When you think of the gayest cities in the country, I know the typical places that pop up: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles. You know where more and more people like you are thinking of? New Orleans. You, like many others, understand the quintessential perk of being LGBTQ is thinking outside the box, and that’s what New Orleans is all about.
And, for the record, New Orleans boasts the fourth-largest LGBTQ population among metropolitan cities and is always a top contender for destination weddings, vacations, conferences, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and weekend getaways. This is because New Orleans is fun, carefree and open-minded.
As if you needed another reason to come visit, here are 10.
1. Southern Decadence
This is the place to be Labor Gay Weekend. Take your PTO on Tuesday so you’ll have time to recover, and pack your tiniest shorts because it’s the hottest, sweatiest, gayest, most wonderful time of the year. Hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians** descend upon the French Quarter for four days of decadent behavior. It doesn’t matter who you are, you will find your tribe here.
2. Mardi Gras
If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras, I don’t need to tell you you’re missing out. I’ll let the millions of people who have been (and come back every year) reiterate my point. The crowning jewels of Mardi Gras are the parades and balls. Don’t even bother going to the French Quarter until late night; that’s for newbies. Gay balls (the dinner and dancing kind) include Krewe of Amon-Ra, Lords of Leather, Krewe of Armeinius, Krewe of Stars, and more. Krewe of Armeinius will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2018 — this would be a great one to see!
3. Red Beans Parade
There is nothing more inherently New Orleans than red beans and rice. Traditionally, you’d take the pork leftovers from Sunday dinner and cook it down with red beans, vegetables, and serve over rice for a deliciously easy supper on Monday. Appropriately hosted on Lundi Gras (a Monday), the Red Beans Parade features a second line with revelers decked out in “bean” costumes. Want to join in? Grab a hot glue gun and decorate anything and everything with beans. This parade begins in the Bywater, passes through the Marigny, and ends in the French Quarter (all queer-friendly neighborhoods).
4. Gay Easter Weekend
The weekend comprises a Gay Easter Egg Hunt, drag brunches galore, the Gay Easter Parade, and an Easter bonnet competition at Good Friends Bar, a well-know, gay-friendly bar in the French Quarter. And truly, there isn’t anything better than spending Easter Weekend donning your finest seersucker and pastels and day-drinking in the French Quarter.
5. Saenger Theater
The beautiful thing about visiting New Orleans is that everything you want to do is within a short distance. On the outer edge of the French Quarter, adjacent to the Canal Streetcar line, sits the beautifully decorated Saenger Theater. The space hosts a variety of performers, from comedians and musicians to Broadway shows. And the best part is that it’s all a fraction of the cost of New York City prices. Our recent favorites there include Mamma Mia!, The Bodyguard, Lion King, and Wicked.
6. Bayou Boogaloo
This is a local favorite and not specifically gay-oriented, but give me a minute to explain: it’s a music festival where you can listen from a float on the bayou. Bayou St. John is a canal that brings a tiny part of Lake Pontchartrain into the city. Its end is surrounded by a small park where you’ll find people jogging with their dogs, riding their bikes, enjoying a picnic or finishing their favorite books with a beer in hand. For Bayou Boogaloo, the park hosts vendors and performers while the audience chooses whether or not to sail in the bayou in anything from kayaks and pool floats to custom-designed buoyant living rooms. The vibes are great, the people are wonderful and diverse, and you’ll go home telling your friends they have to come next year.
7. New Orleans Pride
Pride is growing steadily every year in New Orleans. The focus here isn’t so much sexual orientation and gender identity as it is a chance to gather with our allies and celebrate. There’s a family day for those with children, Pride Parade for those who love synchronized walking and dancing, nights at Oz and Bourbon Pub/Parade for the those who love the thumpa-thumpa, and Pride Brunch to rally after said thumpa-thumpa. For a city that touts it’s open-minded nature, no Pride has quite the welcoming feeling that New Orleans’ does.
8. Halloween New Orleans (the fundraiser)
Halloween New Orleans (HNO) does Halloween in New Orleans even better because they do it for a cause. Funds raised benefit Project Lazarus, which provides direct healthcare and HIV/AIDS services to men and women in New Orleans. This year’s event will take place the weekend of Oct. 20-22 and features the Main Event, a costume contest, a tea dance, and a second line.
9. Voodoo Fest
If you need an excuse to wear a costume while listening to a killer lineup, look no further. Voodoo Fest borrows a piece of the beautiful City Park to set up an awesome venue for music lovers. A unique selection of performers guarantees there’s something for everyone. Pack your rain boots, face paint, wings, and tutus, and join the dance party.
10. Drag Brunch at The Country Club
This event is held on the first Saturday and third Sunday of every month at the ironically named Country Club. Join the “Southern Barbitchuates” for the $15 bottomless mimosas and deliciously concocted Southern brunch specials for a gay ol’ time. And when brunch is over, pay for a day pass, pop into your swimsuit, and lounge by the saltwater pool.
For more information and news on the city’s LGBT community, sign up for New Orleans’ LGBT e-newsletter here.