Where to Celebrate New Year's Eve in New Orleans
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.