The Definitive Guide to New Orleans Gay Bars

Crowds on Bourbon St with rainbow flags

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons / CC 2.0 

One of the world's great party destinations, it's not exactly shocking that New Orleans with its liberal attitudes about everything from sexuality to cocktails is a top destination for gay and lesbian clubbing and bar-hopping. Many of the city's top LGBTQ+ hangouts are right in the tourist-centric French Quarter, with smaller neighborhood hangouts mostly downriver a short distance in the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods.

If you're visiting during Mardi Gras, you can expect all of the bars to be hosting special events for the holiday, but that's hardly the only time of year with extra-special festivities. Even though Mardi Gras is very gay-friendly, there's an entirely separate event during Labor Day weekend called Southern Decadence, often referred to as "Gay Mardi Gras." And then of course there's the Pride festival in June.

Several of the gay bars around New Orleans have had their doors open to the LGBTQ+ community for decades and were at the forefront of fighting for equal rights in the city and the state of Louisiana. Even though today they're considered mainstream and frequented by visitors queer and not queer, it was in the not-so-distant past that these same bars were considered transgressive and breaking barriers.

01 of 11

Bourbon Pub and Parade

Bourbon Pub and Parade
Andrew Collins
Address
801 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-529-2107

The definitive New Orleans gay nightclub, Bourbon Pub and Parade has been pulsing and thumping since 1974 at the most famous intersection in the city for gay revelers, Bourbon Street and St. Ann Street. This is really the must-see of Big Easy gay clubs and it's open seven days a week. Downstairs is the Bourbon Pub with the main bar and a place to hang out, while Parade is the name for the dance club upstairs with balconies overlooking the street below.

Despite being the most renowned place in the city for LGBTQ+ visitors, it's by no means the biggest. As with most of the historical buildings in the French Quarter, the bar itself is actually quite small, which also helps it to never feel overwhelming with people. There are drag shows every weekend night to look forward to and which always attract big crowds, so be sure to arrive early or even make a reservation if you plan to see a show.

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Oz

Oz New Orleans
Andrew Collins
Address
800 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-593-9491

Right across the street from Bourbon Pub is its biggest competition for most popular LGBTQ+ in the Big Easy, Oz. The reality, however, is that most patrons meander back and forth between the two bars and both of them are happening places to be practically every night of the week. There is something special going on every single night at Oz, whether it's drag performances and drink specials or burlesque shows and striptease competitions.

Between the two neighboring bars, the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann streets is basically one big queer block party. If you can snag a spot on the balcony of Oz, it's one of the best locations on the street with views of all the debauchery below and frequent socializing with the customers on the balcony of Bourbon Pub.

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Cafe Lafitte in Exile

Cafe Lafitte in Exile
Andrew Collins
Address
901 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116-3120, USA
Phone +1 504-522-8397

Named for the swashbuckling Gulf Coast pirate of yore, Cafe Lafitte in Exile has an appropriately rich and raffish history. It claims to be the oldest continuous gay bar in the country, and it's been a favorite haunt of all sorts of LBGTQ+ icons from Tennessee Williams to Truman Capote. It's a fixture along the "pink" stretch of Bourbon Street, just a block beyond Oz and Bourbon Pub, and right across from the saucy and sassy diner, Clover Grill. Like some of the other favorites in the neighborhood, it's a two-story space in a historic building, with a lovely wraparound balcony around the exterior of the upper level.

Cafe Lafitte is so famous that even though it's unquestionably a gay bar, plenty of non-LGBTQ+ visitors also add it to their Bourbon Street pub crawl list simply to partake in the bar's rich history. On the ground floor at Cafe Lafitte, the bar has some great wallet-busting happy hour drink specials, and there are videos playing, a small dance floor, karaoke on Wednesdays, retro music on Thursdays, and movie night on Mondays. Upstairs, you can shoot pool, play pinball, or grab a breath of fresh air out on the balcony.

04 of 11

Corner Pocket

Corner pocket
Andrew Collins
Address
940 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70112-3418, USA
Phone +1 504-568-9829

Corner Pocket caters to the gay male crowd and is definitely on the raunchier side of LGBTQ+ bars in New Orleans, with their frequent "wet underwear" contests and amateur strip competitions, which are more for fun and laughs between patrons than attending an actual striptease show. The bar Corner Pocket has been in New Orleans since the 1980s and its longevity attests to its place in the community. Every Thursday you can step back in time to the opening days for Retro Night, and Fridays and Saturdays are when you can find the more risqué competitions.

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05 of 11

The Country Club

Country Club, New Orleans
Andrew Collins
Address
634 Louisa St, New Orleans, LA 70117-6733, USA
Phone +1 504-945-0742

For those late mornings—or afternoons—after a night of partying, the Country Club is the perfect place to briefly escape the craziness of Bourbon Street while you nurse that lingering hangover over a delicious brunch. Being New Orleans, the restaurant isn't just a place to eat, since it also has a heated pool, hot tub, sauna, and cabana bar on the back patio. The vibe is very gay-friendly although everyone is welcome, and the weekend drag brunch is particularly popular on sunny weekends.

The bar is located outside of the French Quarter in the neighborhood of Bywater, so you can really get away for a few hours and explore another part of the city.

06 of 11

Crossing

Crossing exterior with rainbow flag

Crossing

Address
439 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112-3405, USA
Phone +1 504-523-4517

The locale at 439 Dauphine Street has been a bar under many different names over the years, but the family of the original owner of the first bar back in 1945 still owns the building today. It's been a gay bar since at least 1980, hosting drag shows long before they were in vogue. In 2018, it was rebranded once again as Crossing after nearly three decades of being The Double Play, along with a major remodel transforming from a gay dive bar into a chic New Orleans lounge.

Despite the name change, Crossing still caters to the LGBTQ+ crowd and, since the remodel, it's now described as a "gay steampunk bar." It has a full kitchen and the ambiance is more of a restaurant-with-a-bar atmosphere than a nightclub, so it's the perfect place to start the evening before heading off to other nearby locations.

07 of 11

GrrlSpot

The monthly pop-up lesbian and queer bar, GrrlSpot, has the benefit of drawing a different crowd and experience with every venue it sets up in. The monthly party moves around to different bars around the city and always takes place on the third Saturday of the month, plus extra-special events like the GrrlGras Mardi Gras party, Southern "Dykeadence," and a Pride celebration. While New Orleans no longer has a dedicated lesbian bar, GrrlSpot offers a vibrant solution from neighborhood bars to swanky venues and dance clubs to burlesque shows.

08 of 11

Good Friends Bar & Queens Head Pub

Good Friends Bar
Andrew Collins
Address
740 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-566-7191

Just a block from the wild all-night partying of the Bourbon Pub and Oz gay clubs, Good Friends Bar has been a landmark LGBTQ+ hangout in the French Quarter for decades. This friendly corner space with a cozy upstairs section known as Queens Head Pub is a relatively calm alternative to the clubs nearby—a good place to catch your breath, shoot a game of pool, listen to music, watch music videos (or sporting events), and chat with locals before you go dancing down the block.

The bar itself, cut from dark mahogany, is beautiful, giving this space an inviting vibe. It's popular with patrons of all ages and it also draws a relatively mixed crowd of gay women and men. Queen's Head is a great spot for listening to classic vinyl records and enjoying the views as it opens to a balcony that looks over neighboring historic buildings.

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09 of 11

Golden Lantern

Decadence 2013 Golden Lantern Corner

Infrogmation of New Orleans / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Address
1239 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116-2512, USA
Phone +1 504-529-2860

As the only LGBTQ+ bar along Royal Street, the Golden Lantern has been serving drinks to the community since 1964 and is the original home of the citywide queer party Southern Decadence. Because of its central location, this easygoing and friendly bar pulls in a large number of out-of-towners and all ends of the sexuality spectrum. They're also open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so you can join in on the party no matter what time you're out. Golden Lantern is especially known for its morning Bloody Mary cocktails, along with a packed calendar of drag shows and other events throughout the year.

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The Phoenix & Eagle

Phoenix/Eagle New Orleans
Andrew Collins
Address
941 Elysian Fields Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117-8535, USA
Phone +1 504-945-9264

Another New Orlean's bar that's two spaces in one, the property is home to the Phoenix on the first floor and the Eagle upstairs. The self-proclaimed "home of New Orleans' leather, bear, and fetish community," both bars cater to a more niche clientele. The downstairs Phoenix is much more casual and, while some guests may be wearing leather, it's not required and the crowd is diverse. Venture upstairs to the Eagle and you'll find dimmed lights and a much more suggestive atmosphere.

The Phoenix and Eagle are open 24/7 and are located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, about a 15-minute walk from the other bars in the French Quarter. As an extra perk, these bars never charge a cover to get in.

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Rawhide 2010

Rawhide 2010
Andrew Collins
Address
740 Burgundy St, New Orleans, LA 70116-3057, USA
Phone +1 504-525-8106

The ambiance at Rawhide 2010, or just Rawhide as the locals call it, varies based on when you visit. In the afternoon and early evening, it feels like a typical neighborhood gay bar with flowing drinks, pool tables, and even video games. But in the late night and early mornings—it's open until 5 a.m. most nights and doesn't close on weekends—the lights are turned down and the cruising scene emerges, so make sure you know what you're getting into before heading over. Regardless of the vibe you're looking for, Rawhide is unpretentious and down-to-earth at all times of day, securing its place as a favorite for locals and visitors.

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A Bar-Hopping Guide to Gay New Orleans