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Ultimate Guide to LGBTQ+ Memorial Weekend On Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach
Photo by Debby Hudson from Unsplash

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Memorial Weekend in the U.S. signals the start of summer. In Pensacola, this weekend is celebrated with the biggest gay beach party on the Florida Panhandle. 

The LGBTQ+ Memorial Weekend on Pensacola Beach is a Thursday through Monday event that turns the eastern end of the beach into a “city of tents,” with kites flying high in the sky, and rainbow flags gently waving in the breeze. From early evening to the wee hours of the morning, the themed parties draw huge crowds with their elaborate light shows and top-tier DJs.

Are you ready to party like it’s 1999 on Pensacola Beach for Memorial Weekend? Before you plan your trip, here’s everything you need to know before you go in our guide to LGBTQ+ Memorial Weekend on Pensacola Beach.

History of Pensacola Memorial Weekend

Beginning in the 1980s, Pensacola Memorial Weekend has expanded from a small, informal beach gathering into a significant festival embracing diversity and the queer community. Initially, these get-togethers were modest in size, organized to create a safe space to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community regardless of which letter of its “alphabet soup” you identify. Over time, it evolved into a more structured affair, with beach parties, tent parties, live music performances, drag shows, charity events, and tea dances all taking center stage, and all emphasizing inclusivity and pride.

How to Get There

Truly a sight to behold, once you’re in Pensacola, the road leading to the beach is one-way in and one-way out, and jam-packed with cars from across the South. Finding a parking spot might feel like your greatest achievement of the weekend, but it’s likely you’re going to find yourself a good distance from where you want to end up, so pack accordingly. It could be a long walk to the beach! 

Want to avoid all of the hassle and leave the driving to someone else? We suggest alternative means of travel to the beach. The Pensacola Beach Trolley is a free, open-air trolley with service along Pensacola Beach starting Memorial Day Weekend. For schedules and stops, please check their website. Or, if you prefer, you can order a rideshare.

Once you finally do arrive at the beach, you’re greeted by a narrow walkway in the sand sandwiched between thousands of tents, beach umbrellas, beach towels, and staked off “compounds”, along with tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ party-goers. Kind of feels like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras – minus the beads. 

Pensacola Beach Water Tower
Pensacola Beach Water Tower. Photo by Rachel Covello

Memorial Weekend Events in Pensacola Beach

Are you ready for a full-blown rainbow festival of sun, sand, and celebration? The eastern end of Pensacola Beach (Park East) transforms into a colorful LGBTQ+ playground with tents, music, and socializing, where jell-o shots reign supreme! You’ve heard of bar hopping? Memorial Weekend is an education in the art of “tent hopping.” And, while the themed nightly parties under the big white tent may be the main attractions, they aren’t mandatory and you definitely won’t be at a loss for other ways to party the night away. 

Opening Party

Kick off your Memorial Weekend with the Opening Party, where the vibes are as warm as the Florida sun! This opening-night bash is where you get your weekend passes and credentials for easy entry to all of the nightly parties, while DJs set the tone for the weekend by spinning the beats. 

Neon Ball

Bright lights and dark nights await at the Neon Ball, where you can light up the beach with your glowiest attire. It’s a fluorescent fantasy, with a kaleidoscope of neon colors and heart-thumping music that keeps the dance floor jumping until the early morning hours. 

Deep Sea Disco

Dive into the Deep Sea Disco, where beachwear meets underwater fantasy. This themed party invites you to don your finest aquatic-inspired outfits, from fins to flippers, as you dance under the stars. Watch the beach transform into a dance floor that looks more like an “ocean floor,”  with waves of music and fun that keep the night going

Abracadabra

Celebrate the tradition of Memorial Weekend with Abracadabra, the event that takes you back to the magic of the first parties. Wear anything white because anything goes. Enjoy a night of nostalgia, with tunes from “back in the day” from some of the best local DJs. It’s an experience that honors the past while you dance late into the night.

Pensacola Circuit Party

The biggest attraction of the weekend, the Pensacola Circuit Party is a nightly soiree, some even call it a rave that kicks off roughly at 9:00 PM. The beach becomes an electric jungle of sound, lights, and celebration. It’s a nightly marathon of music, mingling, and making memories. 

Beach Tea Dance

Afternoon “tea” is how it all started for the gay community to socialize in New York back in the 50s and 60’s, and the tradition continues with the Memorial Weekend Beach Tea Dance. This sun-soaked rendezvous, is a new spin on the classic mixer, but with a “sandy” twist. You can shimmy and shake under the sun, with the crashing waves and the dance music creating your perfect soundtrack with your favorite cup of “tea” in hand. 

Memorial Weekend Sexacola Girl Fest Events in Pensacola Beach

Memorial Weekend at Pensacola Beach takes a wild turn with the Sexacola Girl Fest, a sizzling hot event that’s, you guessed it, for the ladies!. Held at The Dock on Pensacola’s Casino Beach Boardwalk, this four-night party is where you can unleash your best dance moves, flirt with the lesbians, or just mingle with the crowd. So, put on your sunglasses, kick off your sandals, and delve into a weekend of the best DJs and live entertainment, with fire blowers, a rave room, go go/pole dancers, drag, and so much more!

Sexacola Foam Party

Jump into the suds at the Sexacola Foam Party! It’s like your typical beach party, but you get to dance in a bathtub without leaving a ring. This bubbly bash is a slippery escape from the norm, with music that keeps you grooving deep into the night. Pack your waterproof mascara, ladies because this party is where you can splash, dance, and maybe even get lost in the foam!

Honey Drip Sexacola Glow Party

Light up the night at the Honey Drip Sexacola Glow Party, where you’re not just at the party, you’re part of the decorations! This glowing affair turns everyone into a human highlighter under the neon lights, so wear your brightest and watch yourself illuminate the night. You might just find that special someone who can appreciate your glow-in-the-dark tattoos.

Coyote Queer Saturday

Unleash your inner wild at Coyote Queer Saturday, a rollicking good time where the theme is a little bit country and a lot wild west. Strap on your chaps, pull on your cowboy boots and saddle up for a night of line-dancing, two-stepping, and lasso-twirling. Wear your best denim and be ready to hoot and holler! It’s going to be one heck of a hoedown!

White Party Sunday

Cap off your weekend with the elegance of White Party Sunday, where everyone wears their finest white for a night of chic. Be part of a dazzling display of unity and joy, set against a sea of white. It’s like a flash mob where everyone got the memo, dancing the night away in all things white. So, make sure your outfit is white, your dance moves are tight, and your night is outtasight!

Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier
Pensacola Beach Pier. Photo by Rachel Covello

Where to Stay in Pensacola Beach

When more than 200,000 queer folks are expected to descend on Pensacola Beach for a weekend of partying that is all happening on or near the beach. Your best bet is to find accommodations as close to the beach as possible to avoid having to drive. Check out our choices for the best places to stay for Memorial Weekend.

Portofino Island Resort – One of the  most popular hotels, and “party-central” for Memorial Weekend, Portofino Island Resort has five Mediterranean-inspired towers housing 750 luxury condos. Each condo has amazing views, whether you’re facing the Sound or the Gulf. It’s your own private paradise complete with adventure parks, spa days, and fine dining on-site.

Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach – The Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach puts you smack dab in the middle of the Strip and is just steps from the sand. Grab a drink at the poolside bar and kick back on the terrace, or get your caffeine fix at the on-site coffee shop.
Then, plant yourself on the white sand beach, or get a cabana for that VIP feel. Hungry from all that relaxing? Riptides Sports Grill is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner..

Hilton Pensacola Beach – With direct access to the beach, the Hilton Pensacola Beach has rooms and suites, with views of either the Gulf of Mexico or Santa Rosa Sound. Here you can relax in their indoor or outdoor pool, get a workout at the fitness center, and choose from a sushi bar and a casual beachfront grill for dinner. The hotel is also within walking distance of local restaurants and shops.

Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach – The Hampton Inn Pensacola Beach is right on the beach and easily accessible via Highway 98. Located along the Pensacola Beach Trail, enjoy rooms with views of the Gulf of Mexico. Start your day with their complimentary hot breakfast and then hit the pool, the beach, or the fitness center. There’s no on-site dining, but the hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to numerous restaurants.

Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach – Known for comfort and convenience, Holiday Inn Express is for travelers who want a fuss-free stay. With complimentary breakfast to kick-start your day and well-equipped rooms to welcome you back at the end of your day, it’s perfect for exploring Pensacola Beach. 

Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach. Photo by Rachel Covello

Where to Eat in Pensacola Beach

The Ruby Slipper – Step into The Ruby Slipper for a one-of-a-kind breakfast experience. Serving up signature omelets and Southern all-day brunch favorites, we suggest the award-winning Eggs Benedict, the homemade biscuits with house-made cane-syrup butter, and their signature Bloody Mary. You can thank us later!

The Leisure Club Coffee Bar & Restaurant – The atmosphere here is as laid-back as the name suggests. With a cool, retro vibe to enjoy crafted coffees and a lunch and brunch menu that includes several vegan options, The Leisure Club Coffee Bar & Restaurant is a great spot to stop for a midday nosh.

The Global Grill – The Global Grill  is an upscale tapas experience inviting you to explore a world of flavors. The intimate setting and sophisticated menu make it ideal for a date night or to celebrate a special occasion. Chefs here artfully prepare small plates that are big on flavor, using the best local produce and exotic ingredients, for a meal you won’t soon forget. 

Palace Cafe – Located in the Seville Quarter, the Palace Cafe is Pensacola’s version of a New Orleans eatery. Where else, outside of The Big Easy, can you get fresh hot beignets topped with powdered sugar for dessert? With a menu of southern comfort foods like burgers, pizza, seafood, sandwiches, po’boys, and “the best wings in town,” you’d swear you’re in the French Quarter.

Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille  – At Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille, the view of Pensacola Bay is as spectacular as the menu. Here, the seafood shines, served up in a chic, bistro-like setting that’s a far cry from your typical crab shack. Choose to dine indoors, or grab a seat on the patio to enjoy the breeze and unbeatable harbor views. 

Pensacola Beach Memorial Weekend: Thirty Years of Tradition

Memorial Weekend in Pensacola Beach is where music and laughter hang in the air, painting a picture of a weekend filled with non-stop fun and maybe even a little “wild” behavior. From the foam party to the white party, and all of the moments in between, every inch of the shoreline is alive with celebration. This annual weekend is a cherished ritual that binds the LGBTQ+ community to a tradition 30 years in the making, where the sands of Pensacola Beach hold the imprints of each and every one of those years.

Extend your adventure beyond the festivities and uncover all that this city has to offer. Seize the spirit of exploration and make the most of your time in Pensacola.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Events are subject to change. Please check the events webpage for updates and schedules.

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