New Orleans, LA: Bourbon Street vs Frenchmen Street (For Drinking)

If you haven’t heard, New Orleans is a bit of a party town.  So I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you’ll be doing a little drinking while you’re visiting.  But you probably only have a few days and you want to get the FULL party experience, right?  The fame of New Orleans is mostly derived from the infamous Bourbon Street and all the shenanigans that take place there, most notable during their Mardi Gras festival.  But these days it’s very touristy, so where do the locals go?  Where can you find that authentic New Orleans Jazz music?  We asked around and here’s what we found out.

Like anywhere else in the country each neighborhood in New Orleans has its own selection of local bars and clubs.  These places tend to be spread out and cater to a mostly local crowd.  They tend not to be “destination bars” like you find in more popular areas like Bourbon Street, Hollywood or Greenwich Village.  That doesn’t mean you wont have fun, you may just not have the full experience that you’re looking for.

In New Orleans there are two areas that stand out as epicenters of partying and debauchery, where bars and clubs are clustered together and people run the streets belligerent with drinks in hand.  Those areas are Bourbon Street (obviously) and Frenchmen Street.  Here’s the breakdown.

Bourbon Street:

Located in an area of the city called the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is what defines the New Orleans party culture.  It’s most famous for the Mardi Gras festival that happens in early February or late March and the crazy drunken chaos that occurs nearly every day of the week.  On Bourbon Street you’ll find bars, discos, strip clubs and restaurants all right next to each other.  It’s predominantly an area for tourists looking to party, but locals still do show up from time to time.  The music here is mostly cover bands playing mediocre versions of old classics for middle aged partiers.  For good music, see Frenchmen Street.

Despite all the negative things that can be said about Bourbon Street, there is no denying one simple fact.  Bourbon Street is fun!  Crazy drinks, wild people, beads and boobs….Bourbon is still a great place to party.  The trick is that you have to be drunk to enjoy it.

Frenchmen Street:

Located a few blocks away from Bourbon Street in the Marigny district is Frenchmen Street.  It’s so close in fact that most people will take a run through Bourbon Street, make a few turns and end up on Frenchmen Street where the party starts again.  To sum it up, Frenchmen Street is where you go to see music.  Specifically good Jazz and Blues.  This is where the world famous New Orleans music scene can truly be appreciated.  Here you’ll find a number of small dingy venues all clustered together pumping out great tunes.  The bands are often times “unknowns” but still pack a big punch.  Keep in mind that venues on Frenchmen Street will often close earlier than Bourbon….plan on a 2am closing time.  To enjoy Frenchmen Street, you don’t need to be drunk.

That’s pretty much the breakdown of the major New Orleans party areas.  There’s of course a million other bars through out the city, but these two streets will give you the most options.  Have fun and don’t wonder down any dark alleys!  Nawlins can still be a little sketchy at times.

Daniel Royse Written by:

Daniel Royse is the founder and editor in chief of the online travel publication, This Boundless World. He has written numerous articles on travel, business and politics and has recently completed his first full-length novel titled The Watermelon King. Daniel is an obsessive writer and explorer who has backpacked to over 50 countries, spanning five continents. To the disbelief of many, he still enjoys long, hot bus rides through chaotic places. More information about The Watermelon King can be found at Contact: danroyse(to)