If you’ve been following us over the past year, you’d know that this city holds a special place in our hearts. *Spoiler Alert* It’s where we got engaged, won The Amazing Race: Season 32, and where we will be getting married later this year. Every time we visit New Orleans, we experience something new which makes for an exciting destination to revisit because there is so much to see, experience and savor! You might spend your entire trip focused only on the delectable cuisine options or by soaking in the historical and cultural sites of the French Quarter but one thing is for certain, no matter who you are, come as you are because you are destined to receive a warm welcome in the Big Easy.
Will & James in front of Cafe Lafitte in Exile in the French Quarter
The Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour with Frank Perez
Particularly during eerie fall nights, visitors to New Orleans might book a voodoo or haunted tour through the French Quarter or the city’s graveyards, but with its rich LGBTQ+ history, it’s worth taking a walking tour to explore it. We absolutely loved and enjoyed the Rainbow Fleur de Lis Walking Tour with Frank Perez (pictured in opening photo), otherwise known as “French Quarter Frank.”
During the tour you’ll discover more about queer authors Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, who both frequented New Orleans and had homes in the French Quarter. The critically acclaimed play A Streetcar Named Desire, written while Williams was living in the city and is named after a streetcar line that passed his apartment on St. Peter Street. The best thing we learned during our experience was that queer and trans folks have long had a major hand in making New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter, what it is today. One such place is the gay bar Cafe Lafitte in Exile located on Bourbon Street, which happens to be the oldest continuously running gay bar in the United States.
Will gives the birthday boy a kiss at the Higgins Hotel
Carl Mack’s Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture
Each year Mardi Gras, or Carnival, takes place from January 6 until Fat Tuesday, celebrating the last final day of excess before the deprivation of the Catholic Lent that stretches into Easter. Events are put together by numerous Krewes, the fraternity organizations that host extravagant balls and fabulous celebrations each year. While the pandemic threw the ability to host large celebrations off-course, the traditions are still celebrated as groups anxiously await being able to gather in person again. In order to learn about this special history of LGBTQ+ Mardi Gras traditions, travelers should visit Carl Mack’s Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture, which is full of showstopping costumes from past celebrations. It’s a sequin and rhinestone heaven with beads as far as the eye can see! Mardi Gras is so unique to New Orleans and if you get the opportunity to attend one of the many parades or balls hosted each year, you should take advantage of the opportunity!
Will & James share a laugh at the Peacock Room at the Hotel Fontenot
Bars, Dining, & Drag Show… OH, MY!
We happened to be in the city for James’ birthday and delighted in a delicious dinner at the newly opened Peacock Room at the Hotel Fontenot. This entire space had such a vibe! From the moment you walk in, you can’t help but be enchanted by all the vibrant blue, green, purple, and gold decor with stunning wallpaper that features beautifully designed peacocks. As you can imagine, the menu was simply divine and the food we were able to try was delicious but what we really appreciated was the Pride themed drink that was the color of the rainbow. We loved feeling as though we were in a safe, supportive, and inclusive space for our community.
Happy birthday, James!
New Orleans has always been home to the LGBTQ+ community — even if it’s a gothic mansion of a home, one that sometimes falls into disrepair or draws disparaging stares. The city has only become more inclusive and embracing of LGBTQ+ travelers, who today will find themselves easily drawn into the local queer community in the Big Easy. The city that holds hurricane parties rolls with the punches and the muddy Mississippi River. Floods and pandemics can dampen the city’s spirit but they’ll never extinguish the flame that burns bright in this bayou.
Whether you’re looking to hit the bars on Bourbon Street, experience the flavors of New Orleans or enjoy a local drag show - you’re bound to find something you’ll love! LGBTQ+ travelers can and should feel safe and excited about the many spaces that are inclusive for the queer community in New Orleans. Take advantage of every minute you have in this beautiful city, there is so much to see that you don’t want to miss a thing!
Watch the New Orleans episode of our YouTube series Get Back Out There below:
A version of this guide apears in print in Out Traveler Issue #25. You can read the entire digital edition here.