Breasts, Beads, & Booze:The Big Dirty Guide to Bourbon Street
A corner sign to welcome you to one of the rowdiest drinking streets in the world. Please check your sobriety at the door.
For almost a year now, I have been updating this guide with interesting, educational, and cultural excursions in New Orleans. I’ve shown you around the cemeteries, told you where to find the best gumbo, and even gave a little history on the Cajun Culture of South Louisiana. But it seems no matter how I try to portray and explain New Orleans, I always get the same questions and comments: “What about Bourbon Street?” Everyone wants to know about the world’s most famous street the one and only place where you can drink yourself into a coma, wear goofy beads around your neck, show your breasts from balconies, and wake up in the gutter caked in your own vomit…
Unlike any other street in the world, Bourbon is a place where wild intoxicating mayhem rages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Millions of people pass through every year, drinking more alcohol on this street than some entire nations, leaving behind mountains of trash, and wandering the streets in such a drunken stupor they forgot what hotel they were in. Amidst the everlasting stench of urine, the crashing sound of beer bottles, and the never-ending chant of “show your tits!” the wildness of Bourbon can even make other raucous affairs like Carnival and Spring Break look tame.
Originally laid out in the 1700s to honor the ruling dynasty at the time, no one knew what and orgy of liquor and sex Bourbon Street would become. It remained a residential and local shopping area well into the 20th century, and it really wasn’t until the 50s that the strip clubs and commercialization hit hard. Since then, its been one continuous party that has rolled on throughout the decades. Bourbon Street certainly isn’t the heart and soul of New Orleans, nor does it necessarily exemplify the culture of the city, but it still remains the most popular attraction for visitors. While it’s still a wild time and mandatory for newcomers, the secret jewels of New Orleans lie in its countless little hidden bars down the side streets off Bourbon.
The street itself runs for about 15 blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade. Lying right in the middle, it splits the quarter in half, south to Decatur and north to Rampart. While Bourbon attracts every type of person from celebrities to crack addicts, there are certain blocks that attract certain crowds. Working your way down Bourbon from Canal, you’ll hit the strip clubs and go-go bars before coming to the bulk of the mainstream action between Toulouse and St. Ann. Moving further you’ll hit the gay area which mainly begins at the foot of Dumaine with Oz. From there, Bourbon becomes quieter and quieter until reaching Esplanade in the Faubourg Marigny.
Many visitors spend their time simply “cruising” the streets it’s where all the action is anyway. Bar-hopping is fun, but most budget travelers will simply find that they can’t afford to pay cover charges to enter too many bars (there are still a few without a cover). Forking out $5 at every door can add up quickly.
Trading beads for glimpses of breasts. Seems to be a mandatory experience for visitors but certainly not a local norm.
The cliché of flashing breasts and looking for them is present every night of the year rain or shine. Regardless of how it ever started, it is mainly carried on by tourists who perhaps think it’s part of Nawlins culture. While it certainly isn’t something local women go out and do on a regular occasion, feel free to try it; cops had started to crack down a couple years ago, but recently seem to have just given up.
What is more surprising is the number of men who apparently haven’t seen a naked breast in their lives. They flock in from every state in the country with cameras in-hand, staking out corners in hopes of seeing a “real live naked breast” desperation at its extreme! However, if you are interested in filming your own amateur porno, the area near the Cat’s Meow (that balcony always has flashers) and the area surrounding Razzoo’s are the best places to stalk and usually have the biggest and firmest breasts.
Bars & Clubs
There are simply too many bars and clubs to name in the area, covering just about every taste from Cajun and Zydeco dance to Gay S&M bars. Most bars close up around 4 or 5 am and the crowds usually head out before dawn, but others stay open 24 hours.
The partying usually starts slow, to kick back up around noon before picking up after dark. The peak time is usually from midnight to 4 am. During holidays and football games, the street and clubs become jam-packed. Below are a list of some of the most popular, but please note that the fancy strip clubs are very expensive!
Cat’s Meow. 701 Bourbon St. Famous for Karaoke downstairs with another bar and balcony upstairs.
Old Absinthe House. 240 Bourbon St. Most famous for its substitute version of Absinthe (see below). Also quieter and calmer than most clubs on Bourbon.
735 Club. 735 Bourbon St. Hot, fancy dance club often voted the number-one place in town.
Bourbon has just about everything, from Cajun dance clubs to dark dungeons with live sex acts.
The Dungeon. 738 Toulouse (tiny door right off of Bourbon). An interesting gothic bar set in a series of caves with dance music, lots of black lights, and good drink specials. Doesn’t open till midnight! Not for everyone, but one of the most unique bars in the city.
Oz. 800 Bourbon St. World-famous gay dance club complete with videos of nude men doing gymnastics. Perhaps the “gay headquarters” of New Orleans.
Funky Pirate. 727 Bourbon St. Live music nightly.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. 941 Bourbon St. Acoustic, more relaxing environment in the city’s oldest bar.
Tropical Isle. 738 Toulouse and 721 Bourbon. Live music nightly and famous Hand Grenade drinks.
Larry Flint’s Hustler Club. 225 Bourbon St. Famous strip club. Monday night is amateur night.
Rick’s Cabaret. 315 Bourbon St. Features local and national strip acts.
Temptations. 327 Bourbon St. Three-story strip club which is Playboy’s home for Mardi Gras.
Pat O Brien’s. 624 Bourbon St. (also has entrance on South Peters). Although often full of visitors, it also seems to attract a local crowd and is one of the most famous clubs in the city. It’s a series of open courtyards and adjoining rooms. While it still can get wild, it’s much calmer than some of the other clubs and seems to attract an older crowd (30s is an older crowd on Bourbon!). Great place for couples. (Watch out for the rats that like to crawl around the edge of the wall!)
Chris Owens. 500 Bourbon St. Not that big of a club, but famous for its owners.
Razzoo. 511 Bourbon St. One of the most popular clubs on Bourbon with a mixed crowd of locals, visitors, young and old. There is always either live music or Karaoke, and dancing on the stage. The back of the club opens up into a big courtyard with a flaming fountain.
Opulence. A newer dance club down at the end of Bourbon near Canal.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.