Best New Orleans NYE Parties You’ll Actually Enjoy
Winter in New Orleans is about pacing yourself. For most, it all starts at the race track’s opening day festivities on Thanksgiving and caps things off with massive Mardi Gras celebrations in early March. Almost exactly in the middle of all this is New Year’s Eve, a night often unfortunately lost in the shuffle. But that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t offer up incredible chances to ring in 2020, from the booziest to the most romantic you can find (or maybe both). Here are the Big Easy’s biggest parties, shindigs, parades, and assorted throwdowns to properly bid 2019 adieu. From massive block parties to riverboat rides to fireworks along the Mississippi, we’ve got you covered to start off a new decade in New Orleans the right way.
While Times Square may be the first to ring in the New Year stateside, New Orleans has long held claim to starting things off for those of us in CST. Free to the public and situated near the historic Jax Brewery, this year’s Rockin’ Eve will be hosted by Billy Porter alongside special guests dropping in throughout the night. The Big Easy’s celebration welcomes Sheryl Crow and Usher as its musical guests beginning around 9pm, and continues until the giant Fleur-de-Lis makes its descent at midnight.
Central Business District
One of the biggest curated parties of the holiday is undoubtedly Big Night New Orleans’ gigantic NYE bash at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Performers like Choppa, Petey Pablo, Flow Tribe, and Bustout Burlesque will entertain around 3,000 attendees on multiple stages throughout the space, with tickets available including meals, drinks, a silent disco, and a mock casino area. For those wanting to really do it up big on New Years, there really isn’t anything better than Big Night’s gala.
For years, one of the city’s biggest NYE throwdowns has been the Allstate Sugar Bowl madness. For the 87th annual matchup, Georgia’s and Baylor’s college football teams will square off in the Superdome, but not before a gigantic Fan Fest block party downtown including a traditional, Mardi Gras-inspired parade. Food and booze vendors will be plentiful, but feel free to bring any and all tailgating accessories needed to enjoy the day. Also, it’s probably best to learn at least one of the team’s fight songs in case you get caught up in either side’s pep rally.
Fireworks on the Mississippi River
Just because it’s New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean you have to break your 2020 bank. Grab a six-pack (or two) and head towards Crescent City Park spanning the Bywater-Marigny along the Mississippi. For the cheapest, but certainly no less enjoyable, option on NYE, grab some friends and/or your significant other and take a stroll along the park as the night sky is illuminated by festivities you didn’t have to pay for in any way.
New Orleans’ steamboat tours are one of the most relaxing and quaint ways to spend an evening, so why not float on down the Mississippi River with jazz music, plenty of cocktails, and a full buffet to close out the year? There are a number of options available on both New Year’s Eve and Day, from brunch trips to evening dinner cruises, but better book a ticket in advance, because it’s about as appealing to everyone else as it sounds to you right now.
Staying up partying past midnight isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re raising a family. Thankfully, the Louisiana Children’s Museum has you covered with its Noon Year’s Day party, which rings in 2020 a bit earlier. The museum will host a number of activity stations alongside multiple second line parades through their gardens after the noon “countdown.” Come with the family for a wholesome alternative to New Orleans’ otherwise debaucherous celebrations.
Cost: $10 for museum members, $20 for non-members
Look, we get it, some years are much harder to last until midnight than others. Doubly so if little ones are involved. New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo provides a novel solution to this all-to-common holiday problem. Zoo Year’s Eve takes place a full 12 hours earlier than most of the city’s other events, allowing families to ring in the New Year at noon with games, music, and prizes. Outside food and drinks are allowed, with concessions also available within the zoo.
Cost: Free for Audubon members, or with standard price of zoo admission
Lower Garden District
The legendary funk-jam band has thrown down on NYE for years now, and 2020 will be no exception. Galactic’s concert at Tipitina’s (the equally legendary venue now owned by members of the band) is one of your best bets for a helluva good time if you’re on the lookout for drinks, dancing, and seriously good party music. Basic tickets will get you into the show, but the VIP option looks like a pretty good splurge, with food from Jacque-Imo’s, an open bar, a champagne toast, reserved balcony section, and signed Galactic merch.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Fritzel’s European Jazz Club on Bourbon Street provides a scene and sound you really just can’t get anywhere else in town these days. The old-school, intimate lounge area hosts some of the city’s best musicians every evening, and New Year’s Eve will be no exception. But, if you want to kick things up a notch, grab a ticket and head to the back of the building for Potions’ Lounge, a kind of vampire-esque speakeasy that’s as decadent and sexy as it sounds. This year’s NYE party theme is Ghosts of the Silver Screen, so show up dressed your best in the (literal) spirit of your favorite Hollywood legends.
That’s right -- 17th annual. If you’ve ever been blessed to see DJ Soul Sista work her magic on the ones and twos, then you already know why there’s been an audience out to see her every New Year’s for nearly two decades. Taking place at the historic Civic Theatre, Soul Sista starts spinning around 10pm, providing some of the best classic funk, soul, and R&B records to soundtrack the end of the decade. Tickets in advance will get you in the door, but VIP gets you an open bar, champagne toast, balcony section, and a separate side entrance if you’re looking to be a bit more fancy.
Bourbon Street on New Year’s Eve is, well, it’s about exactly what you’d expect. Raucous, debaucherous, weird as hell (not to mention hygienically questionable), it can certainly overwhelm even the most experienced of New Orleans partygoers. Luckily, there are a number of options to party at a relatively safe remove from most insane and depraved tourists, and the Bourbon Cowboy’s balcony party is one of your best bets to throw down. The tickets are a bit on the pricey side, but why not go all in on the bar with the mechanical bull?
Frenchman Street has long been one of the best live music spots in town, but it still must be seen to be believed. If you’re looking for classic New Orleans tunes on New Year’s Eve, head over to the club Maison for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s 2019 sendoff. Tickets to the three-story dance club and concert hall can include an open bar, lounge area, midnight champagne toast, and balcony seating to take in all the sights and sounds of Frenchman Street below you.
For those looking to really get down while closing out 2019, Big Freedia has got you covered. With doors opening at 9pm, the New Orleans bounce legend will host a “Three Ring Twerkus” at the Joy Theatre on December 31 with some help from Cajun-rock heavy hitters Sweet Crude and “rap-cabaret” artist, Boyfriend. This promises to be one of the most New Orleans-esque parties in town that evening, so we recommend this if you’re looking for a spot to “release your wiggle” alongside all your friends.
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