Few cities in the country throw bigger and better GLBT celebrations than New Orleans, which has long drawn huge crowds of gay revelers to its annual Mardi Gras celebration (Feb. 25-28 in 2017), and also is host to an exciting NOLA Gay Pride in late June (June 9-17, 2016) and a campy and festive New Orleans Gay Halloween at the end of October (end of Oct. 2016). For a number of visitors and locals, however, the ultimate gay party in New Orleans is Southern Decadence, a nonstop series of celebrations and fetes held over six days spanning Labor Day Weekend - the dates this year are August 31 through September 5, 2016.
A look at this year's celebration:
Southern Decadence has been going strong since 1972. Throughout the entire weekend, street parties take place, mostly around the hub of the New Orleans gay scene, the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann streets. Top gay clubs are at this intersection, including Bourbon Pub, which hosts major parties led by top DJs from around the country on each of the nights of Southern Decadence, as well as its across-the-street competitor, Oz Nightclub, which has its own parties. You'll also find a number of other top gay bars within a few blocks of this intersection, and most of these will be hosting parties and events throughout the weekend.
The bigger venues, like Bourbon Pub and Oz, sells tickets to their parties as well as discounted passes good for the entire weekend. Check out our guide to gay bars in New Orleans for more information on and links to these establishments.
Much of what takes place during Southern Decadence, however, is free, including the block parties and admission to many of the smaller gay bars around the French Quarter. Keep in mind that nearly all of these places are open 24/7, so the festivities rarely lose steam over this six-day period. Here's a full schedule of events.
Favorite events have typically included the Southern Decadence Parade on Sunday, September 4, at 2 pm (here's a map of the parade route); the notorious Big Dick on Thursday night, Sept. 1; the Friday night (Sept. 2) Southern Decadence float procession, which kicks off at Washington Park (here's a map of that route); Saturday's Bourbon Street Extravaganza; and the Sunday afternoon 4 pm T Dance, which follows the parade.
Ace Hotel New Orleans Southern Decadence Deal
New Orleans has no shortage of welcoming, gay-friendly hotels. One property that has events taking place related to Southern Decadence is the stylish and hip new Ace Hotel New Orleans, which opened this past year in a dapper 1920s art deco building in the Central Business District). During Decadent, in the hotel's swish nightspot, Three Keys, the London-imported Horse Meat Disco will take place on Saturday night (Sept. 3). The hotel is also offering a special Southern Decadence package (use the code BLANCHE when booking) that includes a special room rate, VIP access to the Three Keys mezzanine when shows are taking place, and two free drinks to enjoy in one of the hotel's see-and-be-seen bars or restaurants.
The New Orleans Gay Scene
If you're seeking tips on where to play and socialize while in town, check out the New Orleans Gay Bars Guide (sadly, the gay bathhouse Club New Orleans has closed). Also see my Guide to gay-friendly New Orleans hotels and B&Bs for ideas about where to stay, and the New Orleans French Quarter Shopping Guide or advice on some of the best galleries, boutiques, and one-of-a-kind emporia in the neighborhood.
On the subject of great New Orleans lodging options during Southern Decadence, consider the historic and wonderfully atmospheric Hotel Monteleone, in the French Quarter, which works very hard to welcome GLBT visitors over this period. Another excellent option is the centrally located New Orleans Marriott, which offers last-minute rates for Decadence Weekend at a discount.
Also check online resources about the New Orleans gay scene, such as the GLBT Ambush Magazine and GayNewOrleans.com. Also take a look at the excellent gay visitor site produced by the city's official tourism organization, the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.