Grab a go-cup and take it to the street, river, or greenway.
While the New Orleans bar scene is by no means lacking, locals know that when the weather is nice, the best way to celebrate the city is to go bar-less: take advantage of the fact that here you can (legally) sip a beer or cocktail while picnicking, people-watching, or enjoying one of the city’s many waterways.
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Bayou St. John
WHERE: Mid-City and Bayou St. John
Festivities start early along the bayou, where on a sunny day you will catch large parties of locals eating crawfish, playing lawn games, or hitting the water in canoes, kayaks, and floats. Stop by Pearl Wine Co. (3700 Orleans Ave.) for a bottle of Gingeroo (a delicious, ready-to-drink ginger and rum concoction from Old New Orleans Rum) and walk over to Bayou St. John in time to catch the sunset along the water.
WHERE: Uptown and Carrollton-Riverbend
All of Audubon Park is worth exploring, but this section stretching along the river is ideal for day drinking or cocktail hour. Often the party will already be here when you arrive since it’s a popular hangout for locals and Tulane students. St. James Cheese Company (5004 Prytania St.) is the place for wine, cheese, and gourmet fixings on the way to the park.
The new Rampart St/St. Claude Streetcar makes it even easier to reach this historical square, green space, and sculpture park, a tribute to Nola’s musical roots. BYO or pick up a Moscow Mule to go from Bar Tonique (820 N Rampart St.) across the street before heading to the park. On Thursday evenings, March through June, the park hosts free jazz shows with local bands, art shows, and food vendors.
WHERE: Faubourg Marigny and The Bywater
Stop for rosé and a soft French cheese from Bacchanal in The Bywater and walk across the street to Crescent Park, overlooking the Mississippi River. The park reuses industrial materials and spaces, and it’s fun to walk through to the Marigny, or camp out while watching the barges and large ships pass by on the river.
WHERE: Algiers Point
An adorable cobble-stoned peninsula across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, Algiers Point is worth the short ferry ride. From the elevated levee walking path, views of downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter are unparalleled, and there is plenty of green space and park benches for relaxing and picnicking. In the evenings, rub shoulders with Algiers Point residents at The Old Point Bar.
The Lake Front
WHERE: New Orleans Lakefront
Weekends on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain are a spectacle: fishing and boating, vintage car shows, and often fireworks at night. At Lakeview Grocery (801 Harrison Ave.) along the way you’ll find locally made Bloody Mary mix, beer, and wine, as well as picnic supplies and boiled crawfish during spring.
Fontainebleau State Park
WHERE: Mandeville and The North Shore of New Orleans
Travel the causeway across the lake to this newly renovated park with a beach, picnic area, and even waterside cabins for rent. An hour from downtown New Orleans, you’ll forget Bourbon Street exists, as the park does a great job of preserving the natural swampland and wildlife of the area. If you’re on the North Shore, the thing to drink is the daiquiri and the place to get it is the drive-through. Just keep a designated driver for the trip back across the lake.
WHERE: Mid-City and Bayou St. John to The Treme and French Quarter
This walking and biking path connects City Park to the French Quarter. You will pass Rouses Supermarket (400 N. Carrollton Ave.) near the start of the trail, where you can gather the appropriate provisions for your cross-city journey: a bag of Voodoo Zapps and a six pack of something light and local like Nola Blonde or Parrish Canebrake. With views of the city and small highlights of each neighborhood along the way (Mr. Freddie’s garden is a favorite), it’s a fun way to get a sense of the city (the walk from City Park to the French Quarter is only about three miles).
WHERE: New Orleans City Park, Mid-City, and Bayou St. John
There’s so much to do in this seemingly endless expanse of park framed by live oaks: after a morning at NOMA, spend the afternoon relaxing under The Singing Oak, where chimes hang from tree branches and bring soft background music to your picnic. At 504 Craft (3939 Tulane Ave.), on your way to the park, you’ll find a large selection of local and craft beers, and beer-enthusiastic staff to help you make your selection.
WHERE: Faubourg Marigny
Instead of choosing one music show or bar in particular (where you’ll often pay a cover or a drink minimum to be jammed in with lots of drunk tourists), take to the street to enjoy the best parts of Frenchmen at night. With a go-cup in hand, catch the music wafting out of the doors of the clubs and bars you pass by while watching the throngs of tourists and local characters, artists, and musicians. There is often a brass band on one or more corners, late night food vendors and an open-air art market.