New Orleans is something of a gay-mecca in the south, with thousands of LGBTQ travelers passing through every year. But, New Orleans is a big town with a lot to see, so it can be hard to find the best spots by chance. If you’re planning a gaycation in The Crescent City, then read on! This guide contains all you need to know about the New Orleans gay scene.
The New Orleans LGBTQ Scene
There’s no city more full of joie de vivre than New Orleans. The climate and the city’s welcoming atmosphere have made it a haven for the outlandish, the decadent, and the lively for over three centuries. It’s also kept up in the legal department. 1991 saw the city council pass a non-discrimination ordinance that protected gay people. In 1998, New Orleans was one of the earliest cities to add gender identity to a list of protected classes.
With assurances of security, the LGBTQ community has thrived in NOLA, especially in the French Quarter. It’s the most prominent of the gay neighborhoods in New Orleans, and all the famous establishments are there.
But the French Quarter isn’t the only gay neighborhood in the city. Right next to it is the Faubourg Marigny district, which plays host to many jazz clubs along Frenchmen Street. This music scene attracted the LGBTQ community, and it’s now one of the city’s gayborhoods.
LGBTQ Events In New Orleans
This is the headline LGBTQ event in New Orleans. Southern Decadence is a six-day event taking place on Labor Day Weekend. Gay travel to New Orleans specifically for Southern Decadence drew over 275,000 attendees, mostly LGBTQ. It’s among the city’s top five tourist events, turning the French Quarter into an even rowdier party. It hits the peak at 2:00 PM on Sunday, when the parade kicks off, but don’t miss all the events beforehand.
New Orleans Pride
When is Gay Pride in New Orleans? It’s in June. All of June is Pride Month, with the actual event taking place during the first full weekend of the month. Decadence is the bigger event in New Orleans, but Pride doesn’t slack off. New Orleans Pride attracted 75,000 visitors in 2018. Pride includes a wide range of events: burlesque shows, art exhibits, live entertainment, and dance parties everywhere you look.
Though Mardi Gras is not an LGBTQ event in and of itself, 10 participating krewes are LGBTQ. The community can show off loud and proud during Mardi Gras! There’s been a gay krewe taking part in Mardi Gras ever since 1958, and more have sprung up ever since. Gay Mardi Gras takes place over five days in the run-up to Mardi Gras proper. Visit the lower French Quarter to see magnificent costumes and participate in the Bourbon Street Awards.
Where To Stay
The city is so liberal and welcoming that it’s easy to find a gay-friendly hotel or guesthouse, but some stand above the rest.
214 Royal Street
Hotel Monteleone was established in 1886 and is still owned by the Monteleone family. It’s in the French Quarter, just 15 minutes away from Bourbon Street. Most importantly, it’s TAG-approved, which means that they’re part of a verified group of LGBTQ-welcoming establishments. In addition to the revolving bar and the in-house restaurant, try their rooftop pool or the spa.
600 Carondelet Street
The Ace chain of hotels is gay-owned and welcomes the LGBTQ community with open arms. The Ace Hotel New Orleans is in the Central Business District, right next to the French Quarter. The hotel itself is already an attraction. Three in-house restaurants offer a range of dining options. The Three Keys just off the lobby provides improvisational live music. Or you can chill at the rooftop garden and its excellent view of the city.
Elysian Fields Inn
930 Elysian Fields Avenue
The Elysian Fields Inn is a licensed bed and breakfast in Faubourg Marigny. It’s right around the corner from Frenchmen Street, and the French Quarter is only five blocks away. The hotel has traditional decor and excellent rooms, each of which has a private bath and fine linens. The owners, Michelle and Bob, do their best to show classic Southern hospitality to all their guests. It’s the perfect place to relax after a night of partying in the French Quarter.
Where To Eat
World-class food is one of many reasons to go on a gay New Orleans vacation, and eating at one of these establishments is an excellent way to give back to the city’s LGBTQ community.
The Country Club
634 Louisa Street
No, it’s not a place you go to play golf. The Country Club offers Italian-French and Creole-Southern cooking. Come by for their Drag Brunch every Saturday at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM and enjoy the lip-syncing drag queens. Reserve your spots early if you want to catch Drag Brunch – they fill up quickly.
500 Chartres Street
Ever thought about dining in a designated National Historical Landmark? Napoleon House has an excellent menu, but we recommend trying their classics: a muffuletta sandwich and a Pimm’s Cup cocktail. Nobody in New Orleans does these two items quite like Napoleon House does, and no visit there is complete without trying both!
Alternatively, try their red beans and rice, any of their po’ boys, or a decadent chocolate doberge cake.
900 Bourbon Street
If you’re looking for a break in the middle of your Bourbon Street bar crawl, there’s no better place to stop than Clover Grill. It’s right in the middle of Bourbon Street, right across from Cafe Lafitte in Exile. It serves breakfast 24/7, and that much grease is just the thing to cure your hangover. Their burgers are excellent, or you can build your own omelet.
Where To Party
The only place to start hitting gay bars in New Orleans is Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Just pick an establishment from our list below, and you can’t go wrong. No gay travel guide for New Orleans should leave out guidelines for consuming alcohol outside the bars and pubs.
Legal note: In the French Quarter, the New Orleans Municipal Code allows open containers of alcohol on public streets, sidewalks, parks, or public rights of way, as long as it is not an open glass container. Establishments will offer to put your drink into a plastic to-go cup, so there’s no need to load up before you go. (Note, public drunkenness is still a misdemeanor, so while you can bring your drink from one establishment to another, don’t make trouble while doing so.)
740 Dauphine Street
If you want to go somewhere chill and casual, Good Friends is an excellent choice. It’s also a good way to kick off the night if you plan on hitting all the New Orleans gay clubs. Karaoke is every Tuesday, live piano music is on Saturdays. Happy Hour is from 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM on weekdays, 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM and 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM on weekends. Try their Separator, it tastes like a milkshake, looks like a milkshake, and kicks like a mule.
Cafe Lafitte In Exile
901 Bourbon Street
No gay New Orleans vacation is complete without visiting the oldest continuously-operating gay bar in the United States, open since 1933. Cafe Lafitte In Exile used to be at a different location before it lost its lease, hence why it’s “in exile”. This two-story bar has outdoor seating, pool tables, and a welcoming clientele. On Sundays, look out for the napkin toss around 9:00 PM.
Don’t confuse this with Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on the far side of the block, the former home of this establishment, which bills itself the oldest continuously-operating bar in the US.
Bourbon Pub And Parade
801 Bourbon Street
The largest gay bar in all of New Orleans is Bourbon Pub and Parade. It regularly wins spots in the Top 10 Gay Bar lists. The two floors offer different vibes, depending on what you’re in the mood for. The Parade upstairs hosts drag shows and Beer Bash Weekends. Downstairs, the pub hosts Thursday Night Karaoke, videos on Fridays and Saturdays, and sing-alongs on Sundays and Wednesdays. Even a regular visit here is an event.
800 Bourbon Street
Oz bills itself the #1 gay dance club in New Orleans. The music is loud and plays all night, and the go-go boys keep things lively. Stop by for the weekly events. Monday karaoke nights are hosted by a rotating series of drag queens. Tuesdays and Thursdays show off the go-go boys. Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays have drag shows. Sunday has Drag Bingeaux.
Other Fun Things To Do In New Orleans
An LGBT New Orleans vacation is more than just the bars of Bourbon Street. There are dozens of attractions around the city, any of which is a worthy addition to a trip to NOLA.
Louis Armstrong Park
835 North Rampart Street
Named after the musician, Louis Armstrong Park is right next to the French Quarter. It’s the perfect place to go if you need to chill and decompress from the party environment. It’s also a good place to visit on its own. Congo Square, the birthplace of jazz, lies within the park area. If you’re there in the spring or fall, come by for Jazz in the Park, a series of free musical performances every Thursday.
NOLA Drag Tours
There’s no better way to learn about New Orleans than with local drag queen Quinn Laroux’s NOLA Drag Tours. We couldn’t have a LGBTQ+ gay travel guide for New Orleans without mentioning this tour. Her tour covers the history of sex work, burlesque, and the history of the LGBTQ community in New Orleans. Quinn makes her 90-minute tours informative and fun. You can also book a private tour for a more personalized experience for you and your group.
New Orleans Streetcars
Very few cities in the US have functioning streetcars, so trying out the New Orleans streetcars should be on your list. The St. Charles Line is specifically a National Historic Landmark, so take this opportunity to see history in action. The fare of $1.25 has to be paid in exact change as you board, but you can also buy ‘Jazzy Passes’, which give you unlimited rides for one, three, or 31 days.
New Orleans plays host to 45 cemeteries, of which 5 are officially on the National Register of Historic Places. NOLA cemeteries are unique, as the tombs are above-ground and lavishly decorated. They’re worth a visit on their own. Note that some cemeteries, in particular the famous St. Louis No.1, can only be visited by an official tour, and are otherwise closed to tourists. Check the specific cemetery before going to see if it’s open to the public.
Mardi Gras Museum Of Costumes And Culture
1010 Conti Street
If you aren’t visiting for Mardi Gras but still want a taste, then this is the place to go. The Mardi Gras Museum offers tours that show off the various traditions of Mardi Gras. You can even experience a small-scale recreation with their indoor parade and take pictures dressed in authentic costumes. Come by from Thursdays to Mondays at noon to see the show.
The Bottom Line
“Loud and proud” has been New Orleans’ slogan since the beginning. Whether you’re coming for Southern Decadence and Mardi Gras, or if you just want to explore a city that’s both historic and welcoming, NOLA has something for you. If you’re unsure where your gay vacation to New Orleans should begin, we hope our travel guide has given you a few marvelous ideas!