Every year, from the second Thursday of February to the first Saturday of March, a portion of Sydney transforms into a parade of rainbow coloured everything in celebration of the LGBTQI+ Mardi Gras.

This year, the Sydney Mardi Gras kicked off on the 14th of February and will culminate on the 1st of March. There’s a lot to know and what activities are there to be part of the celebration of pride. 


The Sydney Mardi Gras celebration began in 1978, spearheaded by the Gay Solidarity Group as a form of protest against discrimination toward homosexuals. It was more akin to bloody than colourful—police broke up the party, people were arrested, and some even lost their jobs. 

While the decriminalisation of homosexuality (in New South Wales) didn’t happen until 1984, the show still went on in ‘79 and all the years in between. Suffice to say, the existence of this festival is built on the strong foundations of bravery and persistence of those that came before. 

In 2020, the festival is 42 years strong, with the theme: What Matters. The festival showcases a different theme every year, to refocus on advocacies and narratives that they deem beneficial for the LGBTQI+ movement. 


The festival has since evolved from just a night of protest to a melting pot of events. We’re talking about pool parties, stand-up shows, awareness talks, dance parties, and so much more. These events are held across a few neighbourhoods in Sydney.

Oxford Street

As we said, this is almost a Sydney-wide gathering. But it pays to know where it all started.

To the untrained eye, Oxford Street simply looks like a fancy shopping district. But it’s so much more than that. It’s where the first protest was held. It’s where you would’ve found gay bars and clubs in its underbellies when acceptance was still far off.

Surry Hills rainbow street
Rainbow Crossing on Campbell Street in Surry Hills (Photo: Bidgee)

Today, it’s home to a great number of LGBTQI+ population, thriving businesses, and a booming creative scene. It’s also where the biggest event of the festival begins: the parade.

The Mardi Gras Parade

If there’s one event you should make time for in this whole festival, it definitely has to be the parade. It happens on Saturday, so there’s no excuse!

Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade (Photo: Hasitha Tudugalle)

The parade starts on Oxford Street, then to Flinders Street. This year, you can expect to see almost 200 floats pass by. Each float communicates a particular advocacy that the LGBTQI+ movement stands for—loudly and proudly, if we may add. 

Make sure to be there early: you also wouldn’t want to miss out on pre-parade sightings like Dykes on Bikes and Boys on Bikes

After the parade, everyone will celebrate at the final party, from Saturday 10 PM to Sunday 8 AM. Come for drinks, music, and of course, the people that made this all possible. 

If there’s anything we should know by now: the community parties as hard as it fights for its rights—having a good time is simply inevitable. 

For detailed information on this event, visit the official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras page.

Also published on Medium.