How to Have Fun Without Drinking in New Orleans
A non-alcoholic bar, bounce dance classes, and more booze-free fun.
As the city that may or may not have literally invented the cocktail, New Orleans has long been synonymous with alcohol-fueled revelry. But even in the land of Sazeracs and Vieux Carres, there are plenty of things to do, see, and even drink for those who are sober, sober-curious, or simply cutting back on absinthe-soaked libations—and the local NA scene is only growing stronger.
“Creating a life around sobriety in a city like New Orleans, it sounds crazy,” says Erin Buran, who co-founded The Antidote Juice in 2020 along with Scorch Inez. An offshoot of The Next Sober Life, a sober community and wellness brand that Inez started 10 years ago, the storefront came at a prime time when this unabashedly boozy city was ready for more balance. “We opened up The Antidote for the nutritional aspect of it,” she adds. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you maintain your sobriety.”
Inez, who worked in the service industry for 20 years in New Orleans, says the tides are turning, and interest in sobriety is growing. “At first, it probably felt like the worst idea to do this in a city like this,” he notes. But even beyond the walls of the juice shop, non-alcoholic options are becoming more of a norm in New Orleans. “People are starting to realize that you can’t party as hard as you work, and still function.”
Nowadays, the city’s storied cocktail bars share space with those that specialize in mocktails or eschew alcohol entirely, juice bars are practically as inventive as mixology temples, and the growing world of THC seltzers provides a buzz without the booze. Beyond beverages, the city teems with activities—both indoors and out—that dazzle through immersive art experiences, swampy ziplines, and brassy dance classes, while trails can be found both throughout the city and at a nearby national park. So whether you’ve completely cut out alcohol, are embarking on Dry January, or just want to take a night off, here are the best events and things to do that don't involve drinking in New Orleans.
Non-Alcoholic Food and Drink Things to Do in New Orleans
Juice bars have come a long way from their cliched crunchy granola roots and green smoothie stereotypes. Sure, green smoothies and juices are still very much a thing, but juice bars have become as dexterous and inventive as craft cocktail bars. Courtesy of Inez and Buran, The Antidote specializes in scratch-made juices that are raw and unpasteurized, opting for natural sweeteners (e.g. honey, dates) over processed sugars, and served in recyclable glass bottles.
More artisanal juice shops can be found all over the city. Satsuma Cafe, a cold-pressed juice bar and cafe, has three locations that serve wholesome breakfast and lunch fare, along with coffee, espresso drinks, and a singular selection of juices and alcohol-free offerings. Another standby is raw REPUBLIC, a wellness shop that has since expanded to Austin. At the original Magazine Street location, customers can stock up on all manner of antidotes, snacks, and healthful enhancements, from superfood porridge and bone broth to grass-fed butter coffee and aloe vera juice.
The first non-alcoholic bar in New Orleans
New Orleans has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to bars. Now, the same is true for its booze-free scene, with the recent opening of the city’s first dedicated sober bar. Dream House Lounge, a non-alcoholic cocktail bar and zero-proof bottle shop, is the handiwork of Dr. David Wallace—a space where yoga and sound baths are offered alongside de-alcoholized wine and “conscious cocktails.” The unique hybrid concept takes a rounded, holistic approach to wellness, by offering non-alcoholic drinks from cocktails to zero-proof wines, along with regular events rooted in healing. The lounge offers a dynamic lineup of wellness classes, like breath work and meditation, led by different healers, while the bottle shop offers a plethora of apothecary-style items and booze-free beverages to bring home.
Bar crawling in a city as booze-famed as New Orleans is a veritable rite of passage for many, and thanks to the city’s ever-growing non-alcoholic cocktail scene, the sentiment holds true for sober imbibers as well. Even New Orleans’ most lauded bars and restaurants, like Cure and Compère Lapin, now feature dedicated menu sections for non-alcoholic cocktails.
Elsewhere, Compère Lapin sister spot Bywater American Bistro supplies its own stock of spirit-free libations, like the Being Good On Vacation, with mango, pineapple, lime, and ginger beer, while longstanding icon Bar Tonique makes its own assortment of “Temperance Drinks,” such as Angostura Soda with lemon juice, housemade gum syrup, Angostura bitters, phosphate, and sparkling water.
Coquette is another standby, both for contemporary Southern fare and envelope-pushing mixology. Alongside alcoholic options, look for zero-proof potables like the coriander-spiced lemon-ginger soda, or Lyre’s Sour, a sweet-and-spicy mashup of pineapple, honey, lime, cayenne, and egg white for a silken texture.
Evolving from a catering business and pop-up, Saffron has calcified as a modern Indian institution in New Orleans. Here, customers can pair their crab pudha and tandoori squash with equally original drinks—alcohol-free cocktails include the Gudamba, a blend of roasted mangoes, sugar, salt, lemon, black pepper, and kashmiri chili. Then there’s From the Ground Up, a sweet-meets-earthy marriage of roasted sweet potatoes with warming spices of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.
Just because someone is eschewing alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want a little buzz. That’s where THC seltzer comes in clutch. An ever-growing market on the zero-alcohol front, weed-infused seltzers have popped up on shelves nationwide, and here in New Orleans, local beverage companies are putting their own stamp on the burgeoning pastime. Crescent 9 is one such brand, slinging fruity, ginger-spiced seltzers with a cannabis kick—and none of the alcohol. Federally legal, made from hemp-derived cannabinoids with under 0.3% Delta-9 THC by weight, the cans can be found in stores throughout Louisiana, as well as in bars like Bywater American Bistro, Old Absinthe House, Emporium Arcade Bar, American Townhouse, and St. Roch Tavern.
Likewise, Louie Louie is another on-the-rise THC brand making waves locally. Featuring fizzy flavors like satsuma and blackberry-lemon, each infused with 5mg of THC, cans are stocked in stores, restaurants, and bars all over New Orleans and beyond.
High tea is an apt way to spend a leisurely afternoon in New Orleans, and the city offers several lounges dedicated to loose-leaf, petite scones, and finger sandwiches. Le Salon, at The Windsor Court, is one such parlor that serves afternoon tea on weekends. Each seating starts with a sparkling beverage of your choice (alcohol not required), followed by a freshly brewed pot of tea and a tower of tiered sandwiches, scones, and desserts. Throughout the year, Le Salon also has specialty themed teas on the docket, like Mardi Gras Tea on January 28 and 29, Easter Tea on March 30 and 31, and “LGBTQTEA” on August 31 to coincide with Southern Decadence.
For high tea with a side of soothsaying, hit up the only-in-New Orleans tea room, Bottom of the Cup. A French Quarter institution since the 1920s, known equally for its tea and tarot, the adorably ramshackle space is the place to sip tea and have your tea leaves read by professional psychics. Even if you’re just shopping for loose-leaf, the shop is well-stocked with a wide array of options, both to take home or enjoy on-site.
Wellness Things to Do in New Orleans
Sometimes, the best kind of wellness involves a little pampering. In a city rife with action-packed activities, New Orleans’ spas offer a bit of well-deserved respite. On the luxe end, opt for an elegant experience at the Waldorf Astoria Spa in the Roosevelt Hotel or the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. The latter is the crème de la crème of pomp and circumstance, offering signature services like triple-lift facials and the Southern Gentleman, a therapeutic massage that incorporates locally sourced cypress oils. For something a smidge more down-to-Earth, NOLA Organic Spa and Woodhouse Day Spa offer accessibly priced manis, pedis, and massages, while Float NOLA specializes in flotation therapy—and the opportunity to melt your stresses away in warm saline baths in dark, silent rooms.
Explore a national park
It may not be Yellowstone or Yosemite, but New Orleans is home to an outdoorsy national park site all its own—one that combines local lore with bayous, alligators, and wartime history. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, named for the infamous pirate who frequented these parts some centuries ago, is a sprawling national park with sections scattered in and around the city. In addition to park headquarters and a visitor center in the French Quarter, the nearby Barataria Preserve is a wooded wonderland in Marrero, lined with boardwalk trails for hiking. With 26,000 acres of wetland, the preserve is prime territory for fishing, hunting (with permit), and plenty of alligator-spotting.
Swamp zip line
Bayou boat tours are a booming business in New Orleans, but for a slightly atypical experience, how about flying over said bayous instead? It’s all made possible by Zip NOLA which gives guests an adrenaline-fueled view of Maurepas Swamp and the nearby historic village of Frenier. Located along Lake Pontchartrain, the half-mile course contains five different zip lines, two bridges, and a spiral staircase up a cypress tree, all overlooking quintessentially Louisianan scenery and wildlife.
Especially in and around the French Quarter, New Orleans is a walkable city that’s easy to explore on foot. Simply meandering the Quarter offers its own endless rewards, but the city also has designated urban trails for walking, jogging, and cycling. City Park offers 24 miles worth of trails, while Bayou Sauvage is the country's largest urban national wildlife refuge, home to 24,000 acres of beautiful bayou just begging to be explored via kayak. For something a little less alligator-forward, the Crescent Park Promenade is an idyllic urban trail that hugs the Mississippi River along the Bywater, offering sweeping skyline views from every vantage point.
Leave it to New Orleans to mix exercise with party boats. The city’s first ever cycle boat, New Orleans Pedal Barge is a unique way to mix local traditions in an outdoor atmosphere that’s fun, refreshing, communal, and distinctly New Orleans. Boats come in different sizes, offering room for up to 25, each equipped with foot pedals for guests to guide themselves through the bayou by The Wharf at Bienvenue, 20 minutes outside the city. Although boats can be boozy (all of them are BYOB), it’s entirely possible to bring whatever you’d like to drink, alcoholic or not.
Around here, walking tours are as commonplace as bayou boat tours, and in this highly walkable city, there’s a tour for everyone. From gay ghost tours and kids’ tours, to outings that specialize in cemeteries and pirates, there are myriad ways to explore New Orleans—no alcohol needed.
Art and Culture Things to Do in New Orleans
Bounce dancing classes
In New Orleans, even exercise routines are riotous. For proof, just join a toe-tapping class with Move Ya Brass, a community fitness group that encourages folks from all walks of life to partake in sessions that are as fun as they are healthy—and set to brassy music befitting a Big Easy workout. Free to attend, and held all over town, classes run the gamut from group runs and yoga to meditation, twerking, and aerobics sessions designed to demonstrate New Orleans-style bounce moves.
Like New Orleans’ own Meow Wolf, JAMNOLA is an immersive art experience you could only find here. A self-described “cultural funhouse,” the Bywater space gets its name by blending joy, art, and music through a series of interactive galleries—all designed and bedazzled by local artists and musicians. A veritable selfie museum, the 5,400-square-foot space is a wonderland of sights and sounds, as explored through 17 distinct environments that all pay homage to New Orleans through film, fashion, music, food, and more. For instance, Bling Bayou is a cavernous room clad with chandeliers and a gilded gator, while Joy of Crawfish lets guests literally crawl into a giant crockpot, and a grocery-inspired room features wearable accessories, like a hot sauce bag and a Doberge cake hat.