When the French engineer Adrien de Pauger laid out the streets of New Orleans in 1721, he chose one to carry the name of the French Royal Family ruling at the time, Rue Bourbon. Since then, Bourbon Street has become one of the most recognizable party destinations in the world.
History tells us that over the years Bourbon Street has been home to vaudeville, burlesque, jazz joints and gentlemen's clubs, serving as inspiration for the bawdy, party atmosphere the street is known for today. But visitors may be surprised to find that Bourbon offers more than the obvious nightlife options. In addition to venues featuring bands covering your favorite songs and exotic striptease clubs, the street is also home to traditional jazz clubs, upscale lounges and historic restaurants.
A carnival of sights and sounds, Bourbon Street is where people from all walks of life come to let their hair down. The street becomes a pedestrian walkway during the evening hours, preventing vehicular traffic and allowing visitors to walk freely on the street. New Orleans' open-container law permits pedestrians to walk the streets with a "go-cup" in hand filled with one of New Orleans' signature cocktails, like a "Hurricane" or "Hand Grenade."
The revelry begins at the intersection of Canal Street and Bourbon, where brass bands gather almost every night and bystanders dance on the street. The party continues beneath beautiful cast-iron balconies overlooking a seemingly endless row of bars, music clubs, restaurants and gentlemen's clubs. There is a section of Bourbon beginning at the intersection of St. Ann Street that caters to a vibrant gay community and is home to fantastic clubs and bars.
Bourbon Street is a prime destination for bachelorette and bachelor parties, birthday celebrations and an overall mecca for those looking to have a good time. During the Southern Decadence Festival, which falls around the Labor Day holiday, Bourbon hosts an array of gay-friendly festivities and parties lasting for an entire week. Carnival season in early spring draws thousands of Mardi Gras revelers to the street both night and day. However, you can always catch beads from Bourbon's famous balconies year-round.
Bourbon Street's laissez faire attitude and lively atmosphere are just part of the reason why it's so famous. Embedded in all the excitement is a taste of true American history.
History buffs will want to make sure to catch a bit of the rich musical heritage at Music Legends Park (311 Bourbon) and the only official National Landmark on Bourbon Street is Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon), named after the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte. This landmark is one of the few original French structures to survive the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788. It remains as one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter, built sometime before 1772. Today, it stands as a lamp lit piano bar and allows its patrons a chance to admire a piece of authentic New Orleans while enjoying a drink. The more residential section of Bourbon Street also gives great examples of Spanish architecture from when Spain owned the colony between 1763 and 1803. This is the perfect area to unwind from the frenzy found only a few blocks up.