Louisiana is a culturally conservative state, but its largest city bucks that trend. New Orleans has always had a reputation for tolerance and it remains one of the oldest gay-friendly cities in the Western hemisphere, marketing itself as the 'Gay Capital of the South.' Neighborhoods such as the French Quarter and Marigny are major destinations on the LGBT travel circuit.
New Orleans is a pretty integrated city. Except for the lower part of Bourbon St, few areas or businesses feel exclusively gay. Rather, the queer vibe in the city seems to be strongest during major festivals such as the Gay Easter Parade and Southern Decadence.
New Orleans has always had a reputation as a city for outcasts, which for much of history has included the gay and lesbian population. Even today, in conservative states such as Alabama and Mississippi, gay and lesbian youth feel the pull of the Big Easy, where acceptance of their sexuality isn't hard to find.
Artists such as Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Lyle Saxon, among many others, found acceptance and purpose here; Williams went so far as to dub New Orleans his ‘spiritual home.’ Gay Civil Rights battles were fought in New Orleans by groups such as the Gertrude Stein Society. In 1997 Mayor Marc Morial extended domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian couples who were city employees; in the same year, Louisiana became the first state in the Deep South to pass hate crimes legislation that covered sexual orientation. One year later, New Orleans pushed new boundaries by being one of the first American cities to list gender identity as protected from discrimination.
- French Quarter The Lower Quarter, from St Philips St to Esplande Ave, is a lively gay party.
- Faubourg Marigny and Bywater Quieter gay scene largely made up of established couples.
- Uptown and Riverbend An out student scene concentrated near Tulane and Loyola.
- Garden, Lower Garden and Central City While there are few dedicated LGBT hangouts, all of Magazine St is gay friendly.
- CBD and Warehouse District A mix of professional and artsy LGBT folks hang out at hotels like the Ace and Catahoula.
Need To Know
Gay Bars Never Close
OK, that’s not entirely true, but it’s safe to say that if you want a 24-hour party, the gay bars on Bourbon St (especially Bourbon Pub) are the place to be. Even the bars that aren’t technically open 24 hours are often still kicking around 5am, so it’s not like they attract the shrinking-violet crowd.
Best Gay Online Resources
Check out these websites for information on queer travel in New Orleans:
Gay New Orleans Online (www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/lgbt) Probably the most comprehensive collection of queer listings online.
Gay Cities (http://neworleans.gaycities.com) Listings, user reviews and LGBT-related content.
Ambush Magazine (www.ambushmag.com) Local take on queer news and issues.
Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com/usa/louisiana.html) Reliable gay-travel resource.
For Gay & Lesbian Travellers
- Faubourg Marigny Book Store This bookstore is also a cornerstone of the gay community.
- Country Club Clothing-optional heated pool? Sounds good.
- Café Lafitte in Exile Oldest gay bar in the South.
- Southern Decadence One of the craziest parties in town.
- Bourbon Pub & Parade It’s 24-hour madness on Bourbon St.
Gay & Lesbian Bars
- Country Club Good drinks and food, and a pool in a tropical courtyard.
- Bourbon Pub & Parade A big, over-the-top gay bar that anchors the Quarter's LGBT scene.
- AllWays Lounge Frequently puts on cabaret and drag shows.
- Big Daddy’s Bar Laid-back 'gayborhood' bar with a down-to-earth vibe.
- Café Lafitte in Exile Six decades running and going strong; this is a bedrock of the Quarter gay scene.
Gay Dance Floors
- Southern Decadence The biggest GLBT event in New Orleans is always a party for the record books.
- Gay Easter Parade Bunny costumes, tea parties, dainty dresses and lots of fun.
- Mardi Gras Carnival's enormous arts and DIY scene features a strong GLBT presence.
- Halloween Many of the city's best costuming and masking events have overlap with the gay community.
- Gay Pride New Orleans Catch the parade and the spectacle, but note this event is decently family friendly.
- Green House Inn Adults-only accommodations close to a glut of fine bars and restaurants.
- Lamothe House Gay-friendly accommodations on the attractive end of Esplanade Ave.
- Lions Inn B&B Located in the cozy center of the Marigny; a locus for the gay community.
- W French Quarter Hip decor, fantastic on-site eating and the nightlife of the Quarter at your fingertips.