From elaborate gay Mardi Gras balls to the literary greats who have called the Crescent City home, LGBT culture is deeply ingrained in the fabric of New Orleans' history. The city's laissez-faire attitude has led to a flourishing gay culture, with no shortage of events, bars and businesses that cater to LGBT patrons.
To get a taste of the city and the history of gay New Orleans, set up a tour with Glen DeVilliers. "The Twirl" gay heritage and cocktail tour explores the city from the perspective of many of its famous gay residents, including renowned writer Tennessee Williams. For a more general perspective of the city, there's a variety of French Quarter walking tours or cocktail tours!
To explore a bit on your own, head over to the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods for some funky architecture and bohemian flare. Expect brightly colored homes with offbeat decorations, hip bars, art galleries and some of the best brunch spots in town. If you're more interested in strolling past the city's grandest historic homes and mansions, head to the Garden District. The area is home to some of the city's best shopping and architecture.
Spend a morning perusing local boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and more along Magazine Street in the Garden District. Spanning six miles, the popular street offers no shortage of options for entertainment. If you still haven't had enough, head over to Royal Street, home to some of the nation's finest antique stores. You can find items from the grandest estates of the 19th and 20th centuries, including papal jewelry and samurai swords. Be sure to pop into the many art galleries and stop to admire the street performers. Royal Street is a work of art in itself.
For a few cocktails and some dancing, head over the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets. The area is home to the highest concentrations of gay bars in the Big Easy, many of which host drag and burlesque shows nightly. The Bourbon Pub and Parade is a local favorite and is the epicenter of Southern Decadence festivities.
However, New Orleans nightlife is not limited to Bourbon Street. There are a number of fabulous traditional bars, like the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone or the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel. For the chic environment of a cocktail lounge, try Cure, Cellar Door or SoBou. And for live music, there's no beating Frenchmen Street - there are performances 7 days a week in this strip of the Marigny just beyond the French Quarter.
If you find yourself having a little too much fun, New Orleans has you covered when it comes to a recovery brunch. Brennan's Restaurant is credited with turning breakfast into an event and is famous for its jazz brunches. Other hotspots include Cane & Table, The Ruby Slipper Café, Arnaud's, Palace Café and Court of Two Sisters. Beyond brunch, New Orleans is home to an internationally renowned and award-winning culinary scene that won't leave visitors disappointed.
New Orleans' hotels range from stately and historic to modern and chic, including a plethora of TAG-approved LGBT-friendly options.
And while New Orleans is a great destination for LGBT travelers year-round, events definitely heat up during the summer. Most notably, Southern Decadence Festival arrives at the end of summer over Labor Day weekend, bringing with it parades, parties, dancing and much more. This annual event brings more than 160,000 LGBT visitors to New Orleans each year, and the highlight of the festival is the Southern Decadence Walking Parade on Sunday, a raucous costumed parade through the French Quarter.
Click here to learn more about other LGBT festivals.