1. PROVINCETOWN, MASS. Land’s End Holiday Gala
December 5 GoPtown.com
A nearly 50-year-old Provincetown tradition resumes after a 15-year hiatus when historic seaside Land’s End Inn throws open its doors for an evening of caroling, cocktails, and tree trimming. The elegant New England holiday party leads into the 12th annual Holly Folly celebration, three days of events—including a Boston Gay Men’s Chorus concert and festive light display—produced by the resort town’s many LGBT elves.
2. HOUSTON Black Tie and Big Hearts Charity Ball
December 31 HoustonBlackTie.org
Give 2008 an elegant send-off with 450 other queer movers and shakers at Houston Black Tie’s inaugural New Year’s Eve bash in the downtown Museum District’s Hotel Zaza. The swanky soiree includes a silent auction, gourmet hors d’oeuvres, a midnight champagne toast, nonstop music, and a breakfast buffet, with proceeds upping the more than $2 million the organization has raised for local LGBT nonprofits since 1988.
3. GRAZ, AUSTRIA Tuntenball February 14 Homo.at/tuntenball
Tunten translates to “men dressing as women,” providing a major clue about the colorful queer sensibility of this Valentine’s Day extravaganza set in the old town’s domed Grazer Congress convention center. Twirl the night away with 2,500 costumed revelers at the 20th anniversary ball, which raises funds for Rosalila PantherInnen, an LGBT and HIV service agency in southeastern Austria.
4. LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN Drag Queen Gala
February 20 LPACarnaval.com
During the three-week spectacle of Carnaval in the Canary Islands’ largest city—2009 theme: “Pirates”—no translator is necessary to appreciate the visual outrageousness of the always sold-out Drag Queen Gala (below). An open-air theater springs up in palm-filled Santa Catalina Park to showcase the juried showdown among 15 cross-dressing divas, now in its 12th year as a festival highlight.
5. NEW ORLEANS Bal Masque XLI
February 21 KreweofArmeinius.org
For an inside look at New Orleans gay society, make the 10-mile trek outside the French Quarter to Westwego?s John A. Alario Sr. Event Center for the Krewe of Armeinius?s 41st annual Mardi Gras ball. Gowns and tuxes (no costumes, please!) are required attire for the public-welcome balcony seats at the opulent stage production honoring the queer krewe?s festival royalty.
6. CHARLOTTE, N.C. HRC Carolinas Gala Dinner
February 21 HRCCarolinas.org
With ?Imagine? as a theme and a bold rainbow palette inspiring its design team, HRC Carolinas unites upward of 1,000 LGBT folks and allies at the Charlotte Convention Center for its 14th annual black-tie dinner, silent auction, and awards ceremony. The regional gala, benefiting the Human Rights Campaign?s work for LGBT equality, ranks second in size only to the organization?s national event in D.C.