As a southern boy, summer trips to New Orleans are a time-honored tradition, and over the years I’ve developed a unique taste for the Big Easy. From the classic must-dos, like Café Du Monde and the Audubon Aquarium, to the exertive Bike NOLA program and even more exertive shopping sprees, there's a lot to take in.
The city is also rich with queer culture. And with Southern Decadence coming up, LGBTQ people from all over the world will be flocking down south for a hot weekend. Although there's plenty to keep you busy during the exciting festivities, there's also plenty you must see in this beautiful historic city.
This guide will keep you eating, moving, and absorbing all of New Orleans culture.
No matter how touristy or cliché it may seem, no New Orleans trip can commence without a breakfast at Café Du Monde. Before the cronut, there was the beignet. The sweet fried fritters still attract a line for blocks but are worth the wait.
Although the outdoor seating is plentiful, the Moonwalk—a walkway named after former New Orleans mayor Maurice 'Moon' Landrieu—makes for a perfect breakfast on the go. The stroll is often accompanied by a passing riverboat.
Just down the Moonwalk is The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Stop by and immerse yourself in a serene momentary break from the French Quarter. The aquarium offers the usual sea life experience with a look at the wildlife of the Mississippi River.
Make your way towards Crescent Park, which now connects from the French Quarter for a beautiful 1.4 mile walk along the Mississippi. If you're traveling with a furry friend, bring him or her along for a stop at a lovely dog park.
Top off the day with a visit to The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk. With an abundance of local shopping in and around the French Quarter, the outlets provide an appropriate retail pre-game for the serious shoppers. There's also the boutique shop Fraques—a personal favorite—that sells hip men's apparel in plenty of cool patterns and bright colors.
If you’re feeling particularly inspired, stop at Fifi Mahony’s. Whether you practice or just admire the art of drag, the costume boutique is a fun stop to explore your more eccentric side.
Brunch at The Ruby Slipper in the Marigny is a must for a taste of New Orleans comfort food. The Bananas Foster Pain Perdu is a satisfying prelude to a day of exploring.
For some afternoon entertainment, grab a drink at the 700 Club. Locals usually start the night at this popular neighborhood bar before heading off to Oz, Pub, or getting a "Purple Drink" at the oldest bar in the country, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
New Orleans offers numerous tours of the city, from historical to paranormal. With a booming film industry, New Orleans Movie Tours gives a rare glimpse into some of the best movies and TV shows of years past, exploring areas such as the Garden District, Warehouse District, Central Business District, French Quarter, The Treme, and the St. Louis Cemetery. You'll discover that New Orleans provided the backdrop for some of your favorite films and shows, from21 Jump Street to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and American Horror Story.
For lunch, the options on Magazine Street are vast. Stop by The Rum House for a Caribbean meal and Island Time drink specials. For a cozy diner setting with delicious diner food, take a seat at Slim Goodies. And for a Cajun themed pizza, try the Sportsman’s Paradise at Slice Pizzeria.
For some fabulous local shopping, Magazine Street is the place to be. Vegas, a casual yet stylish boutique offers such labels as Penguin, Herschel, and Puma. British import, Aidan Gill for Men has an array of men’s shaving products, gifts, and accessories with barbers on staff. Stop by Tooth & Nail Trading Co. for a bohemian chic selection of local art and jewelry.
With all the history in New Orleans, what better place to go antiquing? Take a walk down Decatur Street and check out the secondhand treasures at David’s, Rare Finds, and Greg’s Antiques.
Rent a bike at Bike NOLA, just outside of Greg’s Antiques. If you want a guide, the bike company just started giving tours along the Mississippi River. Feeling more independent? Then don't hesitate to explore the city on your own.
When you work up an appetite, stop by Who Dat Coffee Café in the Marigny. The gay owned bistro offers a taste of New Orleans for breakfast and lunch.
End the day with a visit to City Park. Enjoy a scenic stroll over cobblestone bridges and under Spanish moss to see the beautiful architecture of the Peristyle. Take a ride on the carousel and go for a round of mini golf before enjoying the sunset over Big Lake.
If you’re an early bird, stop by the Prytania Theatre for the Classic Movie Series on Sundays and Wednesdays at 10am. Enjoy such musical classics as The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz. For a different kind of musical classic, see The Rocky Horror Picture Show as part of the Late Night Series.
End your stay in the Big Easy with a relaxing day at The Country Club. Stop for mimosas with brunch or catch the drag dinner on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Spend the rest of the day drinking at the cabana bar and soaking in the hot tub or cooling off in the pool after a week of New Orleans summer.