New Year's in New Orleans?
November 24, 2012 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Where to go in New Orleans for New Year's?

My brother in law and his lovely wife are going to be in New Orleans for New Year's this year. What are some fun New Year's things they may want to check out (something authentic with good food and music is what they're hoping for, preferably something local)? Are there things they could/should buy tickets for now? And where is a good place to stay (bed and breakfast type preferably)?
posted by Go Banana to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The French Quarter in general is great on New Year's Eve. To an extent fancier places will do a pre-fixe dinner or ticketed event or the like, but all in all the bars will be open and locals will be out on the streets partying.

In my experience most of the interesting bars don't require tickets, but to be honest it's been a long time since I've done NYE in the Quarter and I was rather drunk even then. I know I was really surprised when I moved to New York from New Orleans and discovered that one had to make NYE plans weeks in advance in order to buy tickets and all that noise, because growing up in New Orleans we just... went out and had fun in the Quarter.

I don't have specific ideas for where to stay, but they should try to stay in the French Quarter due to the ease of getting back after a late night (whether they opt for some kind of ticketed event or just wandering and drinking and snacking and watching the fireworks on the river). If even just to avoid drunk drivers, mad rush on cabs, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 PM on November 24, 2012

I could recommend doing a drinking tour of New Orleans, which centers around the French Quarter. There will indeed be events going on all night, and, unless the Quarter has changed a lot, you should be able to get into most bars without a reservation. It may be a bit crowded, but, unlike Mardi Gras, when it is chaos, crowds are generally pretty well behaved on New Years.

Here are the drinks I recommend at the places I recommend them. I'm not organizing this by a map, so, if you choose to do this, you may want to plot it out.

The sazerac: New Orleans claims this is the first cocktail. There's not a lot of evidence to back that up, but so what. It's a great cocktail. I've had it especially well made at the Alpine, but word is that closed. Arnaud's 75 Bar has a great reputation for the drink, but I haven't had it there.

The Ramos Gin Fizz: This is not a drink that was invented in New Orleans, but was a favorite of Huey Long, who used to bring a bartender along with him on business trips. The best I have had is at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. Oddly, I have never had a sazerac there.

Absinthe: It's become rather a cliche, but it's still fun. I don't know if the absinthe house on Bourbon serves absinthe now that it's come legal, but you should have their absinthe frappe, which was invented in New Orleans, sparked a national trend, was a favorite of Aleister Crowley , and is delicious. They used to make it with Herbsaint. If they don't serve it with absinthe, that will do just fine. The Pirate's Alley bar probably has absinthe. The bartenders used to dress like pirates. They may still.

The Vieux Carre: This cocktail shares its name with the French Quarter -- if you want to sound suitably local, call the neighborhood the Vieux Carre. Its served at the wonderful Carousel Lounge in the Hotel Monteleon, which makes slow perambulations around the bar, so that if you sit still, you spin, which you may actually not need mechanical assistance to experience. The Vieux Carre is a lovely drink -- I wish it would find an audience outside New Orleans.

The Hurricane: There's no way to do New Orleans and not do Pat O's on Bourbon. Fortunately, it's actually a pretty fun bar, and much weirder than any tourist trap has any right to be. Definitely get a hurricane -- it's a passable tropical cocktail. They make a pretty good zombie as well.

Irish Coffee: It's not New Orleanean, per say, but you're going to need it, and there are two great Irish pubs in the Quarter -- Erin Rose, where you can also get Jameson Grilled Cheese, and Molly's on Tolouse. It's also worth a tip of the hat to New Orleans' huge Irish-American population -- one of my favorite St. Paddy's Days was in the Quarter, where there's a small but festive walking parade. Ignatius J. Reilly was Irish-American, and almost his whole story takes place in and around the Quarter (and at his mother's house, in what was called The Irish Channel upriver of the Quarter.)

The Jungle Juice: It's a sort of terrible frozen slurry of purple liquid and rums, but they serve it at Lafitte's, which is one of the only actual French buildings int he Quarter (the whole place has burned down a few times, and was rebuilt by the Spanish) and is said to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously running bars in America. It's also said to have been owned by the pirate Jean LaFitte. Almost certainly not true.

Abita Beer: It's a popular local beer, and I think Dixie, which was the cheap stuff, is out of business. You can get Abita at Fritzel's, which is a terrific jazz club on Bourbon just down the street from LaFitte's, and there's no charge but for buying some beer. I once took a photo of Laurence Fishburne here, which he did not seem to appreciate.

Finally, the Pimm's Cup, a traditional English drink that you get at the Napoleon House, which is a pretty glorious old building with a good menu. (Supposedly the house was intended for Napoleon when he was in exile.) Pimm's is a flavored gin mixed with ginger ale and fruits, and it really delicious.

I will warn you, this is both the greatest tour somebody can take of the Quarter and also almost certain to ruin the next day. It's worth it, and it will be a New Year's to remember.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:50 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

if you want to sound suitably local, call the neighborhood the Vieux Carre.

Haha please don't do that. Nobody local calls it that.

The Quarter will do nicely.
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 PM on November 24, 2012

Haha please don't do that. Nobody local calls it that.

It's a bit of a derail, but unless things have changed since I lived in the Quarter, six years ago, I heard it called Viuex Carre all the time by people who lived in the Quarter (it's no accident that the Mardi Gras Krewe in the Quarter is the Krewe du Viuex). People in Metarie and Kenner didn't call it that, but many of them were also convinced it was a crime-ridden cesspool that nobody should ever go to, so their opinions were of limited value.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 PM on November 24, 2012

I've stayed at the Maison Dupuy which is right on the edge of the Quarter. It's really nice, though the restaurant is crap. There's an Irish pub called Fahey's right across the street owned by an awesome gal whose name I've quite forgotten because she kept making me knock back Mind Erasers.

For out-of-the-way local food, try Elizabeth's in the Bywater. You'll need a cab to get there, but the rabbit tenderloin is so worth it. Delicious, funky, fair prices, good service. Love the place.

Many of the cocktails Bunny Ultramod mentions above and more are available at Bar Tonique, a tiny little bar on North Rampart that makes all their own syrups and extracts. A Dark & Stormy with their homemade orange ginger orgeat was the boozy highlight of my last visit.

Oh, and fried chicken at Coop's. It's a pretty standard French Quarter tourist bar on Decatur Street near Jackson Square, but their fried chicken is freakin' fantastic, and I wasn't even drunk when I ate it.

Dang. Now I'm ready to go back. I love that town.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:36 PM on November 24, 2012

Go for brunch at Elizabeth's too.
posted by brujita at 11:19 PM on November 24, 2012

Continuing the derail: if I heard someone say, "I live in the Vieux Carre" I would assume that science had perfected some new form of special high-class snob. In all the years I've lived here I've never heard anyone call it that. I'm not saying that Vieux Carre is not technically one of the old names for the Quarter - it totally is - but that it does not come up in casual conversation other than to say, "Vieux Carre is one of the old names for the Quarter."

Back on target: I live in New Orleans and I rarely if ever go to the French Quarter unless invited by one of my friends to a special event. That is not to say that there's anything wrong with the Quarter - there is not. The main reasons to go there are to drink and eat and I have dozens if not hundreds of other options in the city, most of which have better parking and many of which are closer to my house.

There are two times of year that I feel not only interest but almost a kind of self-induced pressure to go to the Quarter and those are Mardi Gras morning and New Years Eve. NYE in the Quarter is a great thing. You don't need events, or tickets. You certainly don't need Bourbon Street. Just go down there with whatever drinks you want (and make sure they're in plastic - you can drink on the streets as long as it's not out of a glass container) and watch the evening unfold. The party will find you if you're receptive to it. Just walking around the Quarter on that night is an adventure, and standing on the steps of the cathedral at Jackson Square as the countdown happens is something everyone should experience once. It is borderline magical.

I could recommend a dozen bars and restaurants for the duration of their stay, if you're interested, but for your main question my answer is: get your body inside the borders of the French Quarter. Wander with drink in hand. That's all you'll need.
posted by komara at 11:15 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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