Ring In The New Year In New Orleans
BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT
The city, known for Mardi Gras in the spring and food, frolic, and festivals all year long, is also a great place to enjoy New Year’s Eve — with or without the kids. From mega celebrations in the French Quarter to more intimate fêtes throughout the Crescent City, here are a few ideas that are as lively or chill as you want.
DICK CLARK ROCKIN’ NEW YEAR’S EVE
New Orleanians put a special spin on this national celebration with a midnight Fleur De Lis drop. Admission is free as revelers countdown — starting at 9:00 PM — outside historic Jax Brewery. Coordinated with parties in New York and Los Angeles, the show will feature New Orleans music and special guests and be live cast from the heart of the French Quarter. Street Car in Downtown.
Since 1721, Jackson Square has served as a gathering place for New Orleans’ citizens and visitors alike. Admission is free to the square, but you’ll want to show up early to claim a spot. Jackson Square will feature live music and is close enough to see the Fleur De Lis countdown to midnight with the rest of the Quarter. Then take a short stroll to the Mississippi River for the fireworks display.
If you’re ringing in the New Year with your kids, there are plenty of familyfriendly events around the Crescent City. Take the kids to Zoo Year’s Eve at the Audubon Zoo — one of the top zoos in the country and worth a trip any time of year. The celebration is included in the admission price and lasts from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM with a Pepsi toast, costumed characters, and the extensive Audubon’s wildlife menagerie.
LOUISIANA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Another kid-friendly celebration is at the brand-new location of Louisiana Children’s Museum and their New Year’s Eve Kids’ Countdown to Noon. The party lasts from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM and includes noisemakers, paper bag hats, music, and many kid-friendly displays and exhibits, designed for children ages one to 12. After the party, enjoy lunch on the deck overlooking the lagoon and eightacre New Orleans City Park.
For traditional French Quarter-style partying, visit one of the many balcony bashes at area bars. Warning — Bourbon Street is not kid-friendly, but places like Bourbon Cowboy host raucous New Year’s celebrations for the adults in your party with primo French Quarter views. Expect to pay a cover charge which allows you to plant yourself on a wroughtiron balcony overlooking the street and all the shenanigans below. Some bashes offer all-inclusive tickets that will get you extras like an open bar and food. And you’ll have a front-row seat for the midnight fi reworks over the river.
SUGAR BOWL PARADE
Didn’t make it to Mardi Gras this year? The Sugar Bowl New Year’s Eve parade will make you feel like you did. Expect big fl oats, marching bands, plenty of “throws,” and all the glitz and pageantry of carnival season. The parade starts at 2:00 PM on New Year’s Eve and proceeds around the city, passing some of its most iconic landmarks such as the French Market, Jax Brewery, and Jackson Square before ending at historic Canal Street.
Consider a cruise on a historic New Orleans riverboat, such as the paddle-wheeler, Creole Queen, or the Steamboat Natchez for the best view of the midnight fi reworks. New Year’s Eve riverboat cruises include champagne toasts, live music, dinner buffet, and party favors. Cruises launch at 9:30 PM and dock at midnight, where the party continues dockside.
Although Crescent Park usually closes after dark, it’s open until 1:00 AM on New Year’s Eve, and the public green space has become a favorite venue for any events taking place on the Mississippi River, including the New Year’s Eve fi reworks show. The 20-acre park has three entrances in the Bywater and the Faubourg Marigny neighborhoods thick with Cajun bistros, bohemian bars, jazz clubs, sidewalk musicians, and brass bands.
New Year’s weather in NOLA is anybody’s guess. So, pack accordingly. The weather can be warm and muggy this time of year, or cold winds off the Mississippi River can chill you to the bone. Best to dress in layers you can put on or take off as needed.
If you can’t make it to New Orleans for New Year’s this year but want to feel like you did, tell your smart speaker to play WWOZ. The community radio station has the tagline, “If you can’t live in New Orleans, let New Orleans live in you.” Tune in any time of year for jazz, blues, funk, R and B, soul, rock, zydeco, Caribbean, Latin, Brazilian, African, bluegrass, and Irish music performed by New Orleans musicians.