LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Guide to New Orleans, LA

LGBTQ+ New Orleans Travel Guide

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New Orleans is a playground for the queer traveler, where you can easily find yourself in the middle of a street party that can pop up like magic there at any given moment. The city is a mix of the old, the new, and the unexpected, where every day is an invitation to celebrate being you in the most colorful way possible. So, go for the fun, the food, the music, and the unmistakable New Orleans vibe, where being yourself is all that’s required. Check out our guide to find the most welcoming places and LGBTQ+ friendly experiences in this city known as “The Big Easy.”

How to Get There: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

There is more than one way to get to New Orleans. The fastest and easiest is by air. However, if air travel isn’t your thing, check out your other options.

Planes: The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is the main airport for travelers opting to fly. It’s well-connected with major airlines and flights to and from domestic and international destinations..

Trains: Amtrak provides rail service to New Orleans through the Union Passenger Terminal. The city is a key stop on several Amtrak routes, including the City of New Orleans, Crescent, and Sunset Limited lines.

Automobiles: New Orleans is accessible via major highways. Interstate 10 is the main route, running east-west through the city. Driving offers flexibility for travelers coming from nearby states or for those who prefer road trips.

Buses: Buses are a budget-friendly choice, and bus services, including Greyhound, Megabus, and regional operators, offer services to and from New Orleans. The Union Passenger Terminal serves as the central hub for bus travel.

How LGBTQ+ Welcoming Is New Orleans

The rainbow flag flies high and proud in New Orleans, a place where the LGBTQ+ community isn’t just welcomed, it’s celebrated every day. From the quirky cafes of the Marigny to the streets of the French Quarter, the city hums with an energy that says, “Be yourself, we love it!” You can belt out show tunes at a piano bar, share laughs with new friends at a laid-back pub, or simply soak up the local charm, all while feeling completely at home. 

All Inclusive New Orleans
Photo by Rachel Covello

New Orleans Pride

New Orleans Pride works to raise awareness and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. It organizes events, including social gatherings and educational seminars, aimed at fostering inclusivity and pride. The organization also collaborates with local businesses and community leaders to promote a supportive environment for queer individuals.

Forum for Equality

Forum for Equality is an advocacy organization, focusing on advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in Louisiana. They engage in legislative advocacy, public policy initiatives, and community outreach to promote equality and justice. The organization also provides legal support and resources to address discrimination and inequality. 

New Orleans Advocates for LGBTQ+ Elders (NOAGE)

Dedicated to supporting the older members of the LGBTQ+ community, New Orleans Advocates for LGBTQ+ Elders offers programs and services tailored to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ elders, including health care resources, social events, and advocacy for elder rights. The group also works to raise awareness about the challenges faced by older LGBTQ+ individuals.

New Orleans LGBTQ Pride
Photo by Rachel Covello

Pride Events in New Orleans

New Orleans Pride Parade – The New Orleans Pride Parade in June starts in Marigny and winds through the French Quarter. Floats decked out in rainbows roll down the streets, accompanied by dancers and performers, turning the historic area into a giant party.

New Orleans Pride Fest – With several stages hosting live bands, drag shows, and DJs, the New Orleans Pride Fest brings a burst of energy to the city. Streets are lined with vendors and food stalls serving up local favorites, while festival goers mingle, dance, and enjoy the scene.

New Orleans Black Gay Pride Weekend – With lots of activities, including live music performances, food vendors, and information booths from local organizations, New Orleans Black Gay Pride Weekend is a time to enjoy good music, great food, and the company of friends. It’s a June celebration to honor diversity, embrace individuality, and build a stronger, more inclusive community.

Family Equality Day – Family Equality Day is a June event that’s all about celebrating families regardless of what that family looks like. With activities like face painting, garden tours, and crafts, the day has something fun for all ages. Live entertainment and food vendors also add to the inclusive atmosphere.

New Orleans Gay Mardi Gras – Putting a gay spin on the classic festival, February’s Gay Mardi Gras, from Friday to Fat Tuesday, is where the LGBTQ+ community takes center stage. Think glittering costumes, high-energy drag shows, and a parade that rivals the main event. The Bourbon Street Awards are a must-see, turning the street into a runway for outrageous and creative costumes.

Southern Decadence – A six-day event held every year, culminating on Labor Day weekend, Southern Decadence started as a small going-away party and has grown into one of the biggest queer celebrations in the city. The event includes parties, drag contests, and outdoor concerts, with the highlight being the grand parade through the French Quarter. 

History Of New Orleans

Founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, New Orleans was initially named La Nouvelle-Orléans in honor of the Duke of Orleans, the Regent of France. Located along the Mississippi River, the city rapidly grew as a vital port and melting pot of cultures. New Orleans was ceded to Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris, but ultimately returned to French control, and was then acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The city faced challenges such as racial tensions, economic fluctuations, and natural disasters, most notably Hurricane Katrina. Despite it all, the city remains resilient, preserving its rich history and welcoming vibe.

LGBTQ+ Friendly Places To Stay New Orleans

Whether you’re looking for a luxury, full service, or budget-friendly hotel, a cozy inn, or a bed and breakfast, New Orleans has the perfect fit for the LGBTQ+ traveler. Here are some of our favorites.

The Burgundy – The Burgundy Bed and Breakfast is a small inn located in the Faubourg Marigny, just blocks from the French Quarter. This gay-owned B&B has four rooms, each with a private bath, and a common area that includes a living room, dining room, and kitchen. Enjoy a continental breakfast served daily, and relax in the hot tub or on the clothing-optional back patio. 

Hotel Monteleone – Hotel Monteleone is a historic hotel located in the French Quarter, where it has been family-owned and operated for generations. The hotel has a famous carousel bar, a rotating bar with a merry-go-round theme, and a rooftop pool. It also has several room types, a spa, and multiple dining options.

Hotel Le Marais – Just steps away from the nightlife of the French Quarter and famous local attractions, Hotel Le Marais is a favorite among the gay community. The hotel has comfortable rooms with all of the essentials, an outdoor pool, and a well-equipped fitness center. It’s the place to stay if you like being in the middle of all of the action.

Hotel Mazarin Hotel Mazarin is in the heart of the French Quarter, a block away from Bourbon Street. It features a wine bar, with a wide selection of wines along with bar bites, and a courtyard, ideal for unwinding before starting your night. With its proximity to live jazz, and the city’s best eateries, it’s a choice spot to experience all New Orleans has to offer.

Recommended Restaurants In New Orleans

New Orleans is a melting pot of flavors, combining French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences to create dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. Known for its bold seasonings, fresh seafood, and a tradition of both Creole and Cajun cooking styles, it reflects the city’s cultural heritage. Here are a few of our favorites.

Ruby Slipper – A beloved breakfast and brunch spot known for its creative twists on classic dishes, like Eggs Cochon and Bananas Foster French Toast. Located in the French Quarter, it’s got a great vibe, friendly staff, and a dining experience that captures the essence of the city.

Ruby Slipper New Orleans

The Country Club – A hidden spot away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, The Country Club in the Bywater neighborhood has been a go-to spot for the LGBTQ+ community for over 40 years. The menu’s dishes are rooted in Italian-French and Creole-Southern traditions. Don’t miss the pool area with its own bar and outdoor kitchen, and the weekend brunch and drag show with bottomless mimosas is a must.

Carmo – As the only three-star rated restaurant in the state of Louisiana by the Green Restaurant Association, and the only restaurant in the state to be certified by Seafood Watch, Carmo caters to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. The menu includes everything from salads to seafood, and reflects a fusion of flavors.

Commander’s Palace – Loved by locals as well as visitors, and having won more awards than anyone can count, Commander’s Palace is a must-dine when in New Orleans. Located in the Garden District, the menu of seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes are prepared in traditional New Orleans style.

Willa Jean – Start your day at Willa Jean, a queer-owned restaurant serving up breakfast food and drinks, from caffeine fixes to tableside mimosas. Their menu includes a special section dedicated to biscuits, and their hangover bowl is perfect way to recover after a fun weekend​.

Things To Do & See In New Orleans

New Orleans is a city where every corner tells a story. Whether it’s exploring its neighborhoods, an art gallery, a museum, or listening to live jazz music that seems to flow from every open door and street corner, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

Cafe Du Monde – The iconic and world renowned Café du Monde is the must-visit place for beignets and café au lait. Always buzzing, it’s open 24/7, serving up these doughy, powdered sugar-covered sweet treats non-stop. Sitting in its open-air space, sipping coffee, and people-watching is the ultimate New Orleans experience. While you’re there, kill two birds with one stone by exploring Jackson Square across the street.

Haunted History Tour – It’s not your Magical Mystery Tour, but the Haunted History Tour is a thrilling journey into the city’s spooky past, exploring tales of ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural occurrences. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours take you through the eerie streets of the French Quarter at night, uncovering the mysteries and legends that lurk around every corner.

Mardi Gras School of Cooking – This place is more than just a restaurant, it’s an experience where you can jump head first into New Orleans-style cooking. With small group cooking classes, from Creole classics to brunch, with options for vegetarians, the classes are fun, easy to follow, and provide a memorable culinary experience

Nola Drag Tour – Tour guide, Quinn Laroux, a professional drag queen sums up the tour this way. “This tour unapologetically centers the least respectable women and queer people possible for a bottom-up history of the sex in the city, celebrating their agency, creativity, joy, and brilliance in the face of some of the worst conditions you can possibly imagine without shame or judgment.”

Where To Shop & Stroll In New Orleans

Shopping can turn a simple errand into a seek-and-find game. As you wander through streets lined with shops, every storefront invites curiosity and discovery. From trendy to timeless, the city’s shopping scene is a treasure chest of one-of-a-kind finds and local specialties. Add to that the fun of strolling through neighborhoods, and you’ve got the best of both worlds.

The French Quarter – The French Quarter is a mix of big-name stores and local shops. Royal Street has antique stores and art galleries, while Decatur Street has more mainstream shopping. The area is also home to one of the oldest markets in North America, French Market, six-blocks of flea market vendors, local craftspeople, eateries, and produce​.

Magazine Street – Spanning six miles from the French Quarter to Uptown, Magazine Street is a shopper’s paradise. It’s lined with all kinds of shops, including art galleries, home goods stores, places for gifts, as well as clothing stores and local t-shirt shops. The street is dotted with restaurants and bars, making it easy to take a break and enjoy a meal or a cocktail.

Oak Street – With a mix of boutiques, art galleries, and vintage shops, Oak Street is a favorite when you’re looking for handcrafted jewelry, retro clothing, and local art. With its laid-back vibe, Oak Street is a more relaxed shopping experience, making it a great place to explore and discover the less-touristy side of New Orleans.

LGBTQ+ Bars, Clubs and Nightlife In New Orleans

When the sun sets, the nightlife in New Orleans heats up with spots to enjoy live music, dancing, or just hanging out with friends.  Whatever your pleasure, check out some of our favorite after-hours spots.

The Phoenix Bar – Open all year round with no cover, it’s the place for happy hour and a smoke- friendly back patio. Tuesday nights are The Phoenix Pool Tournament, while weekends are $5 Beer Socials. There’s also a space called Clothing or Kink that opens in the evenings with items like leather, toys, and underwear for sale​​​​​​​​​​. 

Bourbon Pub Parade Voted one of the top ten gay bars worldwide, Bourbon Pub Parade has both indoor and outdoor seating on a large wrap-around balcony. The bar has a reputation for its Beer Bash Weekends upstairs, running from Friday through Sunday, and Happy Hours downstairs. It’s a must-visit spot for the queer community.

Cafe Lafitte in Exile – The oldest gay bar in the U.S., this two-story bar is on the “quieter” end of Bourbon Street. It hosts Kafe Karaoke every Wednesday, and Trash Disco and the famous Napkin Toss on Sundays. The bar is open 24/7, with a smoke-free interior and a balcony that’s open Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 3 AM.

Annual Events and Festivals in New Orleans

New Orleans has more annual events than it does bars on Bourbon Street. From Mardi Gras to the Bayou Boogaloo, there’s always a reason for the community to come together to celebrate. Here are our top choices.

Mardi Gras – Celebrated city-wide, Mardi Gras is the epitome of New Orleans festivals. Starting on January 6 and ending on Fat Tuesday, it’s a season of non-stop celebration, with parades, costumes, balls, and a lot of bead necklace throwing. 

French Quarter Festival – Held in April, this free festival celebrates Louisiana’s music with over 20 stages throughout the French Quarter. It features music from jazz to funk and is accompanied by a smorgasbord of delicious foods from top local chefs.​

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Known locally as “Jazz Fest,” this event in late April and early May showcases New Orleans’ music, art, and culture. It features all types of music from zydeco to hip-hop and gospel, along with Louisiana arts, crafts, and local food.

Bayou Boogaloo – Taking place on the banks of Bayou St. John in May, this festival is a local favorite. You can enjoy music, art, and food, often arriving in kayaks or canoes for a different-kind-of festival experience.

New Orleans: Traveling While Queer, You’re Safe Here

As a queer traveler in New Orleans, you’re  stepping into a city where acceptance and celebration are part of its fabric. Here, the streets hum with an inclusive vibe, welcoming all with open arms. From the French Quarter to the laid-back Bywater, every neighborhood echoes with a sense of belonging. It’s a city that not only respects diversity but also celebrates it, making every queer traveler feel right at home. So pack your bags for New Orleans, where the motto could very well be: “Come as you are, leave a little happier.”

**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Events are subject to change. Please check the events webpage for updates and schedules.

ChatGPT or another AI writing platform may have contributed to the writing of this article.

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