New Orleans' Magnificent Nightlife

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. February is party month and where better to soak up an amazing atmosphere.

New Orleans

There are many reasons to go to New Orleans. Some come seeking live music and a bar scene unrivalled in the USA. Others look for out-of-this-world seafood, while plenty come in search of southern hospitality and history. No-one leaves disappointed.

Best areas to visit in New Orleans

New Orleans was named by the French colonists who originally settled here in the eighteenth century. The French Quarter of the city still dominates the visitors view of New Orleans.

Beyond the drinking and tourist mecca of Bourbon Street the quarter is home to historic wrought-iron clad houses, elegant, artsy neighbourhoods and, uniquely, a voodoo spiritual temple. The neighbouring Fauborg Marigny district continues the French Quarter theme with, if anything, more of a Bohemian atmosphere and fewer visitors.

Mardi Gras

The city’s famous Mardi Gras normally takes place in late January or February. This is a hugely popular time to be in the city, so book accommodation ahead or come at another time for a more laid-back atmosphere.

New Orleans' Nightlife

It’s when the sun goes down that New Orleans really comes out to play. Whether you pick centuries-old dives like Napoleon House on Chartres St or nearby Coop’s Place, you’re sure to find fine cocktails and all the Cajun food you can handle.

In fact, visitors can crawl for weeks around the French Quarter without ever stepping in the same place twice. Live music is a famous and powerful draw, from jazz to R&B to local zydeco ensembles.

Frenchmen Street in Fauborg Marigny is a great live music strip, and a stumble from Vaughan’s, the city’s finest jazz club. Tipitina’s, just outside the main historical area, is another much-loved institution. Fantastic at any time of year, New Orleans is perfect for getting out of that winter funk.

Planning your trip to New Orleans

The best way to whet your appetite for a visit to New Orleans is to watch Live and Let Die, the James Bond classic which showcases the city and surrounding bayou scenery. Once you’re resolved to visit, head for New Orleans Online for further information and listings.

© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd