New Orleans has always welcomed folks who like to let their freak flags fly. We paint our houses in garish shades of pink and purple. We throw block parties to celebrate holidays that few Americans have ever heard of. And many of us have armoires, closets, or sometimes whole rooms dedicated to costumes categorized by event: Carnival, Halloween, the Saints, Southern Decadence, and on and on and on.
So, it’s no surprise that New Orleans has a history of making outsiders feel right at home, and nerds are no exception. In fact, now is a perfect time for gamers, cosplay fans, and others of that ilk to make the (star) trek to New Orleans and revel in the city’s geek chic. If you know how to tell a d10 from a Tardis or a tapped mana card, here are some sights you really ought to see.
STOPS & SHOPS
Tubby & Coo’s
One of New Orleans’ newest bookstores is completely crushed out on geek culture. Did you leave your latest read at home? Keep calm and ask the staff: they’re happy to make recommendations. In the mood for games? You’ll find plenty to suit your tastes, from simple card games to complex RPGs. On Sunday nights at 6pm, Candice and her crew also host their own game night: “We play everything from hidden traitor games like Resistance and Werewolf to storytelling games like Gloom to strategy games. There’s truly something for everyone.” Stop in and search the room.
Though it’s best known as a music venue (with a kitchen that serves up some of New Orleans’ best eastern European fare), Siberia is also very passionate about the games. Mosey on over to St. Claude Avenue — one of New Orleans’ hippest strips — for Siberia’s semi-regular “Sword & Backback” night. Bring your dice and roll ‘em ‘til the break of dawn.
Looking for something a little more low-key, a little less organized? These two neighborhood bars may be right up your alley. Cutter’s has a laid-back vibe and a solid selection of board games for patrons to use. (Cookouts are common, too, in case you need to nosh.) Next door at Big Daddy’s, you can often find a group of locals playing Magic the Gathering or tabletop games over a few beers, especially on Sunday afternoons.
Lower Decatur Street
If you’re a costume enthusiast, carve an afternoon out of your schedule to sift through Decatur Street’s endless array of shops, especially the ones between Ursulines and Esplanade Avenue. From superhero spandex onesies to codpiece-friendly RenFair garb, these places have you covered (or uncovered, your call).
Wizard World Comic Con (January 8-10, 2016)
New Orleans’ Comic Con may not be as well-known as other meet-ups on the map, but make no mistake: our fans can hang with the best of them. This year, organizers have gone above and beyond the call of duty, bringing in some of geekdom’s biggest stars. Headliners include Doctor Who faves Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Jenna Coleman, Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos, and staunch LGBT ally/Captain America, Chris Evans. Bring all your feels.
Every year, the Carnival season starts on January 6 and runs through Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras, which is February 9 in 2016). In the weeks leading up to the big day, social clubs called “krewes” of every size, shape, and orientation don their snazziest, glitteriest gear and revel until the wee hours. This year, an upstart group of gamers has spawned a new krewe called the Krewe of d20. It’ll parade as part of a larger group called Chewbacchus (appropriate, right?) on January 30. Expect no beads, but if you’re lucky, you might get to rub against a few special pairs of dice.
New Orleans Comics and Zine Fest (2016 dates TBA)
NOCAZ just wrapped its second year, and by all accounts it was a huge success. Though the dates for 2016 haven’t yet been set, expect dozens of amazing zine artists selling books, buttons, and other goodies — and admission is free.