One of the things we love about New Orleans is that it offers a little something for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, local cuisine, unique shopping, or just grabbing a mint julep at a corner bar, you can find it there. The city is not just LGBTQ friendly. It is LGBTQ. People are warm and accepting because, as the saying goes, down on the bayou, “You gotta be nice or leave.”
Scroll down for 12 things you must do the next time you’re in the city that care forgot…
1. The Country Club
Though it’s no longer clothing optional (whomp, whomp), this gay-friendly establishment in the Bywater neighborhood is still one of the most unique and relaxing hideaways the city has to offer. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens and majestic palms, the outdoor cabana lounge includes a full bar, saltwater pool, hot tub, and dry sauna. Indoors, there’s still another bar, billiard machines, pool tables and a restaurant.
2. Oak Street
Located right off the Carrolton Avenue thoroughfare, Oak Street is a bohemian hub for artists, college kids, musicians, writers and other creative types. You’ll find blocks upon blocks of cozy coffee shops and funky diners, corner bars and music venues, art galleries, yoga studios, boutiques, second-hand shops, ad infinitum.
3. St. Roch Market
An absolute must for foodies. This gourmet fast food market hosts over a dozen different local vendors specializing in a variety of cuisines, including fresh seafood, Cajun/Creole, Mexican, and more. There’s also a coffee shop, a bakery, a juice bar, a small farmer’s market, and an extensive wine shelf. The market also hosts live music and happy hours.
4. Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Just a few minutes’ walk from the galleries in the Warehouse Arts District, the Ogden Museum is home to the largest collection of Southern art in the world and includes works by Benny Andrews and Clementine Hunter. On Thursdays, the museum hosts “After Hours,” featuring refreshments and live music in the lobby from 6-8 p.m. (P.S. If you go, be sure to check out the gift shop for a range of unique souvenirs.)
5. Café Amelie
This gay-managed courtyard restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter doesn’t just have great, fairy tale-esque ambiance, but the food is out of this world. Think Louisiana fare with a super fresh, contemporary twist. It’s one of the most romantic sit-down restaurants in the city, but if you’re in a hurry, you can pop into Petite Amelie, the “cuisine rapide” extension next door that specializes in quick bites.
6. The Broad Theater
Film buffs will appreciate New Orleans’ newest art house movie theater. The owners converted a 1920’s era Spanish colonial revival warehouse in Mid-City into a four screen complex that shows a rotating selection of blockbusters, indy films and cult classics. You’ll find your usual popcorn and candy, plus tasty small plates by pop-up restaurants and a full bar that serves signature Southern cocktails, local craft beer and fine wine.
7. The Bend in the Levee
Shhh. This tranquil, mile-long walking path along the Mississippi in the Holy Cross neighborhood is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Photographers, grab your cameras and snap photos of the downtown skyline, as well as the historic buildings in the area, including the old Holy Cross school and the Doullut steamboat houses. You’ll likely see tugboats and barges passing by in the water. And you may well spot some native Louisiana wildlife, including nutrias, beavers, and even an alligator hanging out in the driftwood.
8. Bacchanal Wine
Winos should definitely make a point to swing by Bacchanal Wine in the Bywater. This funky wine laboratory offers wine by the glass or by the bottle, plus craft cocktails, fine cheeses, small plates and desserts, and live music every night of the week in the shaded outdoor courtyard. Seating is first come first served and they don’t take reservations, so if you see a table, grab it quick. There’s also a pretty cool upstairs, air-conditioned lounge if the courtyard is too packed.
9. Frenchmen Street
Music lovers, this one’s for you. Whether you want jazz, blues, Latin, rock, reggae, or something in between, you’ll find it here. Though Frenchmen Street only runs a few blocks, it’s packed with different venues showcasing live music every night. You’ll also find the Louisiana Music Factory, specializing in both used and new vinyl, CDs, DVDs and memorabilia, plus boutiques, souvenir shops, galleries and the Frenchmen Art Market, open late every night (7 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 p.m.-midnight on Sundays) and featuring work by local artists.
10. The Polo Club
With its dark woods, rich furnishings and intimate lighting, the Polo Club is the place to go when you’re looking for a more sophisticated, upscale bar experience. The posh lounge is tucked away on the second floor of the Windsor Court hotel and has over 600–yes 600!–wines, plus cocktails created by a house mixologist, live lounge music five nights a week and a tasty small plates menu. One piece of advice: Wear a sports coat. And maybe a tie. No jeans. And definitely no flip flops. It’s that kind of establishment.
11. Jazz Brunch at Buffa’s
From the outside it may look like just another 24/7 corner dive bar serving up your typical greasy pub grub, but on Sunday mornings Buffa’s hosts one of the most rambunctious jazz brunches below sea level. Order a plate of shrimp and grits, sit back and enjoy music by the band Some Like It Hot. The fun kicks off at 10:30 a.m. every week. Be sure to arrive early to nab a table, or else plan on waiting a good 30+ minutes for a seat. (Don’t worry, though, it’s worth the wait.)
12. Café Lafitte in Exile
Of course, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop into the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. Café Lafitte in Exile first opened its doors in 1933 and was a favorite hangout for queer literary icons Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Aim for a spot on the upstairs balcony. And watch out for Mr. Bubbly, the resident ghost who is known to pinch people’s butts while they’re waiting in line for their drinks.