Bourbon Street in New Orleans
Bourbon Street, one of the thoroughfares to not miss in the United States. Many people wouldn’t realize it is not named after the whiskey, but after the royal french house, because so much of that liquor is consumed on this infamous 13 block long street. There is more to do than just consume alcohol on this strip. It is known for it’s music, and live entertainment clubs of the adult variety. Also, the cuisine will tempt your palate or help you sober up. Maybe you wanna check out some old Voodoo haunts, dance on the street, or peak in a laire of debauchery, here is your guide to the best of Bourbon.
History of Bourbon Street
When visiting New Orleans, there is one street you won’t miss: Bourbon Street. For those of you, who ever wondered why it is called Bourbon Street, we can assure you, it is not named after the famous whiskey (though that interpretation would make sense for everybody coming to New Orleans).
Bourbon Street in New Orleans is a homage to France’s ruling family at that time, the House of Bourbon. The royal engineer, Adrien de Pauger who designed the city’s street layout in a grid system in 1721, named all the streets in the French Quarter parallel to Bourbon Street after French royal houses. (BTW – Streets parallel to Canal Street in the French Quarter are named after Catholic saints.) In 1803, after the Louisiana Purchase , translation occurred and Rue Bourbon became Bourbon Street in New Orleans. So when you wander through the streets of the French Quarter, you will still find the Rue Bourbon plaques.
The street remained residential until 1900. In fact, some of New Orleans’ oldest families are still living in spaces above and behind the more prevalent bars. In 1905, Jean Galatoire open his name-sake restaurants and shortly after, commercial properties attracting tourists started to pour into the once residential area.
After World War I, the French Quarter became even more of a revenue source for the city and establishments began to open up left and right. During World War II, there was opportunity to make big bucks off of the people travelling in and out of the city on war time business or personal reasons. Tawdry adult-centered nightclubs, jazz halls and beer joints began to open up. Over 50 different burlesque shows, striptease acts and exotic dancers could be found there. Some would argue a New Storyville erupted on Bourbon Street.
Today despite the popularity of Larry Flynt establishments and 3 for 1 beer specials, you can appreciate the unique New Orleans experiences on Bourbon Street.
How to Get Here
Bourbon Street is conveniently located in the heart of the French Quarter. It is just 4 blocks north of the Mississippi River and 2 block north of Jackson Square. There are several bus stops and cable car stops nearby.
These are our favorite restaurants on Bourbon Street. However, be sure to check out some of our other posts for suggestions on where to eat and drink.
- New Orleans Culinary History Tour
- Where to Eat the Best Gumbo in New Orleans
- New Orleans Cocktails and Drinking Guide
- Self-Guided Cocktails Drinking Tour
1. Galitoires – 209 Bourbon: Over a century old this fine dining restaurant is a must for lunch. Known for their charismatic waiters most choose to dine at the lunch hour. Jackets are required for me.
2. Clover Grill – 900 Bourbon St: This greasy spoon burger joint cooks em under hubcabs. At the end of the gay district of the French Quarter, their waiters are all known and loved by locals. An eclectic jukebox sets all different types in unison howls.
3. Ali-Bobas – 734 St. Peters: Right of Bourbon Street locals, bar employees, and those tourists in the know stop at this counter service joint. Their Gyros are served quick and are delicious. Fight off that hangover!
Here is a list of the top 3 attractions to see on Bourbon Street. However, if you want to explore a bit more, then check out any of the following posts:
- Things to Do in the French Quarter
- Things to Do in NOLA at Night
- Best Free (and Almost Free) Things to Do in NOLA
1. Music Legends Park – 311 Bourbon: This courtyard has statues of famous New Orleans musicians from NOLA including, Pete Fountain, Louis Prima, and Allen Toussaint. This is a great place to sit. You do not have to purchase anything at Cafe Beignet, but if you want to it’s there.
2. Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo – 739 Bourbon St: Voodoo isn’t all about hexes and curses. This shop touted as being possibly the home of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, This a great place to browse, and possibly bring some gris-gris or a deity home.
3. Former Location of Big Daddy’s – 522 Bourbon Street: Once the premiere adult entertainment venues on Bourbon the famous house of ill repute closed in 2014. But, you can still find it and view the famous legs with high heels on that swing in and out of the current establishment. Ask someone who walked down Bourbon back in the day they will mention “the legs”.
Music Venues & Bars
There are many incredible music venues and bars in New Orleans, especially around Bourbon Street. Below we’ve listed some of our favorite places to frequent in the city. For more information on NOLA’s impressive music scene, check out our post on the Top 12 Places to See Live Music in New Orleans.
Top 40 Music Venues
1. The Famous Door – 339 Bourbon St: If you wanna sing along with the crowd while dancing to American Pop Classics “The Door” has a great house band. If you are lady be assured you will be asked to dance to Mustang Sally by a gentleman.
2. Razoo’s – 511 Bourbon: Razoo’s has been a main stay for Louisianians for over 20 years. Wanna party with local bachelorettes? Or, dance the night away with a family from down the bayou? This is the place. Always playing current hits people will be hootin and hollerin about.
3. Fat Catz on Bourbon – 440 Bourbon: Shot girls, live music and dancing are what you expect to find at Catz. Not the classiest of joints, if we’re honest, but a good place to end your night.
1. Preservation Hall – 726 St. Peter St: Right around the corner from Bourbon is Preservations Hall, which is considered the premier location to hear Jazz. Check out our helpful blog post on Preservation Hall to learn more.
2. Fritzel’s – 733 Bourbon St: Fritzel’s is the hold out for Dixieland Jazz, that got its start in The Big Easy. If you need a break from the crowds there is some beautiful Clarinet played here.
3. Irvin Mayfield’s Play House – 300 Bourbon St: Currently one of the most influential trumpet players in the city, Irvin plays at his club. When he is not he is sure to book some of the most classical jazz artists in the city.
1. Oz – 800 Bourbon St: This 2 story 24/7 club is repeatedly voted the best gay bar in the United States. Dance the night away, and the morning, with some of the most beautiful men in the city. Don’t forget to tip the GoGo Dancers!
2. The Pub – 801 Bourbon St: Across the street from Oz is “The Pub”. A great place to day drink, at night they often have award-winning Drag and Burlesque Show, for a minimal cover charge.
3. Napolean’s Itch – 734 Bourbon St: Known to have the cleanest bathrooms on Bourbon Street, this dance club is known for it’’s annual pride festivities, and be a favorite amongst the ladies, despite the name.
Though not appropriate for all visitors to Bourbon Street, strip clubs are a big part of New Orleans’ history and therefore worth mentioning for those that are interested. There are 3 main strip clubs in the area.
- Penthouse: 727 Iberville St.
- Rick’s Cabaret: 315 Bourbon St
- Deja Vu: 226 Bourbon St.