The Best Blues Bars in New Orleans

The Mother-in-Law Lounge has been a home of the blues in New Orleans since the mid-1990s
The Mother-in-Law Lounge has been a home of the blues in New Orleans since the mid-1990s | © Hemis / Alamy
Photo of Kate Harrington
2 September 2021

There’s a lot of music history that originates in New Orleans. They’ve got the whole seaport culmination of cultures, and it’s allowed this Louisiana city to be home to jazz, soul, funk and the blues. The blues, just like the other genres, is still going strong today – here are some of the best places to hear it in the Big Easy.

Did you know? You can now travel with Culture Trip to New Orleans as part of a small-group tour. From live jazz on the Mississippi River to kayaking on the Louisiana Bayous, booking with us ensures you get the most out of your time in the Big Easy.

Maple Leaf Bar

Bar, Cocktails
Maple Leaf Bar
© Sipa US / Alamy
The Maple Leaf is both a bar and a music venue, hosting some of the best live blues acts in the city. One of the more popular bands is the Rebirth Brass Band, and they frequent the Maple Leaf every Tuesday. It’s also a full bar, and the drinks are affordable, even for Bourbon Street. If not the best, the Maple Leaf is a spectacular venue to see live jazz and blues in New Orleans.

Mother-in-Law Lounge

Bar, American, Wine, Beer, Cocktails
Bar, New Orleans, Louisiana
© James Quine / Alamy

Since the mid-1990s, Mother-in-Law Lounge has been one of the premiere blues, soul, funk and jazz bars in New Orleans. The owners are friendly and make Mother-in-Law one of the most welcoming lounges. With an unbelievable track record, Mother-in-Law hosts talents such as Fats Domino, Al Johnson and more – you never know who’s going to play. Located in the outskirts of historic Tremé, Mother-in-Law is a true New Orleans music lounge.

Rock 'n' Bowl

Bowling Alley, Music Venue
AL "Carnival Time" Johnson Sr. sings for the Krewe of Tucks Queen, Susan Clinton, at the Krewe of Tucks Queen's Party at Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, January 15, 2006. (Photo by Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News/KRT)
© Sipa US / Alamy
Part music venue, part bowling alley, Rock ‘n’ Bowl strikes a balance between tourist attraction and great place to dance to live blues. Enjoy a game before watching the regular live acts; the food and drink is reasonable, too, with pizza, burgers, chicken and fries on the menu.

BB King's Blues Club

Bar, Beer, $$$

When you name your club after the greatest blues guitarist of all time, the pressure’s instantly on to be the best in town. Luckily, this swinging joint on the bank of the Mississippi brings both the music and menu needed to stand out. Tuck into some deliciously blackened redfish before you dance the night away; local musicians are there every day to serenade you with R&B, soul, swing and gospel.

Apple Barrel

Bar, American, Beer
Chris Craig solos during a afternoon gig at the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, Lousiana. (Photo by David Grunfeld/MCT/Sipa USA)
© Sipa US / Alamy
Grab a cocktail and tap your feet in an intimate bar with acoustics so good that local musicians have actually recorded here. But good sound quality is nothing without good tunes, and the Apple Bar gets live acts in every night of the week. You’ll even find an Instagram-worthy oddity when you notice the bar’s decorated entirely in dollar bills.

The Blue Nile

Music Venue
Large crowds turn out at the Blue Nile on Fridays. It's one of the top clubs for live music on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Granger/Charlotte Observer/MCT/Sipa USA)
© Sipa US / Alamy
The Blue Nile is where it all began. Cited by many as the first music club on Frenchmen Street, the building dates to 1832. But it isn’t just history you’ll be immersed in when you head here: funk, blues, soul and brass shows are a dime a dozen. There’s also unique blue and gold decor; if that proves a bit too ostentatious, head to the balcony upstairs for a fantastic view over the shimmying Louisiana neighborhoods.

Matt Mills contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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