New Orleans celebrates diversity in music, culture, and sexual orientation, as evidenced by a thriving LGBTQ scene including the country’s oldest continuously operating gay bar – Café Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon Street where the party’s been rolling since 1953. From the best Drag Brunches in the Big Easy to shopping hotspots for towering wigs and accessories, here’s your guide to the LBGTQ scene in New Orleans.
Boisterous Bars and Boylesque
The city is full of LGBTQ-friendly clubs and with the New Orleans open-liquor laws, feel free to take your drink out into the sea of humanity on Bourbon Street where the party expands.
Oz at 800 Bourbon Street is a two-story party on any given night, with “Boylesque” dancers on the bar, drag shows, and an indoor balcony for people-watching. Bourbon Pub Parade next door at 801 Bourbon Street is known for its popular Friday and Saturday night drag shows and sing-along Sunday nights. And the friendliest LGBT bar in NOLA is the aptly named Good Friends Bar on Dauphine Street, where you can win prizes playing Wheel of Fortune along with a lively crowd of locals on weeknights.
New Orleans has earned its reputation as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world, and dining out is no exception. One of the several slogans for LGBTQ-owned Clover Grill is “We may not be pretty, but we think we are,” and the sass doesn’t stop there. The Bourbon Street diner’s waitstaff is known to dish out witty banter as they serve 24-hour breakfast and diner fare.
For French Quarter fabulousness, Trinity Restaurant on Decatur Street hosts a Drag Brunch – with bottomless Mimosas – at noon on Saturdays. Or enjoy a poolside dinner at LGBTQ hotspot The Country Club in the bohemian Bywater neighborhood. Then purchase a pool pass to go for a dip, and wind down with cocktails and new friends in the hot tub.
Flip Your Wig (And Earrings)
New Orleans LGBTQ events often revolve around elaborate costumes and you’ll find the best accessories in town at Fifi Mahoney’s wig shop on Royal Street, where they’ll prep you with everything from a towering pompadour to glitter lashes.
The French Market at Esplanade and Decatur streets offers a wide array of costume jewelry, sequined masks, and hand-crafted accessories to complete any costume without breaking the bank. And for a step above costume jewelry, hit the historic shopping district on Royal Street for antique accessories at M.S. Rau. Finish up at LGBTQ shop Hit Parade on Bourbon Street to complete your look, from costume to everyday fabulous.
Saints and Sinners Literature
Saints and Sinners Literary Festival takes place every March (in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Festival), and celebrates the inclusive community that drew Williams to the French Quarter.
Gay Easter Parade
NOLA’s Gay Easter Parade includes celebrants in drag and leather who toss beads, candy, and plastic eggs filled with treats from floats, all kicking off at Armstrong Park on Easter Sunday. Watch for the spectacularly dressed marching crews, referred to locally as krewes. After the parade, check out the Easter Bonnet Contest at Good Friends Bar.
Mardi Gras Extravaganzas
Gear up for glitter at the popular Bourbon Street Awards costume contest, kicking off at noon on Mardi Gras Day at the corner of St. Ann and Dumaine streets. It’s one of the most eye-popping events of Mardi Gras, filling a runway with competing costumes.
Stay in the conveniently located Homewood Suites by Hilton French Quarter Hotel, and book well in advance to ensure a room. During Mardi Gras, they’ll issue a wristband so you can rest up in your room between parades.
For an over-the-top gala, attend the Krewe of Armeinius Mardi Gras Bal Masque for the most elaborate gay costume tableaux of the season.
New Orleans LGBTQ Pride Weekend means balconies flying rainbow flags and celebrations throughout the French Quarter.
Cut loose at Southern Decadence Festival over Labor Day weekend. The celebration culminates in a Sunday parade – stretching around the entire French Quarter – which earned it the nickname Gay Mardi Gras.
Krewes stop and perform routines for the reviewing stand atop the Golden Lantern bar at Barracks and Royal streets. (Pro tip: The cash-only Golden Lantern makes one of the best overstuffed Bloody Marys in NOLA.)
Click here to book your New Orleans getaway.