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. 28-Mar. 4 in 2014), and also is host to an exciting NOLA Gay Pride in late June (June 20-22, 2014) and a campy and festive New Orleans Gay Halloween at the end of October (end of Oct. 2014). 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 years are August 27 through September 1, 2014.
A look back at last 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 include the Southern Decadence Parade on Sunday, at 2 pm; the notorious Big Dick Contest hosted by Nicole Dubois and Billy Francesca on Thursday night, and the Sunday afternoon 4 pm T Dance, which follows the parade.
Additionally, gay bars, the gay bathhouse Club New Orleans, restaurants, hotels, and shops in New Orleans have more going on than usual during Pride week. See my Guide to gay-friendly New Orleans hotels and B&Bs for ideas about where to stay, and check out my articles on the best places to shop in the French Quarter and on Magazine Street for the top picks in the city's distinctive retail scene.
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.