New Orleans, Louisiana
Gay history runs deep in New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in Crescent City. It’s home to historic gay bars, including The Golden Lantern, opened in 1966, and Cafe Lafitte in Exile, the oldest continuously running gay bar in America (since 1933). Outside of Mardi Gras, the French Quarter is popular for hundreds of other festivals, including Southern Decadence, a gay event considered the gay pride of New Orleans (in addition to the official pride) that has seen record turnouts since it began in 1972. Even notable members of the gay community past and present have major ties with the French Quarter. Playwright Tennessee Williams was a frequent visitor; Truman Capote’s mother was in labor with him at the luxurious Hotel Monteleone (and the author came back to write his first novel on Royal Street); and Ellen Degeneres was a regular visitor and the emcee of New Orleans Mr. and Ms. Gay Pride contest in 1981.
While the French Quarter will always be home to the gay community, many residents are moving past Esplanade (a main avenue that divides the French Quarter’s east side) over to Marigny and the Bywater District. Historic Frenchman Street is Marigny’s Bourbon Street, and the pulse of the artist movement started here. Crammed with jazz bars, clubs, and cafés, this famous street was developed in the 1980s for locals when famed Bourbon became too touristy. Now, Frenchman Street is bustling every night of the week and offers an open-air market with local artists selling handcrafted merchandise. It’s also the go-to street during holidays, like Halloween, for locals, and the gay community is making the areas surrounding and near this street home. Gay-owned Who Dat Coffee Café has become a staple to the neighborhood for brunch, and St Roch’s Market, a historic 1875 building, was transformed into a contemporary food hall in 2014. There’s even gay bars, like The Friendly Bar, an unassuming dive bar visited by local artists and hipsters alike.
The Bywater District was put on the map for the LGBT community decades ago when The Country Club (a renowned members only social club with outdoor pool) opened its doors particularly for gay clientele in 1977. Now, it welcomes gay and straight alike, featuring an indoor bar, an outdoor pool, and a tropical backyard oasis to drink the day away. This mostly residential district is constantly evolving with expanded streetcar service, an upscale hostel-hotel hybrid in the works, and new, hip businesses like art galleries out of resident’s homes and contemporary restaurants like The Franklin and Red’s Chinese.
Christopher Jacob, local resident, artist, owner of The Grand Maltese gallery and performance artist (her alter ego Slash Madame is a locally recognized personality) has lived in Bywater for six years and witnessed its gradual development. “I moved to this part of town and this city because it felt like a project town to me…a place where my artist sensibility and queerness would thrive. There’s always been queers in the Bywater, but I’d say a general movement probably started about four-five years ago and there is an evident thriving underground and mainstream community here. Us gays are very conscious of when we are welcome and when we are not. We are welcome in the Bywater and in New Orleans, and I’m very thankful for that.”
In 1997, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley declared the six-block stretch of Halsted from Grace to Belmont as the first official gay neighborhood in America. Known as Boys Town, the neighborhood dates back to 1970 when residents marched in the city’s first annual gay pride parade, and plenty of gay-owned businesses have opened since.
While Boys Town will always be the center of Chicago’s gay community, Andersonville just a few minutes north in North Side has reigned as the Windy City’s best gay neighborhood that celebrates the indie spirit. Known for a strong Swedish culture (it was initially settled by Swedes), a fantastic dining scene, and various independent shops, Andersonville has burgeoned as one of Chicago’s best neighborhoods, period. Naturally the LGBT community would make it home, amping its diversity and giving the neighborhood a wonderful vibe.
What initially triggered the movement was the opening of Women and Children First, an award-winning bookstore that opened in 1979 but relocated to the historic district of Andersonville in the early 90s. Nationally recognized as a bookstore that primarily observes the feminist movement (and offers general, lesbian and gay fiction and non- fiction), Women and Children First is the original anchor to Andersonville. After it opened in the sleepy hood, their loyal followers took notice. It wasn’t long before lesbian-owned small businesses began to open (and flourish) along with a large lesbian community moving in.
Ronna Hoffberg, an openly gay member of Andersonville Chamber of Commerce for the past seven years, had the pleasure of seeing Andersonville’s exceptional transformation, having lived there for thirty years. “I moved here because of the housing stock and I wanted to have dogs. It wasn’t dangerous, it was just kinda boring back then. After Women and Children First opened, you had these indies pop up. It fueled a movement, and Andersonville is still known for independent businesses. The book- store was the economic engine for all commercial vitality on Clark Street (the main drag). There were lesbians in the beginning, then gay men start- ed coming in the mid-to-late 90s.”
Now, Andersonville has almost a dozen gay-owned businesses, including bars and clubs, giving locals and visitors alike just as many options as Boys Town. “The beauty of Andersonville is that we are not and don’t aspire to be Boys Town,” says Ronna. “There is mutual respect and integration. We still have enormous Scandinavian influence and Middle Eastern restaurants with a large gay population and every possible ethnicity. That’s the success of Andersonville. The diversity—and its independent spirit. I remember a zillion years ago when Starbucks was coming in. Every community in the country want ed a Starbucks but not Andersonville. This just illustrates how fiercely independent Andersonville is and how we support local and buy local.”
What further helped put Andersonville on the map for the LGBT community is when gay restaurant chain Hamburger Mary’s opened here in 2007. Since, gay bars have steadily opened like The Call (2009), the largest and wildest gay club, and Replay/Elixir (2015), a dive bar with video arcade games.
Andersonville Brewery, operated by Hamburger Mary’s, is the first local nano-brewery in Chicago, established in 2009, and is as integral to the neighborhood as most independent businesses. A visit to Andersonville is not complete without a beer and a bite at Hopleaf, a gay-friendly tavern that dishes out amazing Belgian eats and brews on tap.
Most visitors also check out the Swedish American Museum, which throws several events throughout the year (like public concerts) and has become a staple to the neighborhood. Andersonville is also known for Midsommarfest (an annual celebration and largest festival on Clark Street), vintage shops and quiet cafes. Book your stay at The GuestHouse Hotel, an intimate, luxury hotel formerly a (wait for it) guest house right on Clark Street. A member of The Chicago Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, The Guest House Hotel offers one- to-three bedroom units, making it a great option for larger parties, families, and extended stays.
Los Angeles, California
If you live in a gay cave, you may have missed the buzz about Down- town LA. In the past few years, DTLA was revitalized, re-conceptualized, and announced as the best new destination in America by several critics and pundits alike. Formerly no-mans-land with little to see, DTLA experienced a major rebirth that had Angelenos not only exploring the neighborhood, but also moving in. Rent was notoriously cheap and is still considerably affordable, whether it’s a massive, artists loft space or one of many new luxury condos erected in recent years. The expanding downtown skyline is no less than commanding, and new buildings and towers continue to add to its legacy.
Not only has DTLA flourished as LA’s central business district, tourism has seen record numbers thanks to the wealth of new hotels and restaurants to open in recent years. Ace Hotel Los Angeles stamped the neighborhood as officially hip when it opened in 2014. The stylish property is an excellent place for hipsters to stay, and it provides the perfect setting for social gatherings with the LGBT community, whether it’s the rooftop bar or several events in its theater (Rupaul’s Drag Race live season finales are filmed here). The hotel landscape in DTLA will continue to grow, especially in 2017 when the ever-popular hipster-approved Freehand, Hotel Indigo, The InterContinental, and Hotel Figueroa are all slated to open.
Due to the fact gay locals were moving to DTLA in droves, it was only a matter of time that gay bars offered them a place to drink. Precinct is a rock-n-roll gay bar that opened in 2015 and is known for its young, oh-so- LA clientele and live DJs. Also new is Bar Mattachine, which feels like a downtown extension of West Hollywood, and its late nights are some of the wildest in town. The gay population is now so present that DTLA had its own gay pride festival, called DTLA Proud, that features more than 50 events throughout the city.
With Los Angeles’ impressive dining boom, new restaurants are becoming a standard like Miro, an elevated New American restaurant, and boutiques are hard to miss like Please Do Not Enter, a notable art and design store owned and run by gay couple Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird.
Like the original gay ‘hood of West Hollywood, the DTLA gay scene is thriving and truly welcoming. While other lesser-known areas of the city may flourish in years to come, DTLA (like any notable and emerging gay neighborhood in America) will still be considered one of the most progressive and influential neighborhoods that every gay traveler should make a point to explore, if not moving there altogether.
Gay Neighborhoods Resources
the ART, a hotel, 1201 Broadway, Tel: 303-572-8000. Chic, 165-room boutique hotel that focuses on art culture. Rooms start at $225. www.thearthotel.com
Denver Central Market, 2669 Larimer Street, No phone. New market celebrating fresh and organic foods. www.denvercentralmarket.com
Mile High Gay Guy, Denver’s most read gay blog and resource for all things gay. www.milehighgayguy.com
The Source, 3350 Brighton Boulevard, Tel: 720-443-1135. Vibrant and fun new food market in a landmark 1880s building. www.thesourcedenver.com
Tracks, 3500 Walnut Drive, No phone. The premiere gay nightclub in Denver. www.tracksdenver.com
Tracy Weil, 3611 Chestnut Place, Tel: 303-308-9345. Painting, sculpture and public art gallery by one of the co-founders of River North. www.tracyweil.com
Wrangler, 3090 North Downing, Tel: 303-837-1075. Denver’s premier bear bar now in a bigger location. www.denverwrangler.com
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Club JAM, 751 North 300 West, Tel: 801-906-8996. The premiere gay club in Salt Lake City, 7 years strong. www.jamslc.com
Kimpton Hotel Monaco, 15 W 200 South, tel: 801-595-0000. Gay-friendly hotel near Marmalade. Rooms start at $200. www.monaco-saltlakecity.com
Laziz Kitchen, 912 Jefferson Street, Tel: 801-441-1228. Mediterranean and Lebanese inspired gay-owned restaurant. www.laziz-foods.com
Marmalade Library, 280 West 500 North, Tel: 801-594-8680. Cool, new modern library. www.slcpl.lib.ut.us/branches/view/marmalade
Q Salt Lake, the best resource for news and entertainment in Salt Lake City. www.gaysaltlake.com
Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 500 North, Tel: 801-363-7522. Production company for performing arts. www.saltlakeactingcompany.org
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The Country Club, 634 Louisa Street, Tel: 504-945-0742. The first gay bar and social club in Bywater. www.thecountryclubneworleans.com
The Friendly Bar, 2301 Chartres Street, Tel: 504-943-8929. Friendly gay bar in Marigny. No web site.
The Grand Maltese, 3040 St. Claude Avenue, Tel: 504-330-1051. Gay-owned multi media art gallery. www.grandmaltese.com
Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, Tel: 504-523-3341. Historic, luxury hotel just minutes walk to Marigny. Rooms start at $259. www.hotelmonteleone.com
New Orleans CVB, The official convention and visitors bureau of New Orleans. www.neworleanscvb.com
The Call, 1547 West Bryn Mawr, Tel: 773-334-2525. Andersonville’s largest gay club. www.callbarchicago.com
Choose Chicago is the official tourism authority of Chicago. www.choosechicago.com
The GuestHouse Hotel, 4872 North Clark Street, Tel: 773-564-9568. An intimate, gay-friendly luxury hotel. Rooms start at $227. www.theguesthousehotel.com
Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 North Clark Street, Tel: 773-784-6969. Well known gay friendly burger chain with bar and brewing company. www.hamburgermarys.com
Replay/Elixir, 5358 North Clark Street, Tel: 773-654-1369. Relatively new restaurant, bar and video arcade. www.replayandersonville.com
Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark Street, Tel: 773-728-8111. Founded in 1976, The Swedish American Museum is one of the most promi- nent museums celebrating Swedish culture. www.swedishamericanmuseum.org
Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark Street, Tel: 773-769-9299. Popular independent bookstore. www.womenandchildrenfirst.com
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Ace Hotel Los Angeles, 929 South Broadway, Tel: 213-623-3233. Stylish boutique hotel with gay events and happening. Rooms start at $314 (standard rate). www.acehotel.com/losangeles
Bar Mattachine, 221 West 7th Street, Tel: 213-278-0471. Popular, bi-level gay cocktail lounge with live DJs. No website.
Discover Los Angeles, the official visitor’s guide to Downtown LA with a wealth of information on gay culture and happenings. www.discoverlosangeles.com
Miro, 888 Wilshire Boulevard, Tel: 213-988-8880. Swanky, New American restaurant with popular whiskey room. www.mirorestaurant.com
Please Do Not Enter, 549 South Olive Street, Tel: 213-263-0037. Great design shop in minimalist, industrial space. www.pleasedonotenter.com
Precinct, 357 South Broadway, Tel: 213-628-3112. Cop-themed gay bar with great cocktail list. www.precinctdowntownla.com