Unpretentious with unbeatable prices, Lafitte's is a low-key favorite among New Orleans locals. One of the oldest gay bars in the country and once frequented by Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, this unassuming spot remains a welcoming neighborhood hangout home to friendly bartenders, a wonderfully mixed clientele, some of the best drink prices in the city and great dance music. Lafitte's sits along the "pink" stretch of Bourbon Street, just a block beyond Oz and Bourbon Pub towards Esplanade. There's been a scene here since 1933 - if only these walls could talk. The bar is open 24/7 for whenever you get the urge.
One of the most popular gay clubs New Orleans has to offer, Oz is a French Quarter frenzy of bar-top go-go boys, high-energy music and a laser show that adds to the electrifying atmosphere. Repeatedly named NOLA's best dance club by "Gambit" and one of the top 50 clubs in the country by "Details," Oz features a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street and is open 24-hours-a-day on weekends, allowing club-goers to dance until dawn. The place can get rowdy in the wee hours, but bartenders are tougher than they look and generally keep the peace no problem. Drink prices are rock bottom.
Napoleon's Itch is a dance club and gay bar located on the far end of Bourbon Street if coming from Canal. The theme of the club is based off the premise that when visitors come into the city, they are often looking to satisfy their "itch," or concealed yearning. Whether that's the case or not, a good time can be had by all here, as the crowd is often just as diverse as any on the Bourbon strip. The venue is cash only, so make sure you're prepared if you plan to sample some of the best Mojitos and Martinis in the French Quarter. (There is an ATM onsite, and while on the topic of preparedness, be ready to dance.)
Bourbon Pub and Parade is located in the cluster of gay bars on Bourbon. The venue is known for its male go-go dancers prancing around the bars, regular karaoke and spacious balcony for people-watching. There is usually a mixed bag of queer patrons, from gay men to lesbians and straight friends and couples too. There usually is a cover, but the bar makes up for it by having a friendly staff that does their best to make each and every patron feel welcome. The upstairs Parade club with its wrap-around balcony is 18-and-over (21 to drink), and it's open seven days a week.
Phoenix Bar is an interesting anything-goes establishment catering to the leather and bear community. Known for being grungy, edgy and pretty much out there, (there's an infamous sex swing in the back), this is a popular neighborhood hang-out. Phoenix sets the mood with dim lighting and bars on two levels. This isn't the type of place where girls can go and dance and mingle with the gay crowd. This is where the gay crowd goes to hang out with the gay crowd. Unlike other alternative spots in New Orleans, this place never charges a cover, and has plenty of street parking available if you plan to come from outside the area. There are special parties for a fee during Decadence.
Cutter's is a sweet quirky neighborhood hole-in-the-wall with a welcoming clientele mix of gay, straight and everyone in between. Tuesday is usually trivia night, organized by sometime bartender Marc Paradis. Bartender "Mama" Craig knows everybody by name and is known for his sass and strong drinks. Start here, or a few doors up at Big Daddy's, to find a cast of oddball regulars. Both bars, on the dividing line between the Marigny and the Bywater, are places friends gay, straight or whatever, meet to relax and get out of the tourist fray.
Tubby's has been a New Orleans staple for years, set on the quiet end of the vibrant French Quarter. The bar is the starting point for the famous Southern Decadence Parade (the LGBTQ event held over Labor Day weekend) and a gathering spot at Halloween, Easter and throughout Mardi Gras. As for the bar itself, they host endless events such as trivia, line dancing lessons and bingo with host Sister Mary Isawhore. There are happy hours daily, and Bloody Marys are a specialty, often ordered to go. Drag shows are also a hit here, with glamour gals taking the stage in all manner of festive getups.
The Corner Pocket has been called an institution by some. The main draw is the endless supply of scantily clad twink types up on the bar/stage dancing for dollars. These dancers tend to keep things more to the "R" side as opposed to "PG," so if you're looking for a show, this is where to head. No VIP or private rooms here so be prepared for the shenanigans to happen out in the open. Have your dollars ready and be prepared to have an unworldly experience at The Corner Pocket, located in the French Quarter, just a few short blocks from Bourbon.
Although it's just a stone's throw from the raucous club scene on Bourbon, Good Friends is a calmer, cozier respite from the fray. Relax at the lovely mahogany bar or head upstairs to the Victorian-vibed pub space, complete with piano music on Saturdays, a pool table and a lovely wrap-around balcony offering views of the French Quarter. There's something going on every night, from karaoke to wheel of fortune and trivia, and the crowd is always friendly. Expect a slightly older crowd of gay men and lesbians, but really everyone is welcome at this cozy neighborhood bar and lounge.
The Country Club may just be the best kept 40-year-old secret in New Orleans. Located in a stunning circa 1884 Italianate manse in Bywater, the restaurant bar has it roots as a gay staycation spot, and still attracts a strong LGBTQ crowd to the gorgeous salt water pool out back. But it's a mixed crowd that frequents the excellent restaurant up front as well as the freewheeling pool scene. Eat up front in the lovely art-filled dining rooms, with chef Chris Barbato in the kitchen (last of Commander's Palace), or have nibbles poolside. Guests can pay a day rate to swim and lounge or pay an annual membership for unlimited privileges. This place feels like being on vacation. What's not to love about that?