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Out and Proud in New Orleans

Whether you are visiting for New Orlean’s Pride or just any time of year, we have some insider’s tips on how to see NOLA like a local.

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New Orleans has long been a haven for those who live life colorfully and enjoy having a good time. Every corner of the city has been shaped in some way by LGBTQ folks who’ve worked to make this small, liberal city in the South a place for all with open-armed acceptance. Their work is evident in the visibility of the gay community today — from the rainbow flag studded streets of the French Quarter to the couples strolling hand-in-hand around the Marigny to the burgeoning community of young gay and queer folks making a space for art and culture in the Bywater neighborhood. If our Instagram is any indication, New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for being out and proud. We’ve listed some of our personal favorite spots to visit during your trip to New Orleans, all of which are either owned and operated by members of the LGBTQ community, or have proven to be warm and welcoming.

Matt and Beau’s ‘out and proud’ guide

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Good Friends, French Quarter
Best French Quarter Balcony Bar

There are few things more delightful than sitting on a balcony above the gorgeous architecture of the French Quarter while sipping on a cocktail and enjoying a warm summer breeze. The bar sits just a couple blocks away from the madness of Bourbon Street, making it a great place to go for good conversation and people-watching, not to mention some of the most affordable drinks in the Quarter.

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Meauxbar, French Quarter
Best Weekend Brunch

How could we make a guide to gay New Orleans without including a brunch spot? We couldn’t, obviously. Meauxbar is one of our favorite spots to go on a weekend morning for refined brunch items and all of the mimosas our bodies can handle. This place has long been a gay haven, and up-and-coming Chef John Bell is hands down our favorite LGBTQ chef in the city at the moment. Check these guys out before a day spent strolling around the streets of the French Quarter, hopefully with a cocktail in hand.

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Bourbon Orleans Hotel, French Quarter
Best Located Hotel

The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is in a prime location for pretty much anything you’ll want to do while you’re in town. In the heart of the French Quarter, it’s within walking distance of some of the best galleries, bars, restaurants, and historic sights you won’t want to miss. The hotel is just one block from one of the major centers of LGBTQ nightlife, the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann. Plus, it’s one of the most stunning and upscale getaways in New Orleans with a beautiful pool area, an opulent lobby, and adorable, bi-level suites.

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Friend, CBD
Best Men’s Shopping

Owner Parker Hutchinson has curated a collection of smart, modern men’s clothing at his shop in the Ace Hotel, Friend. The selection here is truly great, with clothing that’s unique but never obnoxiously bold. Friend always carries a diverse selection of casual and resort-inspired clothing, which we’re totally in love with because we’re pretty sure that if you always dress like you’re on vacation, you’ll basically always be on vacation. This place makes the perfect his & his shopping outing before dinner or a night out!

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Spitfire Coffee, French Quarter
Best Coffee on the Go

New Orleans has a long and often overlooked history of intense coffee culture and appreciation. If you’re looking for a cup of high-quality coffee or tea to get you ready for a day out in the city, stop by Spitfire for a cup on the go. This small and tidy cafe is located in the heart of the French Quarter, and carries some of our favorite coffee in the city served up by a few super friendly baristas. While most people just grab coffee to go, there are a couple of stools and a small counter if you’re more of a sit-down-and-enjoy kind of coffee lover.

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Seaworthy, CBD
Best Date Night

Seaworthy has everything you could hope for in a great date restaurant. It’s part of the Ace Hotel, so you can be sure the ambience is going to be on point: romantic lighting, leather seating, and a super friendly staff. And then there are the oysters. We’re definitely no strangers to the oyster game, so please believe us when we say Seaworthy is absolutely killing it, which is not to even mention their awesome wine list or the rest of their delicious, seafood-heavy menu.

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The Country Club, Bywater
Best Swim Spot

This little paradise doesn’t even really need an introduction, because it’s got a whole legacy behind it. The Country Club is a historically LGBTQ space that’s part bar and part, well, country club. We personally find it incredible that you can pay something like $10 to spend an entire day sunbathing and knocking back margaritas. These days the Country Club is enjoying a bit more mainstream attention, but it will always be an LGBTQ place at its core. They open as early 10 a.m., so get there early to claim your lounge chair.

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Friendly Bar, Marigny
Best Neighborhood Bar

We’re huge fans of experiencing neighborhood bars while traveling. Sure, they may not be the most lively or fancy, but they’re a fun way to see how locals experience the city. Friendly Bar in the Marigny has been a welcoming spot and serving drinks to members of the LGBTQ community for decades. Come by for a beer or cocktail and good conversation on a sleepy afternoon, or for a night cap after an evening out.

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Frank Perez, French Quarter
Best LGBTQ History Walking Tour

The French Quarter is home to a long and rich history of LGBTQ people and culture, one that remained under-reported until fairly recently. But Frank Perez’s Gay New Orleans Walking Tour covers places and stories relevant to the LGBTQ community both uplifting and solemn, from the origins of the Southern Decadence festival to the tragic Upstairs Lounge fire. Frank is an accomplished and well-read historian and author who will tell you that LGBTQ folks were pivotal in the 1920s establishment of the Vieux Carre Commision, which protects and preserves the old Spanish architecture of the French Quarter–so we’ve got LGBTQ people to thank for the lasting preservation of one of the United States’ oldest neighborhoods!

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Alto, CBD
Best Rooftop Hangout

On the roof of the Ace Hotel, Alto serves up delicious food and drinks, and it’s all poolside, which, need we say any more? With a beautiful view of downtown high-rises all around you, a cocktail in hand, and a pool to dip your toes into, Alto has pretty much everything you need for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. The best part? They don’t even technically charge anything to come to the pool if you’re not a guest of the hotel, instead just asking that you spend $20 on food and drink while you’re there.

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Mimi’s in the Marigny, Marigny
Best Late Night Eats

There aren’t too many places you can enjoy an expertly prepared lamb chop or steaming hot fresh veggie paella at three in the morning, but Mimi’s is here to make sure you get to experience that magic. You’ll walk into the bar downstairs and likely think there’s no way you’re about to be served a delicious meal, but just a quick trip up the stairs and you’ll find plenty of table seating and a nice lounge atmosphere where you can check out their full menu until 4 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. on weekdays. If you’re unsure of what to order, ask for a Trust Me, and Chef Heathcliff will whip up something completely original that’s not listed anywhere on the menu.

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New Orleans Pride parade on Bourbon Street. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Bourbon at St. Ann
Best Dancing / Club Scene

If you’re looking to dance or just party in the street, make your way to the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann to experience a little bit of lively New Orleans night life at Oz and The Pub. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key but still vibrantly gay, take a short walk down to the aforementioned Good Friends, Café Lafitte in Exile, or 700 Club – all great gay bars that have shaped New Orleans nightlife.

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Rent bikes to ride up Esplanade to Morning Call in City Park, Mid-City
Best Peaceful Escape

If you’re feeling the need to grab some peace and quiet (and beignets!), check out Morning Call in City Park. It’s in a serene setting, surrounded by Spanish moss covered trees and lagoons, making it the perfect spot for a morning coffee and beignet date or to relax with your favorite book. One of our favorite ways to get here is to bike up Esplanade Avenue, where you’ll be cruising past some of the city’s most beautiful homes and centuries-old oak trees.

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Feelings Cafe, Marigny
Best Hidden Cocktail Patio

Other than all the balconies lining the streets, another fantastic feature of New Orleans architecture is that there’s no shortage of mysterious and cozy courtyards in which to enjoy a cocktail or three. Feelings Cafe in the Marigny is one of these spots, with a gorgeous, centuries-old courtyard located in the middle of the building, making it a tranquil hideaway. They’ve decked out the space with quite a bit of greenery, so you’ll feel like you’re in your own jungle paradise. Bonus: they’ve got happy hour from 3 – 6 p.m. every night they’re open (Tuesday-Saturday).

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Drag show at the AllWays Lounge (Photo: Roy Guste)

AllWays Lounge, Marigny
Best Drag & Performance Space

AllWays Lounge is home to weekly performances by some of the best burlesque, cabaret, and drag performers in the city. AllWays is also the de facto home venue of the New Orleans Drag Workshop, run by storied drag performer and musician Vinsantos. As the “grandmother” of over 60 “draguates,” Vinsantos has been pretty pivotal in turning out a whole new wave of drag artists werking stages all over town, with the AllWays Lounge being something of an unofficial home base. The bar’s event and show schedule looks different pretty much every week, so the best way to see what’s going on there is to check out their website!

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Willie Mae’s, Tremé
Best Classic New Orleans Cuisine (Casual)

Two words: fried chicken. We get asked all of the time where to find authentic New Orleans cuisine, and for the most part the answer is to make friends with a local and hope to get invited over for a crawfish boil or red beans on a Monday night. It’s not always easy to capture that authentic local cuisine in a restaurant, but when it comes to fried chicken, Willie Mae’s in the Tremé has been doing it right for more than half of a century.

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Galatoire’s, French Quarter
Best Classic New Orleans Cuisine (Fine Dining)

Why fix what isn’t broken? There may be dozens of brand-new and spectacular restaurants in town, but Galatoire’s has a reputation that goes back over a century, and for good reason. The menu there is great, to be sure, but the real draw here is the entire experience. This place is as old-fashioned as it gets. For instance, men who dine there are required to wear blazers. Don’t forget yours, or you’ll be asked to wear one of their ill-fitting stock that they’ll lend you just while you’re there to eat! If you’re something of a history buff or you just like to be pampered, don’t miss Galatoire’s, where you can enjoy old classics the same way they’ve been prepared since the turn of the 20th century.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of Probably This and not New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. 

For more information and news on the city’s LGBT community, sign up for New Orleans’ LGBT e-newsletter here.

We're Matt Armato and Beau Ciolino, and we're writers and photographers covering food, travel, lifestyle, and interiors on our blog, Probably This. Both natives of New Orleans and both graduates of Loyola University, we live in the Bywater and we love biking around town and taking photos of the beautiful streets and homes in our hometown.

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