New Year’s Eve in New Orleans: What To Do and Where To Stay


From fireworks to balcony bashes, here’s how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in New Orleans

It should come as no surprise that New Orleans does New Year’s Eve quite well. Both the city and the holiday are closely tied to celebration, public revelry, and good fellowship. But many visitors may not expect how possible it is to have an intimate, (relatively) quiet New Year’s Eve in New Orleans. Of course, there are big celebrations within the French Quarter, but even in that storied neighborhood, a night out on December 31st can be both as raucous or as chill as you please.

Note that in New Orleans, the evening of the 31st is not a guaranteed chiller. While there have been New Year’s Eves in New Orleans characterized by heavy coats and cold winds off of the Mississippi, there is a chance the weather will be temperate, and even a little muggy. The point being: Bring cold-weather clothes but don’t be surprised if you don’t need them.

Here are some of our picks for what to do on New Year’s Eve in New Orleans.

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Dick Clark Rockin’ New Year’s Eve 

Once again, Dick Clark Rockin’ New Year’s Eve production is hosting its official Central Time Zone party in New Orleans near the historic Jax Brewery starting at 9 p.m. The show will be coordinated with parties in New York and Los Angeles, and will feature a musical lineup and special guests. Actress and singer Lucy Hale is scheduled to host, and the fleur-de-lis drop off Jax Brewery will be live-cast.

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
Photo: Saint Louis Cathedral by Prayitno

Jackson Square

This is the big, obvious New Year’s activity in New Orleans – our version of the Times Square ball drop (although the actual ball drop is a fleur-de-lis drop, and that event has a party all of its own, see above). Jackson Square is a historic and iconic meeting space of the city of New Orleans, and is always a linchpin for local events.

This year, as in years past, admission to the square is free, although you’ll want to show up early in the evening if you don’t want to be crowded to the edge of the square (depending on your crowd tolerance, the latter scenario may not be such a bad thing). Within Jackson Square, there will be live music and general milling about. The end-of-the-year countdown culminates in the fleur-de-lis drop, followed by fireworks over the Mississippi.

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
The kiddos can have their New Year’s Eve fun at Audubon Zoo and Louisiana Children’s Museum

For the Kids

If you’re traveling with young children and have made the reasonable conclusion that popping bottles of Moët at midnight and a child’s sleep cycle don’t mix well – but also don’t want your kids to completely miss New Year’s Eve fun – consider some of the family-friendly in the Crescent City.

You could take your kids to Zoo Year’s Eve at the Audubon Zoo, which “parties” from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with a Pepsi toast, costumed characters, and of course, the Audubon’s wildlife menagerie (the event is included in the price of admission). Or you could head to the Louisiana Children’s Museum for their annual New Year’s Eve Kids’ Countdown to Noon, which lasts from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. That party will include noisemakers, paper bag hats, and music, all set against the backdrop of the Louisiana Children’s Museum’s considerable range of kid-friendly displays and exhibits, appropriate for children aged from 1-12.

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
French Quarter Balcony photo by Lee Curran

Balcony Bashes

If you’re looking for a more traditional night of French Quarter-style partying, be on the lookout for balcony bashes at area bars – located all up and down the (in)famous Bourbon Street nightlife strip. A balcony bash is pretty much that – you’ll pay a cover and be allowed to plant yourself on a wrought-iron balcony overlooking the street below. Much bead tossing subsequently ensues.

With that said, a different take on the balcony bash is a French Quarter New Year’s Eve house party. Seeing as such houses usually have balconies that afford at least a decent view unto the river, this is a good chance to see the fireworks while avoiding crowds. Of course, getting yourself into a house party is all based on your charm and who you know.

NYE parade in New Orleans
Enjoy a parade during the All State Sugar Bowl festivities

Allstate Sugar Bowl Parade

Need something to do during the day? Since 1935, the Sugar Bowl has been played in New Orleans, and while that event has since become the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the New Year’s Eve Parade associated with the game continues in more or less the same vein. Expect big floats, marching bands, plenty of throws (trinkets tossed to spectators), and a general overload of glitz and pageantry.

The parade begins at the “bottom” of the Quarter, where it meets Faubourg Marigny, at the intersection of Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street, at 2 p.m. The parade will proceed into the French Quarter and roll past some of that neighborhood’s most iconic landmarks, including the French Market and Jackson Square. At approximately 2:30 p.m., the parade will pass the WDSU stage at the Allstate Fan Fest on Decatur Street inside the Jax Brewery parking lot, where all performers will do a two-minute show. The parade ends at Canal St.

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
For Music Enthusiasts, Hall Lang Syne is sure to please

Hall Lang Syne

Perhaps no band in the world as iconically embodies New Orleans to the outside world as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. By this extent, no venue is more powerfully associated with the city’s traditional jazz scene than Preservation Hall. If you want to combine your New Year’s celebration with some of the city’s finest local music, you can do a lot worse than Hall Lang Syne, an annual party put on by the Preservation Hall-Stars at “the Hall” itself. Tickets are $150, and for that price you get access to the historical hall, as well as a champagne toast in the space’s gorgeous, faded courtyard. Plus, you know, a pretty fantastic slate of music put on by one of the greatest jazz ensembles in the world. The event starts at 5 p.m.

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
Celebrate NYE at some of the oldest gay bars in the country

LGBTQ Parties

The French Quarter includes some of the oldest dedicated gay bars in the country, and a slew of venues in the lower portions of Bourbon Street, starting at around the 800 block, will be throwing New Year’s Eve parties. Expect DJs, dancers (of the go-go variety), and drag cabaret. If that kind of thumping nightlife experience isn’t your thing, consider an evening at one of the city’s more laid back “gayborhood” bars, like Mag’s 940 (940 Elysian Fields Avenue), The Friendly Bar (2301 Chartres Street) and Big Daddy’s (2513 Royal Street) – all friendly spots that will certainly be celebrating, but perhaps minus the laser show and speakers.

 

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
Photo: Crescent Park by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Crescent Park

The Crescent Park is a public green space that has become a favorite means of watching events take place on the river. Positioned as it is along the Mississippi, the park offers fantastic views onto the water, which means you’ve got a clear vantage point onto the annual firework show. Usually, the park closes after dark, but on New Year’s Eve it will stay open to the public till 1 a.m. There are three entrances to the space in Bywater and Faubourg Marigny, and both of those neighborhoods are thick with venues to celebrate in after the last firework pops off.

 

New Year's Eve in New Orleans
Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a view of the French Quarter

Where to Sleep

We’ve given you plenty of options on how to spend New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, but let’s face it: once the confetti has been thrown, the champagne uncorked and the noisemakers put away, you need a place to sleep (and possibly sleep in, depending on how much fun you’ve had). With that said, you want to pick the right hotel – one that has a mix of easy accessibility and cozy amenities. If you’re celebrating near Jackson Square, consider a room at the Place d’Armes Hotel. Want to be near the action on Bourbon Street? Try the Hotel St. Marie. Or position yourself near the river at the Historic French Market Inn.

Plan your trip to New Orleans with the official French Quarter travel site. We give you the inside scoop on where to eat, stay, and play. Join us for a good time!
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