An afternoon of day drinking on Bourbon Street

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My first glimpse of weirdness came when I turned a corner and spotted four dudes in front of a store wearing red dresses. Hmm, that’s interesting!, I thought. I admire people who live by their own rules, and New Orleans has a reputation for being a wild and crazy city, so I didn’t think much of it.


Little did I know what I was in for. Not five minutes later, this was the scene I encountered:

new orleans street red


Thousands of revelers, male and female, all wearing red dresses as they partied in the French Quarter. Bourbon Street is always out of control, but I had unwittingly stopped by on the day of the Red Dress Run, an annual fundraiser where participants wear red dresses and jog through the streets to raise money for breast cancer research.

Following the morning jog, many of the runners headed straight to the bars of Bourbon Street to get their drink on. So I had to compete with them for the attention of bartenders and for prime space on outdoor bar balconies.

As an adult male, I never thought I would get weird looks for not wearing a red dress. But my lack of red-ness on this day made the oddball.


New Orleans is fun because you can drink alcohol on the streets, as noted by one of my favorite comedians, Hannibal Buress, in his funny bit about the city. You order your drink and receive in a plastic cup, and then you’re free to wander around town and go into other bars if you like.


There are alcoholic slush machines inside a lot of places, tempting passersby with flavors like Appletini, Antifreeze, Hurricane, and Sangria.


At one point, I had a drink in my hand and went into a new establishment. Downstairs was fairly empty, so I headed upstairs. There were only a handful of people at the bar but the bartender wasn’t giving me any attention, so I just went out to the balcony. I sat there chilling, chatting with strangers, enjoying my drink that I had paid for at a different bar. I never even placed an order at this bar but I got to sit on their balcony for half an hour and watch the madness on the street below. Score!


I wandered through Bourbon Street at night as well, but it was a bit more raucous and felt just a little bit too wild for my taste. But day drinking allowed me to partake in the madness of New Orleans and still get to my hostel for an early bedtime.

The next time you’re in New Orleans, remember: day drinking is where it’s at.



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About the Author

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who seeks out offbeat attractions and awesome destinations around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

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  1. I loved NOLA, finally made it to New Orleans last summer and LOVED it. I heard about the red dress run, great timing as it looks like it was quite exciting to watch! Looks like a lot of fun and quite the charachters that come out for it, I’m sure. I found Bourbon street quite insane at night too, a little ‘too’ wild but still interesting to see for the first time. Glad you had a fun visit there

      1. me too! I was there last May and it was just starting to get pretty hot. But not nearly as bad as the time I foolishly went to that area (Memphis) in the middle of July! Holy mother of god was that crazy…you could cut the air with a knife it was so swelteringly/sticky hot. You’re there at the perfect time, before it gets too bad. Lots of great bars and music (esp on Frenchman) and cheap booze in spots too. Have fun!

        1. My worst experience was in Austin in May. I tried walking around downtown and had to rush into a store about 15 minutes because it was like a sauna. Everyone who lived in Austin tried to brag about how great the air conditioning was everywhere, but I was disappointed I couldn’t spend any time outdoors.

  2. I love that New Orleans is really the kind of place where a group of guys in red dresses isn’t reason to think there’s anything out of the ordinary going on.

    I love the french quarter in the daytime – it’s definitely more relaxed then it can get at night. Nighttime is fine if you’re going somewhere specific, but you can’t just wander and explore – and what’s the point of a city without open container laws if you aren’t going to walk around with a drink in your hand?

  3. We had a great time in NOLA, but I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of Bourbon Street. Because it’s something one must do when visiting NOLA, we walked up and down the street on our first night and we did see some great street musicians, but after that we didn’t go back. It felt a little too sleezy at times and there is so much more to NOLA than just 1 street. I think it’s hard not to have a good time in that city though! Those red dresses would have been something to see!

  4. I was attending a convention in New Orleans, Everyone stayed at the convention while I went to the French Quarter. It was magical. There was everyone in a red dress. I spent several hours just hanging out. It was one of the best days of my life, Thank Scott for this site

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