THE OFFICIAL PRIDE FESTIVAL: Pride returns to its Piedmont Park roots. Throughout the day and into the night, you'll find out-and-proud men and women perusing booths stocked with gay-related items, promoting worthy causes, or congregating on the lawn to listen to live music. Sunday morning's Pride Parade – and self-explanatory Dyke March that follows – are arguably the biggest crowd-pleasers, with well-designed floats, banner-carrying organizations and even the occasional politico. The pulsating pectorals, revealing skivvies and public displays of affection might make the more straight-laced blush. But if Friday night's commitment ceremony doesn't make you shed a tear, you might as well join the John Oxendine campaign. atlantapride.org.
BLAKE'S ON THE PARK: Where straight girls have come to watch their ex-boyfriends kiss other men since 1987. While the 10th and Piedmont address (ground zero for gay Atlanta) might seem intimidating, a walk through the doors will present a scene not unlike your typical straight bar – only the jeans are tighter, the eyebrows arch higher and, when the clock strikes 11, out come the drag queens. Blake's will have Halloween costume contests both Friday and Saturday night, and if you can squeeze in, you'll get a front row seat as the parade goes by on Sunday. 227 10th St. 404-892-5786. www.blakesontheparkatlanta.com.
THE ATLANTA EAGLE: Bears of all ages, young bucks with Southern accents, and fun-loving gents – all of whom are very happy to see you – have made this Midtown holdout one of Atlanta's best-known gay bars. Enjoy a leisurely walk from Piedmont Park and head here for drink specials, free pool, and the best goatees in Atlanta. If you're looking to assist with the hard-hit bar's legal fees after last month's police raid, show support and buy one of the clever shirts commemorating the botched bust. Should you be in the market for some new chaps, Rawhide Leather downstairs is happy to oblige. 306 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-2453. www.atlantaeagle.com.
THE HERETIC: During the week, the ominous-sounding Cheshire Bridge bar feels like your average neighborhood pub: middle-aged men nursing drinks, Wii Golf on the TV, and two flat-screens broadcasting buff bucks taking showers. On the weekends, the Heretic – and its massive, legendary dance hall dubbed "the Sanctuary" – becomes an unabashed man palace filled with the mostly middle-aged veterans of Atlanta's gay scene. It's not for the faint of heart. Thanks to Georgia's liquor laws, this gem won't be open on Sunday, so get your fill of DJs and costume parties on Friday and Saturday night. 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road. 404-325-3061. www.hereticatlanta.com.
MY SISTER'S ROOM: Straight men who want to be invisible for the night can do so at this thumping, lesbian-filled East Atlanta bar where every night is ladies' night. Throughout the week, it's packed wall-to-wall with young lesbians grinding to tunes and ogling newcomers to the scene. The busy schedule has plenty of drag shows, benefits and special events. Getting served at the bar can be difficult for all the ladies competing for drink service. Expect even larger crowds during Pride and Halloween. 1271 Glenwood Ave. 678-705-4585. www.mysistersroom.com.
MARY'S: On weekends, this self-described "gay dive bar" in East Atlanta is a magnet for hip gay men – and their straight gal pals – eager to dance, flirt and sing karaoke. But heteros often turn out for the celebrated Mary-oke nights on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A mezzanine overlook provides a bird's-eye view of the hipsters and alternaqueers and their booze-fueled revelry. Straight or gay, you can't go wrong at this joint. 1287 Glenwood Ave. 404-624-4411. www.marysatlanta.com.
BURKHART'S PUB: Burkhart's is like "Cheers," except Norm and Cliff are lovers and Sam Malone is a vain, whorish label queen. OK, Burkhart's is exactly like "Cheers." It's a friendly neighborhood haunt that belies its "pub" moniker by having two large dance floors and an ample patio area with plenty of room to spread out. You'll generally find scores of laid-back white boys in their 20s to 40s in the preppy/sporty mode who are as likely to shoot a game of pool upstairs as they are to belt out some Mariah on karaoke night downstairs. There'll be costume contests both Friday and Saturday night before closing the weekend with Sunday's drag show featuring Mary Edith Pitts. 1492-F Piedmont Ave. 404-872-4403. www.burkharts.com.
JUNGLE: Picture every thump-thump-thump stereotypical gay male thump-thump-thump dance club and you'll have a thump-thump-thump good idea of what's in store when you walk into Jungle. The cavernous club off Cheshire Bridge Road is holding on tight as one of the last great wonders of Atlanta's gay club scene. Things start hopping around 11 p.m. By midnight, half the club is shirtless and ready to scream into your ear, "Hey, I know the guy that owns this place!" Don't be frightened, though. The Pride festivities kick off with DJ Don Bishop on Friday and then "Terror Under the Rainbow" on Halloween night with DJ Chris Cox. 2115 Faulkner Road. 404-844-8800. www.jungleclubatlanta.com.
@ Roxanne Dimacale
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