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An Insider’s Guide to Southern Decadence

Tips on navigating the largest LGTBQ event in the city.

Labor Day Weekend signifies that the end of summer is approaching, but it’s also when New Orleans prepares for its largest LGBTQ event of the year.

Southern Decadence, which begins Wednesday, Aug. 30, and runs through Monday, Sept. 4, is a giant playground for you to explore. Wander freely with your drink in hand as your mood changes. You will find boys on the bar around one corner, a leather beer bust around another, and pretty much every other flavor (literal or figurative) that you are looking for.

your guide to southern decadence

Friday, Sept. 1

Halloween New Orleans kicks off the weekend in the CBD with a party to raise money and awareness at the Rampart Room on Poydras Street. Their largest and most popular event leading up to HNO weekend (Oct. 21-22) is a great way to start the weekend. With the theme of “Studio 34: BOOgie on the Dance Floor,” it should be a blast! Friday 6-9 p.m.

Gia GiaVanni, Daniel Dean, Nicole Lynn Foxx and Anastacia Davenport lipsync onstage at Oz. (photo: Roy Guste)

For a free event and to support a good cause, check out Divas Lipsync for a Cause at Mags 940. Local queens will be showing off their perfected lip-sync technique as a solo performer or in groups. The competition is to raise money for CrescentCare, so whether you’re a performer or spectator, be sure to leave a donation. Friday at 9 p.m.

The biggest bear dance party in the U.S., Bearaccuda, makes a pit stop in New Orleans for Decadence weekend. Hundreds of your closest furry friends will be grooving to the beats of DJ Matt Stands at One Eyed Jacks. Tickets are $10 and you can either purchase them in advance here or pay at the door. Friday at 9 p.m.

Beer Bust at The Phoenix – At the far edge of the French Quarter, the street outside this popular leather bar will be packed with beer trailers, food, and vendor booths. Inside, there is a shop for all your decadent leather needs. Try the upstairs maze if you’re feeling adventurous. A $20 donation to the Lords of Leather Krewe will get you unlimited keg beer for both nights. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 2

A great day for a gay bar crawl. Every place will have something going on, so make your way through the quarter and see where the day takes you. There are tons of events listed here.

Take a The Twirl!, a Gay Walking Tour with Glenn DeVillier, one of the most interesting guides in NOLA. The tour is available Saturday, September 2, at 11am and 3pm and will make stops at Brennan’s (What, alcoholic sno-balls?), Hermes Bar, Carousel, Napoleon House and Tableau for cocktails. Tickets are $30 per person. Private tours are also available by appointment for $200 per group (up to six).

Beat the heat on the Ace rooftop pool. (photo: Paul Broussard)

If you need a place to cool off, check out one of the fabulous pools that are open to the public. For a rooftop pool with a view, you have the Ace’s Alto and the Omni Royal Orleans. The Country Club in the Bywater is like a hidden tropical oasis with an upbeat vibe. And for the girls, there’s The Drifter Hotel where you are free to be topless. Each pool has a full bar and mouth-watering food menus. After the pool, stick around the Ace for the return of Horse Meat Disco or head to the NOPSI’s underCURRENT bar and patio.

If you’re in the Quarter, don’t miss the 13th annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza, a huge stage show at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets. The show starts at 6:30pm, featuring Debra Cox, Zoe Badwi, Jeanie Tracy and Rowetta, but come early to get a good spot. A limited number of FRONT-OF-STAGE VIP TICKETS are available for $30 from any bartender at Napoleon’s Itch.

Sunday, Sept. 3

Join the High Hair Contest at Good Friends and win the Bronze Barbie! (photo: Paul Broussard)

Southern Decadence Parade — A French Quarter walking parade whose official route is unsurprisingly listed as “tentative” starts at Golden Lantern (the home of Southern Decadence) and winds its way around St. Ann, Rampart, St. Louis, and Royal streets. Expect fun costumes, marching bands, and carriages full of drag queens. If the moment moves you, jump and join them; it’s a truly New Orleans experience you won’t find anywhere else. Sunday at 2 p.m.

Miss High Hair Contest at Good Friends A local favorite and must-do for a weekend in New Orleans. Dust off your grandma’s beehive and take part in the “Miss High Hair” contest for a chance to win the Bronze Barbie. The sky’s the limit in this competition, so be as creative and wild with your hairdo as you desire. Sunday 5 p.m.

all weekend

Brunch at EAT — Try to get a seat by the window for great people watching. EAT doesn’t have a liquor license, so grab a bloody from the Pub, or pick up a bottle of champagne on the way for mimosas. Dumaine and Dauphine Streets, brunch available Saturday and Sunday. More boozy brunch ideas here.

Late-night dancing at Oz — If you’re up for a thumping beat after your day at the pool, make your way to Oz for what looks to be an exciting DJ lineup: DJ Isaac Escalante, DJ Ben Baker and DJ Pacifico. This is where you’ll find the locals until the wee hours of the night. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights

Locals’ Advice

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Be friendly.
  • Get on a balcony either at Oz, the Pub, or Lafitte’s In Exile. Great people watching!
  • It’s going to be hot: pace yourself and drink plenty of water.
  • Get up early one morning and stroll down Royal Street. You’ll feel like you’re in another country!
  • Be smart: be aware of your surroundings.

What to Bring

  • A parasol or hat for the parade.
  • Costume(s): the more you join in, the more fun you’ll have.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Leather. It’s completely acceptable to wear your harness during this weekend although you’ll probably want to put on a shirt for dinner (unless you’re eating a Lucky Dog hot dog stand on the street).

It’s Not All About the Guys

Annual Dykadence event held at the Eiffel Society draws hundreds of lesbians. (photo: Paul Broussard)

Southern Decadence is an inclusive celebration of LGBT life, music and culture. Keep up to date on where the ladies are by following the monthly pop-up lesbian and queer bar, Grrl Spot including one of the biggest parties of the year, Risq featuring dancing and burlesque favorites and more. Eiffel Society, Saturday 9 p.m.

Get Out of the Quarter

While most do not leave the French Quarter during the weekend, we urge you to explore some other areas of the city. Take a walk along the Mississippi along Crescent Park to the more funky, colorful Marigny, or head Uptown and visit the plethora of shops along Magazine Street.

Editor’s Note: Our team would like to recognize and honor Rip Naquin. This month, New Orleans lost a true hero in our community. Naquin founded and published Ambush Magazine, the Gulf South’s oldest LGBT entertainment and travel guide. Naquin was one of the first supporters of New Orleans LGBT Hospitality Alliance (NOLHA), and helped make Southern Decadence the grand celebration it is today. Naquin and his spouse, Marsha, were the first same-sex domestic partnership filed in the city of New Orleans. They later married in New York City. Naquin also served on the Board of the Gay Easter Parade, and was recently crowned 12th Night Revelers – Grand Reveler III. We will raise a glass to him during Southern Decadence this year.

Rip Naquin passed away earlier this month. He was a leader in New Orleans’ LGBT community. (Photo: Marsha-Delain Naquin)

Keep up to date with all the LGBTQ happenings in New Orleans –  join our newsletter here.

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