In the Crescent City, there’s a second line parade, happy hour, or dance party going on literally any time of day. Living in a 24/7 party town means the FOMO is real, but it also means there are plenty of ways you can impress and surprise a date -- whether it's your first time meeting up or your love has stood the test of time. Here are a bunch of date ideas in New Orleans, including a mix of high-end, cheap, and free options, because everybody deserves a lovely night out.
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Barataria Preserve It’s just a half hour outside of New Orleans, but thanks to 23,000 acres of wetlands, this national park feels Deliverance-level secluded. Fortunately, a boardwalk path makes the swamps easy to navigate. In addition to native flora, egrets and nutria, you might see a massive alligator -- but mortal peril is sexy! Right?
Bywater It’s not exactly a low-key neighborhood hangout anymore (everyone from bachelorettes to Quentin Tarantino drinks here), but Bacchanal still has the best music, food, wine and ambiance you’ll find in Bywater... or anywhere else. By night, it's of the best bars in New Orleans for its live music, view of the Mississippi River, and well-priced wine selection.
Bywater Get out of the real life sauna that is New Orleans and visit this luxurious Bywater destination. The Country Club is a bar, restaurant, and tropical paradise all rolled into one. They even offer a Saturday Drag Brunch at no additional cost beyond your meal, if you're feeling adventurous. Plus, the sauna affords you the ability to check out your date in their bathing suit.
Northshore Everything looks just a little bit brighter through beer goggles, so throw a couple bikes in your hatchback and cruise up the Tammany Trace, a former rail corridor turned hiking/biking path, until you hit the Abita Brewery. The best part about the brewery tour? It’s a thinly veiled excuse to drink as much free beer as you possibly can. (Just be sure to sober up before you cruise back down the Trace.)
Get your slurp on
Citywide Gulf oysters are bigger, meatier, cheaper, and -- let’s face it -- sexier than any other bivalve on the planet. Plus, you can’t swing a strand of Mardi Gras beads without hitting one of the city's many excellent oyster happy hours.
Bar-hop on Frenchmen Street
Marigny Triangle Not sure where to meet? Head to Frenchmen and venue-hop until you find a place where the vibe, music and drinks strike your fancy. That might be an intimate jazz club, or it might be a street corner with a brass band and a tamale stand. If all else fails, browse the open-air art market -- as good a place as any to get your date a locally made memento.
Central City For all you budget romantics out there, this date idea offers a way to look extremely classy (it’s a museum!) while being extremely cheap (there’s free food!). Just sit up front and learn from New Orleans’ top chefs before enjoying incredibly generous samples of their wares. Tickets cost less than the price of a movie.
Garden District Perched at the top of a 1920s-era hotel, this sleek bar offers strong drinks and a 270-degree view of Downtown. The sparkling view of the skyline, luxurious indoor seating and outdoor patio, and rotating cocktail menu are enough to make any night memorable. The space is apparently "modeled after a 1940s artist's loft," and weird paintings, books, and sculpted busts line the windowsills and furniture -- not bad as far as conversation starters go.
Uptown It’s not just a zoo with the requisite lions, tigers, and elephants (plus two white alligators). It’s also a 58-acre garden. In other words, you can find out if your date was telling the truth about liking long walks and conversation. There are a few different ticket options, but admission to the zoo is just over $20 per person.
Be ferried across the Mississippi in style
French Quarter and Algiers Point The Algiers ferry fare may be the most romantic $2 you’ll ever spend in this town. Jackson Square never looks more picturesque than when viewed the Mississippi River. Plus, between the river breeze and prow perch, you could have your very own Titanic moment. (The part when Rose says she’s flying. Not the part when the ship sinks, and her date falls to the depths of the ocean.)
Marigny If you can’t make your date laugh, pay someone else to do it. You’ll find improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy at The New Movement. Or (for the brave among us) you can both take a class there and develop your own senses of humor. Select classes are free, and several shows cost less than $10 if you buy online.
Zen out and eat seafood on Lake Pontchartrain
Lakeside Who says New Orleans doesn’t have any good nature stuff? Populated by dolphins, sharks, eagles, manatees, and other creatures, Lake Pontchartrain is a 40-mile-wide oasis of serenity. We'd recommend a lazy stroll or bike ride along its perimeter, followed swiftly by trying the seafood at a convenient establishment like the Blue Crab or the legendary Deanie's of Bucktown.
Get loose at a jazz brunch
Citywide Morning and daytime dates -- especially when they're first dates -- can sometimes be tricky. You stress out about the so-called "friend zone" or just managing to roll out of bed on time. Fortunately a terrific jazz brunch, with cold Bloody Marys, can go a long way toward alleviating your concerns. And New Orleans is lousy with them, of course, so get thee and your date to one, stat.
Canoe in Bayou St. John
Bayou St. John Still waters, oak trees, French colonial houses -- it doesn’t get much prettier than Bayou St. John. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard for about what you'd spend on a fancy dinner, with the added bonus of mutual physical exertion and the joys of nature surrounding you. Once you're out there just make like Prince Eric and Ariel, but with more kissing.
Bywater, Marigny, French Quarter In addition to sweeping downtown views, gardens, and 1.4 miles of jogging trails, Crescent Park has picnic tables. The seasoned pros will purchase the fixings at the new Robert Fresh Market on St. Claude Avenue and head up Elysian Fields to the park entrance. From there, it's all a matter of staking your claim to picnic real estate for a free, lovely day in the park.
Experiment with your partner at a swingers club
This might not be an activity for the first date, or, admittedly, even the first decade of most relationships. But should you and your lover ever decide to “spice things up,” Colette is a swingers club that’s very friendly toward newbies. If you've never set foot in a swingers club, you'll obviously probably have questions -- which is fine -- as Colette has both informative videos answering FAQs on their website, plus a full explanatory blog, Open Love 101. Just be open and honest in talking about it with your partner.
French Quarter Some things never get old, including coffee, hot fried dough buried in sugar, and that busker who wears an umbrella hat. Especially when he’s playing the sax solo from "Careless Whispers." The beignet is one of the most classically "New Orleans" foods you can share with another person in town -- whether you're in town a weekend getaway together or have lived here for 40 years. There's nothing like keeping it simple.
Bywater Tucked behind railroad tracks, the large patio and backyard at this microbrewery sometimes feels like a playground for the elementary school set. It's great if you’re a parent looking for a date night destination and a cold one.
Bywater Show up early to stake out a seat at the bar and chow down on free red beans and rice ahead of this weekly dance party. You’ll burn the carbs off later thanks to the musical stylings of Corey Henry’s Treme Funktet. The dance party gets going around 11pm and rages until the wee hours or until you and your date collapse from exhaustion.
Hit up St. Claude Avenue galleries during Second Saturday
Bywater-Marigny Gallery-hop, drink wine, and earnestly discuss the commodification of outsider art at this monthly gallery-hop, which happens from 6pm to 9pm on the second Saturday of each month. And if your Tinder date turns to you during a performance art piece and asks what it means, it definitely means they're into you.
Citywide Mardi Gras parades. Second line parades. St. Patrick’s Day parades. St. Joseph’s Day parades. Pride parades. More second line parades. Let’s face it: You’re going to be at a parade anyway. You might as well bring your crush. More people mean more hands for catching beads, after all.
Make it rain on some hot man meat
French Quarter Beefy, floor-humping, thong-rocking men are the stuff of pure entertainment. Sure, it’s not exactly sexy, but it’s not not sexy. Check out the shows at Bourbon Boylesque at Oz -- just don’t forget to tip. The right couple will consider this an amazing way to spend a night, but it's also probably not the best idea for a first date.
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