Gay nightlife, culture and history united in Manchester

The Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester is the official hotel partner for Manchester Pride.
The Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester is the official hotel partner for Manchester Pride.

Merely two hours from London by train or easily accessible with direct flights on Thomas Cook Airlines from Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles or San Francisco, Manchester stands united far beyond its namesake soccer team, particularly when it comes to the LGBTQ community.

But Manchester's gay history has had its upheavals, dating back to 1880 and the raiding of an all-male "fancy dress" ball in the Hulme district.

In 2005, rainbow mosaics were installed along the city streets to identify an LGBT Heritage Walk, which marks significant locales in Manchester's queer history.

Certified guide and author Jonathan Schofield is a go-to for private tours, which can be customized to touch upon architecture, music and pub culture. Ninety-minute tours begin at $160.

Other Manchester highlights to create an LGBTQ-focused itinerary include the following:

• Where to stay:
Built in 1856 as Free Trade Hall and converted to a 263-room hotel, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester has been the official hotel partner for Manchester Pride for the past five years.

The hotel sits directly on the parade route. Last year's Pride celebration showcased the work of local artist Christian Taylor, whose visual interpretation of Manchester's #BeeProud campaign canvassed the hotel with a buzz-worthy installation.

Wander the halls to discover celebrity autographs by Judy Garland and Bob Dylan, among others, from the property's days as a premier concert venue, or relax at Sienna Spa in what was once the historical building's storage vaults. Nightly rates begin at $219.

• Nightlife: Whether it's Pride or any time of year, Mancunians are heading to one place, and that's the Refuge by Volta at the newly opened Principal, a swanky hotel built in 1890 and now restored to all of its industrial chic glory.

From the Public Bar featuring namesake Volta Session Pale Ale to the Winter Garden, which plays host to a revolving roster of DJs, the Refuge has quickly become the place to see and "bee" seen.

• The Village: Canal Street sits at the epicenter of Manchester's Village, and during Pride the neighborhood turns into a 24/7 party, but throughout the rest of the year visitors flock to haunts like G-A-Y Manchester with its expansive rooftop and Vanilla, celebrating nearly 20 years as "the lesbian mecca of the north."

• Culture: One of Manchester's newest multidisciplinary venues, Home provides a playground for visual and performing arts, with many pieces created through the lens of the LGBTQ community. Films are featured on five screens with Sony 4K digital projectors; two theater spaces welcome local as well as international companies; and a flexible gallery space embraces a focused commitment to new works.

• Gay Pride 2018: The Manchester Pride Festival's Big Weekend will be held Aug. 24 to 27. Event highlights include the parade on Aug. 25 with more than 3,000 participants and the Candlelight Vigil in Sackville Gardens on Aug. 27, which recognizes those lost to HIV/AIDS.


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