Ever since its founding in 2008, WorldPride has moved around to different cities, celebrating the strong inclusive traditions of each locale. However, the event had never ventured south of the equator until this year, when the 2023 celebration took over Sydney, Australia.
A great LGBTQ+ vacation destination any time of year, Sydney (and the surrounding region of New South Wales) showed the world why it belongs near the top of every queer traveler’s wish list over 17 days of fabulous fun.
Sydney WorldPride events
An estimated half-million people descended on the city for WorldPride. Two of the largest events, the opening and closing concerts, were held at The Domain, a stunning outdoor performance space surrounded by trees, a botanic garden, and gleaming skyscrapers. Each concert attracted 20,000+ attendees, and the mood was electric and fun.
Highlights included performers such as Kylie Minogue (and sister, Dannii, a surprise guest star), Courtney Act, Jessica Mauboy, Charli XCX, MUNA, Peach PRC, G Flip, and recent Grammy winner Kim Petras.
Attendees had a multitude of events to choose from, including the Bondi Beach Party, a daylong music concert and celebration on the iconic Aussie beach. The event was headlined by former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland.
The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras was back for the first time in three years, with revelers parading through the city streets for the 45th anniversary event.
A dramatic Pride March at the Harbour Bridge saw 50,000 participants walk across the span, showing their colors and spreading messages of love and unity.
Blak + Deadly was a two-hour First Nations gala concert, performance, and celebration that was held at the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Sissy Ball, a high-energy vogue ball where legendary houses from across the world took the stage, was held at Sydney’s Town Hall.
Laugh Out Proud, held at the stunning Enmore Theater in the Newtown neighborhood, was a brilliant queer comedy gala full of laughter. The event included performers such as Rosie Piper, Bob Downe, Dazza and Keif, Spankie Jackzon, and Rudy-Lee Taurus.
The Sydney WorldPride Human Rights Conference was a three-day exploration of LGBTQ+ rights, with speeches, in-depth panel discussions, and roundtables. It was the largest-ever event of its size in the Asia-Pacific region.
Many more intimate events were also on the agenda, including numerous drag brunches; smaller club events focused on leather, underwear, or other fetishes; and special Pride climbs of the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Adding some culture to Sydney WorldPride
Some of the city’s cultural institutions got into the spirit, as well. The 150-year-old Art Gallery of New South Wales is worth a visit anytime, but it just unveiled its $344 million building in December, making it a must-see for WorldPride attendees.
The new building is open and airy and puts Aboriginal art front and center. For years, the museum has been building out a program called Queering the Collection, adding in physical callouts each Pride month to highlight works by LGBTQ+ artists. A special WorldPride exhibition, Queer Encounters, included artworks from Dennis Golding, Sidney McMahon, Sione Tuívailala Monū, and Bhenji Ra.
Across town at the Powerhouse Museum, a large inflatable arch with fabulous iconography greets visitors before walking into a new queer exhibition, Absolutely Queer. (Everyone’s invited to hug the arch, something that’s become very popular.) Running through the end of the year, Absolutely Queer focuses on fabulous acts of protest and celebration throughout LGBTQ+ History.
There is a permanent collection here, too but it’s largely gay male in scope, so the curators for this new exhibit make sure to highlight the trans community and other marginalized groups with the works. Make sure to check out the compelling work by Norrie May-Welby, a local transgender activist, who’s known for riding their bicycle all around town. And the assortment of costumes and designs from previous iterations of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras are impressive to see up close.
All in all, even if you missed WorldPride, Sydney still has many compelling and ongoing queer experiences for visitors, in 2023 and beyond — and is well worth the trek.