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Best New Orleans Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors
New Orleans nightlife has a reputation around the world and when the sun goes down, it leaves nothing to be desired. Whether you're looking for live jazz, a night out at a dance club on Bourbon Street or a romantic evening in a quiet candlelit bar, this city has it all. The action, and some of the best New Orleans nightlife, is centered in the area between the Arts District and the Faubourg Marigny. No visit to New Orleans would be complete without taking a stroll down Bourbon Street. Especially during Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street hosts some of the best New Orleans nightlife with happening bars, clubs and all night parties. There are dozens of clubs here but don't miss the rest of the French Quarter where places like One Eyed Jacks, House of Blues and Molly's at the Market keep the party going and are cornerstones of the New Orleans nightlife scene. If you’re looking for a more authentic New Orleans experience, consider walking over the Frenchmen Street. Here you will find almost a dozen clubs hosting nightly live performances by some of the city's best musicians. Open around the clock, Harrah's Casino is buzzing throughout the night. Further toward Uptown in the Arts District, there's always something going down at the Howlin' Wolf.

Unlike many other cities in America, New Orleans has no mandated closing times for bars. Many stay open until 4AM or later. Most nightclubs don't get kicking until around 10PM and Bourbon's busy time seems to be between midnight and 3AM.

Cat's Meow

Neighborhood: French Quarter
One the big draws on Bourbon Street, you can usually find Cat’s Meow by just looking for the massive crowd on the corner. This world famous karaoke bar opened its doors in 1989 and has been packing its two floors nightly ever since. The venue itself is nothing special: everyone comes here to sing karaoke or watch others. Patrons take karaoke seriously and their over-the-top enthusiasm is what draws the crowds. The karaoke machine is stacked with hundreds of songs and the stage is open to anyone so there’s usually a long wait. If you can fight the crowds to actually get in the place (yeah, it gets that crowded), you might be able to make it upstairs to the balcony and throw beads to people down on Bourbon. Cat’s Meow is one of the best New Orleans bars and a standard stop for celebrities, so even if karaoke isn’t your thing, stop by for a drink.

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Maple Leaf Bar

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
If you want to get a little off the beaten path and leave the rest of the travelers behind, hop on a streetcar or take a taxi down to the Maple Leaf. Offering live music seven nights a week, the lineup here is strictly New Orleans. Some long standing regular shows include the funky beats of Papa Grows Funk (Mondays) and The Trio (Thursdays). Maple Leaf offers some of the best New Orleans nightlife, especially if you're looking to rub elbows with the locals and experience the nightlife as residents do. And if you’re looking for an unforgettable only-in-New-Orleans experience get out here on Tuesday nights for Rebirth Brass Band. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is—when Rebirth plays here, the place gets packed and the locals come out in full force to strut their stuff and second-line late into the night.

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Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

Neighborhood: Faubourg Marigny
This is one of the city’s premiere jazz clubs, and an anchor on Frenchmen Street. There’s live music every night of the week almost 365 days of the year. Some of the regular performers at Snug Harbor include Charmaine Neville, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, Tom McDermott, Shannon Powell and Dr. Michael White. While many people come just for the music, there's also a good dinner menu featuring Creole and regional cooking. Snug Harbor is one of the best New Orleans clubs to spend hours in listening to jazz, sipping cocktails and dining on delicious cuisine. There are two sets—at 8 and 10PM every night—and there are often midnight shows on the weekend.

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House Of Blues

Neighborhood: French Quarter
Okay, it might be a chain but House of Blues has embraced New Orleans’ unique culture in just about every aspect of its operations. From the aptly named Voodoo Bar to the main hall, it’s a cool venue that hosts national touring acts and some of the biggest shows in the city. The atmosphere depends who's playing and HOB lives up to its theme of "Unity in Diversity" by offering very diverse acts. One night it's packed with metalheads moshing to Slayer, on another night you might find couples sitting at candlelit tables listening to Kenny G. There are also occasional performances by local burlesque groups and a gospel brunch every Sunday morning. House of Blues is one of the best New Orleans bars to catch some great music while dining on good food. It's hard to beat that. Check the website, a local magazine or the big calendar out front to see who's playing.

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Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
This club is exactly what it says on the sign, mixing music with bowling. Rock 'n' Bowl has been one of New Orleans hottest nightspots since it opened in 1941. For every person who comes here to bowl, two or three come to drink and dance. There’s live music five nights a week; Thursday is Zydeco Night and two-steppers come from far and wide to pack the dance floor. There's a $5-$10 cover charge and the action heats up around 9 or 10PM. There’s plenty of bowling of course but be sure to get here by 6PM if you want a lane.

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