New Orleans

Great Escape: New Orleans

New Orleans isn’t just a destination; it’s the uninhibited joy of a second-line parade, the soulful melody of a jazz trumpet, and the camaraderie of celebrating your true self.

Words by Marc Graser
Photos by Mary Hammel, Cayetano Gil

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and welcoming community, New Orleans is an unforgettable rite of passage for any type of traveler. For 300 years the city has been a mecca for everything decadent and alive. It’s “a place where music, art, history, food, and people of different ethnicities, nationalities, and sexual orientation mix and mingle like the colors of a Michalopoulos painting,” its promoters say.

It’s just that kind of place that you have to visit at least once.

The Big Easy boasts a long and proud history of embracing inclusivity. From the iconic Café Lafitte in Exile, the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the U.S., to the vibrant “Lavender Line” of LGBTQ bars in the French Quarter (including Good Friends Bar, Bourbon Pub, Parade and The Oz), the city has fostered a sense of belonging for decades. When at Lafitte, order a VooDoo Daiquiri, more commonly known as a “Purple Drank.”

New Orleans throws festivals with flamboyant flair, and the LGBTQ+ community takes center stage. From the legendary Southern Decadence, a week-long extravaganza of outrageous costumes and parties, to the quirky and inclusive Krewe of Mona Lisa, there’s a festival for every taste.

The city likes to say that every night is a party regardless of whether it’s Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Halloween or a regular Tuesday.

While Bourbon Street offers its own brand of fun, venture beyond the throngs of tourists and discover NOLA’s hidden gems. Explore the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood with its stunning architecture and lively music scene.

Take a stroll through the French Quarter, soaking in the historic charm and popping into LGBTQ-owned art galleries and shops. Savor delicious Creole cuisine at local restaurants, many proudly showcasing queer talent.

New Orleans boasts a rich culinary scene that showcases the city’s soulful flavors. Let’s face it, you’re going to come here to eat and drink—a lot.

Indulge in the best beignets in New Orleans at Café du Monde, where these iconic French pastries are freshly fried, generously dusted with powdered sugar, and served piping hot. Experience the timeless elegance of Commander’s Palace, savor Cajun perfection at Cochon, or the bold flavors of Brennan’s, and indulge in modern Southern cuisine at Atchafalaya. Grab a fried catfish po-boy from Parkway Tavern, or enjoy the massive stuffed frog legs at Restaurant R’evolution.

You can delve deeper into New Orleans’ rich past with a “Queer History Tour,” during which you’ll visit landmarks significant to the city’s LGBTQ community. There are even gay ghost tours.

NOLA’s nightlife is legendary but there’s more to experience than bar hopping. Attend a drag show at The diVine, or immerse yourself in the city’s music scene, catching live jazz in cozy Frenchmen Street clubs or enjoying soulful gospel brunches.

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