New Orleans nightlife is infamous for its unique party culture — especially surrounding Mardi Gras — but there’s so much more to the city than jazz, booze and party beads.
Looking for things to do in New Orleans at night? Read on for our full guide, with answers to all of your NOLA nightlife FAQs. When you’re ready, plan your trip with Fora and get VIP hotel perks at no extra cost, plus expert travel recommendations.
First of all, yes! Carnival Season (Mardi Gras) is the best time to experience New Orleans’ nightlife
Nightlife enthusiasts often wonder, when is the best time to go to New Orleans to experience that energy? Unsurprisingly, New Orleans’ nightlife is practically synonymous with Mardi Gras — or more accurately, Carnival Season — which runs from early January through mid-to-late March.
The season is marked by constant parades, festivals and near-endless partying — especially in the city’s most iconic districts.
Whereis New Orleans nightlife at its best?
Whether you’re planning the ultimate bachelor party or a girls’ trip to New Orleans, it pays to know where New Orleans nightlife is at its best.
Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is the most famous
Bourbon Street is almost like a mini, Southern Las Vegas. There are clubs and pubs, and you can drink in public. Expect a steady crowd of people at all hours, but especially at night. Live music tends to be a constant during Carnival Season.
After dark, the street veers risqué, so it may not be the best place to take your kids (check out our guide to the best family hotels in New Orleans, if you’re planning a family trip). There are plenty of things to do in New Orleans at night that are a bit more family-friendly, if that’s your vibe.
The Central Business & Warehouse Districts are always lively at night
The Central Business and Warehouse Districts make up New Orleans’ downtown area. These two neighborhoods are among the best areas to stay in New Orleans, as they provide elite access to virtually the entire city.
We generally recommend staying in either district if you want to enjoy New Orleans’ nightlife. You’ll find most of the best boutique hotels in New Orleans here, not to mention the city’s best clubs (read on for our favorites), fine dining and more.
Don’t forget, unlock perks and more when you book with Fora. From unforgettable New Orleans girls’ getaways to personalized itineraries, like this 3-day New Orleans itinerary, there’s no better way to travel.
Frenchman Street in Marigny offers a classic New Orleans nightlife experience
One of the more unique places to stay in New Orleans, Marigny has more of a local flair to it than the downtown districts or the French Quarter. The music halls and bars have a low-key vibe, and local artists regularly perform in the streets, particularly along Frenchman Street, Marigny’s hub.
In other words, this is where to go if you want to check out the most authentic version of New Orleans’ nightlife. That’s not to say that the French Quarter and high-rise districts aren’t worth visiting, but they do tend to attract the most tourist crowds.
New Orleans Nightlife: the best bars, restaurants & laid-back music halls
For a full list of the best bars, restaurants and music halls, you’ll want to chat with a New Orleans trip planner. That said, here are a few famous places with a laid-back vibe that offer awesome things to do in NOLA by night (and are a bit more low-key).
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro
Arguably Marigny’s most famous venue, the award-winning Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro opened in 1983. Enjoy authentic Creole food to the tune of live local jazz artists.
The Gold Mine Saloon
The Gold Mine Saloon is an eclectic place, but that’s part of its classic NOLA charm. You’re just as likely to hear a poetry reading as you are DJs blasting beats to a busy dancehall.
Bonus points: The Gold Mine Saloon also happens to be the birthplace of the flaming Dr. Pepper cocktail, continuing New Orleans’ longstanding contributions to mixology.
From the outside, you wouldn’t know that Preservation Hall is one of New Orleans’ most famous jazz venues. But the rundown-verging-on-condemned façade and interior is not to be missed.
World-class jazz musicians play almost every night of the year, and all ages are welcome.
New Orleans Nightlife: the best clubs
Looking for the most electric New Orleans nightlife experience? The city’s top clubs are among the best in the American South.
Remember: book with Fora and an advisor will give you the intel on all the best spots for cocktails, dancing and beyond.
The Spotted Cat Music Club
A New Orleans staple, The Spotted Cat Music Club — or “the Cat” among locals — is a cash-only jazz club-slash-bar in Marigny with a revered reputation as one of the best hangouts in the city.
The Cat only serves drinks, so you’ll want to grab a bite first (there are plenty of great options on Frenchman Street), but otherwise, this is a fantastic spot to see local NOLA at its best.
A warehouse-turned-nightclub, Republic NOLA is a Warehouse District highlight featuring a wide variety of acts — including comedy and fashion shows — in addition to great music. Expect bass-heavy beats, great cocktails and a popping dance floor.
The Metropolitan at Generations Hall
Part of Generations Hall, The Metropolitan is a two-story club with VIP sections and some big names — like Steve Aoki and Diplo — to go along with its regular lineup of local DJs and artists. It’s not always open, so check in with a Fora Advisor if you’re interested.
More things to do in New Orleans at night
Looking for things to do in New Orleans at night that don’t involve a DJ or jazz trio? Read on.
Cabaret / burlesque shows
Cabaret clubs are another (21+) New Orleans nightlife staple.
The AllWays Lounge & Cabaret is a stand-out location with a huge range of shows ranging from elegant and classy to outright raunchy, plus everything in between. This LGBTQ+ friendly club and theater in Marigny is among the city’s most popular, but if you’re looking for something slightly more relaxed, the Burgundy Bar near The Ritz-Carlton is another reputable space.
Ghost tours / haunted night tours
New Orleans has a love affair with all things occult. Haunted tours will take you to all sorts of spooky places, like haunted mansions, (alleged) vampire dwellings and more. Some tours feed into the mystery while others offer more historical accounts.
Gambling is legal in New Orleans, with Harrah’s being the most notable option in the city itself. If you don’t mind a drive, though, there’s a slate of seaside options in up-and-coming Biloxi, Mississippi.
Check out the best of New Orleans nightlife when you book with a Fora Advisor
Eager to try out all the coolest things to do in New Orleans at night? Book your trip with Fora and your advisor will ensure you get to experience all the the very best things to do in New Orleans at night.