Alex Brandon  /  AP file
Revelers party on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006.
updated 2/12/2007 12:18:35 PM ET 2007-02-12T17:18:35

Most clubs in New Orleans feature an eclectic lineup that reflects the town's music scene; the ReBirth Brass Band, for example, attracts as many rock fans as it does brass band fans. Consequently, the bulk of the club scene escapes categorization (and, of course, booking policies are often subject to change) -- even the local papers refer to club lineups as "mixed bags." Check listings night by night. Some places are generally good fun on their own regardless of who is playing; any night at the Maple Leaf is going to be a good one, while wandering from spot to spot in the Frenchmen section is a well-spent evening. Really, in New Orleans, you can't go too wrong going just about anywhere simply to hang out. And in the process, you might be exposed to a new, wonderful genre of music or an incredible band.

Elsewhere Around the City
Throughout this guide, we keep nagging you to leave the Quarter, especially at night. It's not that there aren't worthwhile clubs in the Quarter or at the fringes. It's just that there are so many terrific (and, in some cases, outright better) ones elsewhere. And not only do they feature some of the best music in town, they aren't designed as tourist destinations, so your experience will be that much more legitimate.

The Gay and Lesbian Scene
For more information, check Ambush, 828-A Bourbon St. (tel. 504/522-8047; www.ambushmag.com), a great source for the gay community in New Orleans and for visitors. The magazine's website has a lot of handy-dandy links to other sites of gay interest, including info on local gay bars. Once you're in New Orleans, you can call the office or pick up a copy at Tower Records, 408 N. Peters St., in the French Quarter, or at Lenny's News, 5420 Magazine St., Uptown.

Bars
You might try the Golden Lantern, 1239 Royal St. (tel. 504/529-2860), a nice neighborhood spot where the bartender knows the patrons by name. It's the second-oldest gay bar in town, and one longtime patron said that "it used to look like one half of Noah's Ark -- with one of everything, one drag queen, one leather boy, one guy in a suit." If Levi's and leather is your scene, the Rawhide 2010, 740 Burgundy St. (tel. 504/525-8106; www.rawhide2010.com), is your best bet; during Mardi Gras, it hosts a great gay costume contest that's not to be missed. The rest of the year, it's a hustler bar. Both of these places are in the Quarter, as are the establishments listed below. There is no cover unless noted.

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The Bar Scene
You won't have any trouble finding a place to drink in New Orleans. Heck, thanks to "go" (or "geaux") cups, you won't have to spend a minute without a drink in your hand. (It's legal to have liquor outside as long as it's in a plastic cup. Actually, given the number of people who take advantage of this law, it almost seems illegal not to have such a cup in your hand.) Note that many of the clubs listed above are terrific spots to hoist a few (or a dozen), while some of the bars below also provide music -- but that is strictly background for their real design. Piano bars, in particular, have begun to pop up; they're everywhere; in addition to the ones listed below, you can find a piano bar in almost every large hotel.

Many bars stay open all the time or have varying hours depending upon the night or the season. If you have your heart set on a particular place, it's always best to call and make sure what their hours will be for that day. Unless noted, none of the places listed below has a cover charge.

French Quarter & Faubourg Marigny
You might consider the clubby bar at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, once it reopens, at 716 Iberville St. (tel. 504/522-2467), a place where manly men go to drink strong drinks, smoke smelly cigars (they have a vast selection for sale), and chat up girlie girls. Or you could enjoy the low-key sophistication found at Beque's at the Royal Sonesta, 300 Bourbon St. (tel. 504/586-0300), where a jazz trio is usually playing.

Elsewhere in the City
Hang with the local beautiful people at any of the following: Loa, the bar at the International House hotel, 221 Camp St., in the Central Business District is a hip and happening hangout. Hot on its heels for hipness and with a slightly higher energy level is the bar at Loft 523, a gorgeous space that beautifully shows off the old timbers that hold up this former warehouse. Ray's Over the River, 2 Canal Place (in the World Trade Center; tel. 504/595-8900), doesn't have the views one would hope from the name, but it might be the number-one pickup spot in town.

For more on what to see and do in New Orleans, visit our complete guide online at http://www.frommers.com/destinations/neworleans/.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Big Easy returns

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  1. Katrina's mess

    A junked car lies near empty houses in the Lakeview neighborhood near the site of the levee breach on the 17th Street Canal, August 29, 2005. More than five months after caused by Hurricane Katrina made landfall, there was little progress in some areas of New Orleans. Today, tours are offered to visitors to have a better understanding of events pre and post Katrina. (David Rae Morris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Big Easy blues

    Costumed revelers dressed as blue roof tarps pose at the annual MOMs Ball, thrown each year by the Krewe of Misfits, Orphans and Mystics in New Orleans. Many of this years Mardi Gras floats and costumes reference the blue tarps that still protect broken roofs across the city after Hurricane Katrina. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Soul sounds

    Jen Pearl (L) and Michelle Loughnane stand under an umbrella with a reference to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, April 2006. Jazz Fest '07 will be held on April 27-29 and May 4-6. (Lee Celano / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dancing in the streets

    A member of the Young Olympia Aide and New Look Social Aid and Pleasure Club dances in a second line parade at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. (Lee Celano / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Jeweled celebration

    Members of the Krewe of Thoth throw beads as they travel down St. Charles Avenue where thousands of revelers showed up to enjoy 2006 Mardi Gras festivities. Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday, and a celebration of the last the day before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Mardi Gras 2007 will be observed on Feb. 20. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Eye candy

    Revelers ogle a woman exposing herself on Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras festivities in the French Quarter of New Orleans. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Closing time

    Orleans Parish mounted Police Officers march down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter announcing the official end of Mardi Gras 2006. (Sean Gardner / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A shout for freedom

    "Big Chief" Victor Armstrong wears an elaborate Mardi Gras Indian costume. The Indian tradition of Mardi Gras pays homage to the relationship between Native Americans and escaped African slaves of the 1700s. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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