In 1977, Professor Longhair didn't have long to live. As a human bridge connecting early 20th century blues, traditional Big Easy jazz, and Cuban funk, the now legendary musician changed the soundtrack to the city, paving the way for acts such as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Perhaps most notably, he penned the ubiquitous carnival anthem "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." But when it looked like his time was up, the NOLA community wasn't going to let him fade away. A group of fans, dubbed "The Fabulous Fo'teen," sought out a spot for the "Fess" to play at until his dying day. And that's exactly what he did at Tipitina's. They even named the place after one of his songs.
Proof that a former gambling parlor and cathouse can change its ways, Tipitina's century-old building has earned a reputation as one of New Orleans's finest music venues. Within its hallowed walls, many famous Crescent City acts have launched to stardom, from funk collectives such as The Neville Brothers and The Meters to rockers like Better than Ezra and the Radiators. All of these names grace the outdoor Walk of Fame, and the club also attracts national artists such as Wilco and Nine Inch Nails. However, the venue's immersion in the musical community goes beyond just shows—it also hosts music lessons for kids, weekly Cajun dance parties, and a retirement home for senior citizen horns. But as much as Tipitina's has expanded over time, it pays respect to the Longhair of its namesake every year with the appropriately punned "Fess Jazztival."
Friendly bartenders have been serving up pints of Guinness to sports enthusiasts since Tracey's Original Irish Channel Bar first opened its doors in 1949. Decades of Irish paraphernalia line the exposed brick walls, which envelop guests as they sip brews at the lengthy wooden bar or bite into seafood-studded poboys and corned-beef sandwiches in vinyl booths. While 20 televisions document the progress of the day’s sporting events, diners can snag chalk from the pool table to prep their cues for a game of eight ball or to draw a mournful outline around an empty basket of fried okra.
Operating out of New Orleans’s Arts and Warehouse District, Creole Pubcrawl orchestrates 2.5-hour jaunts that let guests mingle with fellow pub-crawlers and experience new restaurants and bars. Each excursion features three or four stops at local eateries, breweries, and pubs that welcome guests with a complimentary craft brew or specialty cocktail. The outings can be ideal for friends and coworkers or provide sightseers with a better way to get to know the city than sifting through its mail.
Though its name implies a quick chug or hurried meal, most customers tend to linger at Down the Hatch. That’s because the bar and grill offers scads of activities and creative Cajun-inspired bites to keep loungers happy long into the night. Most evenings here start at a dining room table, where alligator po-boys, smoky pulled pork, and Angus beef burgers are some of the menu’s biggest crowd-pleasers. As the food disappears from plates and more drinks get ordered, crowds diverge onto the brick patio or linger around the bar or jukebox. Amid the festive groups, there are even folks getting work done courtesy of the free Wi-Fi and the belief that the best writers are inspired by whiskey.
To learn a new style, take in a performance, apply to a festival, or learn how to pitch one's work, a comic need only spend some time at La Nuit Comedy Theater. La Nuit not only houses a ComedySportz training center and troupe, but runs its own, unaffiliated conservatory, whose curriculum includes improv and writing. The laughter hub's blog tracks the shows that cycle past the stage's chalkboard wall, along with the workshops, open mic nights, and festivals that help launch NOLA comics toward their goals. Two full-service bars and private comedy shows help make events–from birthdays to bachelor parties to Flat Earth Society meetings–more memorable.
Recently featured in the Times-Picayune for its riveting staging of Blackbird, Elm Theatre brings socially conscious theater to New Orleans's drama devotees. North Baton Rouge native and recent Windy City dweller Garrett Prejean returns to his home state to teach introductory acting to aspiring stage stars and uncanny De Niro impressionists sick of doing scenes with their reflection in a mirror. Prejean is a graduate of The Second City’s acting program, and he later taught at the famed comedy-star breeding ground. At Elm Theatre, he leads a series of workshops that includes the Acting 1 course. Groupon holders will be treated to an exclusive, three-week abridgement ($31.25-per-week value) of this course, with no required long-term commitment or blood-signed contract. The three-week session will touch on monologues, auditions, acting exercises, and the fundamental techniques actors use to create and finely tune their characters.