Dancing to the beat of a different drummer isn’t the exception in New Orleans — it’s the rule.
The Big Easy is the perfect spot to celebrate LGBT pride during its annual festival from June 8-10. You can take in the party from the Hotel Indigo Garden District, a neighborhood that’s also home to the iconic St. Charles Avenue streetcar, manses shaded by centuries-old live oak trees and the must-dine Commander’s Palace restaurant.
At the end of the summer, New Orleans hosts Southern Decadence—also known as Gay Mardi Gras—which takes place over Labor Day weekend.
While in NoLa, here’s a guide to some LGBT-friendly musts:
Food & Drink
The city that invented the cocktail naturally boasts plenty of fabulous watering holes. Café Lafitte in Exile, a 24/7 gay hangout since 1953, is just one of the gay-centric pubs on the “quieter” end of Bourbon. Two-for-one happy hour on the bar’s wraparound balcony is always a scene. For something a bit more swank, saunter over to the 700 Club on Burgundy (remember to say burGUNdee), a chill neighborhood bar with late night eats including burgers, fried catfish, a gooey mac-n-cheese skillet and a few veg options.
If you prefer your cocktails on the craft side, head to Cane + Table on Decatur for creative pours and a menu of rustic global eats. In nice weather, head to the courtyard in the back. For a seminal New Orleans dining experience, it doesn’t get much better than Galatoire’s, a Bourbon Street Creole grand dame with a legendary Friday lunch experience.
Get a ride to the Bywater neighborhood (a little more than a mile from the French Quarter) to The Country Club, which may just be the best-kept secret in New Orleans. Located in a circa 1884 Italianate manse, the restaurant-resort offers a locally-inspired menu of dishes like barbecue shrimp and grits and Louisiana speckled trout. Pay a day rate to swim in the heated saltwater pool and lounge in the back courtyard. Drag brunch on Saturdays is a hoot.
If it’s a thump-thump beat you’re craving, Oz on Bourbon Street delivers non-stop dancing and DJs, drag shows, and a slammin’ balcony for great people-watching. The crowd is decidedly mixed, with plenty of singles, women and boys at the bar.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, after all, and there’s no better place to experience it than at Snug Harbor on Frenchmen Street.
French artist Edgar Degas painted the famous Portrait of Estelle while spending time in the city in 1872. For breakfast with a side of artistry, dine at the Edgar Degas House on Esplanade and take a tour of his studio and residence with one of his kin.
In the burgeoning Warehouse Arts District, check out the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which curates a comprehensive collection of photographs, portraits, contemporary and abstract art and pottery that casts a light on the Southern experience — Gothic and otherwise.
At The Museum of the American Cocktail, inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, you can view an exhibit on absinthe accoutrement and lore about the many cocktails first shaken in the Big Easy and beyond. When you get thirsty, there’s a terrific bar and restaurant next door called Toup’s South.
New Orleans Architecture Tours offers entertaining walking tours and commentary in neighborhoods from the French Quarter and the Irish Channel to the Garden District. Art meets design at Music Box Village in the Bywater, an artist-built sculpture garden outfitted with immersive music “houses” that you can make whir, cling and trill. It’s also a music venue, so check the schedule for shows.
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park behind the New Orleans Museum of Art is free of charge and worth visiting for its unusual setting: The “gallery” is set among gorgeous old pines, magnolias and live oaks that have been casting shadows for generations.