The Ultimate Gentleman's Guide To Bourbon Street
Whether you're a Louisiana native or you are a Southern gentleman planning your first trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you absolutely must visit Bourbon Street at least once in your lifetime. Stretching 13 blocks from Canal to Esplanade Avenue, and known for its character, history, nightlife, and shopping, Bourbon Street truly is a place of nonstop partying and events.
First, let's dive into a bit of Bourbon Street history so you can understand the roots of this famous thoroughfare, then we'll walk you through what bars and restaurants you should visit, depending on your own unique Bourbon Street style.
Bourbon Street's French Quarter History
Bourbon Street runs through the French Quarter, which is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, having been founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. The streets of the French Quarter (also known as the Vieux Carré) were named after Catholic saints and the French royal houses. Bourbon Street was named after the House of Bourbon, a royal family in France, and NOT the alcoholic beverage which is commonly consumed there now.
Originally built by the French, after the Seven Years’ War the Spanish gained control of the city. When a fire destroyed most of the Quarter, the Spanish rebuilt it using their own style, thus adding a distinctive Spanish flair to about 80% of the buildings in this neighborhood.
Prior to 1900, Bourbon Street was primarily residential, but after the Storyville red-light district was created nearby in the late 1800s and early 1900s, all that changed. Galatoire's Restaurant, located at 209 Bourbon Street, was established in 1905, and though Storyville was eventually forced to close, the restaurants and bars on Bourbon Street continued to flourish.
During the early 20th century, vaudeville acts on Bourbon Street flourished, and throughout the 1940s and 1950s, you could find countless nightclubs featuring burlesque shows, striptease acts, and exotic dancers on Bourbon Street.
Nowadays, Bourbon Street is a popular tourist spot for shoppers, revelers, and bar hoppers. The street features everything from upscale Creole restaurants like Galatoire's to karaoke bars, souvenir shops, and dance clubs. If it's your first time exploring Bourbon Street, the options may seem overwhelming but we're here to help.
Where to day drink on Bourbon Street.
Visiting Bourbon Street on a beautiful weekend day when the weather is wonderful? Many of the most popular Bourbon Street bars offer courtyard seating, perfect for enjoying the weather.
Pat O'Briens is the quintessential Bourbon Street courtyard hangout. No trip to the French Quarter is complete without sipping a Hurricane cocktail in the place that invented them. The Courtyard Grill at Bourbon Heat is another great place to relax with a glass of wine or beer while you refuel with a burger or nachos.
While it doesn't offer a courtyard per se, on nice days Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop offers outdoor seating and it's worth a visit no matter what the weather. This historic destination is the oldest building that has served as a bar in North America.
Where to go on Bourbon Street with your frat brothers for a bachelor party.
If you're visiting Bourbon Street for the ultimate party experience with your fraternity brothers or for a bachelor party, you've got plenty of choices to choose from. Fuel up for a night of fun at Remoulade restaurant, then grab a hand grenade at Tropical Isle from one of 5 different locations: 435, 600, 610, 721, or 727 Bourbon Street. You might want to check out Bourbon Cowboy, which features a mechanical bull, or Cat's Meow, which offers nightly karaoke, as many sorority girls and bachelorette parties end up here.
When you're ready to finish off the night, you may want to head back to the end of Bourbon Street closest to Canal, as most of the strip clubs are located there including Penthouse Club, Rick's Cabaret, and Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club.
How to experience a taste of old-school Bourbon Street.
If your tastes are more of the seersucker variety, it's entirely possible to have an elegant evening on Bourbon Street. Start off with dinner at Galatoire's 33 Bar & Steak, the steakhouse sister of the famous historic restaurant where you can indulge in classics like Galatoire's Turtle Soup or Lobster Thermidor.
Next, listen to some Dixieland jazz at Fritzel's European Jazz Pub or catch a performance of the legendary French Quarter burlesque performer, Chris Owens at Chris Owens Club & Balcony. Finish off your night at the Old Absinthe House, which dates back to 1806. The copper-topped wooden bar is a sight in itself whether you partake in the green fairy or not. You'll be in good company when you drink here, as the bar has hosted many famous patrons throughout its history including Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Enrico Caruso, General Robert E Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra.
Where to go for gay nightlife on Bourbon Street.
The area around Bourbon Street and St. Ann is known among locals as the "Lavender Line" for its cluster of gay bars. Oz and Bourbon Pub/Parade feature dancing, drag shows and other entertainment. Not to be confused with Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Cafe Lafitte in Exile stays open 25/7 and is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country. In the past, it has played host to famous authors such as Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote when they were in town.
Ready to hit Bourbon Street in style?
It doesn't matter whether you're exploring Bourbon Street with your frat brothers or taking your lady (or guy!) out for a night of fun, we can help you suit up in style. With everything from our signature crawfish polo shirts to sport shirts and button down dress shirts, you'll want to pay a visit to our French Quarter location at 600 Decatur Street inside of Jax Brewery before heading out for the night. You can also shop online.