Now, I know what you’re thinking about the three posts I’ve written so far about my girl’s trip to New Orleans. Thanks for the tip on that crazy stylish and affordable boutique hotel! Nice photos of the Garden District and the French Quarter. And very cute attempt at pretending you didn’t drink 2,000 calories per day in hurricanes alone, girl! But uh… what about the city’s infamous nightlife? (Or daylife… it’s always five o’clock somewhere, right?)
It’s true, New Orleans knows how to party. It’s not called the Festival Capital of the World for nothing! But really, you don’t need to have an official event going on to get down in the Big Easy. If Girls’ Trip taught us anything aside from the fact that Tiffany Haddish is a comedic national treasure, it’s that New Orleans is almost considered Vegas-like in the magic spell it casts over visitors, allowing them to loosen up and have a laugh of a time like nowhere else — to let the good times roll, indeed.
Now, we all know about the debauchery to be had on Bourbon Street. And I’m certainly not here to hate on that! I had one of the best New Year’s Eves of my life carefree strolling down Bourbon. But if that’s not your kind of fun, fear not! New Orleans has something for you, too. Read on for my favorite ways to have a blast off Bourbon Street after dark in New Orleans…
See The City From Above
New Orleans might not have an iconic skyline like Las Vegas or New York, which means it might not be the first place that springs to mind for a helicopter or small plane tour. But why not? See the Superdome from the air, watch the lights of downtown twinkle on at sunset, and see the city’s waterways snake around its neighborhoods. When I took a small plane tour with my sister and her friend a few years ago, I saw New Orleans in a totally different light.
Our flight package included a basket of white wine, cheese, and gourmet chocolates, which we nipped right into to toast our take-off. I’ve taken air tours around the world and unsurprisingly, this was the first I was allowed to drink on mid-flight. Gotta love those only in New Orleans moments!
Take A Cocktail Tour… or Class!
I’ve taken not one but two evening cocktail tours on past visits to New Orleans. While both were unique and different, they both were incredibly educational into the history of the city and its enormous role in Prohibition, and introduced me to great bars and venues I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. Plus, they were a great way to meet other travelers!
This trip, we tried something a little different — stepping behind the bar ourselves. At Drink Lab NOLA, literally right around the corner from our digs at the Catahoula Hotel downtown, Angie, Kristin and I took part in a mixology class celebrating some of New Orleans’ favorite sips, from the Sazerac to the Hurricane to the Ramos Gin Fizz. Come take a class — and then really impress your bartenders later with your behind-the-scenes knowledge of your best New Orleans order. Take home recipe cards mean you can even impress your friends back home!
Be Reborn at The Maple leaf
The Tuesday night Rebirth gig at the Maple Leaf has iconographic standing in the lore of New Orleans nightlife… Something you can count on. No need to consult a schedule.Long before Katrina, the Rebirth shows at Maple Leaf were where I’d drop in from time to time to remind myself why I live here, why I love here. Why I am here.
It is an explosion of sound, just drums and horns — who needs anything else, really? — and it is the sound of Mardi Gras, of second-lines, street parades and house parties. Of New Orleans.
It is so energetic, so in the groove, so diverse and so perfect that it almost looks contrived, like if a director wanted to create the quintessential bar scene for a movie, this is what he would make.
But Hollywood could never make this. Not on a Tuesday night. And not in any other town.
It’s a long excerpt to include in a blog post, but this piece from local writer Chris Rose sums up more perfectly than I could have ever hoped to the soul-shaking experience of seeing the big brass band Rebirth at The Maple Leaf on a Tuesday night in New Orleans.
Opened in 1974, the iconic uptown venue is one of the longest running music clubs in the city with live performances of funk, soul and brass seven nights a week. But if you’re in town on a Tuesday, don’t even think about missing local legends Rebirth (missing it is my biggest regret from this most recent trip — never again!)
You’re going to need energy for all that dancing. So first, head down the street to DTB Nola. Standing for Down The Bayou, this modern, chic restaurant serves up creative Coastal Cajun cuisine and craft cocktails. Don’t miss the Ponchartrain Punch, featuring my favorite Nicaraguan Flor de Cana rum, Bitterman’s Tiki bitters, passionfruit, citrus, and nutmeg.
Hit a Strike
I found myself very into bowling this summer, and it turns out I wasn’t alone. It seemed every city I visited had opened up a sleek, trendy alley serving more craft cocktails and more creative bites. In New Orleans, it was Fulton Alley, where I woke Kristin up from her nap to crush me at a pre-dinner game (I guess I deserved it!).
The one-hour lane rental was just enough to bowl one game, down two drinks, unlace our sassy bowling shoes, and head out for the evening.
Hang at The Country Club
This is not your mama’s country club. No, Bywater’s version of a Country Club includes a restaurant with a killer brunch menu, a saltwater pool heated or chilled depending on the season, a hot tub, a sauna, a pool table, and a recent dissolution of the clothing optional policy that left regulars reeling.
Locals treat this hidden gem as a day-cation, so expect to rub shoulders with plenty of New Orleans residents if you drop by to use the pool, especially on Sunday Funday. At $15 a day, it’s a reasonably priced way to beat the heat (or the humidity, more accurately.) If it’s raining, like it was when we dropped by, the bar automatically starts serving happy hour prices. This neighborhood secret is top of my list for my inevitable return to the Big Easy.
Bop Around Frenchman Street
Enthusiastic, original bands, bouncers literally bouncing to the music rather than turning their noses up at guests, enterprising individuals selling street meat on grills out of the back of a U-Haul, and impromptu brass bands playing in the street for pocket change? It has to be Frenchman Street. I adore Frenchman Street and was thrilled when Kristin, Angie and I ended our trip with a big night out here — I’ve had at least one night out here on all three of my New Orleans trips!
When New Orleans locals want a night of free live music and cheap drinks on a bustling street full happy people, they don’t go to Bourbon — they go to Frenchman Street! While technically in the Faubourg Marigny, Frenchman Street is just steps down the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, making it easy to tackle both famous streets in one night if you really want a taste of both. Frenchman Street has one of the highest concentrations of venues in the city, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. On our big night out we became immediately obsessed with the band onstage at Vaso (let’s just say I bought us matching friendship shotglasses with the band’s name engraved on them in a moment of music and vodka induced euphoria) and didn’t peel ourselves away until it was time to go terrorize a local karaoke joint, but typically, with low or no covers and venues packed side-by-side, this street is ripe for bar-hopping.
New Orleans, you are a city like no other! I already can’t wait until my fourth trip.
Any tips for me when that happens, fellow Big Easy fans? Next stop, back to Florida!
This post was written by me and brought to you by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. As usual, I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and references to vodka shots suggestions are my own.