Dancing on our own. Listening to “Chromatica” on repeat. Watching “Drag Race.” Who doesn’t love those gay days? But riding on all the biggest roller coasters under a flurry of colored light with all queers and you’ve got something special. Gay Days at amusement parks are indeed special, and if you’re LGBTQ+, you’re invited.
Disney World in Orlando might be the first park that comes to mind when it comes to Gay Days, but several other amusement parks across the country officially or unofficially welcome the LGBTQ+ community each year for smaller, but just as Prideful, events. From Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles to Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio and Knoebels Amusement Resort in Pennsylvania, many amusement parks across the country celebrate Gay Day every year. Whether officially hosted by the park or not, these special events encourage queer folks in the community to come together, sometimes wearing matching clothes, to celebrate Pride.
At Knoebels Amusement Resort, a Pride picnic has been taking place for the past 27 years, always on the second Saturday in August. While not officially sponsored by the park, the administrators of this free-admission amusement park have been very supportive of the event through the years, shares Michael Escobar, 65, the planning mastermind behind this event.
“Usually we have speakers throughout the day, including state representatives or local politicians, and sometimes we have performers sing, and we also have door prizes that we give away, such as a computer or a television,” Escobar says. “Due to COVID, this has changed a bit, but we usually have food, and everyone brings food to share. We are waiting to see how COVID is going to decide how this year goes.”
In an area of Pennsylvania where there is no community Pride event, this picnic provides a sense of community for queer people there. According to the Pride Picnics at Knoebels Grove page on Facebook, this year’s picnic is set for Saturday, Aug. 13.
Chris Wallace, who has attended several Gay Days at Kings Island near Cincinnati, Ohio, couldn’t agree more about the community aspect of these events. He says, “It’s hard to find a space where I feel like I don’t have eyes on me, where I can just be me without worrying someone might confront me for simply looking ‘too gay.’”
Wallace says the lines are always shorter on Gay Days at Kings Island. “Smaller crowds mean you get to ride all the big rides over and over,” he adds. Make sure you make the most of this and plan to be in Cincinnati for their Gay Day event, Pride Night at Kings Island, on Sept. 10. Cedar Point, also located in Ohio, hosts an unofficial Gay Day on Father’s Day each year (June 19 in 2022).
Six Flags Magic Mountain is another major park that celebrates Gay Day. Their event, titled “Out on the Mountain,” is set for Sept. 9, and tickets will soon be available on their website. In past years, this event has had drag performers such as Trinity the Tuck and Raven from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” among others. The event supports several LGBTQ+ organizations, and if you are flying in from out of town, discounted hotel rooms are available at the Hilton Garden Inn Valencia.
Caylie Smith, who attended Gay Day at Six Flags Magic Mountain back in 2011, says that she definitely prefers going to an amusement park on Gay Day over other days. “You feel so supported and loved by everyone there, and you’re celebrating a part of you that a lot of the world shames you for just because they don’t agree with your sexuality.” She adds, “I’ve definitely gotten some looks at amusement parks on other days that showed judgment against me for showing affection towards another woman. It makes you feel small, and it’s hard on your self-esteem.”
Moises Amezcua, who attended the same event in 2021, feels that Gay Days are important because “growing up, I would go to theme parks and see all the straight couples making out while they wait on the rides, canoodling and holding each other. Although we have come a long way with equality, I still don’t feel as safe to be affectionate with my boyfriend in fear of retaliation or harassment.”
He adds, “Gay relationships don’t really have role models and are not supported as much as heterosexual relationships. It’s nice to have a day where everyone there supports the love you have and want to express.”