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What to do in New Orleans Tonight

Updated: May 12, 2023

In this article, we cover some of best things to do at night in New Orleans.

We include a top 10 list, as well as free things to do, family-friendly activities, and more.

For tips on the most popular activities in the Crescent City, check out our posts on:

And if you are considering at least two of NOLA's popular paid attractions and tours, then learn how you could save between 15-50% off of the retail ticket prices.


Below are our top 10 activities to do after dark in New Orleans. 

If you're curious about some of the better events and activities you can enjoy tonight, the following calendar provides information about free tours, notable concerts, theatrical events and more.

1. Take a Night Tour 

There are several different night tours available in New Orleans. Experience the unique architecture of this city after dark on one of the following outings.

We offer pay-what-you-wish ghost tours and cemetery tours which take place after dark. We also offer voodoo tours that cover subjects such as the life of Marie Laveau!

If you don’t feel like walking, consider taking a cemetery & ghost bus tour instead.

There is also a sightseeing Segway tour which runs from 6 pm - 8 pm as well as pub crawl and cocktail history tours.

2. Listen to Live Music 

There are a lot of great places to listen to music in New Orleans.

You might even stumble into some people playing live music on Bourbon Street or Frenchman Street!

There are also free and affordable music festivals held throughout the year, including Jazz in the Park (video below).

For more details on this and the venues where you can expect to hear some excellent tunes, check our post on live music in New Orleans.

3. Take a Night Swamp Trip

A swamp tour can be great family fun on any day, but when the sun goes down everything seems to change.

The more adventurous crowds out there might want to consider taking a night swamp tour for a completely different experience.

Using a powerful light, a tour guide will take you around the swamps of New Orleans and reveal what the wildlife does after the sun goes down.

Expect to see at least a few alligators on this trip! The night swamp tours run from June through October. Learn more here.

Check our comparison post on New Orleans swamp tours for all types of options.

4. Take a Riverboat Cruise 

There are a few different riverboats in New Orleans and they all offer jazz dinner cruises.

Most depart at 7 pm and runs until 9 pm allowing you to catch the sunset and watch the city lights up all while listening to great New Orleans music. 

Both tourist attraction discount passes offer a jazz cruise for free. For more details, check out our post on New Orleans city passes.

If you want a more affordable option, consider hopping on the $2 Canal Street/Algiers Point ferry, which offers pretty great views of the city during sunset and after dark. 

5. Attend a Sporting Event 

New Orleans is the home of at least a few notable sports teams including the Saints and the Pelicans.

While the Saints may just offer a couple of night games each year, the Pelicans offer regular games after dark. 

In addition to these professional teams, you can also see some of the best young and upcoming stars of the future playing for the Tulane Green Wave NCAA Football team or the Tulane Green Wave NCAA Basketball team.

6. See a Burlesque Show 

The art of burlesque has a long and interesting history in New Orleans, so it makes sense that there are quite a few places where you can catch a live show.

Some popular venues (such as the House of Blues) even have their own in-house troupe which performs on a regular basis.

Thanks to a recent revival, burlesque shows are more popular in NOLA than ever before.

You’ll even find a few locations taking a neo-burlesque approach with a brand of entertainment that is very similar to circus arts.

If you’re in the mood for a fun and interesting night on the town, check this list of the Top 10 Burlesque Shows in New Orleans.

7. Grab a Cocktail 

New Orleans has an interesting history with cocktails, as many popular drinks were actually invented here.

Whether you plan on doing a pub crawl (see #2 above) or you’re just going to go out for a nice dinner, keep your eyes peeled for classic cocktails created in NOLA such as:

  • Hurricane
  • Sazerac
  • Ramos Gin Fizz
  • Roffignac
  • Café Brûlot

We have even put together a self-guided cocktail tour of New Orleans or learn about the 12 must-try New Orleans cocktails and which locations specialize in them.

TIP: Head to Hotel Monteleone to experience the only Carousel Bar in New Orleans!

Saenger Theater

8. See a Live Show 

There are plenty of great venues and theaters in New Orleans, and they often play host to several notable performances.

Whether you feel like going to a concert or a play, there are usually several different options throughout the year.

Keep an eye out for fun and interesting shows at the following locations:

9. Dinner and Dancing

Whether you’re looking for a more formal experience or you just want to have some fun, there are several great locations to grab a bite to eat and do some dancing.

One of the more interesting options is Rock n’ Bowl, a venue that is part-restaurant, part-bowling alley, and part dance club. 

Mulates is another popular restaurant that offers live music every night. The Maison offers dinner shows almost every night, giving guests the opportunity to hear live jazz while enjoying their meal.

If you’re only looking for a light meal, you might also want to consider Mimi’s in the Marigny. This bar offers drinks and tapas downstairs with DJ music and dancing upstairs!

These are only a few of your options in New Orleans, but there are many more to consider. For more ideas, here is a list of the best places for dancing in NOLA.

10. Go to a Casino 

Located right in the heart of New Orleans, Harrah’s Casino is definitely one of the more popular spots in this city to visit after dark.

In addition to gambling and games, they also host several events throughout the year including the World Series of Poker tournament!

You could also play the slots and bet on horses at the Fairgrounds Racetrack. Horses race from November through March, but the slot machines run all year.

Honorable Mentions

Play the Escape Game

Escape rooms are one of the most popular forms of entertainment because you work together to find clues and solve puzzles in a limited time to 'escape the room'.

The Escape Game has a few different themed-rooms: Special OpsThe Heist, Playground and Prison Break.

Their night hours run quite late, and you can book a slot as late 11:55 pm

Better still, The Escape Game experience is included in some New Orleans discount tourist passes like the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass.

Sleepover at a Plantation

Have you ever gone to a historic house and say … “I’d like to live here”? Well, you can! For one night at least as Oak Alley Plantation and Inn has rentable cottages on the grounds.  

The cottages range from centuries-old to modern deluxe accommodation.

You can learn all about Oak Alley Plantation on our post or read our guide to all of the plantations just outside of New Orleans.


This section will provide several different ideas to consider. Each option on this list is free and entertaining.

Check our other sections for additional budget-friendly options.

We also offer a master post on free things to do in New Orleans

1. Enjoy a Live Comedy Show

Several clubs actually offer free comedy shows throughout the week.

There may be a cover charge and drinks will not be included, but this is definitely a fun and affordable activity after dark.

For more information on free comedy shows, visit our post about free things to do in New Orleans.

2. Stroll Along the Moonwalk

There is a wonderful promenade called the Moonwalk which stretches across several blocks of the French Quarter.

This brick walkway runs along the Mississippi River and provides excellent views of both the water and the city.

You’ll see sites such as the Joan of Arc Statue, the Steamboat Natchez, Harrah’s Casino and Jackson Square

3. Listen to Street Music

You can usually find at least one or two people playing street music as you walk down Frenchmen/Bourbon Street.

You may also want to stop by Jackson Square to check and see if anyone is playing there.

For more information, read our post about free live music in New Orleans.

4. Go People Watching

There are a lot of interesting people in New Orleans which make this one of the best cities to go people watching.

You’re likely to see all kinds of street performers and other interesting faces as you wander around the French Quarter.

In fact, this free activity is arguably the best things to do at night in the French Quarter.

If you’re looking for more places to take in the nightlife of this city, consider visiting some of the following locations:

5. Visit the Jackson Square Cats

When the sun goes down, Jackson Square tends to fill up with cats from all over the city.

Nobody knows exactly why they’ve chosen this park as their home, but something keeps them coming back every night.

Whatever the reasons behind this, cat lovers may want to take a chance and visit the park at night to see if they can spot any feline friends.

For more fun things to see and do in the area, check out our post about Jackson Square.

6. Check Out Palace Market

If you’re interested in seeing some of the artwork created by locals, the Palace Market is an absolute must.

They have a rotating list of over 100+ artists who create and sell a variety of items for visitors.

You don’t have to pay anything to walk through the market and just take a look at everything creative on display, but don’t be surprised if you are tempted to pull out your wallet!

The Palace Market is open until midnight or later 7 days a week and is located on the live-music rich Frenchmen Street.

7. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum

Most museums aren’t open late, and they definitely aren’t free – but there is one, the Mardi Gras Museum, which you can visit at night without paying a dime.

Arnaud’s Restaurant has its own exhibit featuring several historic artifacts from throughout Mardi Gras history in the 20th Century.

Guests don’t even have to pay for a meal in order to see this museum, and it is open during the restaurant’s operational hours (until 10 pm on most nights).

Click here for a list of additional museums and attractions in New Orleans that are free to visit.

8. Enjoy Free Seasonal Music Events

In addition to the live musicians you’ll often find in the French Quarter, there are also several free seasonal music events throughout the year.

Keep an eye out for the following opportunities:

  • Wednesdays in the Park – Spring
  • Jazz in the Park – Early Summer
  • Music Under the Oaks – Spring
  • Bon Operatit! – At least one show per month

9. Learn How to Jitterbug

If you really want to get involved and experience the culture of New Orleans, this may be one of the best free activities in the city.

The NOLA Jitterbugs provide a free dance class every week which you can drop in and attend without paying a dime.

Learn how to dance the Jitterbug while listening to a live jazz band for free at the Allways Lounge every Sunday at 8 pm.

10. Take a Fun and Affordable Ride

Although they aren’t free, tickets for both the streetcars and the ferry are very cheap ($3).

Visitors who choose to hop on the streetcar can ride around the French Quarter in style while enjoying the sights and sounds of this historic district.

It’s also a handy way to get around town, with stops very close to several popular destinations.

The Algiers Point ferry offers a great low price alternative to the typical riverboat cruise.

Hop on and see New Orleans from the water when the sun goes down to experience the skyline from afar. While you're at it, grab a few more than affordable beignets at Café du Monde!


Thankfully, there are several fun activities you can enjoy with the kids in New Orleans after the sun sets.

Several items listed in the other sections of this post are also family friendly.

Be sure to read our master post on family-friendly things to do in NOLA.

1. Mini Golf at City Putt

City Park has a lot of fun and interesting attractions that you can check out during the day, but one of the best places to visit at night is City Putt.

This mini golf center has two courses and is open until 10 pm. During the weekend (Fri + Sat), their hours are extended to midnight.

This is a fun and affordable activity for families, with tickets ranging from $6 for kids to $8 for teens and adults. Visit their website.

While you're in the area, consider checking out the Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which is free to the public.

For more information on this and other activities in the area, check out our guide to visiting City Park.

2. Light up the Night on a Bike Ride

Riding a bike at night can be dangerous if people can’t see you, but that isn’t a problem with the NOLA City Lights company!

Their bikes are covered in LED lights, making it easy for pretty much everyone to see them from afar.

As if that weren’t good enough, they also play music and have a loud horn/siren.

Enjoy a unique trip with your family and see New Orleans after dark while riding around on these interesting bicycles.

Check out this video. For more details on this activity, click here.

3. See a Show at the WW2 Museum

Aside from being one of the best and most respectful museums in New Orleans, the National WWII Museum also hosts several shows at BB’s Stage Door Canteen.

Several of their shows can be very family friendly.

They usually host at least one show per month (sometimes per week) that takes place in the evening, making this a good option for family fun after the sun sets.

Check out our post on the National WW2 Museum for more information.

4. Attend an Event at the Superdome

Even when football isn’t in season, they still manage to find some pretty awesome events to throw at the Superdome.

These attractions can range from concerts to festivals, but they usually center around musical acts.

They also host expos and conventions for a variety of different industries which may be of interest to some visitors. 

Keep an eye on the Superdome Event calendar for more details.

5. Take a Ghost Tour

If your children are getting a little older, you might want to consider taking them on a spooky tour around New Orleans.

This is a city rich with creepy history, and you can learn a lot about it by taking our pay-what-you-wish ghost walking tours.

There is also a Ghost + Vampire Tour, which is free for kids under 7 and pretty affordable for everyone else.

Each of these tours takes place in the evening, and brave families will probably have a great time exploring the city and seeing everything from a more haunting point of view.

Make sure to read our post about New Orleans ghost tours for more information.

6. Take the Kids Bowling

Although Rock n’ Bowl can be fun for a dinner date, it’s also an excellent place for families.

Alternatively, you can also head down to Fulton Alley near Harrah’s Casino and enjoy a round of bowling.

This is a classic pastime which is fun for all ages and tons of fun after the sun goes down.

7. Grab a Beignet After Dinner

These delightful pastries are a wonderful treat at any time of the day, but you might want to consider grabbing one for dessert.

Depending on how and where you get them, you can order a beignet with flavors as simple and delicious as chocolate, or as adventurous as crab & crawfish.

One of the most popular places to find this dish is Cafe du Monde, located in the heart of the French Quarter just across the street from Jackson Square.

For more information, read our post about beignets and where to find them!

8. Friday Nights at NOMA

Sometimes it can be difficult to keep the kids entertained while at a museum, but the New Orleans Museum of Art makes it pretty easy on Friday Nights.

This event includes live music, tours, screenings, performances, and artistic activities.

Children are invited to make a unique keepsake every week. Sometimes they even host book signings, featured artists and demonstrations. 

9. Take the Kids Out for Dinner

There are several family-friendly restaurants and cafes in New Orleans, but some of them are more popular than others.

One of the best options for kids dining is Dat Dog, a location that offers up some of the most unique hot dogs you’ll ever eat.

With over 30 different toppings to choose from, chances are that everyone in your family will find something they love at this restaurant.

For additional ideas, make sure to check our list of kid-friendly restaurants in New Orleans.

10. Enjoy Live Jazz at Preservation Hall

There are a lot of jazz clubs in NOLA, but most of them aren’t exactly family-friendly.

If you want to introduce your kids to this wonderful music, Preservation Hall is going to be one of the best places to visit.

This is an all-ages venue that does not provide food or beverage, only wonderful jazz music for all their guests.

Shows start as early as 5 pm with the last show at 10 pm.

Click here to learn more about this historic New Orleans jazz hall! 

Seasonal Nighttime New Orleans Activities

In addition to all the fun evening events and activities that you can enjoy throughout the year in NOLA, there are also several interesting things to do at night during specific seasons.

Here are a few of the best examples:

Audubon Zoo Lights - During the holiday season (November - December), the Audubon Zoo offers several festive lighting displays that you can enjoy after the sun goes down.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - Every spring, the historic Jazz Festival returns to New Orleans, typically inviting some of the best musicians in the world to perform live entertainment.

Although most performances take place during the day, the festival typically runs until at least 7 pm.

Celebration in the Oaks - Much like Zoo Lights, this light festival takes place every holiday season (November - December), and you can expect to see a lot of beautiful lighting displays lining the trees of City Park.

Best of all, if you take the walking tour, you'll also enjoy unlimited rides in Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, as well as access to the Botanical Garden.

Mardi Gras - This might seem like an obvious example, but Mardi Gras parades typically take place after sundown from January - February.

Even if you can't make it to NOLA for this event, you can still see some of the floats at Mardi Gras World!

French Quarter Festival - Similar to Jazz Fest, this is another excellent music festival that takes place in New Orleans every spring (typically in April).

While most performances are during the day, the official hours for this festival run to 8 pm each night.

Top Music/Food Venues

There are a lot of great restaurants and music venues in New Orleans. Be sure to read about the 13 must-try NOLA foods and about our food tours.

Here is a list of our personal top 10 locations to grab a bite and listen to live music. 

1. BB King’s

It should come as no surprise that this jazz legend has his very own restaurant in New Orleans.

In addition to hosting several live shows every week, they also serve up some of the best food you’ll find in the city.

Expect a variety of southern favorites including po’ boys, jambalaya and peach cobbler for dessert!

2. The House of Blues

What better place to hear the blues than at the house that was named after the genre?

Most people come here for live concerts, but this venue also doubles as an excellent restaurant with several delicious menu items.

Guests can enjoy southern meals such as jambalaya, blackened salmon, shrimp & grits, and more.

3. Mulates

This is one of the more popular family restaurants in New Orleans. In addition to some great food, they also provide live Cajun music every night.

If you’re looking for a place with more local flavor, this is it! Menu items include gumbo, po' boys, jambalaya, and red beans & rice.

4. Rock n’ Bowl

This is one of the best family-friendly locations in the entire city.

Not only do they have a bowling alley, but they also have live music, dancing, and a pretty decent selection of food.

Although they don’t focus primarily on Cajun cuisine or any other southern favorites, they do have classic American staples such as pizza, burgers, and fries.

5. The Spotted Cat

This popular music club hosts a variety of jazz musicians on a nightly basis.

Visitors should know that this isn’t a restaurant and they don’t specialize in providing anything other than great tunes throughout the night.

There is no cover charge and there are no reservations, so you might want to get there early before the club fills up!

6. Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

As the name implies, this location specializes in providing live jazz every night of the week.

In addition to some great music, they also offer an impressive menu full of delectable meals.

Choose from entrees such as filet mignon, yellowfin tuna, fried oysters or fish Marigny.

7. Cafe du Monde

Although they don’t really offer any live music, Cafe du Monde is one of the most popular coffee shops to grab a drink and a snack.

Located right across the street from Jackson Square, it’s easy to hop in there while walking around the French Quarter and sightseeing. 

8. Balcony Music Club

Otherwise known as the BMC, this club is yet another excellent place where you can listen to some great jazz every night of the week.

This location also has a number of signature drinks that you can try while listening to music. Try a Satchmo Sangria or Billie Holiday for some local flavor!

9. Verti Marte

Whether you.’re trying to sober up or you just want to grab a bite to eat, this 24-hour deli provides a variety of tasty treats all day and night.

Their specialty is a po’ boy with fried shrimp and oysters. Even if you don’t feel like walking down to the Verti Marte, you can still order these sandwiches for delivery!

10. Camellia’s Grill

If you’re looking for fast and fantastic service, it’s hard to beat Camellia’s Grill.

Some visitors report that it can take as little as ten minutes to receive your order and the food is to die for.

This popular diner serves up American classics and New Orleans favorites for locals and visitors of all kinds.

You’ll find this restaurant right off the St. Charles Streetcar line. 

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few additional diners/pubs that you may want to consider.

Coop’s Place – Grab some cajun food or get traditional southern fried chicken at this New Orleans staple late into the night.

Due to the “snarky” attitude from the staff (which is half the fun), this location is only open to customers who are 21 & older.

Clover Grill – If you’re looking for another 24-hour diner, this is one of the best places in the city.

The menu is simple and the food is delicious – what more could anyone ask for?

Turtle Bay – This popular New Orleans pub is open late and serves a variety of great local food such as gumbo, po’ boys, and fried mushrooms.

They are open late and offer delivery!

Cooter Brown’s – This sports bar offers 17 different TVs with sporting events of all kinds.

They have over 400 beers on tap, raw oysters for the seafood fans, and some of the best pub grub in NOLA.

Beachcorner’s – If you’re looking for variety at your bar & grill, this sports bar offers up a lot of great pub grub.

In addition to the typical finger foods, you’ll also find “beach burgers,” fried catfish sandwiches, and more! 

Safety at Night in New Orleans

When traveling to New Orleans we would like to help you make the best decisions to make your visit to the Big Easy as comfortable and safe as possible.

Can you walk in New Orleans at Night?

It is best, if possible, to travel with a companion when walking the streets of the French Quarter at night. 

It may be safe to update a friend, or family member, where you are headed when traveling from one location to another.

Most hotels and tourists booths provide free maps of the city.  Consult with them and have them let you know of the safest streets and routes for foot traffic. 

Is it safe to walk to Frenchmen Street from the French Quarter?

We suggest Royal Street and Decatur Street. If you are carrying a purse, wear it across the chest strap, if your camera has a strap wear it the same way, pickpockets are in every city. 

We suggest wearing sensible shoes in New Orleans, as the sidewalks are very old and uneven. 

Make sure that you are aware when crossing the streets. Often intersections do not have pedestrian stop and walk symbols at intersections with traffic lights. 

Bourbon Street and Royal Street are the only two French Quarter streets to be closed to foot traffic only.  So, when walking and looking at all of the beauty of the Quarter be careful.

Is there a party on Bourbon Street every night?

Technically yes, as this area is popular almost all year long. There are times when it isn't as busy on Bourbon Street, but you should always be careful while walking around this area at night.

Uber and Lyft are great options to keep yourself safe when in the city. Cabs and Taxis can often take more than 30 minutes to arrive, whereas ride shares take moments.   

Make sure when they pull up that the driver and license plate match the info on your app. 

Check out our full post on safety in New Orleans.


About The Author

Sarah Hester

Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history. Read More... Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!
Updated: May 12th, 2023
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