Where to Celebrate New Year's Eve in New Orleans
Ring in 2017 at these favorite Nola spots.
Kevin O'Mara, curenola.com
Everyone has their own way of celebrating New Year’s Eve. In San Francisco residents gather to watch the spectacular fireworks display on the waterfront. The folks in Austin, Texas usher in the new year with a live music/art festival downtown at Vic Mathias Shores. And New Yorkers assemble at Times Square to watch the big ball descend at midnight which is televised around the world.
But in New Orleans, the celebration takes place all over town, transforming the city into a floating party. Ann Tuennerman, founder of the city’s annual August event Tales of the Cocktail, says, “If you really want to celebrate the spirit of New Orleans, go into a cocktail bar, a neighborhood bar, a dive bar or a music club. There’s really good energy there. It’s doesn’t require a tuxedo or a lot of money. All socio-economic levels can enjoy each other’s company.”
Jochen Hirschfeld, www.latitude29nola.com
From Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter to Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny district to Freret Street in Uptown New Orleans, you can experience New Year’s Eve like the locals. “With some of the stress that people are under now,” Tuennerman adds, “we should look at the new year and not separate ourselves as much from each other but celebrate diversity.” The major appeal of NYE for her is “this idea of getting together at midnight no matter what your situation was the year before and sharing a moment of hope with friends or strangers.”
Here are some of Tuennerman’s favorite spots for ringing in the New Year in Nola starting with the French Quarter. “Latitude 29 is a tiki bar that is owned by Jeff Berry and I call him the Tiki God,” she states. “He really is the tiki authority and has written several books [such as Beach Bum Berry’s Remixed: A Gallery of Tiki Drinks] and led seminars around the world.” She describes the decor of Latitude 29 as “quirky and a different kind of glamorous. They have decorated everything like a Hollywood set so it’s polished tiki but cute and comfortable. Tiki always makes you smile. And it’s in a little boutique hotel [Bienville House Hotel] that’s somewhat hidden.” One of the more popular cocktails is the Pontchartrain Pearl Diver, an iced buttered rum made with Jamaican rum, passion fruit, lime and honey butter.
“Another place in the Quarter that is one of my favorites is French 75,” Tuennerman advises, “It’s a cocktail bar that’s connected to Arnaud’s Restaurant. It has a really cozy atmosphere and is the most beautifully decorated bar and restaurant during the holidays. It just sparkles!” One of their signature cocktails is the French 75 which blends Courvoisier VS, sugar, lemon juice, Moet and Chandon Champagne - ingredients that make it ideal for a New Year’s toast.
Sara Essex Bradley, www.tikitolteca.com
Other places to check out in the Decatur Street area of the Quarter include Cane and Table, a Colonial rum bar with excellent food and a patio for people watching, and Tiki Tolteca, a Latin American themed exotica tiki lounge on the second floor of Felipe’s Taqueria which is a great place to view the fireworks on the Mississippi River. No cover charge or reservations are required at Tiki Tolteca and they even offer a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.
Sammy Todd Dyess, therooseveltneworleans.com/dining/the-sazerac-bar.html
If you do want to drop some bucks and enjoy an open bar with live music, you might consider purchasing tickets for the New Orleans fleur-de-lis ball drop at Jax (Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar) near Jackson Square. Other possibilities include The Sazerac Bar in the historic landmark The Roosevelt where you can also enjoy a four-course holiday meal in the Fountain Lounge or celebrate the new year with a muffuletta sandwich and Pimm’s Cup Original cocktail at the beloved Napoleon House.
CHRIS GRANGER, www.napoleonhouse.com
For the Frenchmen Street area, Tuennerman recommends d.b.a. "Great music, nice craft beers and a good whiskey selection.” Other fun music venues include The Spotted Cat, a funky hole in the wall bar with something to please every kind of music fan (jazz, blues, funk, Klezmer, etc.) and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, a local institution that is famous for its burgers and live jazz acts.
Snug Harbor, www.snugjazz.com
Snug Harbor does not take reservations for their dining room or bar (no cover charge) but you can still enjoy the live music from their private music room which is featuring Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony on Dec. 31 and requires an advance ticket. Erica Dudas of Snug Harbor says, “Even when I'm not working, I like spending NYE here. It’s such a fun vibe with decorations and a bubbly toast at midnight - plus it gives you a little getaway from the busy Frenchmen crowd.”
If you plan to go Uptown on NYE, Tuennerman says, “I would definitely suggest Cure, which totally revitalized Freret Street. There was a time when the owner of Cure took a risk on this place, renovated it, worked with the city on the zoning and now it’s a fabulous street - bars and restaurants of all different varieties. It’s easy to get to and the parking is complimentary.” Other places to check out on Freret Street include Bar Frances, a New American restaurant and wine bar, and High Hat Cafe, specializing in Southern cuisine and craft cocktails like Delta Dawn (Honeysuckle Vodka, Lemon-Lavender Shrub, NOLA Blonde Ale, Creme Yvette).
Kevin O'Mara, curenola.com
The possibilities for having a great time on NYE in Nola are endless. Just keep in mind that you might want to explore your options in the early evening before some of the venues become too crowded. The Allstar Sugar Bowl takes place at the New Orleans Superdome on January 2 so attendees may be arriving early to celebrate 2017.
Guitar Drop, Memphis, Tenn.The Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street rings in the New Year in Memphis with its annual guitar drop. The ten-foot Gibson guitar is dropped more than 100 feet as part of a televised event that includes live music performances for a crowd of more than 50,000 revelers. 960 1280
Giant Potato Drop, Boise, IdahoFor this year’s annual potato drop in Boise, an Idaho-based design firm is fabricating a brand new 17-foot long, high-tech internally lit “Glow-tato.” Reps from Idaho’s New Year’s Commission insist it will be more realistic and more durable than previous years’ potatoes. To see the animated build process visit: GlowTato.com. 960 1280
Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C.Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year. 960 1280
Pickle Drop, Mount Olive, N.C.Described by the sponsor as “dill-lightful,” the Mount Olive Pickle Company hosts an annual New Year’s Eve fundraiser to benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Festivities include live music and the 7 p.m. drop of a giant, fully-lit pickle at the corner of Cucumber & Vine. 960 1280
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Blowing Rock WinterfestHead to the mountains of North Carolina for the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest. This lively winterfest features a plunge into the icy waters of Lake Chetola, followed by the chance to warm up with hot chocolate and chili in downtown Blowing Rock. When: Late January 960 1280
Vancouver Polar Bear SwimRun for your life! This group of New Year’s revelers rushes from the freezing waters of Vancouver’s English Bay. 2014 marks the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim’s 94th year, making it one of the largest and oldest clubs of its kind in the world. When: New Year's Day 960 1280
Courage Polar Bear DipCourage, lads! Since its start in 1985, the annual Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ontario, has become the largest polar bear dip for charity in Canada. Money raised supports clean water projects organized by the advocacy organization World Vision Canada. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280
Seattle Polar Bear PlungeThey’re freezin’ for a reason. Plungers take to the waters off Seattle’s Matthews Beach for the city’s annual polar bear plunge. Now in its 12th year, the Seattle Polar Bear Plunge is one of 8 statewide plunges to benefit Special Olympics Washington. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280
Aruba New Year's PlungeIn search of warmer climes to take the plunge? Head to Aruba for the Caribbean island’s annual Aruba New Year's Plunge. Hundreds of people gather at MooMba Beach for the “Unox Nieuwjaarsduik” (New Year’s plunge), which takes place at noon sharp. The event is open to everyone; no charge. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280
Coney Island PlungeCold enough for you? These 2 brave guys take part in the annual Coney Island Plunge organized by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the oldest ice swimming club in the US. The yearly dip into the Atlantic begins at 1 p.m. sharp; afterward, if you’re still breathing, check out the famous Coney Island boardwalk. When: Jan. 1 960 1280
Russian Orthodox EpiphanyIn the name of the …wow, this water is cold! A Russian man celebrates the Russian Orthodox Epiphany with a dip in frigid waters. The age-old ritual commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, but we have a feeling the Jordan’s waters were a lot less cold. When: Mid-January 960 1280
Tybee Polar PlungeThousands of people flock to Tybee Island, near Savannah, GA, for the annual Tybee Polar Plunge plunge into the brisk waters of the Atlantic. Plungers register for a nominal fee, with proceeds going toward the historic Tybee Post Theater, built in 1930. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280
Scotland's Loony DookShowing their white-and-blue Scottish pride, these 2 “loony dookers” take a dip in Scotland’s River Forth. The annual Loony Dook event in Scotland began in 1987 with a handful of participants; the event has since grown into a New Year’s rite of passage for thousands. When: New Year’s Day 960 1280
Baltimore PlungeFestHoly moly, ma, Darth Vader’s not wearing any clothes under that cape! This wickedly cool plunger takes a dip in the Chesapeake Bay’s cold waters near Baltimore. The annual Baltimore PlungeFest kicks off in Annapolis, MD’s Sandy Point State Park, with proceeds going to Special Olympics Maryland. When: Late January 960 1280
Chicago Polar PlungeSkip the clothes, grab a wig! Celebrate the New Year (and a good cause) with hundreds of revelers who dive into the icy waters of Chicago’s Lake Michigan in early spring. 2015 marks Chicago Polar Plunge’s 15th year, with proceeds going toward Special Olympics Chicago. When: Early March 960 1280
Netherlands New Year'sWearing colorful vestments, this man takes a dip in the waters off Scheveningen, a beachside resort town in the Netherlands. The annual event began in 1960, and attracts more than 10,000 people, who plunge into the icy North Sea on New Year’s Day. When: Jan. 1 960 1280
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