Before you book your next well-deserved vacation, you want to be sure your destination is not only welcoming for LGBTQ people but that you’ll have access to a culture as colorful and vibrant as you are.
Look no further than New Orleans.
The Crescent City has long been recognized as one of the friendliest and most welcoming U.S. cities for the LGBTQ community. In fact, a study by the Williams Institute ranked New Orleans as the metro area with the fourth-highest percentage of queer-identifying residents.
All data aside, the city’s open-minded, carefree spirit keeps people of all identities visiting time and time again. There’s no shortage of activities, resources, and adventures–and best of all, the city’s abundance of LGBTQ-owned businesses means every stop on your itinerary can support queer artistry and ingenuity.
Just in case you need a few more reasons to visit New Orleans, here are some of our year-round LGBTQ favorites.
It should come as no surprise that the birthplace of Bianca Del Rio (ranked the #1 most powerful drag queen in America by New York magazine) is home to a robust and vibrant drag scene.
Early risers can attend one of the city’s many drag brunches, while night owls need to look no further than Golden Lantern’s weekly shows on Friday and Saturday nights for a sampling of local talent. In the Marigny, local favorite AllWays Lounge and Cabaret always boasts a calendar packed with cabaret, burlesque, and variety performances.
Seeking a truly out-of-the-box experience? In New Orleans, you can pair drag with almost any activity. Oz New Orleans hosts a weekly drag bingo, or be on the lookout for the next iteration of Choke Hole, a New Orleans-based queer drag wrestling show that has traveled everywhere from New York City to Germany.
Let’s face it: you come to New Orleans to eat as much as you do to celebrate. Here, ingredients and flavors from all over the world can satisfy your every craving, and every dish is a window into other cultures and places.
From classic Creole and Southern comfort food to Vietnamese, Italian, Caribbean, Ethiopian, Thai, and more–take your pick, and enjoy a truly unique dining experience.
You can even plan your next meal at one of the city’s many LGBTQ-owned establishments like Betty’s Bistro, which serves a mouthwatering BBQ pulled pork sandwich and a wide selection of beers and wines. Or stop in for a freshly handcrafted cocktail, a dish made with locally-sourced ingredients, and an architectural marvel at Vessel, located in a historic Mid-City church built in 1914.
Just a block away from Bourbon Street is the eclectic Mona Lisa, another queer-owned business that serves delicious Italian fare in a dining room adorned with hundreds of variations of the classic Da Vinci portrait.
With over 1,000 restaurants and an abundance of character, when you’re in New Orleans, you’re free to go wherever your palate leads you.
You don’t need us to tell you that New Orleans has an abundance of bars, and while they all welcome diverse patrons, it’s worth pointing out that more than 20 bars in the city specifically cater to LGBTQ people.
In the French Quarter, Page Bar is the city’s go-to Black-owned gay bar, and the mahogany finishes and outdoor balcony at Good Friends Bar are ideal for gathering with friends in a relaxing atmosphere. Later, you won’t have to travel far for a more upbeat club scene. Oz New Orleans is a short walk away, and a short walk away from Oz is Cafe Lafitte in Exile, the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States.
Who has ever said no to more options? The neighborhood is packed: Phoenix for the leather community, and Crossing for those who want to enjoy a martini in a steampunk-themed gay sports bar.
For those nights when the Quarter isn’t your thing, stop by our Uptown favorite QiQi for daily specials, cozy scenery, and friendly service.
In New Orleans, the roots of the LGBTQ community run deep, and your visit is a prime opportunity to immerse yourself in that history.
The city is where prolific gay writer Tennessee Williams wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1946, so be sure to walk by his former home at 1014 Dumaine St. before enjoying a drink at one of his known hangouts, Carousel Bar.
Sign up for the Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour with Frank Perez and learn about the grand traditions of Gay Carnival–a subset of LGBTQ Krewes and balls held during the annual Mardi Gras season–and discover the origins and impact of Southern Decadence. Perez also guides his tour groups to the site of the UpStairs Lounge arson, a pivotal moment in the city’s queer history that highlights how far our rights and recognition have come.
A tour led by local drag queen Quinn Laroux is another enlightening experience that centers on the histories of burlesque performers, sex workers, and the transgender community. No matter which experience you choose, prepare to walk through the Quarter with a to-go drink in hand and close out the night feeling connected to (and proud of) the city’s queer history.
From street art and murals to galleries and museums, art is integral to New Orleans culture. An afternoon spent walking down Julia Street or Magazine Street is sure to turn up dozens of galleries, while a trip to Jackson Square could end with you sitting for a custom portrait.
Of course, LGBTQ visionaries have left their own mark on the local art scene, and there are many ways to enjoy it outside the arts of drag and burlesque. Arthur Roger, one of the founders of the Art Against Aids Exhibition, is also the director of the Arthur Roger Gallery. Hundreds of artists (both local and international) are on display in the sleek and refined space, and the gallery’s calendar is full of new and upcoming exhibitions.
For even more art in a space that centers provocative and message-driven voices in a collective, contemporary setting, head to Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. And over on Royal Street is the equally impressive Tanner Gallery, where the artist is known for his serene–and sometimes haunting–treescapes.