The Bourbon Street Survival Guide
By: Valeria Ramos
Bourbon Street is the only place in the world where you can dance your way down 13 urine-scented city blocks with the biggest smile on your face, watch as men and women flash their bodies for beads without blinking an eye, and party like it’s Mardi on any day of the week.
Before my first trip to New Orleans, I read up on a couple of travel guides, many of which suggested one day on Bourbon Street would be more than enough thrill for a week-long vacation. Others defined this popular tourist attraction as tacky and grimy. However, I must disclaim that as a 21-year-old, I ate (or more literally drank) Bourbon Street right up.
For four nights in a row, my friends and I soaked up all the neon bars, clubs, drinks, and street food this place had to offer and did it (for the most part) without finding ourselves in any trouble. Whether you’re a college student or not if you’re headed to Bourbon Street for a good time, here are five things you should know before partying in the Big Easy’s most notorious street.
Travel in a pack
Staying in a group from bar to bar is the best way to avoid losing a member of your drinking crew or coming into contact with any seedy people. More importantly, however, was the fact that everyone in our group had only one goal in mind: to have fun. I suggest going to Bourbon Street with your friends who like to party, will sit on a curb and eat greasy food with you, and can rally well into the hours of the morning.
The drinking rules
There are none. New Orleans’ public drinking laws allow you to take your cup from any bar and walk right out with it (as long as it’s in a plastic cup). I have to admit, leaving brunch with a mimosa to-go was a pretty satisfying feeling. This also results in the streets between bars themselves feeling like a party. When everyone is strolling through Bourbon Street with drinks in their hands, don’t be surprised if you get caught up in a dance party or jazz parade right in the middle of the street.
Don’t forget to eat and hydrate
This tip may sound like common sense, but there is something about being on Bourbon Street that makes common sense go right out the window. If you’re drinking from noon till the a.m., taking food and water breaks between barhopping will save you from morning regret. I can remember feeling sick after too many cocktails and downing a hand grenade a little too fast, but after drinking a water bottle and eating what I felt then was the most delicious hot dog of my life, I was good as new and ready to bounce to the next bar.
Best bars and drinks
Tropical Isle: Home of Bourbon Street’s famous Hand Grenades. Don’t be fooled by the sweet taste and whimsy cups—these drinks pack a punch.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: This place takes its name from pirate Jean Lafitte who is said to still haunt his old stomping grounds. As the oldest building that has served as a bar in the country, this place and its piano bar should not be missed. If you’re feeling brave, order a Hurricane. You’ll also want to check out Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House, where legend has it Lafitte and Andrew Jackson negotiated a treaty during the Battle of New Orleans in 1812. The Absinthe Frappe is said to have been a favorite of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.
The World Famous Cat’s Meow: A trip to Bourbon Street isn’t complete until you’ve stopped at the Cat’s Meow for karaoke. This place is full of friendly drunks cheering each other on and their 3-for-1 happy hour from noon to 8:00 pm makes it the perfect place to get your party started!
Willie’s Chicken Shack: Yes, I’m aware NOLA is home to 5-star cuisine, but when you’re drunk and need something to help you rally until the hours of the morning, Willie’s chicken hits the spot.
Saints & Sinners: Channing Tatum’s Saints & Sinners is a restaurant by day, party house by night. Along with Razoo’s, this little house was our favorite place to dance on Bourbon Street.
Musical Legends Park: If you want to sit down and listen to some live jazz, this outdoor bar is the place to be. With statues of local musical legends around this park, you can’t miss it. Bring your to-go cup and some beignets and let the good times roll.
Keep your things close
Because this rumbling city area is filled with drunk tourists, Bourbon Street can be home to pick-pocketers looking for easy targets. Keeping your wallet, phone, bag, etc. close to you is something you should be aware of at all times, especially if you plan on taking shots and dancing on stages.