While the attractions of Bourbon Street are legendary, from all-night clubs and a lack of open container laws to upscale restaurants and entertaining buskers, the party in New Orleans isn't confined to just one single block. In fact, locals and in-the-know visitors tend to eschew the tourist-oriented bars, clubs and restaurants of Bourbon Street and head out to a few of the more interesting neighborhoods of the city to party there instead. Here are four of the best New Orleans streets to experience local culture, grab a drink and party like a true denizen of the Crescent City.
Past the downriver end of the French Quarter just across Esplanade Avenue lies a neighborhood called Faubourg Marigny, home to the popular live-music mecca Frenchmen Street. Whether you're looking for a soulful jazz performance or want to immerse yourself in the more artsy side of New Orleans culture, this is the place to go. Locals pack the Spotted Cat Music Club late into the night to hear local traditional jazz bands in a speakeasy-like atmosphere, or cross the street for a more laid-back musical experience at d.b.a., Three Muses or Snug Harbor. If your musical adventures make you hungry, indulge in some local Creole flavor at The Praline Connection or head to the back of Cafe Negril for an inexpensive meal of quesadillas and burritos cooked to order while you enjoy the reggae, funk or blues band playing up front. Between bar hopping and sampling the culinary delights of Frenchmen Street, don't neglect to check out the Frenchmen Art Market, an open-air art sale where you can find everything from classy paintings and framed photos to eclectic jewelry and hand-carved wooden bow ties.
After spending the day on a Hurricane Katrina Tour to learn about the devastation that occurred throughout the city in 2005, head down to St. Claude Avenue to get a close-up look at how the nightlife scene has recovered as residents rebuilt, new citizens moved in and tourists rediscovered the downriver section of the city. During the recovery, the locals-only vibe moved rapidly outward from the French Quarter and Marigny into the area called the Bywater. St. Claude Avenue, which stretches along the edge of both the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, is the central party point of this "new-New-Orleans" bohemia where dive bars, live music venues, creative concept restaurants and experimental art galleries converge. The AllWays Lounge and Theater is the place to catch live plays, erotic poetry open mike nights and themed burlesque shows, while the club Siberia hosts regular metal acts and has a Polish cuisine pop-up restaurant hidden away in the back. The St. Roch market on St. Claude Avenue has stalls selling everything from crepes to crab cakes, or you can pick up a gyro sandwich and a local craft beer at Kebab, which also sports a room full of restored pinball machines and overly friendly cashiers who will insist you douse your meal in the house-made spicy coconut kebab sauce before taking a bite.
In-the-know locals out for a good time in New Orleans often look upriver to the recently redeveloped Freret Street corridor. This street lies between Napoleon Avenue and Jefferson Avenue just north of the Uptown neighborhood, where you can see the most gorgeous homes in the city on a Garden District and Mansion Walking Tour. Many Uptown residents choose Freret Street as their go-to nightlife hotspot because if its welcoming atmosphere and varied entertainment offerings. From a casual meal of gourmet hot dogs or alligator sausage at Dat Dog to upscale craft cocktails at the date-night favorite Cure, Freret street has something for everyone. La Nuit comedy theater hosts live local comedy acts, while Gasa Gasa and Freret Public House both have live bands and strong drinks. If you need some downtime between shows, head to Mojo's Coffee House for a perfect pour-over or hand-pulled espresso drink before you wander down Freret to experience your next adventure.
Oak Street is best described as eclectic, and in a city with as many unusual venues as New Orleans, this is a distinct compliment. Located in the Leonidas area of town at the bend in the river just past Uptown and the Garden District, Oak Street venues range from an upscale wine bar to a corner coffee shop in an old converted bank building. Jacques-Imo's is the place to sample alligator cheesecake and soft-shelled crab, and Cowbell has one of the best burgers in New Orleans. While Oak Street is always worth a visit, the street really shines during the many festivals that shut down the roads and create an instant block party atmosphere. During Mid Summer Mardi Gras in late August, locals turn out in costume to watch and join in with the brass bands, sci-fi themed sub-krewes and choreographed dance teams that make up the official parade, which starts at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street. The Po-Boy Festival on Oak Street in November and assorted smaller street parties throughout the year give you even more opportunities to dance in the middle of the road to the sounds of roving musicians while sipping a local beer and sampling Nola-style street foods.
No matter which New Orleans neighborhood you end up on, you're bound to encounter something you've never seen, heard or experienced before. Whether it's a group of locals pulling you into their impromptu parade, a bartender spinning tall tales about the origin of her signature cocktail or an intriguing menu item that everyone seems to be raving about, there are plenty of adventures awaiting you on the streets of New Orleans.