2018 December 13 to 17 – Christmas – Open
A Gay Holiday Weekend in the Big Easy!
Our gay New Orleans holiday weekends are full of campy fun! We’ll stay in the French Quarter and explore the sultry gay history of the “Big Easy” while enjoying a touch of southern decadence. Attend a jazz brunch and get ready for Mardi Gras in an atmosphere of unique New Orleans kitsch. Other activities vary by the Holiday, so you’ll come back again.
Join us for a quick holiday getaway to one of America’s most interesting cities: New Orleans, Louisiana. Our local guides will introduce us to the culturally rich, diverse, musical, and fascinating city they call home. We’ll explore gay New Orleans’ history and quirky holiday traditions together! Your choice of Easter or Christmas!
Day 1: Welcome to NOLA!
We’ll be met at the airport and transferred to our clean and spacious hotel right in the French Quarter. Settle in, slow down, and relax. Tonight we mingle with our guides and meet new friends over cocktails. We’ll stroll out together on an exploration of “The Big Easy” with a fine Welcome Dinner nearby.
Day 2: Sugar Palace
Each day begins after breakfast at our lovely hotel. Today we’re off to visit Houmas House Plantation and Gardens (so much more than just a tour of a grand antebellum estate). Experience the southern splendor of “The Sugar Palace” when you step into 16 rooms filled with period antiques and Louisiana artwork. Enjoy 38 lush acres of gardens, ponds and a majestic live oak alley. Feel the delightful breeze off the Mississippi and navigate through the shadows of ancient oaks.
As we’re guided through the mansion with its artwork, artifacts, and antiques and discovering the beauty of the immaculate gardens and grounds, we will realize what a unique experience this is. We may even be inspired to take some antebellum decorating ideas home! We’ll have lunch at the estate before returning to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Tonight we’ll be on our own to walk and explore the French Quarter. Dinner options abound, and our local guides will have suggestions to suit your tastes!
For our EASTER Itinerary:
Day 3: Brunch at Arnaud’s and Parades
Located steps off of Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter, Arnaud’s is renowned for a beautiful dining experience. The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a grand tradition; music and an open bar complement Creole dishes elegantly served. Then, we’ll head out for the 35th Annual Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade. This tradition, which began back in the early 1980s, features renowned French Quarter singer, dancer and all-around entertainer Chris Owens as the Grand Duchess. She stands proudly on her gaily decorated float, assisted by elegantly attired attendants while decked out in one of her stunning, tight-fitting outfits. The parade will feature colorful floats, marching bands, beads, Easter trinkets, and plenty of eager revelers. Then, we see the Gay Easter Parade in the French Quarter! The riders on horse-drawn carriages or floats while wearing showy versions of their Easter Sunday finest. Don’t be surprised if you see a gaggle of motorcycle dudes in leather and Easter bonnets might roar by. Spectators can expect to see (and catch!) plenty of beads and other throws.
Day 4: Swamp Tour
Your personal, expert guides, all have had an ongoing love affair with the swamp since childhood, pause frequently to point out many natural wonders along the way. During the TWO HOUR tour, your guide will introduce visitors to alligators, barred owls, hawks, and purple gallinules. Witness egrets fishing for dinner, view various wildflowers throughout our 20,000 private acres and visit the remnants of a prosperous logging operation from the early 1900’s. In hip boots, the barehanded guides sometimes slip into the swamp to retrieve one or more of its residents. You may even get the chance to hold a baby alligator or meet a nutria face to face! Even the squeamish and less-than-adventurous get into the swing of things on this “soft” adventure cruise. These boats can travel at speeds of up to 35 mph and can go in inches of water. These shallow draft boats can make a 90 degree turn on a dime. Each airboat is designed to give its passengers a full view of the swamp that surrounds you. The seats are padded and stadium designed, so the passenger in front does not obstruct your view. Be careful, you get splashed!
For our CHRISTMAS Itinerary:
Day 3: Gay History Tour and Mardi Gras Magic
This morning we’re taking a two-hour walking tour around town, an interactive exploration of New Orleans’ rich gay history and current LGBT community. What are the origins of Southern Decadence? We’ll find out! How did Gay Carnival evolve? We will teach you! Let’s peek at the homes and watering holes of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, learn the gay connection to the JFK assassination, and discuss the tragic Upstairs Lounge fire of 1973, which changed the LGBT community forever (and much, much more). (If you come at Easter, you’ll still have the walking tour, it will be the evening of arrival).
We’ll take a break for lunch on our own at our choice of local bistros and restaurants. Coming together again this afternoon, we’ll take a whimsical visit to Mardi Gras World! Colorful props, like a gigantic jovial jester, fiercely realistic alligators and a gorgeously exciting Marilyn Monroe (with skirt flying) greet one and all to this amazing fantasy factory. You will even view the most awesome floats ever built for carnival – the Orpheus 140-foot triple-tandem sea monster “Leviathan” and the 240-foot quintuple-tandem “Captain Eddie’s S.S. Endymion,” with tens of thousands of fiber optic lights. After a brief introduction by a knowledgeable guide and a spirited video about the history of Mardi Gras and the company, we’ll play dress up! That’s right, you can dress up in authentic, ornate carnival costumes. We will tap into our imaginations, if we would like to be a gentleman we can wear a regal coat of armor, or perhaps don sequined headdresses, gowns, and then imagine ourselves as the Queens of the ball!
Day 4: Farewell Brunch and Twinkling Christmas Lights
You’ll have time for a little beauty rest this morning, for today we’ll be meeting a bit later, in order to enjoy Farewell Brunch together at Arnaud’s. Located steps off of Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter, Arnaud’s is renowned for a beautiful dining experience. The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a grand tradition; music and an open bar complement Creole dishes elegantly served.
After brunch, we hope you’ll take a disco nap because we will start off our last night together with an escorted excursion to the magical “Celebration in the Oaks” at City Park. This is prime New Orleans kitsch, a local’s favorite for the holidays, and one of the most fun lights festivals you will see. New Orleans’ famous oaks are swathed in hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights; breathtaking displays are scattered throughout 25 acres of the Park. We will take a train ride together through glittering light exhibits, see the animated Cajun Night Before Christmas display and, of course, New Orleans’ iconic snowman Mr. Bingle – a holiday character beloved by generations of New Orleanians. Ride the carousel and the other rides, roast marshmallows in a “snow” storm, even eat fresh, hot beignets. There’s so much holiday fun to be had here, and we can still be home in time to tear up the town if that’s our pleasure on our last night here.
Day 5: Departing New Orleans
We’ll say goodbye today, but we think you’ll be back. This magical and mysterious city draws her visitors back again and again. We can’t wait to see you next time!
Price includes: Accommodation for 4 nights in the French Quarter; 3 breakfasts, 1 grand brunch, 1 lunch, 1 Dinner; vehicle transportation (if necessary) and entrance fees for activities outlined in the itinerary (activities differ according to season); and services and accompaniment by knowledgeable local guides during group activities. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Not included: Airfare to/from New Orleans; transfer to/from Airport; 1 lunch and 3 dinners; Alcoholic beverages except those shown as included in the itinerary; Gratuities for local guides or activities; items of a personal nature.
Optional Tour Choices:
$550 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself.
For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
This tour starts and ends in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Visiting New Orleans on this tour requires being able to comfortably walk for 2-4 hours each day, over mostly flat terrain. Footing can be uneven (i.e., irregular urban pavement and gravelly garden paths).
December daytime temperatures in New Orleans average in the mid-60s (F). Nighttime temps dip to the mid-40s. Northerners may find this very mild and comfortable for the season, requiring warm jackets but perhaps still sporting open-toed shoes. Locals, however, might be dressed in parkas and boots to combat the cold weather!
We’ll stay in one of New Orleans’ grande dame hotels, right in the French Quarter.
For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174