Orlando might be known internationally for Disney World, Universal Studios and a series of thrilling theme parks, but it also boasts one of the most vibrant and friendly gay communities around.
Girls in Wonderland is an annual event that is part of Disney World’s Gay Days, the biggest gay party in the world. Taking place Tuesday, June 3 to Sunday, June 8, 2014 in the heart of Orlando, Florida, the event attracts thousands of lesbians over a four-day weekend of live musical performances, celebrity appearances, afterparties, a signature show at the House of Blues and more.
This year, the 14th year of the event, organizers are expecting in excess of 10,000 lesbians to attend the party, many of whom will be staying at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort, which is reserved for the festivities.
Girls in Wonderland is the second largest women’s weekend in North America and attracts visitors from all over Canada and the United States.
It’s the brainchild of the women behind Pandora Events, a promotions company that started in South Beach, then spread to Miami before hitting Orlando. For many, it’s a coming-of-age experience.
“Over the years, we’ve seen it all. It’s been 14 years of hookups, breakups, marriages and lots of engagements,” says Alison Burgos, co-founder of Pandora Events. Two years ago, Burgos publicly popped the question to her girlfriend at one of the events.
“One of our goals is to create a fun and safe environment for anyone and to be accepting of all people within the LGBT community,” Burgos says.
Girls in Wonderland began as a single party with 600 women and has grown exponentially over the years to become an annual tradition for many.
“I’ve been going to Girls in Wonderland for the past six years, and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Me and my friends have the freedom to just be ourselves, act how we feel, do whatever we want and not be judged by anyone,” says Mila Ocasio, a repeat visitor.
This year’s talent is diverse and promising. Lesbian comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, one of the first openly gay comics to appear on television, is performing a show at the resort. A solid lineup of DJs will fuel the dancing spirit, including Bonnie Beats, Whitney Day and Pat Pat. In the past, celebrities from The Real L Word and Bad Girls Club have hosted events. Performers for the signature show at the House of Blues will be announced soon.
Many visitors stay at the resort, but those attending single-day events will find plenty of accommodation options in nearby Orlando. A shuttle service runs from the resort to the various events to prevent drinking and driving and to provide the safest environment possible for guests.