Move over, Manhattan. In recent years New Orleans has positioned itself as one to the nation's top New Years Eve destinations. Even The New York Times counts it among “Four Cities That Celebrate New Year’s Eve in a Big Way.” Just how big? The Big Easy’s year-end celebration has grown so popular that now New York comes to New Orleans, with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest broadcasting live from Jackson Square.
From Bourbon Street to the riverfront, Preservation Hall to Audubon Zoo, you’ll find 2018 kickoff parties all over town all day long.
Louisiana Children's Museum and Audubon Zoo: Think New Year’s Eve is only for adults? Not in New Orleans. The small-fry big fun gets going early at the Louisiana Children’s Museum (9:30 am) and Audubon Zoo (10:30 am). Both cater to kids with a variety of games and activities before ringing in 2018 at noon.
Allstate Sugar Bowl Fan Fest and Parade: For 84 years the nation’s second-oldest college bowl game has played out here, and over the past decade the free fan fest preceding the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl has morphed into a giant NYE pre-party. Things get rolling at 2:30 pm with a parade along Decatur Street, followed by top-tier music acts (Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon) in the JAX Brewery parking lot, beginning at 9 pm.
Jackson Square: The Crescent City Countdown Club’s annual NOLA New Year’s Eve celebration culminates at midnight with the dropping of the fleur-de-lis (hey, it’s New Orleans) from the top of JAX Brewery and fireworks over the Mississippi.
Woldenberg Park and Crescent Park: Searching for the perfect perch for viewing the big bang? Join the thousands of others who line the banks of the river along Woldenberg Park. Too crowded? Nearby Crescent Park also offers riverfront access, along with room to spread out.
You can’t get much closer to the fireworks action than in the middle of the Mississippi aboard the Steamboat Natchez or Creole Queen Paddlewheeler. Both offer New Years Eve cruises with dinner, dancing and plenty of bubbly.
Hotels and Special-Event Venues
Hyatt Regency Hotel: Billed as “the biggest and best New Years celebration anywhere,” the Hyatt’s Big Night New Orleans is part of Big Night America, the largest New Year’s Eve series in the nation. Numerous dance floors and party spaces, nine bands (including Big Sam's Funky Nation and Cowboy Mouth) and DJs, cool party favors…did we mention the all-night open bar?
Westin Canal Place Hotel: With sweeping views of the river and two floors of entertainment (the Bucktown All-Stars in the ballroom, DJs in the Plimsoll Club), the Westin’s year-end blowout ranks as one of the city’s best. The tony affair features incredible edibles, a premium open bar and separate VIP rooms for an extra-special experience.
Riverview Room: Located in the “Times Square of the South” (aka JAX Brewery), this spectacular space is a prime spot for viewing the fireworks and festivities, both indoors and out. A full buffet, open bar and live entertainment help seal the deal.
Marché: The riverfront’s newest NYE venue puts on one of the city’s most opulent parties, with gourmet food stations (crab beignets, beef tenderloin with black truffle sauce, fresh Gulf seafood), free-flowing champagne, live entertainment and killer views.
Stage Door Canteen: Swing back to the 1940s at the National WWII Museum. The retro-themed fun includes Big Band music by Victory Swing Orchestra, a five-course seated dinner with complimentary wine and beer and a midnight chocolate buffet.
Bourbon Vieux: Take in the fireworks and the revelry below from the largest balcony on Bourbon Street. The place to bead during Mardi Gras, this special-events space adds a bit of Carnival atmosphere to the evening.
Clubs and Theaters
House of Blues: The popular French Quarter club takes on a decidely Italian accent for Bella Notte: An Italian Night Extravaganza. The Yat Pat and DJ Jammin Jorge perform while guests are treated to champagne, a four-course, Italian-inspired meal and a commeorative photo with the band.
The Jazz Playhouse: This swanky venue tucked inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel blows out 2017 with an open bar, a top-notch buffet and a noisey send-off by the Brass-A-Holics.
Joy Theater: It’s been a big, breakout year for Tank and the Bangas, the hard-to-peg New Orleans group that won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Celebrate with them as they ring in 2018 with up-and-coming indie rockers Sweet Crude and others.
The Orpheum Theater: Last year New Year's Eve performance by The Revivalists, named by Rolling Stone as one of 2016’s “10 Bands You Need to Know,” proved so popular that this year the party spreads out over three full days.
Preservation Hall: Hot jazz and cool cocktails are the draw of Hall Lang Syne, the venerable venue’s annual “narrowly elegant affair.”
Mahalia Jackson Theater: Funny lady Amy Schumer leaves 2017 laughing. Catch the award-winning actress and comedian, when she joins forces with special guest Ani DeFranco.