It’s that fabulous time of year again, friends. Mardi Gras season is upon us. And while we’re still very much in the pandemic times, the celebration of LGBTQIA+ pride is still going ahead – even if it looks a little different this year. Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival for 2021 kicked off on Friday, February 19, and will run through until Sunday, March 7.
So, if you’re wondering how you can get involved in the extravaganza for 2021, we’re here to help.
Here’s your guide to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events for the year:
The Mardi Gras Parade
The Mardi Gras Parade for 2021 will naturally play out a little differently this year. Instead of your standard floats with glitter-coated (sustainable, please!) audiences lining Oxford Street, the parade will be set at Sydney Cricket Ground.
On Saturday, March 6 the ticketed event will see a group of performers fill the stadium with colour, costumes and wild props. While this year’s parade will be a new way of celebrating Mardi Gras, it’s still expected that 5,000 performers and over 100 LGBTQI+ groups will be taking to the grounds.
The festival theme for 2021 is ‘RISE’ and the website describes this as “letting our spirits soar after the challenge and hardship that 2020 presented”.
As of January 4, Sydney Mardi Gras announced that ticket sales were being paused with additional details to come. Watch this space for more.
How to watch the Sydney Mardi Gras parade from home
If you, like a lot of us, are not able to attend the parade this year, don’t panic. You can still tune into the glamour and glory of it all from home. SBS On Demand will be airing the event live on March 6, 2021. They’ve also removed geo-blocking so Mardi Gras lovers abroad can tune into the parade, no matter their location.
Timings across Australia for the live airing are:
NSW/VIC/TAS/ACT: 6pm AEDT
QLD: 5pm AEST
SA: 5:30pm ACDT
WA: 3pm AWST
NT: 4:30pm ACST
What Mardi Gras events are taking place?
Merivale and Absolut Vodka are getting into the spirit
Merivale and Absolut Vodka have announced that they will be offering a selection of fierce Mardi Gras restaurant packages for those looking to celebrate pride on March 6 in Sydney. So, if you’re thirsty for a sweet deal check them out below.
For $95pp The Beresford is offering:
- Three-course set menu brunch
- An Absolut Banger cocktail on arrival
- Live ‘Spice Girls’ drag show
- Live DJ set from DJ Dan Murphy
For $129pp The Paddington is offering:
- Shared banquet dining experience
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
- Cocktail on arrival
For $129pp the Queens Hotel is offering:
- Set menu dining experience
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
For $139pp Bar Totti’s is offering:
- Share-style antipasti menu
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
Obviously, being in the time we are, it is worth keeping an eye out on the latest news and restrictions around COVID-19 when planning for any event. But, for the moment, these babies are going ahead. And if you’re one of the first 500 people to snap up these deals, you’ll get a complimentary ticket to the parade, too.
Merivale has also dropped a number of hotel package deals for your pals that may be visiting from out of town. Check those out here.
Other fun Mardi Gras events
QT Sydney is becoming QueerT for Mardi Gras
From a rainbow runway and Mardi Gras anthems to in-house makeup artists (which you can book here) and a Drag Queen costume display in Parlour Cucina, the hotel has a Mardi Gras extravaganza planned for you all.
Here’s a list of other highlights to keep in mind for this year’s festival. All synopses have been shared by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.
Mardi Gras Film Festival
Thursday 18th February – Thursday 4th March, Various venues and online.
“With 90+ films in the program and over 50% being available to stream on-demand Australia wide, there are so many ways you can experience Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival. Highlights include, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in the moving Supernova; the very timely The Obituary of Tunde Johnson that brings to the forefront the issue of racism and police brutality; the incredible chemistry of rising star Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston in The World to Come, and one of the most celebrated films of the last year Suk Suk.”
SKIN DEEP presented by NAS Queer Contemporary
Thursday 18th February – Sunday 7th March, National Art School
“SKIN DEEP is an interactive exhibition that presents intimate and personal stories of LGBTQI+ people through their tattooed bodies and stories, celebrating diversity, defiance and body art. The Exhibition is made up of several unique components – presented as one integrated audience experience or as separate experiences. LGBTQI+ community participation is central to all components of SKIN DEEP – as narrators, models, story tellers and performers.”
Friday 18th February – Sunday 7th March, Oxford Streets and surrounds
“Now in its fifth year, Oxford Street’s annual Oxtravaganza is back, bigger and bolder than ever, with celebrations and activations over the full two weeks of the Mardi Gras program. This celebration of Oxford Street will see 100+ local businesses coming together to offer special retail promotions, live music, viewing parties, exclusive performances, outdoor entertainment, art walks, plus food and drink deals.”
Oxford Street icon Wonder Mama has also teamed up with Airbnb to pull together a list of her must-see Sydney spots during Mardi Gras:
- Stonewall Hotel
“Sydney’s drag show epicentre, with drag shows every night of the week featuring Sydney’s best drag performers and best DJ’s!”
- House of Priscilla
“This iconic costume shop is a treasure trove of sequins, wigs and heels for drag queens and showgirls Australia-wide if not the world! A must for your Mardi Gras outfits.”
- Oxford Hotel
“One of Sydney’s oldest running gay pubs with great shows and 4 levels of entertainment and great dining!”
- Bookshop Darlinghurst
“An institution for 35 years and one of Sydney’s longest-running LGBTQI bookstores! Australia’s best LGBT Bookstore. Go see Graeme, Noel and the rest of the staff who are experts on all the titles.”
- Universal Bar
“Featuring a stellar line-up of cabaret performances, drag dining experiences and much more.”
- Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon
“One of Sydney’s most authentic French Restaurants features wonderful food, amazing wait staff and superb cabaret shows throughout the week.”
If you’d like to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community in a more low-key way this year, you can also consider hosting a Picnic for Pinnacle. From February 6 to 21, The Pinnacle Foundation (an organisation dedicated to helping LGBTQI+ youth access education and mentoring) is encouraging Aussies to host a picnic to help fundraise for this important cause. So, grab yourself some snacks and bubbly and have a conversation that could help some young Aussies get ahead in life.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.