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 - it all depends on what you're looking for.
But the attraction that ties it all together is the street itself - a carnival of sights and sounds where people from all walks of life come to let their hair down. City officials actually turn Bourbon Street into a pedestrian mall each evening, meaning the street is shut down to vehicular traffic leaving plenty of room for visitors to walk the strip. Grab a beer in a "go-cup" as you wander along, or one of New Orleans' staple cocktails, like a "Hurricane" or "Hand Grenade." New Orleans' open-container law means you don't have to worry about drinking in the streets - in fact, we wouldn't have it any other way.
The party starts at the intersection of Canal Street and Bourbon, where brass bands gather almost every night, filling the street with dancers. Down Bourbon's thirteen blocks running to Esplanade Avenue, the revelry continues beneath beautiful cast-iron balconies, with a seemingly endless row of bars, music clubs, restaurants and gentlemen's clubs. The constant carousing that has made Bourbon Street famous usually takes place on "Upper Bourbon," the eight blocks that stretch down river from Canal Street. The section of Bourbon beginning at the intersection of St. Ann Street caters to our 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. But throwing and catching beads from Bourbon's famous balconies is a year-round past-time and you‘ll find visitors sporting their beaded treasures 365 days and nights a year.
It's clear why Bourbon Street has become so famous-its laizze faire attitude and lively atmosphere are sure to give you something to write home about. Yet embedded in all the excitement is a taste of true American history. So grab some beads and come on down-on Bourbon Street it's Mardi Gras all year long!
History buffs will want to make sure to catch a bit of our 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, being built sometime before 1772. Today it stands as a lamp lit piano bar, allowing its patrons to admire a piece of authentic New Orleans while enjoying a drink. This 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.