There's a side to Sydney you haven't seen, where the colors of the rainbow run wild for three unforgettable weeks. Where art, music, dining, and queer history is celebrated with unforgettable events, parades, and parties. Where a diverse spectrum of LGBTQI cultures are magnified with zeal. Welcome to Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras--an iconic, landmark event visited by nearly half a million people every year.
While memorable experiences are always around the corner in Sydney, Mardi Gras celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018, destined to be a milestone extravaganza with special appearances, citywide surprises and its world-famous, larger-than-life parade heard around the globe. Want to get excited about planning your trip? Here are the top reasons to visit the nearly month-long 40th annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, running from February 16 to March 4--easily the most anticipated event of 2018.
1. Mardi Gras will be seriously epic Turning 40 is a major milestone, and Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is going over the top for its birthday bash. Mardi Gras: 40 Years of Evolution promises to be a momentous and unforgettable event, kicking off with a launch in November at the famed Sydney Opera House, lighting its sails pink on one side, and rainbow on the other. Travelers can experience 17 days of fabulous street parties, pool parties, underwear parties, boozy brunches, drag performances, citywide art exhibitions and more! This year includes the inaugural Sissy Ball--inspired by New York's underground ballroom scene--the "Museum of Love & Protest" exhibition at the National Art School Gallery, drag performances at Fair Day, over 30 acts at GiRLTHING, and the legendary parade with more than 200 groups marching. It all culminates with a bang at the Mardi Gras Party, where 12,000 people dance until dawn at the biggest LGBTQI party in Australia, and ends the following day at Laneway, the ultimate recovery.
2. All the famous faces! There's no shortage of iconic celebrities, performers, and entertainers who celebrate Sydney Mardi Gras, and this year will be one for the books. At WERK!, the fierce, all-night dance party on opening night weekend, RuPaul's Drag Race stars Willam and Aja will perform live for thousands of clubbers at Home Nightclub. A household name in the LGBTQ club scene, CeCe Peniston will perform at ARQ, Sydney's leading dance club, including her hit "Finally," featured in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Die-hard fans can even get up close and personal after the show with a once-in-a-lifetime, VIP meet and greet. Native drag superstar and RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Courtney Act will have a special cabaret and performance at the Everest Theatre, and more celebrity performers will be announced in the months to come.
3. It's just a short hop to pristine beaches and stunning regional locations Everyone will be out and about at Bondi Beach, the beautiful harbor front and the thriving city center. However, Sydney is also a fantastic launching point to gorgeous destinations in New South Wales like the surf-chic beach town of Byron Bay, the breathtaking UNESCO listed Blue Mountains or the gorgeous Central Coast, just an hour's drive from Sydney. With new boutique hotels and dining options such as Bell's Kilcare and Pretty Beach House, it's the perfect place to detox. Keep in mind Australia's summer is our winter, so February and March are ideal times to visit for excellent outdoor weather.
4. The gay scene is already thriving Sydney's LGBTQI community is diverse, welcoming, and flourishing in the city that famously embraces it. With dozens of gay bars, nightclubs, gay-owned restaurants and organizations, Sydney is one of the world's top LGBTQI destinations, and you'll find gay-friendly businesses on every corner. Have a cocktail at Opera Bar just outside the Sydney Opera House for a breathtaking sunset with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, stroll the historic Finger Wharf, and meet new friends at The Rose Hotel, the city's prized local haunt.
5. Arrive in style with QANTAS Since 1954, QANTAS has served as Australia's flagship airline, offering more non-stop flights into the land down under from the U.S. per week than any other carrier. The flying experience is unparalleled; QANTAS is the only airline to operate the award-winning A380 between the U.S. and Australia (with a recent, notable cabin upgrade) and, come December, it's adding the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to its fleet.
Travelers can arrive fully rested in four classes of service, including International Premium Economy with spacious seats and personalized service; International Business with fully reclined beds, designer pajamas, and Qantas Curates amenity kits; and International First Suite with duvet and mattresses in luxurious beds, an eight-course tasting menu and award-winning wines and champagnes. Passengers get an authentic Australian experience even before landing, starting with the Flagship Lounge in Los Angeles, signature warm Aussie hospitality during the flight, and cuisine designed by local celebrity chef Neil Perry.
Pack your bags to join in the festivities of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and fly with pride on QANTAS, the award-winning, luxury airline that soars sky high to the Land Down Under. Click here to start your journey!