Gay Vacations in New Orleans, Louisiana

View of Bourbon Street at night from balcony in New Orleans, Louisiana
Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana (VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Digital Vision/Getty)

New Orleans Highlights

  • Go ahead—take your drinks with you. Ask your bartender for a plastic “geaux cup,” and you can take your drink to the streets or to the next bar. But taking any cans or glass on the streets is illegal. As you might have figured, bars in New Orleans are open 24 hours, and some even have a second happy hour from 5 to 9 in the morning!
  • Aim for spring. The best time to visit New Orleans is in the spring, when the temperatures are mildly warm and humidity is low. Summer does have low hotel rates, but also unbearable heat and frequent storms.
  • Book very early for Mardi Gras. Some French Quarter and the Central Business District hotels may require four or five-night minimums and are often sold out by December. The hotels on the actual parade routes are usually lower-priced because they're not in the French Quarter. (Mardi Gras parades really don’t go through the French Quarter).


Although road to rebuilding New Orleans has been long and hard in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, areas of the city that are popular with tourists now show little damage. The Crescent City's unique blend of American, French, Creole, Cajun, Caribbean, Spanish, and African cultures parties on, undeterred.

Gay life is focused squarely on the most impressive part of town, the nearly 100-square-block French Quarter historic district. It’s home to the city's best shopping and dining, along with most of its gay lodging and gay nightlife (the bar epicenter being the intersection of Bourbon and Saint Ann). The adjacent Faubourg Marigny, the city's first suburb, and the Bywater area also are gaining popularity as gay neighborhoods. New Orleans seems to be a perpetual party any time of the year. But come for Southern Decadence around Labor Day weekend for the debauched street carnival atmosphere, and you’ll see how amazingly tolerant the Big Easy really is. There’s also gay parade on Easter Sunday in the French Quarter, and a three-day Halloween circuit party all around town, just before the actual holiday. Three days of parades, leather block parties, and masked balls mark the events of the Gay Mardi Gras (at the same time as the regular Mardi Gras), culminating in the kinky Gay Mardi Gras Bead Toss at the Ambush magazine headquarters on Bourbon Street. New Orleans is mellower during its annual Jazz Festival in late April and early May.

New Orleans is filled with antique attractions, especially in the French Quarter. Jackson Square is presided over by the oldest cathedral in the United States and flanked by Spanish colonial buildings housing museums devoted to the history and culture of the region (one holds the actual documents from the Louisiana Purchase). The French Market is the oldest working market in the United States. Any self-respecting queer will want to check out 632 St. Peter Street, where Tennessee Williams finished penning “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Also make time for a trip to the Garden District and its 19th-ccntury Victorian, Italianate, and Greek Revival homes, and understand modern New Orleans by taking a tour of the Ninth Ward, which sustained the most severe damage during Katrina.

Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »