Though New Orleans looks good in the day, the city truly shines at night when the neon lights glow across Bourbon Street. Many establishments in the city stay open well after 2am, allowing you to 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, the Big Easy has it all.
This divey, no-frills karaoke bar on Saint Claude Avenue stays open 24 hours a day. Offering a vast and varied collection of songs, Kajun’s Pub 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. Even if you’re only offered a record deal in your dreams, this could still be the place you make it.
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 you’ll be 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 oldest and spookiest locales in the city.
This quiet coffee shop in the trendy Freret neighborhood is a haven for nerds and literary types who don’t want a wild night out. New Orleans can provide for those looking for an early night as much as for a late one. 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.
Though many would argue it’s a total tourist trap, Bourbon Street is a spot you really should cross off your bucket list. It’s internationally known for its overpowering neon drinks and late-night dance and strip clubs. And yes, this is also where you catch beads year-round off balconies – if you can’t make it for Mardi Gras. While it’s a bit gritty, this extra lively pedestrian street truly captures the spirit of New Orleans.
One of the most popular wine bars in New Orleans, the Bayou Wine Garden offers an extensive selection of vino, including wine on tap, and cheese plates. If you want to snag a spot in the picturesque courtyard that it shares with the nearby Bayou Beer Garden, you’ll want to arrive early. On a warm night, it’s an ideal place to watch the big game or celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Friday nights in the Big Easy really do come easy.
At the turn of the 20th century, New Orleans was home to a burgeoning burlesque scene as jazz music began to take shape. Today, burlesque is still a thriving business in the city, with several 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 & Theatre.
With multiple restaurants, such as Josephine Estelle and Seaworthy, and a hip rooftop bar, the trendy Ace Hotel is a hotspot for travelers and New Orleans residents. 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. As it’s within proximity of art galleries, cute boutiques, bars serving delicious cocktails and the French Quarter, sleeping here means that you’re automatically in the right place at the right time.
Many modern cocktails come from New Orleans. Drinks such as the brandy crusta, the Sazerac, the Ramos gin fizz and brandy milk punch are a part of the city history. To try these drinks and more, visit hot cocktail spots such as Double Dealer and Bar Marilou, or head to a classic place for the classics, such as the Sazerac Bar. You’ll discover your new favorite cocktail in no time.
It’s a little-known fact that New Orleans is also America’s first city of opera. It might not be as polished and pretty as the opera districts in Paris and Vienna, but it brings a unique character to the art. A great spot to see some opera is at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, which produces classic shows such as Carmen and The Magic Flute all year round. You’ll feel oh-so cultured when you tell your friends that you saw an opera on your vacation.
If there’s one time when the whole world wants to be in New Orleans, it’s during Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday – a day of parades, celebrations, debauchery and many drinks. If you go, wear gold, green and purple, the official colors of the event, representing power, faith and justice. To really celebrate the holiday, eat some king cake, too, which is decorated in the same colors. And bring comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking a lot.
Additional reporting by Alice Johnston.
Why not make a weekend of it? Book a stay with Culture Trip at one of the best hotels in New Orleans or stick to a tighter budget at one of these budget hotels and hostels in Mid-City. There’s plenty to keep you busy too, from ticking off the best things to do in New Orleans off your bucket list to exploring the best museums around or trying local specialties such as a po’ boy at these top spots.