The Ultimate Guide to Twin Cities Pride

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Twin Cities Pride parade / Lucy Hawthorne

The Ultimate Guide to Twin Cities Pride

By Brian Fanelli

Twin Cities Pride is the nation's third-largest free pride festival and takes place every June in downtown Minneapolis.

The modern Twin Cities Pride is a massive, annual, family-friendly party that celebrates the large LGBTQ community in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Like all pride celebrations, its roots can be traced back to the infamous Stonewall riots of 1969 and the ripples of unrest and protest that spread across America in response.

Approximately 50 people attended Minnesota’s inaugural, proto-pride protest in 1972, on the third anniversary of Stonewall, but only about half of them marched down the Nicollet Mall; the other half waited in nearby Loring Park, ready to bail out their friends and loved ones if and when they were arrested.

These days, with an estimated 400,000 annual attendees, Twin Cities Pride is the nation’s third-largest free pride festival, behind only New York City and San Francisco. The 2019 Twin Cities Pride Festival will take place June 22-23, both in and around Loring Park. The annual parade along Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis starts at 11 a.m. on June 23.

Pride parade float Minneapolis

Twin Cities Pride Parade  / Lucy Hawthorne

Twin Cities Pride Weekend Events

Every year, hundreds of thousands of rainbow-clad festivalgoers flock to Loring Park in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate and uplift the LGBTQ community at the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival and Parade. Festivities kick off Friday night at the annual Beer Dabbler event, complete with adorably tiny sampling glasses of Minnesota-brewed craft beer, live music, food trucks and lots of dancing.

Saturday morning, the Pride Festival kicks off at 10 a.m. back in Loring Park. Highlights include four all-day free entertainment stages, 400 exhibitor booths, 40 food vendors, the LGBTQ history pavilion and the ticketed “Pride in Concert,” headlined by TLC. The Pride Festival is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday morning, run your fine behind over to Boom Island for the annual Rainbow Run 5K. Beginning at 9:30, this year's race features a completely new route—but like always, the race finishes along the Pride Parade, where you’ll be cheered on by early birds gathering for the parade. All runners ages 21+ get a free beer at the finish.

Named in honor of the late transgender activist and former parade organizer, the 2019 Ashley Rukes Pride Parade begins Sunday, June 23, at 11 a.m. Get there early to cheer the Rainbow Runners and snag a stellar spot along the route, which moves to 2nd Avenue South this year due to road construction on Hennepin.

Bicyclist riding through Loring Park with Minneapolis skyline in background

Found on the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis, Loring Park is an urban oasis in the heart of the city / Mike Krivit Photography, courtesy Meet Minneapolis

Exploring the Twin Cities

Because neither of the Twin Cities has an official “gayborhood,” our queer community makes its home across the entire metro—creating and nurturing LGBTQ community hubs and businesses in practically every corner of the region. But if there were an official ruling on the matter, the Loring Park neighborhood, home of the Pride Festival, would likely take the title.

One of Minneapolis’ distinctive downtown neighborhoods, the mostly residential streets of Loring Park are notable for their eclectic mix of historic brownstones, new apartments and condos, and the area’s largest and most diverse queer community. To get a feel for this vibrant neighborhood, grab a coffee and treat at the queer-owned Muffin Top Cafe and take a stroll around the neighborhood’s eponymous park. Sip your coffee from a bench overlooking Loring Lake and watch as countless rainbow flags flutter from the windows and stoops of the neighborhood’s many homes.

Like all true dives, The 19 is cash only, but unlike some lesser dive bars, there’s an ATM on-site.

At the park's western border, a distinctive, poetry-laden, blue and white pedestrian bridge carries you from Loring to its artsy neighboring park, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Remodeled and reopened in 2017, the sculpture garden is the crown jewel of Minneapolis' park system and a must-visit for all travelers. Open every day of the year, visitors can always get a photo with the garden's iconic centerpiece, "Spoonbridge and Cherry", or plan your visit between May and September to play a round of Skyline Mini Golf on the Walker Art Center's rooftop terrace.

Grab breakfast, lunch or dinner at the queer-owned Nicollet Diner, which stays open 24/7/365—but stop in before 1 a.m. to take advantage of the diner’s full bar, complete with boozy milkshakes and other fun drinks. And of course, no visit to Loring Park is complete without a game of pool, a round of Big Buck Hunter and a pitcher of Grain Belt at The 19, everyone’s favorite gay neighborhood dive bar—open since 1952. Like all true dives, The 19 is cash only, but unlike some lesser dive bars, there’s an ATM on-site.

Pride Pokemon drag brunch Union rooftop Minneapolis

A Pokemon-themed drag brunch at Union Restaurant / Darin Kamnetz for Flip Phone Events

Statewide Pride

Twin Cities Pride is far and away Minnesota’s largest pride festival, but smaller cities across the state hold their own annual celebrations of the LGBTQ community, as well. Whether you’d like to attend every pride festival in the state, or simply prefer smaller events, these five festivals and parades have you covered.

Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli is a writer and editor for Explore Minnesota. When he isn't writing about life in The North, you'll find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore, biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails or walking his Chihuahua around Minneapolis.