Dive into America's best hidden musical gem
Let me put it this way: in New Orleans, it's either a hell yes or a no, thank you. You either go hard or go home in the coolest city of America (yes, we have all loved New York but not everybody has made it to NOLA). So let me tell you why you should go to New Orleans.
Make sure to plan your trip during the right season and if you are wondering when is the best time to go to New Orleans here you have the answer: between November and May. You will enjoy a mild climate, little rain and most of all, a low humidity level. The music scene will be at its best, not to mention the famous Mardi Gras parades and the Nola Jazz Fest. Street culture is very strong in New Orleans and if you want to experience it, you should visit the city between January and March.
Be aware that street celebrations attract a lot of tourists, so if you are looking for a more relaxed vibe, you could consider going to New Orleans in December: you will still get to listen to great music and it will be much easier to book your hotel room.
Time to plan your next move: where to listen to the best live music in New Orleans. I only spent a couple of weeks in town, but I was on a mission and documented every minute. Here go the result of such a dedicated field trip.
If you are looking for a trad jazz vibe, you’re going to love this spot. Preservation Hall is one of the best jazz clubs in New Orleans and offers a unique musical experience. The place looks more like a country church than a club. You will sit on wooden benches and will be asked to switch the phone off. No pictures, no clapping, no small talk: you can leave the flirt for later.
Preservation Hall live shows last 45 minutes and are quite legendary. Some of the greatest New Orleans jazz musicians jam here, like Charlie Gabriel and Shannon Powell. Jazz nerds and music lovers: you'll be in heaven. Have a look at the movie "A Tuba to Cuba" if you want to find out how Preservation Hall Jazz Band flew to Havana looking for musical and historical connections with Cuban fellows.
Are you a Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones kind of guy? Then do yourself a favor and go to D.B.A. on a Wednesday night. Walter Washington's live show is amazing: this musician has been declared a national treasure and his band is just as good. Check the music calendar before you go to make sure he's playing: you can do it at WWOZ, a radio station with a great musical selection that will keep you posted on NOLA's music scene. Locals plan their nights out on the radio's website, and you should do it too.
Tipitina's and Maple Leaf
If you need to take a break from the French quarter and you are ready to explore some Uptown venues, these are the ones you should definitely check out. Tipitina's is a big venue that marked New Orleans music history. Break the ice with some locals by asking about Professor Longhair, they will proudly explain to you why his bust stands in the club's entrance. Maple Leaf also offers some great gigs, so you should definitely check it out.
The Spotted Cat
Let's go back to the French Quarter for this cute little club where you'll listen to the best music bands in town. Grassroots, blues, jazz, funky, fusion... I have attended all kinds of live shows here and if you are strolling around the French Quarter, it's definitely worth a visit.
Royal Sonesta Jazz Playhouse & Carousel Bar
Are you ready to get those high hills out of your closet? Yes, Jack Kerouac, life doesn't only happen on the road, and New Orleans is not just about the street style. The city also offers a smooth, elegant vibe, and you should definitely get yourself an amazing cocktail in some fancy setting.
For a real taste of New Orleans elegance, please get your first drink at the Carousel Bar & Lounge: you'll actually roll around a carousel while you wait for a delicious drink.
When you are ready, you can walk back to Royal Sonesta for some nice music. This jazz house lives within a hotel, so you may not spot it at first.
There's a good oyster bar right next to it where you can get some fried oysters before hitting the club.
The Jazz Playhouse is a great place for music, and yes, for fancy! A bit pricy maybe, but oh well, elegance doesn't always come for free.