city in Louisiana does not rest for much. A night out could involve a poetry
slam, appreciating a bartender’s skills and jukebox’s eclectic mix in a
neighbourhood bar then finishing up in a jazz joint where locals jam until
Twelve Mile Limit is simply a great bar. It’s a neighbourhood joint in Mid-City
so you’ll need to make a special trip there, but the mixed drinks are excellent
(strong), the cocktails creative and the vibe is accepting. The barbecue is
spot on – try the pulled pork – plus they host free buffet dinners on Monday
nights (00 1 504 488 8114; 500 S Telemachus St; draught beers £1.90).
at St. Joe’s Bar could well be the best in town, and the jukebox is well
stocked with jazz, rock and blues. Patrons are in their 20s and 30s, friendly
and chatty, as are the staff. Although narrow in front, the bar extends past a
series of faux-Catholic shrines into a wide backyard with a Southeast Asian
feel. Perfect for one of those mojitos or a beer – Nola and Abita are the
popular local breweries (5535 Magazine St; Abita beers from
Blacksmith Shop, located in a gutted brick cottage, is thought to be the oldest
working bar in the country and one of the most atmospheric in the French
Quarter. The house dates back to the 18th century and rumours suggest it was
once the workshop of pirates Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre. Gather round
the back-room piano to sing along to Fats Domino and Otis Redding (941 Bourbon St; beers from £3).
There might be bigger venues but overall Snug Harbor is the best jazz club in
the city. That’s partly because it usually hosts doubleheaders, giving you a
good dose of variety, and partly because the talent is kept to an admirable mix
of reliable legends and hot up-and-comers. It’s a swish, martini sort of place
so get dressed up (626 Frenchmen St; tickets from £10).
Tipi Tina’s, or ‘Tip’s’, is one of the musical greats of New Orleans. The legendary
nightclub is the site of some of the city’s most memorable shows, particularly
when big names such as Dr John come home to roost. Outstanding jazz, blues,
soul and funk from the local talent pool still draw a lively crowd year-round,
and the joint really jumps in the weeks prior to Mardi Gras and during Jazz
fest (501 Napoleon Ave; tickets from £10).
A night at
the Rock ‘n’ Bowl is a New Orleans must – a strange and wonderful combination
of bowling alley, deli and huge live-music and dance venue, where you can get
down to New Orleans roots music. The best time and place in the city to
experience zydeco – a type of Cajun dance music – is the weekly Thursday night
dance party held here (3000 S Carrollton Ave; Thursday night
tickets £7.50, bowling £15 per hour, shoe rental 65p).
Housed in the old Marquer Drugstore, the Shadowbox Theatre regularly features
plays written and performed by locals, as well as established shows from
outside the city. There’s an indie flavour to what’s on offer, and the theatre
also hosts poetry slams and the New Orleans Fringe (2400 St Claude Ave; tickets from £3).
theatre, by its nature, can be hit or miss, but The New Movement is a high hitter.
The company has a cast of regular players from the area and a stable schedule
of classes that train new talent in the art of off-the-cuff new comedy. The
theatre hosts regular shows, usually around 9pm or later (1919 Burgundy St; tickets from £3).
Depression-era slang, ‘mudlarks’ were orphans, which sets an appropriate tone
for this cast of punky bohemians and their theatre of fantasy. Surreal giant
puppets adorn the walls of the Mudlark Theatre and even take to the stage. The
theatre also hosts performance art and fringe shows (see Facebook for schedule; 1200 Port St; suggested cover £6).
There are no direct flights to New Orleans from the UK. Airlines including
American Airlines (with a BA codeshare), Air Canada, Delta, United and US
Airways fly to New Orleans from UK airports with a change in US or Canadian
cities (from £620). Jefferson Transit’s E2 airport bus will take
you downtown (£1.20). The Regional Transit Authority runs the local bus service and streetcars – single fares are 80p
plus 15p for transfers. A one-day Jazzy pass is available for £1.90. You can
also hire a bike (half day £15).
Where to stay
The Auld Sweet Olive Bed & Breakfast feels right out of Mardi Gras – the
large parlour resembles a banana-tree jungle and the soaking-tub room is
painted to look like a night sky (2460 N Rampart St; from £65).
Hotel is an 1883 white-porched mansion with 19 rooms beyond a magnificent
mahogany staircase. To soak up late-night revelry from the front porch ask for
a second floor front room (3811 St Charles Ave; suite from
Cottages you can sleep in immaculately restored French Quarter buildings.
You’ll have your own saltwater pool, attentive staff and a peaceful retreat
close to all the action (509 Dauphine St; from £180).
The article 'Mini guide to New Orleans nightlife' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.