For more than 300 years, the city of New Orleans has been a magical place where music, food, literature and art have flourished. Its storied history is a kaleidoscope of different nationalities and ethnicities that have come together to create a city that is one of the best destinations in the world. At the heart of this marvelous city is the French Quarter founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Our city has developed around the Vieux Carré and has the distinction of being the oldest district in the country, as well as being our main attraction with millions of visitors each year.
Since its inception, New Orleans has always been a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community; a city of acceptance that embraces people of different sexual orientations. After our city was founded, the first written reference to homosexuality in New Orleans was in 1724 (that was fast). In fact, rumors still swirl today as to whether our town’s founder Bienville, who was a confirmed bachelor until his death at the ripe old age of 87, was part of the family.
The Crescent City offers many points of interest for LGBTQ+ customers. To me, the French Quarter is the tiara placed atop our city, with one of the most vibrant jewels in the crown being the French Market District.
The French market was founded in 1791 as a Native American trading post and has been in operation ever since, making it the oldest public market in the country. Similar in structure to a traditional European market, this open-air mall covers approximately five blocks, from Café du Monde on Decatur St. across from Jackson Square to the daily flea market at the end of Esplanade Avenue.
The French Market District also includes the Upper Pontalba building and promenade, Crescent Park, and Washington Artillery Square, currently renamed Oscar Dunn Park after the first elected black Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana and the United States. As a tourist, the French Market District encapsulates your entire New Orleans experience with architecture, cuisine, history, shopping and entertainment all in one place.
The beauty of the city unfolds around you, so don’t hesitate to strike a pose and create a memory, especially since the most photographed spot in New Orleans is seen from above Oscar Dunn Park. From this historic vantage point, people have the best views of Jackson Square, the Pontalba Apartments, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Mississippi River.
Another great spot for breathtaking views is Crescent Park, a 1.4 mile, 20 acre urban linear park along the river. Steps from the French Quarter, this public space offers stunning views of New Orleans, native landscape, bike paths, a dog run, and multi-purpose pavilions for all to enjoy. It’s also a great spot for a po-boy picnic.
Speaking of po-boys, New Orleans is known the world over for its unique cuisine and nothing is more iconic than dusting yourself with powdered sugar while enjoying a delicious order of donuts and latte at Coffee of the world. Open 24 hours a day, Café Du Monde has been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike since 1862.
For those with a sweet tooth, our city is known for another tasty confectionery: the praline. You can reach these delicious delights at Pralines from Loretta. While you’re there, try their praline king cakes, sweet potato pies, cookies, fudge and other authentic homemade bites. Talk about the ultimate sugar rush!
Taste other New Orleans classics like muffulettas, fried seafood po-boys, jambalaya and etoufee, barbecue shrimp, bread pudding, blackened alligator and catfish stir-fry topped with pecans at our acclaimed restaurants and cafes located in the Upper Pontalba and French Market sections. Healthier dishes are also available at many places as well as amazing vegan plates at Meal from the heart. We’re also the home of the go-cup, so grab a delicious craft cocktail or daiquiri from Organic banana Where The Gazebo Cafe and go about your day.
Music is another key part of our Big Easy culture. Not only are we the birthplace of jazz, but our city produces some of the best artists in every genre, from hip hop and rebound to country, zydeco and rock. We celebrate all of our artists and the French Market is a great place to find talented street performers performing daily at the Oscar Dunn Amphitheater just across Jackson Square. These performances take various forms such as breakdancing, magic shows, mimes and bands. The familiar sounds of jazz music can also be heard floating through the air from outside musicians at Café Du Monde or the live jazz band playing daily at the The market cafe which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The French Market District is a shopper’s paradise. From the shops of Upper Pontalba and the Colonnade to vendors at the Farmer’s Market/Flea Market, locals and visitors can shop for clothing and accessories, gifts, homewares, souvenirs, art , culinary treats, confectionery and more. . Many businesses in our district are LGBTQ+ owned and operated, such as the Dutch Alley Artists Cooperative which showcases the arts and crafts of 25 local artists.
Another way our district is showing LGBT and allied visitors just how welcoming we truly are, our local community and hospitality leaders have created a sticker program that businesses can display loud and clear. These stickers will show visitors safe spaces and businesses that are dedicated to supporting an inclusive environment.
New Orleans is a city that brags about its nightlife, but we offer plenty of family events. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 23rd from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the annual French Market Boo Square Party. There will be activities for children, live music in Dutch Alley and tricks or treats throughout the French Market area, with the day ending with a spooky Second line at 3:15 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; costumes are strongly encouraged for all ages.
Whether you’re a solo traveler, with friends and family, or in town for business, the French Market district is not to be missed.