There is a celebration in New Orleans at least every two months: Southern Decadence, Halloween, VoodooFest, New Year’s, Mardi Gras, JazzFest…the list goes on, and does not even include the myriad smaller, more intimate festivals that pop up throughout the year. All of this merriment makes this a brilliant place to be gay, and the city rightly earns top billing for Best Gay Halloween, bar none. People come from all over the United States, and even the world, as New Orleans steadily reclaims its spot as a top gay destination.
On Halloween weekend, Bourbon Street is packed wall-to-wall with people. It’s an ocean, undulating with the rhythms of blues and beers. Costumes of all kinds strut by: mutant babies bloodily emerging from a stomach, Bert and Ernie, Jane Lynch’s iconic Sue Sylvester. As you approach St. Ann and Bourbon, you feel the techno music pumping from Napoleon’s Itch twenty feet before you can hear it. The gays are out en masse. Shirts are off, elbows are rubbing, and everyone has a drink in their hand. Walk a little further and the dueling sound systems of Oz (800 Bourbon St) and the Bourbon Pub and Parade (801 Bourbon St) push everyone into the street. It’s a mad crush of people, dancing, drinking, and delighting in the debauchery. The ground is littered with plastic cups, people push through, cars try to pass by, but the chaos means that you just have to go with the flow. If you happen not to be as drunk as the average citizens, it behooves you to stop by the hole in the wall next to Oz and grab a drink to go. You need to be on par with the masses if you are to survive Bourbon on Halloween. Walk a block further up and you will hit Café Laffite in Exile (901 Bourbon), a more laid-back vibe – as laid-back as a bar projecting The Rocky Horror Picture Show out onto the street can be – with more room on the street to enjoy your drink. Across the street from Laffite’s is the Clover Grill (900 Bourbon), the 24/7 greasy spoon that helps sober up the all-night drinkers.
Within a four block radius of this end of Bourbon, there is also Good Friends (740 Dauphine), a place to have a drink away from the Bourbon mess, the Corner Pocket (940 St Louis), a dive providing variably attractive go-go dancers on the bar, and Rawhide (740 Burgundy), the NOLA leather bar. And for the lovely lesbian travelers, pop over to Rubyfruit Jungle (1135 Decatur) for your fix of local flavor. Throughout Halloween weekend, there is also the institution that is Halloween New Orleans, a benefit for the HIV/AIDS non-profit Project Lazarus. The party is in its 28th year, and has raised over $4 million dollars for the community. Every year grows progressively bigger- there are often over 2,5000 people packed into this cavernous space, with some very impressive group costumes: the Hooters girls, a group of guys dressed as old-school press photographers, and the entire Manchester United football team. And each event has an open bar, so get your drink on here and then participate in the follies on Bourbon later at night.
Halloween in New Orleans is one of those see-it-to-believe-it experiences. With cheap booze flowing all night long, a series of special events and huge venues, and people reveling shoulder-to-shoulder, you are bound to have the best Halloween that you’ve had in a long, long time. Boo!