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New Orleans At Night

New Orleans At Night

The Finest In Nightlife, Away From The Hordes On Bourbon Street

One of North America’s most unique and beloved cities, New Orleans is over three centuries old, and Louisiana’s largest city is full of captivating history, mystery, and folklore. Many a visitor comes to New Orleans with one thing in mind: enjoying the city’s famous nightlife, which ranges from the wickedly debauched to world-class entertainment. After all, this is the birthplace of jazz and cocktails.

While the internationally famous Bourbon Street continues to draw the biggest crowds, the majority of people coming through are curious onlookers, stressed conventioneers, and bachelor party groups. In other words, high-minded travelers looking for the best in nightlife, drinks, and music should look elsewhere. That’s not to say that the historic French Quarter, the gorgeous square neighborhood bisected by Bourbon Street, should be avoided. In fact, some of the city’s best nightlife can be enjoyed just a short walk, or stumble, away.

ARNAUD’S FRENCH 75 BAR

Barely a daiquiri’s throw from Bourbon Street, at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, white-tuxedoed bartenders artfully produce classic cocktails using locally sourced ingredients and homemade syrups, drams, and liqueurs. The bar, originally a gentlemen-only area, was built in the late 1800s, and the space is filled with vintage touches. The namesake cocktail here is made with cognac and not gin, as is the custom. (The bar makes around 250 French 75s nightly.) Be sure to poke your head out back and into Arnaud’s Restaurant, a Creole culinary institution dating back to 1918. And don’t leave without heading upstairs to peruse the incredible (and free) Mardi Gras Museum.

JEWEL OF THE SOUTH

For a more modern cocktail destination, head around the corner to Jewel of the South, a newcomer from one of the city’s most esteemed and decorated bartenders, Chris Hannah (formerly of the French 75 Bar). The bar gets its name from a Jewel of the South restaurant that was opened a few blocks away in 1855 by Joseph Santini, inventor of the Brandy Crusta—an influential (it was the first cocktail to incorporate fresh citrus juice) yet largely forgotten cocktail, which Hannah has resuscitated and made the bar’s signature drink. The handsome back bar, which was built in Wales in the mid-1800s, is housed in a Creole cottage dating back to the 1830s.

Jewel of the South, shown at left, serves its own version of a French 75 cocktail
Jewel of the South, shown at left, serves its own version of a French 75 cocktail.

THE CAROUSEL BAR & LOUNGE

New Orleans impresses when it comes to hotel bars, the most unique of which is The Carousel Bar & Lounge. Located inside the historic Hotel Monteleone, the city’s first and only rotating bar has a circus-clad, merry-go-round theme. Patrons go along for the ride as the 25-seat bar makes a gentle, subtle revolution every 15 minutes. First opened in 1919, the bar has hosted the likes of Liberace, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote. The Carousel’s most famous cocktail, the Vieux Carré, was created in 1938 by the hotel’s head bartender.

The Carousel Bar & Lounge has a (slowly) revolving bar.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge has a (slowly) revolving bar

THE SAZERAC BAR

Serious cocktail enthusiasts head to The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which is home to The Sazerac Bar. Named after what many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink, this classy hangout is known for its stunning murals—painted by Paul Ninas, considered by some to be the “dean of New Orleans artists”—which flank the African walnut bar and add to the sophisticated environs. The menu of letter-perfect cocktails reads like a history book. In addition to its namesake drink, the bar is one of the world’s most famous destinations for a Ramos Gin Fizz (another cocktail created in New Orleans), and there are plenty of modern, inventive cocktails and after-dinner drinks on offer. Nearly 30,000 Sazeracs — each stirred exactly 30 times—are made at the bar every year.

THE JAZZ PLAYHOUSE

Known as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is also a magnet for music lovers. Those looking to enjoy quality live tunes and showmanship without having to stand on sticky floors or deal with boisterous crowds can head to the city’s best jazz bars. One can be found in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, where The Jazz Playhouse showcases popular local jazz legends—along with the occasional burlesque show—every night. Patrons also enjoy cocktails and appetizers inspired by New Orleans jazz culture, while keeping an eye out for special guests popping in.

THE RITZ-CARLTON

The city’s most fanciful setting for live jazz can be found in The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, where resident entertainer Jeremy Davenport performs with his band in the Davenport Lounge every Wednesday through Saturday. When Davenport takes the stage, the room is transformed into a boisterous jazz party. The trumpeter trained under the patriarch of the city’s legendary Marsalis family, Ellis Marsalis, and went on to tour the world with Harry Connick Jr.’s Big Band for six years. The likes of Paul McCartney and Sting have been spotted enjoying Davenport’s act.

Jeremy Davenport is a resident musician at The Ritz-Carlton
Jeremy Davenport is a resident musician at The Ritz-Carlton.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Lovers of theater and fine arts should see what’s on at the Saenger Theatre, a 1927 landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After years of neglect, it reopened in 2013 after restoration. Paint was stripped to reveal the original color scheme, and historic photographs were used to match doors, light fixtures, and windows as closely as possible.

The city also has a healthy visual arts scene, as evidenced by popular events such as White Linen Night, when scores of art lovers—all decked in white—come out on the first Saturday in August to honor the local artists and galleries along Julia Street, in the heart of Warehouse/Arts District. Food, drink, and live entertainment is enjoyed.

On Friday nights, NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art), the city’s biggest and most important art museum, offers live music, movies, and other activities. All galleries are open until 9 p.m.

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