10 Cool Things to Do in New Orleans at Night

New Orleans has plenty going on after dark
New Orleans has plenty going on after dark | © Westley Ferguson / Unsplash
Though New Orleans looks good in the day, the city doesn’t truly come alive until the sun has set and the neon lights glow across Bourbon Street. Many establishments in New Orleans stay open well after 2am – the standard closing time in most other American cities – making it a place where you can embark on multiple adventures in one night. Whether you’re into rowdy nights, arcade games, cult classic movies, fried food, live music or sweeping views of the skyline, this city has it all.

Dance to live music on Frenchmen Street

The most bustling nightlife scene (other than Bourbon Street) can be found on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Once a slightly more low-key haven for locals and the few in-the-know tourists, in recent years it has become the go-to destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthdays and for those who just want a raucous night out on the town. It’s home to a number of intimate live music venues including D.B.A., the Spotted Cat and Blue Nile, among others, that feature local bands and DJs. There’s also an outdoor art market if you need to catch your breath in between sets and plenty of street performers if you don’t feel like committing to the clubs’ cover charges. For late-night fare, head over to 13 Monaghan’s for a sandwich, wrap or their famous “tater tachos,” tater tots loaded with classic nacho toppings.

Settle in for some New Orleans jazz at the Spotted Cat © Infrogmation of New Orleans / Flickr

Sing karaoke at Kajun’s

This dive-y, no-frills karaoke bar on St Claude Avenue stays open pretty much all night. Offering a vast and varied collection of songs, Kajun’s is the perfect place to climb up on an elevated stage and sing at the top of your lungs. As you wait for your song to come up, grab a cheap drink from the bar, warm up your vocal cords and sing along with the other patrons.

See a midnight movie at the Prytania Theater

Situated Uptown, the oldest movie theater in New Orleans hasn’t changed much over the course of its history. While it hosts a steady rotation of new releases, it also hosts a late-night movie series on its single screen, showing cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and Room (2015).

The Prytania Theater in Uptown New Orleans is an ideal spot for a midnight movie © Infrogmation of New Orleans / Flickr

Take a ghost tour

Experience New Orleans’s supposedly haunted history by joining one of the many guided tours around the French Quarter. You can take your pick between ghost tours, vampire tours and even haunted pub crawls where guests are treated to a delightful mix of both fact and fiction (who knows where the line is blurred?). Hosted by theatrical and knowledgeable guides, these tours will take you to some of the city’s oldest and spookiest locales.

Take in the view from the Pontchartrain Hotel’s rooftop

Over in the Garden District on St Charles Avenue, the trendy but classic Pontchartrain Hotel features a lively rooftop bar called Hot Tin, a reference to the Tennessee Williams’s play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The bar staff serves refreshing and original cocktails while the outside balcony offers dreamy, sweeping views of the city’s skyline.

Play games at the Rook Café

Open until 11pm, this quiet coffee shop in the trendy Freret Street neighborhood is a haven for nerds and literary types who aren’t feeling a wild night out. It’s a peaceful place to read a book, sit back with your laptop or find a buddy and play a tabletop game such as Scrabble, chess or Dungeons and Dragons.

Check out a burlesque show

At the turn of the 2oth century, New Orleans was home to a burgeoning burlesque scene as jazz music began to take shape. Today, there’s still a thriving burlesque scene with a number of local troupes and well-known performers, including Trixie Minx and Bella Blue, who exude old-school glamour, sauciness and sex appeal. Some of the best spots to see a live burlesque show include One Eyed Jacks (which also hosts other live music events and theater shows), the Burlesque Ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, House of Blues and the Allways Lounge.

New Orleans has a long and proud history of burlesque © robbiesaurus / Flickr

Sip wine in the courtyard at Bayou Wine Garden

One of New Orleans’ trendiest and most popular wine bars, Bayou Wine Garden offers an extensive selection of vino, plus wine on tap and cheese plates. Get there early to snag a spot in its picturesque courtyard that’s shared with the nearby Bayou Beer Garden, a go-to spot to watch sports or celebrate a special occasion, like Friday night in The Big Easy.

Spot celebrities at the Ace Hotel

With multiple restaurants like Josephine Estelle and Seaworthy, and a hip rooftop bar, the trendy Ace Hotel is a hot spot for both visitors and locals. Regularly hosting live music and film screenings, it’s often frequented by movie stars, high-profile musicians and those looking to snap a pic of the rich and famous.

Get the ultimate tourist experience on Bourbon Street

Though many would argue it’s a total tourist trap, Bourbon Street is a spot you really should cross off your bucket list. Internationally known for its overpowering neon drinks, late-night dance and strip clubs, and yes, the place where you catch beads year-round off balconies, this iconic pedestrian street truly captures the spirit of New Orleans.

You really haven’t experienced New Orleans until you’ve wandered its neon-lit streets after dark © Ken Lund / Flickr