For over 300 years, the city of New Orleans has been a magical place where music, food, literature and art has 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 top destinations in the world. At the heart of this wondrous city is the French Quarter founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Our city developed around the Vieux Carré or Old Square and has the distinction of being the oldest neighborhood in the country, as well as being our premier attraction boasting millions of visitors each year.
Since its inception, New Orleans has always been a beacon of light 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 about whether our city’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 so many points of interest for LGBTQ+ guests to enjoy. To me, the French Quarter is the tiara placed atop our city with one of 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 operating continually since then, making it the oldest public market in the country. Similar in structure to a traditional European market, this open-air mall covers roughly five blocks, from Cafe 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 Lt. Governor of Louisiana and of the United States. As a tourist, the French Market District encapsulates your entire New Orleans experience with architecture, cuisine, history, shopping and entertainment in one area.
The beauty of the city unfolds around you so feel free to strike a pose and create a memory especially since the most photographed location in New Orleans is seen from atop 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 riverfront. Just steps outside the French Quarter, this public space provides breathtaking views of New Orleans, native landscaping, bike paths, a dog run and multi-use pavilions for all to enjoy. It is also an ideal spot for a po-boy picnic.
Speaking of po-boys, New Orleans is known worldwide for its unique cuisine and nothing is more iconic than getting dusted with powdered sugar as you savor a delicious order of beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. Open 24 hours, Cafe 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 confection–the praline. You can attain these scrumptious delights at Loretta’s Pralines. While you are there, try their praline king cakes, sweet potato pies, cookies, fudge, and other authentic homemade bites. Talk about the ultimate sugar rush!
Sample other New Orleans’ classics from muffulettas, fried seafood po-boys, jambalaya and etouffee to barbecue shrimp, bread pudding, blackened alligator, and sautéed catfish topped with pecans at our noted restaurants and cafes located in the Upper Pontalba and French Market sections. Healthier dishes are also available at many places as well as incredible vegan plates at Meals from the Heart. We are also the home of the go-cup, so grab a delicious craft cocktail or daiquiri from Organic Banana or The Gazebo Cafe and continue on with your day.
Music is another key component of our Big Easy culture. Not only are we the birthplace of jazz, but our city produces some of the finest entertainers of all genres from hip hop and bounce to country, zydeco and rock. We celebrate all our artists and the French Market is an excellent place to find some talented street performers appearing daily at the Oscar Dunn amphitheater located directly across from 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 in the air from musicians outside of Cafe Du Monde or from the live jazz band playing daily at The Market Cafe which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The French Market District is a shopper’s paradise. From the shops at the Upper Pontalba and the Colonnade to the vendors at the Farmer’s/Flea Market, locals and visitors alike are able to get apparel & accessories, gifts, home goods, souvenirs, art, culinary treats, confections and a whole lot more. Many of the businesses in our district are LGBTQ+ owned and operated such as the Dutch Alley Artists’ Co-op which showcases art and fine crafts by 25 local artists.
Another way our district shows LGBT and allied visitors how welcoming we really are, our local community and hospitality leaders, created a sticker program for businesses to display loud and proud. These stickers will show visitors safe spaces and businesses that are dedicated to supporting an inclusive environment.
New Orleans has been a city that has touted its nightlife, but we offer many family friendly events. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 23rd from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the French Market’s annual Boo Carre celebration. There will be kids’ activities, live music in Dutch Alley and trick-or-treating throughout the French Market District, with the day culminating in a spooky Second Line at 3:15 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; costumes are highly encouraged for all ages.
Whether you are a lone traveler, with friends or family, or in town on business, The French Market District should not be missed.