Armstrong Park in New Orleans

Cornetist Buddy Bolden, one of many jazz pioneers honored in Armstrong Park. (©Shawn Fink)

New Orleans for Music Lovers

By Douglas Brantley on 02/04/16, updated 01/31/17
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From Jelly Roll Morton to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, New Orleans has a long and rich musical heritage. The rhythm of long-ago drumbeats rise up from Congo Square and echoes of Al Hirt’s trumpet linger along Bourbon Street, while up-and-comers performing in local clubs and on Royal and Frenchmen seek to make their own marks on the Crescent City music scene.

Jazz, rock, funk, R&B, zydeco, country, classical, gospel, swing, hip-hop, bounce—if there’s a musical genre, you can expect to hear it. Keep an ear to the ground … and your dancing shoes on.

Restaurants

Commander's Palace

A little live music with your mimosa and eggs Benedict? You’re in the right place. The concept of the weekend jazz brunch originated at Commander’s, where it’s been perfected to an edible art form. Sing the praises of chef Tory McPhail, while the Joe Simon Jazz Trio roams table-to-table taking requests. Another mimosa, please.

(©Court of Two Sisters)

Restaurants

Court of Two Sisters

The jazz brunch may have started at Commander’s Palace, but the Court is famed for keeping it going all week long. Grab an outdoor table then work your way along the bountiful buffet of New Orleans favorites (turtle soup, shrimp etouffée, grillades and grits), while live New Orleans jazz wafts through the courtyard.

Jackson Square

(©Shawn Fink)

Attractions

Jackson Square

In other cities public parks tend to be quiet, contemplative spaces. But around Jackson Square, bawdy brass bands start sounding off well before noon and continue throughout the day. Sit in on a few sets then stroll nearby Royal Street, where you’ll find more buskers performing everything from swamp pop to opera.

Armstrong Park New Orleans

(©Shawn Fink)

Attractions

Armstrong Park

Home to the popular Jazz in the Park concert series, Armstrong Park is also home to Congo Square, where jazz is said to have first germinated. Hence the statues of Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden and other musical giants populating the park, which also counts the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.

Jazz & Heritage Center

(©Shawn Fink)

Entertainment

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center

Primarily an educational/practice space for emerging Crescent City musical talents, this 11,000-sq.-ft. complex (owned by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which produces the annual Jazzfest) also welcomes visitors for free, special performances in its state-of-the-art auditorium. Check out the music-focused art gallery.

New Orleans Musical Legends Park

(©Shawn Fink)

Attractions

New Orleans Musical Legends Park

Tucked amid the bars and clubs along lower Bourbon Street, this park/open-air café pays homage to a variety of Grammy greats and NOLA notables. Snap a few selfies with bronze depictions of Allen Toussaint, Pete Fountain, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino and others while listening to free jazz, which starts early and goes late.

(©Shawn Fink)

Shopping

Louisiana Music Factory

This award-winning shop claims the world’s largest selection of New Orleans recordings. New, used, CDs, DVDs, vinyl—you name it, they have it. Rummage the racks while taking in live, in-store performances every Saturday at 2 and 3 pm.

The Spotted Cat

(©Chris Granger/Barberstock)

Nightlife

The Spotted Cat

Quiet during the day, Frenchmen Street makes big noise after sunset with a number of must-visit music clubs. The Spotted Cat gets in the groove early, with bands taking the stage at 2 pm during the weekend (4 pm on weekdays). Up to three bands perform nightly.

Three Muses

(©Three Muses)

Nightlife

Three Muses

Worked up an appetite with all that dancing? Two-step over to Three Muses, where chef Daniel Esses turns out creative small plates, mixologist Kimberly Patton-Bragg shakes things up behind the bar and Glenn David Andrews, Luke Winslow King, the Shotgun Jazz Band and the Hot Club of New Orleans perform regularly.

New Orleans Jazz Market

(©Shawn Fink)

Entertainment

New Orleans Jazz Market

Home base to the Grammy-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, this stunning venue also offers performances by other local legends. Belly up to the Bolden Bar every Thur.-Sat at 5 pm for Jelly Roll Morton cocktails and free live music.

House of Blues
Entertainment

House of Blues

You’ll find HOBs nationwide, from Boston to L.A., but the New Orleans location really rocks with big-name visiting acts sharing billing with top-tier locals on two stages. The in-house restaurant also offers live music with your meal and the praiseworthy Gospel Brunch on Sundays.

Preservation Hall

(©Preservation Hall)

Nightlife

Preservation Hall

With few seats, no air conditioning and no booze, you wouldn’t think folks would be lining up to get in this tumble-down joint. But line up they do—and have for more than five decades. The music is worth the wait. Traditional New Orleans jazz at its very best.

Maple Leaf

(©Cheryl Gerber/neworleansonline.com)

Nightlife

Maple Leaf

In a city of many memorable moments, this is one you won’t soon forget. Small, cramped, dim-lit and sweat-soaked, a late night at the Maple Leaf tops many a bucket list. Tuesdays are the big to-do, with the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band taking the stage at 11 pm and playing way into the wee hours.

Map of New Orleans for Music Lovers