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What to Do on Bourbon Street

people on road at night

Have you ever been to New Orleans? If so, you know all about Bourbon Street. If not, I’ll give you a realistic idea of what it’s like—what to do and tips for having fun as well as keeping out of trouble.

Bourbon Street is one of the most famous streets in America. In fact, 41% of the people I met at Mardi Gras worked on it or lived on it. There’s a reason Bourbon Street has such an excellent reputation — and several hundred thousand tourists arrive every year to find out what it is.

Bourbon Street is famous in American culture. It is the center of American drinking; it is the capital of American music, art, and tourism; and it is the place where Americans come together for a good time.

It is famous in popular culture, too. It is the scene of great fictional adventures; it is the site of significant historical tragedies; it is, in short, an essential part of American identity.

Bourbon Street takes its name from Antoine de Bourbon, the duke of Vendome, who acquired it during the War of the Austrian Succession. In the eighteenth century, Bourbon Street was the center of Paris’s French aristocracy.

Paris’s French aristocracy was not just decadent: you could also go to their balls. In the eighteenth century, those balls were occasions for aristocratic families to show off their riches. The ballroom of Versailles, for example, was a room so opulent that King George III of England is said to have shed tears.

Today, Bourbon Street is the center of Paris’s American aristocracy. On Bourbon Street, you can find places where you can get more alcohol than you can drink in a month, places where you can buy drugs, and places where you can fight.

Bourbon Street is also the center of Paris’s French aristocracy. The French aristocracy lives on Bourbon Street, too. But these days, their evening entertainment involves the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, a quieter neighborhood to the west.

The Faubourg Saint-Antoine is, in many ways, more interesting than Bourbon Street. It has immigrants primarily, and most of them have some sort of connection to Latin America. They live in tenements and in flats, and most of them are poor.

But their evening entertainment involves music. The Faubourg Saint-Antoine has clubs to hear all kinds of music—from Caribbean steel bands to Malian kora to Brazilian samba to Armenian duduk.

Bourbon Street’s claim to fame is that it’s the center of Paris’s American aristocracy. 

Bourbon Street is a legendary place. But everyone remembers the same stories. The bars are crowded, the music is loud, and people are drinking. So you go in, see all the guys with muscles, and start ordering drinks.

If you try to order something quieter, like a glass of wine, the bartenders get annoyed.

But there are other places to go. The “French Quarter,” for instance. The “French Quarter” is even smaller, quieter, and slower-paced. In fact, it’s not that different from the rest of the city.

The “French Quarter” has its own character. Compared to Bourbon Street, it is sort of like a residential neighborhood. You meet people walking their dogs, and you see families going to church on Sunday morning. You can’t find those kinds of people on Bourbon Street.

The “French Quarter” still has its own business district, and you can find all the typical kinds of businesses there. But the French place has a park. You can walk, sit, read, or get some ice cream. 

Takeaway

If you are after having a good time in New Orleans, Bourbon Street is an excellent place to start. Bourbon Street is New Orleans’ most famous street, and deservedly so. It is the center of New Orleans nightlife. From Bourbon Street, New Orleans has one of the world’s significant concentrations of bars, restaurants, and entertainment.