Best Things to Do in New Orleans at Night: 12 Unique Experiences & Activities

by Jen
Best Things to Do in New Orleans at Night
This post may have affiliate links, where I may receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

New Orleans truly comes to life when the stars come out. From lively music-filled streets to serene historical districts, our guide is brimming with the best things to do in New Orleans at night. Dive in and discover the enchanting allure of New Orleans’ nocturnal charm!

When night falls in New Orleans, the city buzzes with a life of its own. I’ve wandered these streets many times, and each visit uncovers something new. If you’re planning to explore New Orleans after dark, you’re in for a treat. The city’s blend of history, music, and culture comes alive in a way that’s both enchanting and exhilarating.

I’m here to guide you through the best places to go in New Orleans at night. From the lively beats on Bourbon Street to the hidden gems in the French Quarter, every spot has its own charm. I’ll share with you not just the places to go, but also the little details – like where to find the best beignets at midnight or which jazz club has the most soul-stirring performances.

New Orleans at night is an experience that engages all your senses. Lace up your shoes, and let’s dive into the heart of this vibrant city. If you’re a foodie, a music lover, or just someone who enjoys a good stroll under the stars, I’ve got you covered. Let’s discover together why New Orleans at night is an adventure you won’t forget!

The top places to visit in New Orleans at night right now

Best Things to Do in New Orleans at Night

Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with family, New Orleans promises a memorable nighttime experience. Here are the best things to do in New Orleans at night.

1. Explore the Historic French Quarter

When you think about New Orleans at night, the French Quarter inevitably comes to mind. This is where the heart of the city beats the loudest. Strolling through these historic streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The architecture alone, with its intricate ironwork balconies and pastel-colored buildings, is a sight to behold.

Start your evening at Jackson Square. Here, artists and musicians bring the area to life. I always find something new here, whether it’s a piece of art or a street performance that stops me in my tracks. Don’t miss the chance to pop into the local shops – each one has its own story and unique finds.

For a taste of history, visit the St. Louis Cathedral, an iconic landmark. Even if you’re not into history, the sheer beauty of this place at night is mesmerizing. And if you’re wondering what to do in New Orleans at night that’s both culturally enriching and visually stunning, a walk along the moonlit streets of the French Quarter is your answer.

Food is a big part of the experience here. Be sure to try some authentic Creole cuisine. My recommendation? Grab a po’boy from a local eatery. It’s a simple yet delicious choice that never disappoints.

Remember, the French Quarter isn’t just a tourist spot. It’s a living, breathing part of New Orleans. Respect the residents and the unique culture they maintain. Most importantly, let yourself get lost in the magic of this place. Every corner has a story, and if you’re open to it, you might just become a part of that story too.

Exploring the French Quarter is one of the best things to do in New Orleans at night.
The French Quarter at night offers a vibrant heart, historic charm, intricate balconies, and pastel buildings.

2. Experience the Legendary Bourbon Street

Have you ever wondered where to go in New Orleans at night for the quintessential experience? Look no further than Bourbon Street. This legendary street is the lifeblood of New Orleans’ nightlife and a must-visit for anyone looking to dive into the city’s vibrant party scene.

Bourbon Street is a kaleidoscope of neon lights, lively bars, and music that spills out onto the streets. One of my favorite things to do here is simply to walk the length of the street, soaking in the energy. You’ll hear jazz, blues, and modern beats all mingling in the air.

If you’re a fan of jazz, make sure to stop by one of the many clubs lining the street. The music here is a piece of New Orleans’ soul. And if you’re up for it, join in on the dancing – it’s a great way to feel like a local!

For a more laid-back experience, find a balcony seat at one of the bars. Sipping on a local cocktail while watching the bustling street below is an experience in itself. My tip: try a classic Hurricane cocktail, but be warned, they’re stronger than they taste!

Bourbon Street can get quite crowded, especially on weekends and during festivals. Keep an eye on your belongings and stay with your group.

Dive into the soul of jazz at its birthplace, clubs here aren't just venues; they're sound sanctuaries.
Dive into the soul of jazz at its birthplace, clubs here aren’t just venues; they’re sound sanctuaries.

3. Visit a Jazz Club

There’s nothing quite like the rhythm of jazz to truly understand the soul of New Orleans. If you’re looking for the best New Orleans nightlife, immersing yourself in a jazz club is a must. This city is the birthplace of jazz, after all, and the clubs here are not just venues – they’re sanctuaries of sound.

One of my personal favorites is Preservation Hall. This place is iconic, and for good reason. It’s intimate, it’s authentic, and the music is always top-notch. There’s no bar or fancy lighting here – it’s all about the music. Get there early to secure a spot. Believe me, it’s worth it!

Another great spot is the Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street. It’s smaller and has a more laid-back vibe, perfect for those who want to enjoy music in a more relaxed setting. The talent here is always incredible, and you’ll find yourself lost in the melodies.

A tip for visiting jazz clubs: many don’t serve food, so grab a bite beforehand. And while some clubs might have a cover charge, it’s a small price to pay for the quality of music you’ll experience.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Some of the best jazz experiences I’ve had were in lesser-known clubs, where the connection between the musicians and the audience was almost tangible.

Feel the city's soul in its iconic jazz clubs, capturing the essence of this musical haven.
Feel the city’s soul in its iconic jazz clubs, capturing the essence of this musical haven.

4. Join a Guided Ghost Tour

Ever wondered what to see in New Orleans at night that’s a little out of the ordinary? A guided ghost tour is your answer. New Orleans, with its rich history and tales of the supernatural, is the perfect place to explore the eerie side of the night.

I’ve been on a few of these tours, and they’re a fascinating dive into the city’s history and folklore. The guides are usually great storytellers, blending historical facts with legends, which makes for an engaging experience.

One of the most popular tours takes you through the French Quarter, where you’ll learn about the famous hauntings of the LaLaurie Mansion and the Hotel Monteleone. It’s a mix of creepy and captivating, and you’ll see the city in a different light – or, should I say, darkness.

If you’re brave enough, some tours even offer visits to cemeteries at night. The St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, known for its above-ground tombs, is particularly eerie after dark.

Wear comfortable shoes, as these tours often involve a fair bit of walking. Even if you’re skeptical about ghosts, keep an open mind – the stories alone are worth it. Finally, these tours are popular, especially around Halloween, so book in advance.

LaLaurie Mansion is a historic building with ornate architecture and a haunting presence.
LaLaurie Mansion is a historic building with ornate architecture and a haunting presence.

5. Take a Mississippi Riverboat Evening Cruise

Next up on our list of the best things to do at night in New Orleans is a Mississippi Riverboat evening cruise. This experience offers a unique perspective of the city, combining history, music, and stunning river views.

Boarding a historic riverboat like the Steamboat Natchez or the Creole Queen as the evening sets in is an unforgettable experience. The sight of the New Orleans skyline at dusk, with its lights twinkling against the darkening sky, is truly mesmerizing.

These cruises often feature live jazz music, adding to the ambiance of your journey down the Mississippi. The gentle rhythms of jazz, combined with the soft churning of the riverboat, create a relaxing and almost timeless atmosphere.

While these cruises offer dining options, they’re more about the experience than the cuisine. The Southern dishes served are a nice touch, but it’s the combination of music, scenery, and the gentle sway of the boat that really makes the evening special. I recommend sampling the Creole dishes for an authentic taste of local cuisine.

Remember to step out onto the deck after your meal. The cool river breeze and the panoramic views of the illuminated city offer a moment of tranquility and reflection.

Booking in advance is a good idea, especially during the busy seasons. Whether you opt for a dinner cruise or just a sightseeing trip, this is one of the most unique things to do in New Orleans at night that shouldn’t be missed.

Experience Mississippi Riverboat at night, offering merging history, music, and breathtaking cityscapes.
Experience Mississippi Riverboat at night, offering merging history, music, and breathtaking cityscapes.

6. Check out Frenchmen Street

Moving away from the mainstream buzz of Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street offers a more authentic slice of New Orleans nightlife. It’s a hub for live music, brimming with jazz clubs, bars, and local art. For those wondering about the best New Orleans attractions at night, Frenchmen Street is a must-visit.

This street has a distinctly local vibe. It’s where you’ll find New Orleanians enjoying their evening, which speaks volumes about its appeal. The music here is phenomenal – from jazz and blues to reggae and rock, there’s something for every ear.

Start your evening at The Spotted Cat Music Club. It’s small but legendary among locals for its intimate atmosphere and fantastic line-ups. Another great spot is d.b.a., known for its wide selection of craft beers and top-notch music performances.

Don’t miss the art market, open in the evenings. It’s a great place to find unique, handcrafted souvenirs and artwork by local artists. I always find something special here, whether it’s a piece of jewelry or a quirky print.

A tip for dining: Frenchmen Street is lined with eateries offering delicious local fare. Try some authentic New Orleans dishes like jambalaya or gumbo to fuel your night of exploration.

Frenchmen Street isn’t as tourist-heavy as other parts of the city. As such, it’s a great place to mingle with locals and experience the city’s culture more authentically. Just be respectful of the neighborhood and enjoy the vibrant, yet laid-back atmosphere.

Exploring Frenchmen Street is one of the best things to do in New Orleans at night.
Frenchmen Street is the vibrant heart of the authentic city’s nightlife.

7. Enjoy a Nighttime Guided Cemetery Tour         

For a truly unique experience, a nighttime guided cemetery tour is one of the coolest things to do at night in New Orleans. The city’s cemeteries, with their above-ground tombs, have a mysterious and captivating aura after dark.

I recommend the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 tour, which includes the reputed tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. The guides are knowledgeable, not only about the cemetery’s history but also about the stories of those who rest there. It’s a respectful yet fascinating look into the city’s past.

These tours often delve into the history of voodoo in New Orleans, adding an extra layer of intrigue. It’s a chance to learn about a significant part of the city’s cultural heritage.

A few tips for the tour: wear comfortable shoes as there’s quite a bit of walking, and bring a flashlight – it adds to the atmosphere and can be practical. Also, remember that these are sacred places, so maintaining respect throughout the tour is important.

Booking in advance is essential, especially around Halloween and other holidays. These tours are popular and can fill up quickly.

A nighttime cemetery tour in New Orleans is not your typical tourist activity. It’s a memorable experience that offers a deeper understanding of the city’s unique history and culture.

Explore the mystique of the city's cemeteries on a captivating nighttime guided tour.
Explore the mystique of the city’s cemeteries on a captivating nighttime guided tour.

8. Walk Through the Garden District

Why not take a break from the lively New Orleans nightlife and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the Garden District? This neighborhood, a stark contrast to the bustling French Quarter, offers a peaceful evening walk amidst some of the city’s most beautiful historic homes.

The Garden District feels like a world away from the typical New Orleans hustle. As you wander its oak-lined streets, you’ll be greeted by an array of architectural marvels – from Victorian mansions to quaint cottages, each illuminated under the soft streetlights. It’s one of the best free things to do in New Orleans at night, especially for architecture enthusiasts.

A must-see is the famous Commander’s Palace Restaurant, known for its turquoise and white striped exterior and fine dining. Even if you don’t dine in, it’s worth admiring from outside. The area also boasts several cozy cafes and bistros, perfect for a quiet coffee or dessert after your stroll.

For literature fans, the Garden District has a special treat. You can view the former homes of famous authors like Anne Rice and John Kennedy Toole, adding a literary layer to your exploration.

If you’re interested in photography, the contrasting styles of the homes provide endless opportunities for unique shots, especially in the evening light. The district’s peaceful ambiance also makes it ideal for couples looking for a romantic evening walk.

Escape the nightlife buzz in the tranquil beauty of the historical Garden District.
Escape the nightlife buzz in the tranquil beauty of the historical Garden District.

9. Dinner at a Creole Restaurant

One of the most fun things to do in New Orleans at night is to indulge in the local cuisine, especially Creole dishes. For an authentic and flavorful dining experience, I highly recommend Neyow’s Creole Café.

Neyow’s is known for its vibrant atmosphere and hearty Creole dishes. The menu is a delightful exploration of local flavors. One of their must-try dishes is the chargrilled oysters – they’re cooked to perfection and bursting with flavor. Also, their red beans and rice, a New Orleans staple, is as comforting and flavorful as it gets.

The café’s ambiance adds to the dining experience. It’s lively, often filled with locals, which is always a good sign. The staff are friendly and happy to share recommendations, making you feel right at home.

A tip for visiting Neyow’s: it can get quite busy, so consider making a reservation or arriving early. And don’t forget to try their signature Bow Wow Punch – it’s a hit among patrons for its unique taste!

Dining at Neyow’s gives you more than just a meal. It offers a genuine taste of New Orleans culture. It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the local scene and enjoy an evening filled with good food and good vibes.

Experience nightlife with authentic Creole flavors at Neyow's Creole Café.
Experience nightlife with authentic Creole flavors at Neyow’s Creole Café.

10. Watch the Street Performers at Jackson Square

A visit to Jackson Square at night is a must when exploring what to do in New Orleans at night for free. This historic park, located in the heart of the French Quarter, becomes a vibrant showcase of local talent as the sun sets. Street performers, musicians, and artists gather here, turning the square into an open-air theater of creativity.

The variety of performances you’ll encounter is astounding. From jazz bands playing soulful tunes to magicians captivating crowds, there’s always something to see. I’ve spent many evenings just wandering around, enjoying the spontaneous shows. It’s a great way to experience the city’s artistic pulse without spending a dime.

While you’re there, take a moment to admire the stunning architecture of the St. Louis Cathedral, especially beautiful when lit up at night. The backdrop of this historic building adds an extra layer of charm to the performances in the square.

After enjoying the lively atmosphere of Jackson Square, a visit to Neyow’s Creole Café is the perfect way to end your night. This local favorite offers a true taste of New Orleans with dishes like gumbo and po’boys that are both delicious and affordable.

Jackson Square is as much about the experience as it is about the performances. Take your time, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy one of the best free experiences New Orleans has to offer at night.

Experience free nightlife at Jackson Square, a vibrant hub of local talent and creativity.
Experience free nightlife at Jackson Square, a vibrant hub of local talent and creativity.

11. Visit the Frenchmen Art Market

Exploring the Frenchmen Art Market is undoubtedly one of the most fun places to go in New Orleans at night. This vibrant night market, located in the heart of the music-filled Frenchmen Street, is a treasure trove of local art and craftsmanship.

As you wander through the market, you’ll find a diverse array of items, from handmade jewelry and unique paintings to quirky sculptures and vintage clothing. Each stall offers something different. It’s a fantastic place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift.

What I love about this market is the atmosphere. The artists are often present at their stalls, ready to share stories about their work. This personal interaction adds a special touch to each piece you might take home.

The market is usually open in the evenings, which makes it a perfect stop after dinner or a jazz show. The surrounding area of Frenchmen Street is also worth exploring, with its array of bars and music venues.

A tip for visiting the market: bring cash, as some vendors may not accept cards. And take your time to really look at the art – you never know what hidden gem you might discover!

Frenchmen Art Market is a vibrant night hub brimming with local art and craftsmanship.
Frenchmen Art Market is a vibrant night hub brimming with local art and craftsmanship.

12. Relax at a Rooftop Bar

When considering the best places to visit in New Orleans at night, a stop at a rooftop bar is a must, and Hot Tin is a top choice. Located atop the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, this chic bar offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.

Hot Tin has a unique charm that sets it apart from other nightlife spots in New Orleans. The décor is inspired by a 1940s artist’s loft, creating an atmosphere that’s both sophisticated and relaxed. The panoramic views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans are simply stunning, especially as the city lights begin to twinkle at dusk.

The drink menu at Hot Tin is as impressive as the views. They offer a range of expertly crafted cocktails, local beers, and fine wines. My personal recommendation is to try one of their signature cocktails. The bartenders are creative and use quality ingredients.

A tip for visiting Hot Tin: it can get quite popular, especially on weekends, so consider arriving early to grab a good spot. The best time to go is just before sunset, so you can watch the city transition from day to night.

While Hot Tin is more about the drinks and views than food, its location in the Garden District means you’re just a short walk away from some excellent dining options before or after your rooftop experience.

Dining at Hot Tin is one of the best things to do in New Orleans at night.
Hot Tin is a chic rooftop bar boasting stunning city skyline views at night.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in New Orleans at Night:

Are you keen to expand your knowledge of the best things to do in New Orleans at night? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about the best nighttime activities in New Orleans.

What is New Orleans nightlife like?

New Orleans’s nightlife is vibrant and diverse. It’s a city that truly comes alive after dark, offering everything from lively jazz clubs and bustling bars on Bourbon Street to more laid-back live music venues on Frenchmen Street. You’ll find a mix of tourists and locals, all drawn to the city’s unique blend of music, food, and culture. Whether you’re into dancing the night away, enjoying a quiet drink, or soaking in live jazz, there’s something for everyone.

Can you walk around New Orleans at night?

Yes, you can walk around New Orleans at night, especially in popular areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. These areas are generally safe and well-lit, with plenty of people around. However, like any city, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings. Stick to well-lit and populated streets, and consider taking a cab or rideshare service if you’re traveling longer distances or exploring less familiar areas.

French Quarter at night showcasing historic buildings illuminated by colorful lights.
French Quarter at night showcasing historic buildings

What should I not miss in New Orleans?

In New Orleans, don’t miss experiencing live jazz music, which is the heart and soul of the city. Venues like Preservation Hall and the Spotted Cat Music Club are must-visits. Also, explore the French Quarter for its historic architecture, vibrant street life, and culinary delights. Be sure to try local dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. Lastly, a stroll through the Garden District to admire the beautiful homes and a visit to a traditional Voodoo shop are also highly recommended.

Is Bourbon Street open every night?

Yes, Bourbon Street is open every night and is one of the liveliest spots in the city after dark. The street is lined with bars, clubs, and restaurants, most of which stay open until the early hours of the morning. It’s a hub of activity, known for its energetic atmosphere, live music, and neon lights. Keep in mind that it can get quite crowded, especially on weekends and during festivals.

Is the French Quarter safe at night?

The French Quarter is generally safe at night, particularly in the busier parts like Bourbon Street and around Jackson Square. There’s usually a strong police presence, and the areas with bars and restaurants tend to be well-lit and populated. However, as with any busy urban area, it’s wise to stay alert, stick to the main streets, and avoid walking alone in less crowded areas late at night.

Do New Orleans bars have a dress code?

Most bars in New Orleans do not have a strict dress code, especially the more casual and music-focused venues. The atmosphere in New Orleans is generally laid-back, and you’ll find that most places are accepting of all kinds of attire. However, some upscale bars and clubs, particularly in the French Quarter, may have a dress code, usually requiring smart casual wear. It’s always a good idea to check in advance if you’re planning to visit a more upscale establishment.

Recap: Best Things to Do in New Orleans at Night

In conclusion, New Orleans at night is an experience like no other. From the soulful rhythms of jazz music to the historic charm of its streets, the city offers a night-time adventure that’s both vibrant and deeply rooted in culture.

My personal favorite has to be visiting a jazz club. There’s something magical about being immersed in live music, feeling the energy of the city through the melodies of talented musicians. It’s an experience that truly captures the spirit of beautiful places in New Orleans.

Whether you’re strolling through the French Quarter, enjoying Creole cuisine, or relaxing at a rooftop bar, each activity offers a unique glimpse into the heart of this incredible city. Remember to embrace the local culture, try new things, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of your stay in New Orleans night adventure.

The top things to do in New Orleans at night for all types of travelers
Enjoyed reading about the top things to do in New Orleans at night? Pin it!

You may also like

Leave a Comment