Alans, Randall’s Formal Wear, and Artesana for exquisite taste in décor and clothing catered to the LGBTQ visitor.
Investment in Inclusion
Pensacola’s inclusive nature doesn’t just occur out of sheer happenstance; the proactive leadership of the community has stepped in to ensure investment in diversity, inclusion, and equality. Sunday’s Child, a 501(c)3 grant-giving organization, awards over $100,000 annually to local nonprofit organizations that fully promote and serve the LGBTQ community.
Evolve n’ Thrive, an event hosting company for LGBTQ affairs, creates opportunities to provide inspiration and growth in Northwest Florida, like their annual Gay…la Masquerade Ball.
Pensacola Little Theatre hosts an annual spring celebration of art to garner funds for their education outreach programs into Title I schools by introducing drag performances into their fundraiser.
Celebrate Who You Are
Whether the arts scene, the culinary brilliance exploding Downtown, the unique festivals, or that good ole shopping spree – Pensacola offers something for every letter in LGBTQ+.
Sid Williams-Heath has lived in Northwest Florida since 2016, after relocating from New York City while working for the Savannah College of Art and Design. He is the executive director of the Pensacola Cultural Center and serves on the Board of Directors for the Stamped: LGBTQ Film Festival. Williams-Heath currently lives in Pensacola with his husband, Dr. Nicklaus Heath, who serves the LGBTQ community through dentistry.