More than 180,000 visitors took part in Southern Decadence 2015. (©Chris Granger/NOCVB)

New Orleans for LGBTQ Travelers

By Douglas Brantley on 04/18/16, updated 06/05/17
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Home to Southern Decadence, the largest gay gathering in the South, New Orleans has long welcomed gays and lesbians. Founded by Frenchmen in frilly clothing, the “Queen of Southern Culture” gave rise to the nation’s first opera house and cinema, its oldest active art enclave and community theater—and one of the longest operating gay bars in the United States.

Now nearing the half-century mark, Decadence draws thousands of revelers over Labor Day weekend to take part in the outlandish, four-day French Quarter affair. But there’s more to Crescent City gay life than just partying in the streets.

With its vibrant arts and entertainment scenes, renowned culinary and cultural institutions, trademark hedonism and laid-back attitude toward alternative lifestyles, New Orleans promises a good time whatever side of the street you parade on.

Jackson Square

(©Shawn Fink)

Attractions

Jackson Square

On June 18, 1977, thousands gathered here to protest Anita Bryant’s concerts at Municipal Auditorium—the first demonstration in the country against Bryant, who led the effort to overturn a Miami gay-rights ordinance. On June 26, 2015, gays and lesbians congregated again in celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

(©Shawn Fink)

Nightlife

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

Said to have been the hideout of pirate Jean Lafitte, this corner bar also provided safe haven for “artistic types," such as Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams, from the 1940s until 1953, when the proprietors lost their lease. Café Laffite in Exile, one of the nation’s oldest gay bars, opened soon after at 901 Bourbon Street.

(©Stanley)

Restaurants

Stanley

Named for Marlon Brando’s character in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” this fun eatery is in the Pontalba Buildings, where the “Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest” takes place each March. Indulge in “Eggs Stanley,” then give your own shout-out to the playwright in front of 632 St. Peter, where he penned his masterpiece.

Carousel Bar

(©Kerri McCaffety/Hotel Monteleone

Nightlife

Carousel Bar

Grab a Vieux Carré cocktail and take a spin at this revolving bar in the Hotel Monteleone, where Liberace was the first to tickle the ivories and Truman Capote claimed to have been born. Capote returned to the city in 1940, where he produced his first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” while living at 701 Orleans Street.

“Body of work” takes on new meaning at this gallery—the first in the U.S. devoted to the fine art of bodypainting. You’ll recognize award-winning artist/owner Craig Tracy from his stints on the Game Show Network series “Skin Wars,” on which he serves as one of the judges along with the equally legendary drag queen RuPaul.

Hazelnut

(©Hazelnut/Facebook)

Shopping

Hazelnut

Local actor Bryan Batt of “Mad Man” fame and his event-planner partner Tom Cianfichi operate this hip home décor boutique on the upper end of retail-packed Magazine Street. Bag a set of New Orleans-toile table linens, along with Batt’s home-design tome, “Big, Easy Style: Creating Rooms You Love to Live In.”

The Standard

(©The Standard)

Restaurants

The Standard

Longtime partners Alison Wild and Lana Banks are also longtime restaurateurs; Lana in North Carolina and Alison in Atlanta. Despite its name (a nod to Alison’s love of Standard poodles), their shared New Orleans venture is anything but standard. Think: grit cakes over spicy spinach and goat cheese enchiladas with mango salsa.

The Country Club

(©Shawn Fink)

Restaurants

The Country Club

Though no longer clothing-optional, the pool at this Bywater landmark still corrals a crowd, especially on weekends. Housed in a circa-1884 Italianate cottage, the club is also home to a popular restaurant. Wear your swimsuit to brunch, and spend the afternoon poolside with a mixed crowd of locals. Did we mention the bottomless mimosas?

Parade

(©Shawn Fink)

Nightlife

The Bourbon Pub & Parade

Anchoring the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon streets (aka “the Pink Triangle”), this double-decker club is the epicenter of Southern Decadence celebrations. Downstairs is devoted to a large curving bar and video screens, while upstairs it’s all about the pumping dance floor and wraparound balcony that’s perfect for people-watching.

Clover Grill

(©Shawn Fink)

Restaurants

Clover Grill

When the clubs clear out, the party continues at this raucous diner across the street from Café Lafitte in Exile. Open 24/7, the hangover heaven is beloved for its acerbic waiters, greasy burgers cooked under hubcaps, all-day breakfasts and late-night floor shows starring eccentric Bourbon Street characters.

Map of New Orleans for LGBTQ Travelers