New Orleans

Best New Orleans NYE Parties You'll Actually Enjoy

Hyatt Regency New Orleans
Hyatt Regency New Orleans
Hyatt Regency New Orleans

Winter in New Orleans is about pacing yourself. For most, it all starts at the race track’s opening day festivities on Thanksgiving and caps things off with massive Mardi Gras celebrations in early March. Almost exactly in the middle of all this is New Year’s Eve, a night often unfortunately lost in the shuffle. But that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t offer up incredible chances to ring in 2020, from the booziest to the most romantic you can find (or maybe both). Here are the Big Easy’s biggest parties, shindigs, parades, and assorted throwdowns to properly bid 2019 adieu. From massive block parties to riverboat rides to fireworks along the Mississippi, we’ve got you covered to start off a new decade in New Orleans the right way.

Billy Porter
Billy Porter
Billy Porter

Ring it in the old-fashioned way with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

French Quarter
While Times Square may be the first to ring in the New Year stateside, New Orleans has long held claim to starting things off for those of us in CST. Free to the public and situated near the historic Jax Brewery, this year’s Rockin’ Eve will be hosted by Billy Porter alongside special guests dropping in throughout the night. The Big Easy’s celebration welcomes Sheryl Crow and Usher as its musical guests beginning around 9pm, and continues until the giant Fleur-de-Lis makes its descent at midnight.
Cost: Free

Go big or go home with Big Night New Orleans’ New Year’s Eve Gala

Central Business District
One of the biggest curated parties of the holiday is undoubtedly Big Night New Orleans’ gigantic NYE bash at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Performers like Choppa, Petey Pablo, Flow Tribe, and Bustout Burlesque will entertain around 3,000 attendees on multiple stages throughout the space, with tickets available including meals, drinks, a silent disco, and a mock casino area. For those wanting to really do it up big on New Years, there really isn’t anything better than Big Night’s gala.
Cost: $95-$250

Get sporty with all the Allstate Sugar Bowl festivities

CBD
For years, one of the city’s biggest NYE throwdowns has been the Allstate Sugar Bowl madness. For the 87th annual matchup, Georgia’s and Baylor’s college football teams will square off in the Superdome, but not before a gigantic Fan Fest block party downtown including a traditional, Mardi Gras-inspired parade. Food and booze vendors will be plentiful, but feel free to bring any and all tailgating accessories needed to enjoy the day. Also, it’s probably best to learn at least one of the team’s fight songs in case you get caught up in either side’s pep rally.
Cost: Free

Fireworks on the Mississippi River

Bywater-Marigny
Just because it’s New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean you have to break your 2020 bank. Grab a six-pack (or two) and head towards Crescent City Park spanning the Bywater-Marigny along the Mississippi. For the cheapest, but certainly no less enjoyable, option on NYE, grab some friends and/or your significant other and take a stroll along the park as the night sky is illuminated by festivities you didn’t have to pay for in any way.
Cost: Free

Steamboat Natchez
Steamboat Natchez
Steamboat Natchez

Get classy aboard the Steamboat Natchez’s New Years Cruise along the Mississippi

French Quarter
New Orleans’ steamboat tours are one of the most relaxing and quaint ways to spend an evening, so why not float on down the Mississippi River with jazz music, plenty of cocktails, and a full buffet to close out the year? There are a number of options available on both New Year’s Eve and Day, from brunch trips to evening dinner cruises, but better book a ticket in advance, because it’s about as appealing to everyone else as it sounds to you right now.
Cost: $85-$125

Call it an early night with your tots at the Louisiana Children’s Museum Noon Year’s Eve

CBD
Staying up partying past midnight isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re raising a family. Thankfully, the Louisiana Children’s Museum has you covered with its Noon Year’s Day party, which rings in 2020 a bit earlier. The museum will host a number of activity stations alongside multiple second line parades through their gardens after the noon “countdown.” Come with the family for a wholesome alternative to New Orleans’ otherwise debaucherous celebrations.
Cost: $10 for museum members, $20 for non-members

Party with the animals at Zoo Year’s Eve

Uptown
Look, we get it, some years are much harder to last until midnight than others. Doubly so if little ones are involved. New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo provides a novel solution to this all-to-common holiday problem. Zoo Year’s Eve takes place a full 12 hours earlier than most of the city’s other events, allowing families to ring in the New Year at noon with games, music, and prizes. Outside food and drinks are allowed, with concessions also available within the zoo.
Cost: Free for Audubon members, or with standard price of zoo admission

Let Galactic groove you out of this world at Tipitina’s

Lower Garden District
The legendary funk-jam band has thrown down on NYE for years now, and 2020 will be no exception. Galactic’s concert at Tipitina’s (the equally legendary venue now owned by members of the band) is one of your best bets for a helluva good time if you’re on the lookout for drinks, dancing, and seriously good party music. Basic tickets will get you into the show, but the VIP option looks like a pretty good splurge, with food from Jacque-Imo’s, an open bar, a champagne toast, reserved balcony section, and signed Galactic merch.
Cost: $76-$201

Get transported to another world and era thanks to Potions’ Ghosts of the Silver Screen

French Quarter
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Fritzel’s European Jazz Club on Bourbon Street provides a scene and sound you really just can’t get anywhere else in town these days. The old-school, intimate lounge area hosts some of the city’s best musicians every evening, and New Year’s Eve will be no exception. But, if you want to kick things up a notch, grab a ticket and head to the back of the building for Potions’ Lounge, a kind of vampire-esque speakeasy that’s as decadent and sexy as it sounds. This year’s NYE party theme is Ghosts of the Silver Screen, so show up dressed your best in the (literal) spirit of your favorite Hollywood legends.
Cost: $150

DJ Soul Sister
DJ Soul Sister
DJ Soul Sister

Dance ’til you drop at DJ Soul Sista’s 17th Annual New Year’s Eve Soul Train

CBD
That’s right — 17th annual. If you’ve ever been blessed to see DJ Soul Sista work her magic on the ones and twos, then you already know why there’s been an audience out to see her every New Year’s for nearly two decades. Taking place at the historic Civic Theatre, Soul Sista starts spinning around 10pm, providing some of the best classic funk, soul, and R&B records to soundtrack the end of the decade. Tickets in advance will get you in the door, but VIP gets you an open bar, champagne toast, balcony section, and a separate side entrance if you’re looking to be a bit more fancy.
Cost: $30-$125

Balcony Party at Bourbon Cowboy/Bourbon Street

French Quarter
Bourbon Street on New Year’s Eve is, well, it’s about exactly what you’d expect. Raucous, debaucherous, weird as hell (not to mention hygienically questionable), it can certainly overwhelm even the most experienced of New Orleans partygoers. Luckily, there are a number of options to party at a relatively safe remove from most insane and depraved tourists, and the Bourbon Cowboy’s balcony party is one of your best bets to throw down. The tickets are a bit on the pricey side, but why not go all in on the bar with the mechanical bull?
Cost: $220

Get down and dirty with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s New Year’s concert

Frenchman Street
Frenchman Street has long been one of the best live music spots in town, but it still must be seen to be believed. If you’re looking for classic New Orleans tunes on New Year’s Eve, head over to the club Maison for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s 2019 sendoff. Tickets to the three-story dance club and concert hall can include an open bar, lounge area, midnight champagne toast, and balcony seating to take in all the sights and sounds of Frenchman Street below you.
Cost: $70-$100

Twerk it out at Big Freedia’s NYE Freak Show

CBD
For those looking to really get down while closing out 2019, Big Freedia has got you covered. With doors opening at 9pm, the New Orleans bounce legend will host a “Three Ring Twerkus” at the Joy Theatre on December 31 with some help from Cajun-rock heavy hitters Sweet Crude and “rap-cabaret” artist, Boyfriend. This promises to be one of the most New Orleans-esque parties in town that evening, so we recommend this if you’re looking for a spot to “release your wiggle” alongside all your friends.
Cost: $30-$60Sign up here for our daily New Orleans email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Big Easy.

Andrew Paul is a writer living in New Orleans, who’s very afraid of popped champagne corks taking out one of his eyes. Follow him on Twitter.

New Orleans

Where to Go on a Perfect Date in New Orleans This Spring

Woo that special someone with sultry live music and inviting outdoor date ideas.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Travel

Whether you’re searching for the perfect spot for a first date or looking to spend some time with your longtime love, you should have no problem planning a romantic outing in New Orleans. Our amazing restaurants and bars are classic settings for some quality time, but think outside the date night box and literally get outside. Spring is the most gorgeous time of year here, so you can score some serious romance points. From strolls in the park and outdoor music to cozy wine bars and sultry jazz nights, here are some can’t-miss ideas for the perfect date in New Orleans.

Spend an afternoon in City Park

Mid-City
One could spend hours strolling beneath City Park’s moss-drenched oaks, but combine this beautiful setting with the park’s other offerings and you’ve got yourself a date. Start with coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde to ease into things. Explore the collections at the New Orleans Museum of Art or stroll through the sculpture garden. Continue your romantic walk around the Big Lake, or rent a boat and paddle your way around. If things are going well, finish up with a well-earned drink and a bite at Ralph’s on the Park.

Grab bagels and bike on the Greenway

Mid-City
Bike the Lafitte Greenway and you’ll get moving while having plenty of time to connect. Fuel up at Flour Moon Bagels with coffee and stellar carbs before you hit the pavement. The Greenway’s linear path is 2.7 miles, but you can make it a longer ride by linking up with the Wisner Trail or the Norman C. Francis bike path. The Greenway goes all the way to the Quarter, but you can save that for another date. End up back where you started and cool down with a pint or two at Skeeta Hawk Brewing.

Create some Magazine Street magic

Uptown/Garden District
Magazine Street boasts six miles of unique, locally owned businesses. There are plenty of one-off date options along the street (like grabbing coffee and chocolate at Piety and Desire, having a romantic dinner at Coquette or Saffron, or ordering wine and small plates at Saba). But for a longer get-to-know-you date, the street is perfect for an all-day stroll. Browse esteemed art galleries and shops, have a well-made cocktail at Bouligny Tavern, stop for fresh oysters at Basin, taste a few wines at Spirit Wine, and admire the mix of architecture along the street. Why stop there? Shop for some vinyl at Peaches, grab a casual dinner at Picnic Provisions & Whiskey or Tito’s, then see who’s playing at Le Bon Temps.

Take in the West Bank nature and noodles

Marrero
Take the Crescent City Connection and head down to the Barataria Preserve to explore acres of secluded wetlands that’ll confirm you’re really in south Louisiana. A boardwalk winds through swampy land packed with all the best regional flora and fauna, including alligators. April is typically peak iris season, so check the bloom forecast. Before you head back across the river, stop by Tan Dinh or 9 Roses for excellent pho and other Vietnamese faves.

Nevbrown/Flickr
Nevbrown/Flickr
Nevbrown/Flickr

Go on a wine bar crawl

Various locations
A wine bar presents a perfect middle ground between grabbing casual beers and sipping superior cocktails. You’ve got chill environs, curated selections, and just enough nibbles to sustain your conversation. Second Vine Wines and Faubourg Wines are thoughtfully curated shops that serve wines by the glass, so you can start off with a couple of glasses then buy a bottle if the date moves to another location. Tell Me Bar and Pluck offer rotating selections of intriguing wines you’ll want to learn more about. And of course there’s Bacchanal, where you can enjoy wine, good vibes, and live music under the stars.

Cross the river by boat

Algiers Point
There’s something undeniably romantic about standing at the bow of a boat with wind blowing through your lover’s hair, so take the Algiers Ferry to behold the mighty Mississippi and gorgeous views of the city. Stroll charming Algiers Point, grab a drink with the locals at the Old Point Bar or Crown and Anchor, and then enjoy dinner at Tavolino, Tonti’s Hand, or Plume.

Saunter down St. Charles Ave

Uptown/French Quarter
The streetcar is an underrated date option-get to know each other while rolling past the majestic St. Charles Avenue mansions. Start with a late afternoon drink at The Chloe before hopping aboard. Once you’re in the Quarter, take a spin around the bar with a cocktail at Hotel Monteleone, take a stroll through Jackson Square, then pick from swoon-worthy dining options like St. John, Jewel of the South, Cane & Table, Doris Metropolitan, or MaMou.

Explore Lake Pontchartrain

Lakefront
Take a trip out to Lake Pontchartrain for some sun, fresh air, and seafood. Cruise Lakeshore Drive, check out the Mardi Gras Fountain, maybe take a roll down the levee to connect with your inner child, then sit and watch as the boats and birds go by. As the sun sets, head over to The Blue Crab for fresh seafood or JB’s Fuel Dock at West End Park for pizza and beers.

Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA
Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA
Photo courtesy of Three Keys NOLA

Let music and lounge vibes set the mood

Various locations
Let someone special know just how you feel by taking them out for a classy evening of fine cocktails and world-class jazz. Grab a prime spot to watch Jeremy Davenport do his thing at his namesake lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, listen to the smooth sounds of solo artists at the intimate Bayou Bar at the Pontchartrain Hotel, or pop into the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta next time you do a French Quarter outing. For a new-school option, check out a performance at the Ace Hotel’s Three Keys.

Go the extra mile with a day trip

Covington/Abita Springs
Driving the Causeway’s 24 miles will give you plenty of time to go beyond small talk, making a nearby road trip the ideal activity for upping the ante on your relationship. Head to Covington to enjoy the boutiques and galleries of the quaint historic downtown before grabbing a bite at Lola or Tavi, or rent bikes and ride the Tammany Trace to the Abita Brewery where you can take a tour and sample some of the finest local beers. Even better, head over when the brewery is hosting one of its food truck roundups or live music.

Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery
Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery
Photo courtesy of Urban South Brewery

Peel crawfish and sip local beer

Various locations
Spring means crawfish boils, and the city is loaded with experts bringing their boil skills to some of the top local breweries. Crawfish and beer make a perfect pair, and what better way to gauge relationship potential than by observing peel technique and spice tolerance? Check their calendars, but breweries including Faubourg Brewing, Urban South, NOLA Brewing, Miel, and Parleaux usually host boils on weekends throughout the season.

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Gerrish Lopez is a Thrillist contributor.

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