By Duane Wells

In the days before LA Gay Pride, there’s excitement and anxiety in the air as those final pounds are shed, barely-there ensembles are chosen, parade floats are completed and WeHo gears up for one of its biggest, most colorful annual celebrations. During the LA Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, a strip of West Hollywood explodes in a rainbow of colors, costumes and characters, and it draws more than 500,000 people each year. No matter how you play it, that can make your plans a little complicated. Here’s our guide to the LA Gay Pride Parade—how to survive with your dignity intact while still wringing every ounce of fun out of the rainbow of fest activities—and the best restaurants in West Hollywoodand best gay bars and clubs to boot.



Take a cab

Let’s begin with the practical, shall we? On Parade day, parking in West Hollywood is a particularly unwieldy affair. Streets are blocked off, traffic is murderous and frustration levels are high. Rather than risk starting your Pride Sunday on a sour note (or even worse, being towed for parking in the wrong place), just take a cab, order Uber, hop on a bus, or—now that we have it—take the subway to Hollywood and Highland and make your way from there. Prevent aggravation on the front end, eliminate the risk of drinking and driving on the back end. It’s not novel, but it is a win-win. (If you do insist on driving, however, check the Pride site for recommended places to park.)


Arrive early

It’s generally true in life and it’s certainly true on Parade Sunday that the early bird gets the best seat in the house. Though there is some dispute about the best place for viewing the parade, there is little disagreement that the most popular vantage point is right in the heart of WeHo, within a few blocks of the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevards. A swarm of go-to bars in this three-block radius open early on Pride Sunday, so unless you want to stand and be jostled for hours, grab a seat at one of them when the doors open, order a cocktail and settle in to watch the Parade go by.


Let Sunday trump Saturday

If you’re purchasing a ticket to the festival, Sunday is always the more popular of the two nights, as it’s the culmination of the weekend. That is not to say that both nights aren’t worth the $20 price of admission—we only suggest that for the budget-conscious, Sunday definitely offers the most bang for your buck. Unless, of course, you’re a huge Ciara fan—in which case you should by all means purchase a ticket for Saturday when she will be headlining on the main stage.


Plan an escape and rendezvous points

Plan ahead, stay ahead. Parade day can quickly turn into an overwhelming mass of humanity in which friends are often lost, found and then lost again. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to set up a rendezvous spot with your posse in one of the quieter corners of the ‘hood. East of La Cienaga on Santa Monica Blvd, popular watering holes likeHamburger Mary’s tend to still be packed, but they’re also just far enough away from the fray that they make great meeting spots. And if you want to avoid the crowd altogether and watch the parade in a more relaxed setting, Café La Boheme is once again hosting its annual Pride Block Party on the quieter side of WeHo—complete with an upscale brunch buffet, live DJ and the inimitable, wickedly talented Jimmy James as its host.


Spend Saturday night at Wonderland

Mega event promoters Tom Whitman and Masterbeat join forces for Saturday’s hottest ticket at Universal Studios. After 9pm, the park is closed to the general public and rides are open exclusively to Wonderland ticket holders until 1am. Meanwhile, from 10pm until 4am, one of Universal’s giant soundstages becomes a mega club presided over by some of the top international DJs on the planet. There will be parties at bars all over WeHo on Saturday night as well, but none is bigger or more over the top than this one.


Take a dip at SpLAsh

Better to end with a crescendo than start with a thud. Ease into Pride weekend with an afternoon of frolicking, flirting and fun at yet another Tom Whitman/Masterbeat co-production—an all-new edition of SpLAsh. Billed as “LA’s biggest pool party and T Dance” SpLAsh 2013 will be held at a private, $65 million estate in Bel Air, and will offer the perfect opportunity to show your pride while mixing and mingling in an idyllic setting away from hubbub of boystown.


Go east

Spread your pride around. West Hollywood may be the nucleus of all of the action during Pride weekend, but the celebration’s tentacles stretch well beyond the borders of West Hollywood. The Eastside will be particularly abuzz during Pride and you would do yourself a disservice not to avail yourself of all it has to offer. Venture over to MixTape at Akbar on Friday night or get your party on with Mario Diaz at a special Pride edition of BRUTUS atFaultline.


Drink! (water)

It is such a simple tip, but one that is seemingly forgotten every year as ambulances drag away one poor sod after another, long before the party has kicked into high gear. If you hydrate before and during the weekend, you won’t have to worry about being one of them this year. It’s hot, people! A little sunscreen wouldn’t hurt either.


Connect and reflect

Make some time to do at least one thing that doesn’t have to do with a party, a cocktail or scantily-clad go-go boys. Whether it’s attending one of the weekend’s many fundraisers or spending time at the festival itself, do something that connects you with the reason that Pride came into being in the first place. It will only inspire you to celebrate that much harder.


Take Monday off

It’s the only logical thing to do. No one will believe you when you call in hungover—er, sick—so why even bother with the charade? Cash in a vacation day and dive headlong into Pride Sunday with the full knowledge that you’ve got an entire day to recuperate and relive the magic of the weekend.