What Every LGBT Traveler to NOLA Needs to Know

Flying beads, boiling crawfish, historic architecture, and bars that never close, these are just some of the things you might envision when thinking about New Orleans. We have one more thing to add to that list: LGBT friendly. New Orleans isn't a typical southern city – or a typical city at all. In 2017, it was rated the “Second Most Welcoming City” in America by GayCities website readers.

This award wasn’t given to us by accident. Part of the reason we won it was due to our culture. I mean, let’s face it, our costume culture as well as our art culture is pretty on-point. Another big factor contributing to our city’s winning this award was the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Over the past several years it has made LGBT-friendly initiatives a prime focus, and is passionate about inspiring LGBT couples to get married here.

Ok, so when do I visit?

It’s never a bad time to visit New Orleans evidenced by our impressive festival count – about 130 festivals a year. Although summers can get quite hot, if you’re prepared for the heat, this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. There are also tons of LGBT theater events, great gay bars, plenty of drag shows, and many more events happening each and every day of the week. Check some of them out HERE. However, if you’re looking to visit for some of the biggest LGBT events NOLA has to offer, below is the breakdown:

(photo: Krewe of Armeinius)

Mardi Gras

Perhaps the most famous party in the entire world, New Orleans Mardi Gras should be on every LGBT traveler’s bucket list. The first major parade of Mardi Gras season is Krewe Du Vieux, often around two and a half weeks before Mardi Gras Day, this parade is known for its crude sense of humor (photo) and its ability to exploit scandals in a satirical way. There are some parades in the week or two following Krewe Du Vieux, but the big kick off starts on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras with the Nyx parade. What to catch at this one: a sparkly purse. Then, it's a 7-day party all the way to Mardi Gras day. For an added element of fun, check out the Bourbon Street awards, a famous LGBT costume contest. Dates for Mardi Gras change every year, so check out this page for festival dates for years to come.

Gay Easter

The Gay Easter Parade rolls 40 days after Mardi Gras day, and as you probably would have guessed, isn't a religious festival at all. It’s just an excuse to get a little rowdy. Essentials for this festival include bunny ears, or a large decorative hat and your best pastels. The day features two parades, both of which you can't miss. In the morning, the Chris Owens parade rolls around, and in the afternoon the main Gay Easter Parade starts. Both are walking parades in the French Quarter. During this weekend, there are other events that act as fundraisers for the LGBT community, like Bunnies in the Big Easy.

Gay Pride

The annual New Orleans Pride Parade happens in early June, and is a weekend filled with events for all members of the LGBT community and their allies. Pride is the cities fastest growing gay event, and each year the celebration gets grander. There’s also a family day that has a snow balls, a bouncy house, large blocks for kids to build things with, and even story time with a Drag Queen.

Southern Decadence

Southern Decadence is the big daddy of LGBT festivals, not only in NOLA, but in the entire South. It’s a great weekend to meet locals and some of the 150,000+  people from all over the world that make their way to this particular festival every year. The entire French Quarter will be filled with LGBT people, but the main hub of action will be along St. Ann and Bourbon. Did we mention there will be plenty of cute shirtless boys? Consider it mentioned. If you're feeling like being a little active this Labor Day weekend, sign up for the Pride Run which takes place on the Saturday. We’re not sure if some will be shirtless, but we have a guess there will be a few.

(photo: HNO)

Halloween New Orleans (HNO)

In a city where dressing up isn't just a once a year event, you would expect Halloween to be a big deal around these parts, and it sure is. HNO is a 3-day LGBT Halloween party raising money for Project Lazarus – an assisted living home for those living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans. The event changes slightly from year-to-year, but in general the first night is a black tie dinner, the second is a costume party, and the final day is a tea dance on the Mississippi River.

Other non-LGBT-specific events that we love:

  • New Year’s Eve
  • Buku Fest
  • Bayou Boogaloo
  • Essence Festival
  • Red Dress Run
  • Dirty Linen Night
  • VooDoo Fest

Now start packing.