New Orleans, LA.
Although this historic French Quarter street has a bawdy reputation due to the burlesque clubs and all-night partying, come experience a whole other side of Bourbon Street steeped in history, folk lore and beauty that dates back to 1718 when New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Also known as “Rue Bourbon,” this historic street sits at the heart of the French Quarter extending 13 blocks from Canal St. to Esplanade Avenue.
One of the most luxurious hotels on Bourbon Street, The Royal Sonesta Hotel, opened in 1969 but the hotel’s site dates back to 1721 when Adrien de Pauger first laid out the city of New Orleans. The land once contained stables, houses and even a brewery. The architectural style of the hotel is one that is unique to New Orleans. The exterior was designed to look like a typical 1830s row of houses.
A favorite stomping ground for both visitors and locals is Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street in a creole cottage. This bar and restaurant’s walls are full of legends, mystery and days of old New Orleans. The building itself was built sometime before 1772 and is said to be where the Lafitte brothers opened their blacksmith shop as a façade so they could carry out their privateer efforts.
Bourbon Street is not only open 24/7 but alive and buzzing throughout the whole day. It is the place where party-time never ends, where good times last forever. When one reflects upon the history of this street the “eat, drink and be merry” atmosphere experienced here should not really be surprising.
Deep in the heart of New Orleans, the history of Bourbon Street can be traced back to 1718, when Jean-Bapiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded the city. From its very creation, Bourbon Street became known as the best place to party in town and it quickly developed a rather bawdy and risqu reputation. It was here that New Orleans Red Light district flourished until its closure in 1917. For a while a less lewd type of entertainment populated the area with the introduction of vaudeville entertainment shows.
However, the instincts that had led to the creation of the Red Light district were not far below the surface, it was not long before these entertainment productions, and venues, began to include exotic dancers and, later erotic dancers, the latter of which still exist today in the form of Striptease clubs.
Bourbon Street is also credited with being the birthplace of Jazz, a musical genre for which New Orleans has become widely recognised as becoming the creator. Many of New Orleans famous Jazz performers of the past served their apprenticeships in the clubs and bars on Bourbon Street.
However, amongst the entertainment venues on Bourbon Street, businesses less reliant upon the visitors of the night were also developing. For example, the Royal Sonesta Hotel stands upon a site that was once a thriving brewery, with stables and houses. Similarly, Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, now a thriving bar and restaurant, as the name suggests was originally a blacksmith’s business. More recently a number of unique and special art and souvenir shops have begun to spring up in the street.
Over recent years, many new bars and restaurants have grown up in Bourbon Street, including Galatoire’s, Lafitte-in exile, a meeting place for the gay community, and the Old Absinthe House. All of these and many others offer a delightful array of various culinary delights that reflect the cosmopolitan influence of the residents of New Orleans.
However, Bourbon Street has retained its reputation for the street that never sleeps. For the tourist, it is the night life and the ability to be able to party 24 hours a day that is Bourbon Street’s main attraction and, with the street being closed to traffic most of the time, that party can continue into the street, where drinking, providing it does not get too rowdy, is allowed.
If you want to sleep in New Orleans, maybe Bourbon Street is not the ideal place to book a hotel room. However, if you want to party, especially during the Mardi Gras, there is nowhere else in New Orleans to be.
In every city and town, there is usually a place that is the center of activity. Whether it is a bar, a coffee shop, a town square or a street, local citizens have a favorite place to gather together and have fun. If you are going to New Orleans, that place is known as Bourbon Street.
As the gathering place for one of the most famous “parties” in the world, Bourbon Street is home to the annual New Orleans Mardi Gras. It has established itself as a great place to have a good time and enjoy life. So how did this street come to gain such a popular reputation?
As the main street in the new settlement of New Orleans, Bourbon Street was originally known as “Rue Bourbon”. Founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, New Orleans soon gained a reputation as a place for weary seamen to relax and have a good time. The area of Bourbon Street known as the French Quarter was a mixture of several cultures including French, Spanish and Creole. Many business owners set up shop as blacksmiths, stable owners, hotel owners and bar owners in order to accommodate the sailors involved in the shipping trade. However, it would also become a haven for thieves and pirates looking to steal the shipments that came in on the docks.
The 13 blocks of Bourbon Street, located between Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue, would become the center of activity for merchants and visitors alike. The corner of Rue Bourbon and St. Phillip Street was an especially favorite place to hang out, housing Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a popular place that also contained a bar and restaurant. It was said that the Lafitte brothers used the blacksmith shop as a front to cover their privateering business.
The mix of cultures and lifestyles in New Orleans all came together on Bourbon Street, providing citizens and visitors with anything that they desired. Over time, the street would become a home to some of the best local cuisine available as well as giving a place for people to enjoy themselves and have a good time. This would evolve into the annual Mardi Gras celebration, where celebrants would enjoy parades, great music, fantastic food, colorful costumes and numerous strands of beads.
If you enjoy learning about the History of New Orleans, then Bourbon Street is the place to start. You will discover events that will lead you to a world of mystery and intrigue. Bourbon Street will even provide you with a few surprises along the way.
Its hard to make a trip down Bourbon Street without any preconceived notions about what you will expect. That being said, I would be a liar if I were to say it didn’t live up to my expectations. Despite the representations of this famous strip within pop culture, Bourbon Street is still an interesting experience rife with history and culture at the heart of the city. The Bourbon Street experience is no doubt an essential part of the New Orleans, which contributes to its popularity almost any night of the week. Hordes of people walk its streets, as countless vendors and doormen attempt to usher you into their bars or clubs while others simply stroll at their leisure, drinks in hand. A large portion of the experience is purely “people-watching,” witnessing everything from the street performers and musicians, to the crowds of tourists, bumping shoulders with hundreds of people while being offered “Big-Ass Beers” or free entry to showgirl clubs. Nevertheless, Bourbon Street is a historical and memorable part of the New Orleans experience.