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An Insider’s Guide to Southern Decadence

Southern Decadence Parade
The Southern Decadence Parade Rolls through New Orleans (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Labor Day Weekend signifies that the end of summer is here, but it’s also when New Orleans celebrates its largest LGBT event of the year. Southern Decadence, which begins Thursday, August 29, and runs through Monday, September 2, is a giant playground for you to explore. You’ll find boys on the bar around one corner, a leather beer bust around another, and every flavor you are looking for.

The Southern Decadence Parade marches through the French Quarter (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Your Guide to Southern Decadence

Thursday, August 29

This is the calm before the storm. But, if you’re ready to get your Decadence on, there will be plenty to do on Thursday night. We generally like to think of Thursday night as the time to acclimate yourself to your surroundings. Take this time to explore the gay bars and figure out where you you’d like to spend your time during the weekend. 

If you are looking for specific to-dos on Thursday night, two bars to try are Pub and Oz. At Pub, you’ll find a karaoke contest from 9 p.m. until midnight. At Oz, you’re in for a treat with their trio of events. The night starts with comedy cabaret featuring Geneva Joy, and quickly turns into epic lip sync performances from some of the talented ladies at Oz. To top off the night, Persana Shoulders hosts the legendary Oz strip off. 

Friday, Aug. 30

Halloween New Orleans kicks off the weekend in the CBD with a party at the Laurenia at Pythian Market to raise money and awareness for Project Lazarus. Their largest and most popular event leading up to Halloween New Orleans (HNO) (Oct. 25-27) is a great way to start the weekend. HNO’s theme this year is “Hallowdays”. Guests receive two complimentary Stoli drinks with the purchase of the door charge. Friday 6-9p.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 $15 and you can either purchase them in advance or pay at the door. Friday at 9 p.m.

Backstreet’s back in New Orleans and this time for Decadence. Watch this timeless band perform all their classics during their DNA World Tour. The show happens at the Smoothie King Center, which gives you plenty of time to party after the event. Tickets start at $55. Friday at 8 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, August 31st

Make your way through the quarter and see where the day takes you. Go for a gay bar crawl or take The Twirl!, a Gay Walking Tour with Glenn DeVillier. This tour makes stops at Tennesse Williams’ home, The Carousel Bar, Napoleon House, including stops along the way for cocktails. Tickets are $30 per person. Private tours are also available by appointment for $200 per group (up to six people). Saturday at 3 p.m. 

Stop at world-famous Broussard’s for their annual Queen B drag brunch featuring a $49 prix fixe menu with bacon sticky buns, chicken and waffles and much more. Guests will also enjoy $14 bottomless mimosas. This year’s performers are Miss Sable Nicole Star, Miss Karli LaCorre, Miss Starr Alexander & Shane (the MC). Shows are at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and are so spectacular that you might just want to stay for both.

Southern Decadence pools
Beat the heat at the Ace Hotel rooftop pool (Photo: Paul Broussard)

If you need a place to cool off, check out one of these 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 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 tasty food menus. After the pool, stick around the Ace for the return of Horse Meat Disco – a party hosted by TRAX ONLY taking place from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

If you’re in the Quarter, don’t miss the 15th annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza, a huge stage show at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets. The show starts at 6:30 p.m., featuring Debra Cox, Jennifer Holliday, and Jeanie Traycy. Be sure to come early to get a good spot. But if you don’t, plenty of folks will be mingling and dancing around the stage – which makes for a great party.

Sunday, Sept. 1

Start your morning off right with another epic drag brunch at the Fillmore located inside Harrah’s casino. This brunch serves a little disco throwback, reminiscing on some of the best hits from the 70s. One of our favorite things about this drag brunch is that food is served buffet style. After the event, try your luck with some roulette or blackjack at Harrahs. Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m

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 to some) 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.

The Southern Decadence Parade marches through the French Quarter (Photo: Paul Broussard)

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 at 5 p.m.

All Weekend

Brunch at EATSaturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Try to get a seat by the window for great people watching here. EAT doesn’t have a liquor license, so grab a bloody from Bourbon Pub, or pick up a bottle of champagne on the way for mimosas. Dumaine and Dauphine Streets brunch available Saturday and Sunday. Get 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 an exciting DJ lineup featuring DJ Danny Verde (Friday), DJ Ben Bake (Saturday), and DJ Dan Slater (Sunday). This is where you’ll find the locals until the wee hours of the night. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Locals’ Tips

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Be friendly.
  • Get on a balcony either at Oz, the Pub, or Lafitte’s In Exile for 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 to soak up the French Quarter vibes.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Pick up the local LGBT magazine – Ambush – at almost any gay bar or restaurant, filled with information about the weekend. It’s the official guide to Decadence.

What to Bring

  • A parasol or hat for the parade.
  • Costume(s): the more you join in, the more fun you’ll have.
  • Bring sunscreen and re-apply regularly.
  • Pack your leather. It’s completely acceptable to wear your harness during this weekend although you’ll probably want to put on a shirt for dinner.
  • Go Beyond the Quarter. While many do not leave the French Quarter during the weekend, we recommend you explore some other areas of the city. Take a walk along the Mississippi River at Crescent Park, explore the funky, colorful Marigny, or head Uptown and visit the shops along Magazine Street.

It’s Not All About the Guys

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. Their events often feature dancing, burlesque favorites, and more. This year Grrl Spot is expecting more womxn than ever and has moved to the Joy Theater  to accommodate the crowd. The event starts at 9 p.m. and goes until 1a.m. For more women’s events check out TogetherWeNOLA.

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