new orleans mardi gras
Mardi Gras in New Orleans | Suzanne C. Grim/Shutterstock
Mardi Gras in New Orleans | Suzanne C. Grim/Shutterstock
Travel

The Definitive New Orleans Bachelor Party Guide

New Orleans knows how to throw a party. Planning a group trip to NOLA, and especially celebrating a bachelor party here, is incredibly unique (and way cooler than Vegas, thank you). Yes, you can have the traditional slosh-fest on Bourbon Street, but there’s also great jazz on Frenchman, incredible hangover food, adventurous daytime boat rides, spontaneous street parties, and plenty of locals who will join your revelry. 

But it’s inadvisable to jump straight in with no method to your madness. Before touching down at Louis Armstrong Airport, make sure you do your research -- our Ultimate New Orleans Travel Guide is a great resource for any visitor, but obviously, rolling deep with 10 dudes you haven’t seen since high school plus the groom’s awkward older brother is an entirely different animal. Behold: tips on how not to be a dick, avoid getting ripped off by touristy scams, whether or not to book an Airbnb, the absolute best restaurants to try, cool things to do, and ultimately, how to avoid the drunk tank as you tear through the Crescent City.

JUMP TO:KNOW BEFORE YOU GO  | WHERE TO EAT, DRINK, & PARTY

know before you go
mardi gras
Mardi Gras in New Orleans | Erika Goldring/Getty Images

BEST TIMES TO VISIT NEW ORLEANS 

For a large part of the year, New Orleans is swampy as hell. This is because it is literally built upon, you know, a swamp. When planning a group trip, know your crew’s endurance levels. You really don’t want to explain to the groom’s significant other how their bachelor got heat stroke on Bourbon Street.

When in doubt, aim for March -- just come on down pretty much anytime that month. It’s usually the best time of year temperature-wise, the town is pretty calm after Mardi Gras, and your hotel won’t be overpriced and stuffed with tourists. If you’re looking for a more laid back time, or just more room to go wild, spring season in New Orleans is a great, overlooked option.

Rarely a week goes by without some kind of festival or event in town, be it big or small. Some other times of the year worth nothing include Essence Fest, Jazz Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, and the NOLA Beer Festival. Of course, be weary if you travel down to the bayou during festival season, as flights and hotels are more expensive and tourist crowds that much more dense. But if you're willing to brave the insanity, these are the big events to know about.

Mardi Gras
While some may view a Mardi Gras bachelor party trip as a bit cliche, they can honestly buzz off, because there’s nothing like wandering down St. Charles Avenue or through the Quarter watching massive floats amble along while everyone’s generally in a great, sloshed mood. Everything is a little more expensive during the festival, which starts two weeks before Ash Wednesday every year, but you’re gonna get what you pay for in terms of debauchery.

Voodoo Fest
The three-day music festival features national acts -- Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem, and Foo Fighters were recent performers -- as well as local food stands, trippy art installations, and copious amounts of booze. The fest also happens to take place in October, during infinitely more pleasant weather than the Jazz Fest heat and rain. VIP tickets are available if you’re looking to really take care of your bachelor.

Tales of the Cocktail
Every July (heat warning), this symposium/festival features some of the best bartenders around the country slinging drinks you just aren’t gonna find anywhere else. Like other city-wide events, this one can get a little pricey, but you might actually come out having learned something from one of its seminars. If you can remember it, of course.

WHERE TO STAY FOR A BACHELOR PARTY IN NEW ORLEANS

Where you stay in New Orleans can be almost as fun as all the things you’ll actually do in the city. Areas like the Bywater-Marigny are now some of the go-to locales for lodging, providing scenic and (relatively) quiet neighborhood respites, while both the Uptown and Mid-City neighborhoods are removed from the more touristy spots and would make sense for more seasoned New Orleans veterans. Depending on your price range and desired proximity to the action, start your search here.

Hotel Monteleone
Go all-out in a New Orleans classic
With its name erected in giant letters on the rooftop, it’s hard to miss this landmark establishment. Open since 1886, the Monteleone has housed all sorts of dignitaries, stars, and literary types -- its Carousel Bar (yes, it’s literal) was a favorite haunt of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner. It costs a pretty penny, but you’ll understand why as soon as you step into the lobby.

The Roosevelt Hotel
Keep it classy, but at a modest price
Like the Monteleone, the Roosevelt is a downtown staple, and boasts its own crazy historical lounge, the Sazerac Bar -- home of the original cocktail itself. Great if your crew wants that New Orleans feel during off-hours, but also provides close proximity to the casinos down the street.

Hotel Provincial
Stay sweet and simple
Perhaps because it’s supposedly haunted, but the Hotel Provincial’s prices are hard to beat for its location in the Quarter. The accommodations are nice albeit small and not over-the-top, but it’s overall a great place if you’re thinking about a longer stay in town. This spot also features a really chilled out courtyard pool. Jury’s still out on the ghosts, though.

Maison Saint Charles
Save your cash for all the town’s vices
The Maison Saint Charles isn’t located in the thick of it, but it’s still a nice place to crash, especially if you’re pinching pennies. No-nonsense rooms, but, hey, they got a hot tub and free continental breakfast. Think of this as an alternative to the chain motel options in the surrounding suburbs.

What about an Airbnb? 
New Orleans has seen an explosion in short-term rental properties over the last few years, largely thanks to visitors such as yourself. A lot of these spots are great, and there’s nothing inherently wrong in wanting to book a more local stay, but the industry has been disastrous for housing costs here. Often the building owners don’t even live in New Orleans, so a local plea: Do a little background research on who’s offering the house before booking, just to make sure they ain’t screwing the rest of us.

Streetcar new orleans
Streetcar in New Orleans | f11photo/Shutterstock

HOW TO GET AROUND

The Crescent City includes all the standard means (Uber or Lyft, cabs, buses, etc.) of carting you and your friends around, but it’s just as important to remember some of the more localized options when moving your party from one spot to the next. Not only are they often cheaper, they’re a helluva lot more fun than splitting an Uber.

Streetcar: While obviously limited in terms of direction (forward, backward, repeat), New Orleans streetcar routes can still generally ferry you to all the major sections of town, make you feel like you’re in a Tennessee Williams play, and do it all for super cheap. Important tip: The St. Charles line isn’t air-conditioned, but most others are.

Horse Carriage: Also restricted in terms of location -- pretty much exclusively the Quarter -- carriage trips can still provide a chill alternative to getting around the neighborhood when time isn’t a big factor. Depending on your driver, you might even get some decent history lessons about the streets you’re trotting down. Probably best not to fact-check all of their claims, though. 

Pedicab: A quicker, more eco-friendly way to make your way around downtown is by hiring a couple cyclists to haul your drunk asses around. Pretty cheap, and they’ll often give you some actual, good suggestions for spots to hit up.

Blue Bikes: If you’re looking to exercise your own calves and atone for your lasciviousness, New Orleans recently installed a number of rental bike stations around the city. Hop on a few of ‘em if you’re visiting during one of the more temperate times of the year. Be forewarned, though: the streets -- and many of the local drivers -- aren’t all that kind to cyclists.

MISTAKES NOT TO MAKE

Without a doubt, New Orleans is one of the best and most vibrant cities in the country, and is largely made for life’s many celebrations. Coming through for a bachelor party is a solid send-off tour idea, so if you do decide to bid adieu to your or your friend’s single life, it’ll also be good to keep a final few things in mind.

Avoid getting punched
No one’s a saint here in New Orleans (well, not figuratively). Still, this isn’t a blank check to be a complete jackass. Be aware of where you’re going, and who you’re interacting with in the city. There are plenty of people who’d love to share a shot (or three) with your crew at the bar, but don’t hassle the other sinners around you who might have their own plans. 

New Orleans is a city that wears its history on its sleeve, but that isn’t a license to bring up any and everything with locals you meet. A general rule out-of-towners should follow: Don’t bring up Katrina unless they bring it up first, and even then, tread carefully. The effects of that storm affect New Orleanians to this day.

Stay out of jail
New Orleans police presence is a thorny subject for far too many reasons to list (especially here). Suffice it to say, the general refrain to go by, especially in the Quarter, is “don’t start none, won’t be none.” Open container laws are wonderful, but you can be sure that a lot of cops are just itchin’ for a reason to get some drunk tourists off the street. Brush up on the ins and outs before you pop open that beer: plastic is fine, cans are usually ignored, but glass that’s not in a bag can be a target. And keep a lid on any styrofoam cups you have. A bachelor party spent in New Orleans? Hell yes. A bachelor party spent in a New Orleans drunk tank? Hell no.

Don't go broke
For visitors, New Orleans’ expenses are really up to you. You can get by dirt cheap in the city really easily, or you can lose your shirt, if you’re not careful. Depending on the goals and vices of your party, you could definitely get a solid weekend out of about $400-500 a person, but really, the sky’s the limit. Looking to blow all your savings? We’d be happy to hold your money for you. Just don’t go flashing it around, because some of us are more, uh, aggressive in acquiring your cash than others.

where to eat, drink, party new orleans
Jackson Square
St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

ACTUALLY COOL THINGS TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS

You’re gonna need some breathers between partying, and there is plenty to do here in terms of experiencing culture, catching live music, exploring outside the French Quarter, and year-round events. Here are a few more ways to regain some steam, and maybe get some actual culture, you heathens.

Channel your inner Burt Reynolds (RIP) from Gator
$ - $$
New Orleans may be busy at any hour of the day or night, but you don’t have to travel far outside the city to return to nature. There are a number of companies offering tours showcasing Louisiana bayous’ unique beauty and culture, including Cajun Critters, Ultimate Swamp Adventures, Kayak Swamp Tours. And yes, some of them even let you feed the gators.

jazz new orleans park
Jazz band in New Orleans park | Chuck Wagner/Shutterstock

Enjoy some sunshine, but closer to town
Free - $$
City Park happens to be the sixth largest park in the country, but we’ll go ahead and claim it as one of the prettiest, too. Featuring walking trails, golf, museums, fishing, and 24-hour beignet/coffee spot Morning Call, City Park could easily take up an entire day of your bachelor party trip, if you’re looking for a respite from all that debauchery.

Take some basic-ass -- but understandable -- selfies with your friends
Free - $$
Located at the eastern edge of the Quarter, Jackson Square is the picturesque hub of the neighborhood. During the day, you’ll find a mix of art vendors and fortune tellers set up in front of St. Louis Cathedral, and there’s always a brass band or two doing what they do best. It’s quieter at night, but is any easy intermission point before you barrel back towards Bourbon Street.

steamer nola
Steamer in New Orleans | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Take a breather on a steamer
$
Yeah, it’s pretty wholesome, but also pretty underrated. The Natchez steamboat takes daily trips up and down the Mississippi River alongside New Orleans, and is relaxing as hell. If you’re looking to see what’s across the waters, hop the Canal Street ferry over to Algiers Point on the Westbank, featuring a whole bevy of other unsung bars to try -- so divey you can still smoke in them.

Brewery Tours
$-$$
New Orleans has seen an explosion of breweries, both large and nano, over the past few years. Pretty much all of them offer tours and flights throughout the week, and lucky for you, a fair number of them are also all located pretty near each other in the Warehouse District. Consider surveying places like Nola Brewing, Port Orleans, and Urban South for some surprisingly good suds. Smaller options across town also include Parleaux Beer Lab and Brieux Carre.

Keep drinking, but at a gentleman’s pace
$ - $$$
Located at the edge of the Irish Channel, Dos Jefes offers a great selection of cocktails and stogies if you’re looking for an afternoon or night that’s simple and relaxing, but still alcohol-laden. Yeah, the last suggestion mentioned no smoking, but there’s also this weird loophole cigar law or something. Whatever. Don’t ask questions.

BEST PLACES TO EAT WITH A GROUP

A bachelor party in New Orleans without sampling the town’s food is more sinful than anything one could get into otherwise. The city hosts food combinations and traditions you won’t find anywhere else in America, let alone the damn world. If you’re unfamiliar with the magic of the muffaletta or the powdery bliss of a beignet, start here with our list of the 15 most essential New Orleans foods. There are honestly an infinite number of great restaurants and brunch spots in town, but for simplicity's sake, check off as many of these locales as possible, and consider it a weekend well spent. Keep in mind that fancy-schmancy places like Galatoire’s and Saba will definitely require some advance reservations, and depending on your party’s size it’ll probably be a good idea to phone ahead to warn people of your imminent arrival.
 
Galatoire’s
French Quarter
As one of New Orleans’ longest-standing culinary institutions, Galatoie’s has a menu seemingly frozen in time from the restaurant’s opening back in 1905. We’re talking plates like shrimp etouffee, crabmeat au gratin, and all manner of oysters. Just be sure to book well in advance, and dress to the nines -- you’ll be turned away with those Mardi Gras beads you’re wearing.

Saba
Lower Garden District
James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya’s latest enterprise, Saba, is a restaurant celebrating the foods of modern Israel, the Middle East, and North Africa. The pita bread is worth a reservation alone -- we know that sounds ridiculous, but you’ll believe it once you’re there.

The Junction
Bywater
This is a no-nonsense beer bar with some of the best burgers in the entire city. Seriously, these things are no joke, and feature Southwest, Hawaiian, and BBQ versions. Tip: order the smallburger of the week -- the rotating speciality comes with a side of insanely good fried pickles, and leaves room for the dozens of beers on tap.

Dong Phuong
New Orleans East
If you liked the burger buns at The Junction, then you’re in luck: You can go directly to the source itself. Dong Phuong is a tiny bakery out in New Orleans East producing some of the most incredible Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, bread for various restaurants, and all other kinds of assorted amazingness. It’s a bit of a trek outside the city, but this Beard Award-winner is more than worth the trip.

Parkway Tavern
Bayou St. John
To be honest, there are simply too many incredible po’boy joints in New Orleans to whittle down for just one trip (if you want a larger sampling, maybe book your stay during Po’Boy Fest). With that in mind, you can’t go wrong with going to one of the OGs. Parkway has been serving classic “poor boy” sandwiches since 1911, and they haven’t had to mess with a good thing. Grab a roast beef or fried shrimp po’boy, and you and your buddies will understand why.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House / Dooky Chase
Treme
Look, we can’t choose just one, and because they’re located around the block from each other, we don’t have to. Both Willie Mae’s and Dooky Chase’s fried chicken is nationally and historically renowned, each with their own distinct style and flavor. Willie Mae’s has the Beard Award, while Dooky Chase (with a Lifetime Achievement Beard Award for its late founder, Leah Chase) counts Barack Obama, Quincy Jones, and Hank Aaron among its past patrons. Throw inhibition to the wind and indulge in a back-to-back fried chicken marathon.

The Green Room Kukhnya
Marigny-Bywater
Slavic bar food isn’t what first comes to mind when thinking of New Orleans cuisine, but you’ll forget everything you knew after one bite of the Ukrainian meatball po’boy. Until recently, the Green Room operated out the back of local legendary dive, Siberia, but this past year expanded into its own standalone restaurant and small-top bar on up-and-coming St. Bernard Ave. corridor. The menu is even larger and better than before, and still features a kickass vodka selection.

French Quarter
French Quarter in New Orleans | GTS Productions/Shutterstock

BEST AREAS TO GO OUT

Bourbon Street
Free-$$$$
The street’s reputation precedes itself, and, honestly, if you’ve never been to town before, then it certainly needs to be seen to be believed. That said, Bourbon is in no way a necessity -- for all its potential fun, it also usually boasts hectic crowds, gutter punk panhandlers, police on horses, not to mention biohazardous puddles of who knows what. If your bachelor really wants it, then by all means, go to town -- there are fun clubs, bars, and, yes, all of the strip clubs. Just note there’s a reason the only locals you see around there are the bartenders, bouncers, and underage drinkers trying to con themselves a Hand Grenade.

Frenchman Street
Free-$$$
The short Marigny corridor adjacent to the Quarter houses much of the city’s excellent jazz, swing, and bar bands, and used to be an open secret for locals and the more in-the-know visitors. On any given night, you can catch an incredible brass band set up on the corner of Frenchman and Chartres Street, not far from famous venues like the Spotted Cat and the Apple Barrel. As Bourbon Street crowds intensified in recent years, especially post-Katrina, a lot of that spillover has found its way to the historic street, so unfortunately the dynamics of Frenchman are rapidly changing. Knowing all this, though, it’s still a great night out -- just make sure to be respectful of locals who make their living there.

One Eyed Jack’s 
$-$$
Located right off Bourbon Street on Toulouse, this club and music venue is a regular stop for great touring bands, DJs, and everything in between. It’s a good idea to check its calendar on the dates you’ll be in town, because your trip just might coincide with a concert from Lost Bayou Ramblers, a legendary vinyl night from DJ Soul Sister, or one of the city’s best burlesque shows in Fleur De Tease.

Metropolitan
$-$$$
Sometimes, a bachelor party just needs a night at the club, and, hey, we here in New Orleans get that. Metropolitan is probably your best bet for such a desire -- the massive club in the Central Business District houses two resident DJs, VIP areas (book in advance, of course), and often hosts touring acts like Paul Oakenfold, Steve Aoki, and Questlove. It’s not exactly bursting with local flavor, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a badass night.

Pelicans / Saints / Baby Cakes Game
$-$$$
Depending on the time of year, we usually have a minor and/or major league sports team in the mix. Check season schedules, and consider grabbing some tickets and see the Pels, the Saints, or the Baby Cakes (our minor league baseball outfit with an incredibly odd mascot). Any game is bound to be a blast, but you might wanna go for the latter, honestly, because they’ll be the cheapest tickets, and it looks like we’re losing our beloved Baby Cakes to Kansas in a couple years’ time.

The Drifter
$-$$
For a hot second, The Ace ruled the cool kid hotel-pool scene in town, but the Drifter has given it some serious competition. If you’re looking for the cutting edge of hipness, then head over to the Drifter and grab a drink poolside. And, hey, it’s largely clothing optional, so feel free to lower your inhibitions a bit (within reason, of course).

THE BEST BARS FOR A BACHELOR PARTY

The French 75 Bar
French Quarter
For a boozy -- but still classy -- bachelor party, you can’t go wrong with drinks at The French 75 Bar in the Quarter. Located adjacent to the historic Arnaud’s Restaurant, the James Beard Award-winning libations menu features some of the best cocktails in town made by equally renowned mixologists in a celebratory-yet-relaxed atmosphere.

Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
Bywater
Because it doesn’t all have to be liquor, watery beer, and Bourbon Street novelty drinks. Bacchanal has quickly established itself as one of the city’s best wine bars, with an incredibly diverse and eclectic bottle selection to choose from, as well as a fantastic kitchen, and an upstairs cocktail bar. For nicer afternoons and evenings, grab at table in the super relaxing back courtyard featuring local music most nights of the week.

Commander’s Palace
Lower Garden District
Looking for fanciness, albeit at cheaper (daytime) prices? The otherwise ritzy Commander’s Palace still features its famed 25 cent martini lunches during the week (be sure to try their famed turtle soup while you’re there). While there’s a limit of three rounds per person, that’s more than enough to get most stag parties primed for whatever comes next on their trek through the Big Easy.

The Ace Hotel
Central Business District
The Ace is one of the more recent additions to the New Orleans’ hip hotel and bar scene, but it has already staked a claim as one of the best. Featuring a rooftop pool in the warmer months and a spacious lobby and dining area on the first floor, the Ace can provide double duty as a place to throw down, and a place to crash if need be. Just make sure to book your reservations in advance.

Tropical Isle
French Quarter
Look, sometimes a bachelor party calls for a bit of trashiness. If your gang finds itself aiming to eschew the high-class cocktails and swanky barrooms, then you might as well go all in at one of the Tropical Isle locations on Bourbon. Known for the Hand Grenades (equal parts Everclear, gin, vodka, rum, and melon liqueur), the bar is actually beloved by insiders because of the Shark Attack. While it’s basically a blue margarita, it’s all about the presentation. Trust us on this one.

Kajun’s
Bywater
Regardless of how you start your night drinking, you’ll probably want to end at least one evening at Kajun’s. Positioned at the edge of the Bywater, the infamous, all-hours karaoke bar is a staple for drunken singalongs, often dedicated to bachelors and bachelorettes on their way to the altar. Get there early to reserve a spot on the list, because they fill up real fast.

BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS IN NOLA

Chances are your bachelor party trip will feature at least one late night (or two, or all of them). In that case, it’s important to stay full since you’ll need the caloric energy, it helps mitigate some of that oncoming hangover, and because New Orleans has some of the best red-eye meals in the country.

Grab a fried chicken sandwich and heckle the ghost tours
Verti Marte has been in operation for decades, and it shows -- both in the incredible food, like the spicy fried shrimp po’boy, and the authentically worn-down digs.  This small corner shop has a pretty expansive menu, but there’s no rush to make a decision since it’s open 24 hours.

Get the classic dessert at the classic spot
Perhaps the most famous 24-hour dining spot in the Quarter, Cafe Du Monde serves up cafe au laits and perfectly fried beignets for a late-night dessert, or a crack-of-dawn breakfast.

Dive deep into this quintessential dive bar’s menu
Buffa’s boasts some of the best bar food for any time, day or night. This solid dive sits at the edge of the French Quarter and serves burgers, omelettes and some of the best wings in town.

Take down pancakes in this picturesque greasy spoon diner
Located at the end of Bourbon Street where things start to calm down (a little), Clover Grill is an old-school all-night diner that looks straight out of a film. The biscuits and gravy can soak up most alcohol, but be forewarned: Some of those other patrons might be even drunker and unrulier than you.

THE BEST STRIP CLUBS 

Because we’d be remiss not to mention them, and let’s be honest, you’re thinking about going. Strip clubs are pretty synonymous with bachelor parties, not to mention New Orleans, but they’ve become an easy excuse to act like a complete ass. Do not be said ass. There’s nothing wrong with a night in one of our legendary nudie bars, and the employees will be happy to take your money, but be respectful of the workers who indulge parties like yours literally every night of the year. Over the past few years, the city’s been looking for any excuse to crack down on the clubs in a not-so-subtle attempt to make Bourbon more family-friendly, so don’t help fuel that dumpster fire of a decision. With all that out of the way, here are a few of the best.

Rick’s Sporting Saloon
Rick’s Saloon has long been one of Bourbon Street’s staples, in large part because of its more sports bar-like atmosphere. In addition to your usual strip club amenities, it also includes a number of big-ass TVs tuned to whatever games are on at the moment. Sort of like a Hooters, but more honest about why you’re there, you know?

Penthouse Club
The Penthouse Club is generally considered the king club of the Quarter, and they know it. Pros: It’s located right off Bourbon, which sometimes diminishes the crowds, its staff is great and super talented, and it’s got an overall opulent atmosphere. Cons: Your wallet is gonna feel it.

Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club
From the moment you enter, you’ll be able to tell Larry set up this place with bachelor parties in mind -- including the $400 bottle service for up to eight people. Make sure to book those well in advance, though, because the place gets packed really fast on weekends. But, hey, there’s a 40-foot-tall stripper pole, so it’s probably well worth the crowds. Flynt also has the Barely Legal Club not far away, which offers similar amenities in a more raucous atmosphere.

Burlesque Options
Looking to save a little on bottle service and cover charges? On any given night, New Orleans generally has at least one amateur or professional burlesque showcase happening. The atmosphere of these are almost always a completely different experience than the Bourbon Street insanity -- more casual, more theatrical, and you can usually catch some decent music, comedy, or oddball performances between acts. Just keep in mind that a lot of these places attract nearly as many locals as tourists, so their tolerance for antics might be a bit lower than over on Bourbon.

Best bets to see tassels: Fleur De Tease, Bustout Burlesque, or hell, go all out and book your party during our annual New Orleans Burlesque Fest.

Keeping all that in mind, if you follow these steps and do your research, you will have yourselves a bachelor party for the books -- as they say, laissez les bons temps rouler.

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Andrew Paul is a writer living in New Orleans with work recently featured by AV Club, GQ, Rolling Stone, as well as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and TNY’s Daily Shouts. He plans on attending many friends’ future bachelor parties, but isn’t quite ready for his own just yet. @anandypaul