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by Dann Fink New Orleans - Gay Travel

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Upon arriving in New Orleans, I was standing at a bar when someone sidled up and asked the bartender if it was happy hour. With inimitable flair, the bartender turned and said, "Honey, welcome to New Orleans! In this town every hour is happy hour!" That feeling hits you the second you reach the Crescent City. It's like running into an old friend who seems mostly the same, but is somehow renewed, vibrant, and exuberant, with all the spirit and liveliness you've always loved. New Orleans, with its innumerable charms, amazing history, and unique way of life is, as one local lovingly described it, "Super campy, a little bit tragic, and a whole lotta fun!"

For a sumptuous place to stay, try the historic Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal Sreet. Tel: 504-523-3341. located smack in the center of the French Quarter. This 125-year-old landmark is keeping up with the times by winning the Green Key Hotel Award for eco-friendly renovations and, more noticeably, upgrading their Internet speeds to the fastest in the Quarter. Monteleone is also the home of one of the world's most unique bars, the Carousel Bar. An actual, spinning carousel where the rotation helps mix your drinks and your conversation, the bar is undergoing an expansion to double the space and surely the smiles. (Hint: watch "the sky" for an occasional shooting star.)

For those who like a little gaming with their glitz, check out Harrah's New Orleans (228 Poydras Street. Tel: 1-800-HARRAHS. Named in HRC's list of Best Places to Work, Harrah's extends its commitment to the LGBT community with the introduction of "Pride Mail," an e-newsletter highlighting local deals and events specifically chosen for their gay guests. To add some dice to your disco, be sure to hit the newest gay hotspot, the promising Friday-night club Masquerade at the heart of Harrah's Casino. Centered around a 42-foot column of sophisticated lights, video, and a surprisingly risqué group of sexy dancers, it's the perfect spot to win a hand, grab a dance, then relax with friends in one of the bar's private lounges.

Daytime offers a host of unique options to invigorate and intrigue. A Garden District tour is always relaxing, but especially when you include the newly renovated Garden District Bookshop (2727 Prytania Street. Tel: 504-895-2266., and its near daily events with famous authors and local musicians (keep an eye peeled for Anne Rice or local hero, musician Irvin Mayfield). Afterward, grab a cold-drip Iced Coffee at recent "Best of New Orleans" winner, Still Perkin' (2727 Prytania Street. Tel: 504-899-0335.

Make sure to set aside an afternoon to stroll through the new, one-of-a-kind shops and eateries on Magazine Street. Bootsy's Funrock'n (3109 Magazine Street. Tel: 504-895-4102., is a store that believes everything old is new again. Owner Rhonda Findley recently added two new sister stores to this vintage boutique, where you'll be as likely to buy an exquisitely beaded dress as you are a favorite novelty magic trick from your childhood. Few New Orleans natives know and love the city more than Rhonda, and her spirit and stories are worth their weight in beignets.

Just steps away is the sweet new "sweet boutique" Sucre (3025 Magazine Street. Tel: 504-520-8311., where your imagination and sweet tooth can both be satisfied. You'll marvel at the stunningly designed chocolates and sweets like Wedding Cake or the self-explanatory White Chocolate Lavender Macaroon. With entire candy lines showcasing seasonal events or foods, you may never want to leave, especially once you come upon the crunchy, candied Man Collection.


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