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Best Local Things to Do

A Stroll Down Bourbon Street

Check out what’s happening on the city’s most famous street.

America's Oldest Bar
America’s oldest watering hole – Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Photo: Paul Broussard)

As much as we like exploring the outer edges and hidden gems of this many-faceted city, there’s nothing wrong with revisiting a tried-and-true spot like Bourbon Street. In fact, it’s something we should probably do more often: the way the neon lights juxtapose centuries-old architecture; the brass bands and buskers who amaze us with their humble talent; the simple, buzzy delight of a frozen daiquiri you can carry with you as you walk. So, with summer in mind, we did just that: took a stroll down Bourbon Street to check out what’s happening from Canal Street to St. Phillip Street. Follow along below.

Galatoire’s. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Bourbon street standouts

Start with two dining destinations

Right off the bat, Bourbon Street beckons with two dining destinations near the Canal Street Intersection: Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon St.) and Red Fish Grill (115 Bourbon St.).

All summer long through Aug. 31, venerable fine dining spot Galatoire’s offers wine flights of their private label selections for just $15. This is also available at their more casual spinoff, Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak (215 Bourbon St.). What’s more, the clubby, cozy 33 Bar & Steak also offers three appetizers for $33 and all-day happy hour with $5 wines and liquors every day except Friday. Martinis are just $1 during lunch at Galatoire’s on Tuesday-Thursday, and Tuesday-Sunday at 33 Bar & Steak.

Red Fish Grill is home of the barbecue oyster po-boy, a favorite on the festival circuit that you can order in the restaurant any time of year. Part of the Dickie Brennan’s family of restaurants, Red Fish Grill features funky interiors that play to the vibrant, lively scene outside. The Hard Hat Po-Boy Lunch special includes a seafood po-boy ($14.95) or classic po-boy ($12.95) with your choice of Creole potato salad or French fries.

Old Absinthe House. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Mix in some (absinthe) cocktails

Now that you’ve had something to eat, a cocktail is in order. Pair it with a generous dash of history at Old Absinthe House (240 Bourbon St.), a former importing firm where Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson once met to discuss the War of 1812. Today, Old Absinthe House preserves local history alongside the cocktail’s history — check out the absinthe fountain and experience how this notoriously transcendent liquor was traditionally served.

Restaurant R'evolution's Death By Gumbo (photo courtesy of Restaurant R'evolution)
Restaurant R’evolution’s “Death by Gumbo.” (Photo courtesy of Restaurant R’evolution)

Pair nouveau Cajun with classic jazz

The Royal Sonesta Hotel (300 Bourbon St.) houses a dynamic duo alongside sumptuous rooms. From chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto, Restaurant R’Evolution draws patrons locally and beyond (Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan). The wine cellar and commitment to Louisiana flavors run deep at this upscale spot, though you can expect a fanciful take on down-home dishes: “Death by Gumbo,” for example, featuring the favorite stew served inside a stuffed quail.

Overindulgence is practically a prerequisite at R’Evolution, so take it in stride and burn off the calories dancing at the Jazz Playhouse, a jazz club also on the Royal Sonesta property.

Make some quick detours

Though technically not on Bourbon Street, a few places just around the corner on St. Peter Street stand out. Pat O’ Brien’s (718 St. Peter St.) hurricanes are almost as famous as its dueling piano bar, courtyard, and fire fountain. Set aside some time to drink and dance at this New Orleans establishment. You’ll also want to catch a show at Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St.), committed to protecting, preserving, and perpetuating true, traditional New Orleans jazz since 1961. Though Pres Hall’s many musicians travel globally, there’s always someone to hold down the house: shows are offered nightly at 8, 9, and 10 p.m.
Similarly, once you’re back on Bourbon, you can turn off again at Bienville Street for two more must-dos. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar (813 Bienville St.) is a James Beard Award-winning spot slinging classic craft cocktails in intimate, retro confines. Order the namesake drink. GW Fins (808 Bienville St.) is just across the street and exemplifies Gulf to table cooking with Chef Tenney Flynn at the helm.
Cat’s Meow. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Sing (seriously!)

If you’re going out for a night on Bourbon Street, why not go all out? Karaoke at the Cat’s Meow (701 Bourbon St.) is your chance to channel your inner Celine Dion. Plus, you’ll find an array of cocktails to choose from at the bar to assist with any stage fright.

Interior shot at Marie Laveau's. (Photo credit: Christopher Garland.)
Interior shot at Marie Laveau’s. (Photo credit: Christopher Garland.)

Explore the city’s strange magic

The tiny storefront of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo’s (739 Bourbon St.) belies just how much is inside: find spell kits, talismans, Voodoo dolls, literature, and more — not to mention on-site psychic readings. The shop pays homage to New Orleans’ spiritual heritage and to the Voodoo queen herself.

clover grill
The Clover Grill. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Eat 24/7

All-day and all-night eating is already kind of a “thing” in New Orleans, but no one does it quite like Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St.). Get a hamburger no matter what time it is (they’re open 24 hours a day). The cozy, throwback diner setting is perfect after a stretch of drinking and dancing.

Skully’z Recordz. (Photo via Facebook/Mark Millman Photography)

Skip out on Spotify

Eschew streaming for the real deal at Skully’z Recordz (907 Bourbon St.), a compact shop packed tightly with vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes of all genres of music. A fun place to dig around and find your old favorites, or maybe something new.

lafittes blacksmith
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Finish with a purple drink

If your stroll down Bourbon Street doesn’t include a purple drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon St.), you’re just not doing it right. Order this infamous cocktail and admire the establishment: it’s regarded as the oldest structure to be used as a bar in the entire United States. (Nearby Cafe Lafitte in Exile is the oldest gay bar in the U.S.)

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