Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Orleans: Decadence or Halloween?

Southern Decadence - New Orleans largest gay event!
After returning from another fabulous time in the Big Easy (way too easy!) for Southern Decadence, I thought a lot about the differences between this uber-gay “music” festival and other great times I’ve had in NOLA. Previously, I only visited around Halloween. This time I was excited to see the much smaller parade that drives right through the “Gay Corner” at St. Anne & Bourbon – but I dipped out of my perch at Oz for a hand grenade with a friend – and somehow got in a “long conversation” with some Tulane students.

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Me dancing on stage at the
Halloween Lazarus Charity Ball!
My new Crescent City friends put it succinctly: Halloween in New Orleans is much more playful –still there’s enough play (in the usual ways) – but Southern Decadence has a much more loud gay (& gay male) – sex, drugs, repeat – circuit-party element. This is accompanied by the rainbow flags on every single French Quarter building, while Halloween offers a bit more substance & creativity with costumes as well audiences from all over. It’s true the Halloween circuit event for charity is certainly a larger party – but that’s about costumes and a bit more than the (lovely) carnal desires. Halloween is also (nicely) just a step less crazy from Mardi Gras; not as crowded or cliché. Locals create an incredible Decadence parade too – but it simply doesn’t involve as many people (or as much of the city).

The View from Oz on Halloween -
I'm forever Peter Pan!
Either way, New Orleans (pronounced correctly as Neew-war-lens, not New, Or-leans or Nawlins) is always an incredibly different and refreshing place to go. First, the weather – my favorite – hot & humid – happily I stepped off the plane from an early cooling-off New York over Labor Day; there's an even better contrast for Halloween and most US destinations. Although its not beachy, New Orleans is definitely America’s most cultural & picturesque Party City – where the bars don’t close; the fun never ends (no, I'm not a Vegas fan; though its the only other great spot you can drink in public). There's nothing better than sitting out on a balcony above it all (Hurricane in hand) listening to jazz (or just chaos) emanating from the city below. That’s the key element of this city – live jazz on the streets and constant classic music at a number of clubs, such as La Masion.

Classic to-go Hurricane
While you pay extra as a tourist here (maybe you should, since the area has only just recovered to a pre-Katrina level of economicgrowth) I don’t mind the higher priced drinks during these party periods – but apparently you can buy $3 drinks most of the time. Frankly, I don’t mind Pat O’Brien’s famous Hurricane or slurping down an official Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle – both about $10. I’m on vacation after all; I can drink a vodka-soda (splash of cran) anywhere! And of course, head down for beignets at Café Du Monde – early in the morning is a great time to avoid the lines and have these fancy doughnuts soak up the alcohol (it’s open 24/7 I learned after a lengthy eve).

St. Anne & Bourbon Street - the center of gay fun!
The “Gay Corner” at St. Anne & Bourbon Street has standby’s Bourbon Pub and Oz – as well as Good Friends not far up St. Anne. This is where the magic happens – and both bars compete. Oz is definitely the younger crowd – and more of a club with the large dance floor and balconies above. Further down Bourbon is Café Lafitte In Exile, the oldest continually operating gay bar in the US and further down (for party weekends) the Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop& bar serves a classic “purple drank” made with whiskey.

Also a must-visit is Corner Pocket, the trashiest of fun bars a few blocks away. Well-endowed (or well-in-need) guys from all over the south come here to get paid for their not so hidden parts as they dance & strip on the bar. An older crowd typically tips the boys at the bar & fully enjoys while tourists and younger guys chat & look on. Usually a place to stop by early in the evening for a drink – and you might even make a very popular friend. If you want an older crowd, head to The Phoenix/Eagle a bit further away and enjoy the leather parties – and upstairs if you dare; I don’t think they even have underwear!

The Country Club - for daytime relaxation on an
otherwise busy party weekend
But don’t just stay in the Quarter – venture beyond Canal & Esplanade to Tulane & Loyola & tour the Garden District’s beautiful homes. Spend a lot of time eating great food - you can't miss Green Goddess for food & awesome drinks. I happened upon a lovely lunch-time show at Buffa's and you must wander Frenchman Street! It’s a wild time in this no holds bar rainbow-clad weekend and the fun doesn’t stop – each day there is also a pool party not too far away – it used to be clothing optional but a drugged girl & overzealous city policing ruined the party. Still you can relax with friends in the hot tub - toast away your hangover and find new friends before heading back to the fun.
Ashton with a Hand Grenade

For hospitable weather nearly year-round (except for those pesky Hurricane's and of course this is not for the heat-sensitive), incredible music - and a gay ole time - New Orleans should always be on your calendar for yearly or at least periodic adventures, be they for Southern Decadence, Halloween, Mardi Gras (for the huge crowd lovers), Red-Dress Run (in August) or just any other time of the year!
Bourbon Pub - St. Anne & Bourbon Street

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