There are few cities like New Orleans. There’s also nothing quite like the Final Four.
It’s the culmination of a long season of college basketball and the final stage of one of America’s favorite sporting events. Millions across the country are glued to their TV screens for it, but it’s also one of the hottest tickets for those wanting to experience the action live.
Just like with any sporting event, the atmosphere of the arena and the thousands of fans add a whole other dimension, especially after nearly two years of not having full stadiums. However, anybody who has been to a live sporting event knows that a successful weekend isn’t just about the game, but about what you do before the game or after the game. It’s about the whole weekend experience.
So here at Tailgate Sports, we want to make sure your experience of the game is as enjoyable as possible, from the most important storylines to the best bets to the best ways to enjoy the game if you’re there in person. Below you’ll find links to our game previews to the Final Four but also our guide to getting the most out of your weekend if you’re headed down to the Superdome to enjoy it live and in person.
Best Food in New Orleans
Obviously, the first thing on most people’s to-do list in New Orleans is some coffee and beignets and, truly, there isn’t a much better way to start the day. Cafe Du Monde is the to-go spot and has been for some time, so you’ll need to start your day early to make sure you’re there before it gets too crowded, but we would expect to wait.
Do you want to try a muffuletta? Yeah, you do. Even if you don’t know it yet. Central Grocery is the “home of the Muffuletta” and makes a pretty damn good one, but you also can’t go wrong with Cochon Butcher, so pick whichever one is closer to where you’re staying – or drinking.
You’re in New Orleans, so you need a Po’Boy. You’ll find plenty of places that sell them or claim to have the best ones. Based on what our local friends have told us, the best are Domilese’s, Parkway, Parasol, and Mahonmey’s.
Local New Orleans Favorites
Some other favorites mentioned by locals for authentic New Orleans cuisine are: Peche, Superior Seafood, The Camellia Grill, Elizabeth’s, Mother’s, Toast, Willa Jean, and Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. If you’re looking for something a bit “higher end,” you can check out James Beard-Award-winning restaurant Shaya.
Another local favorite is the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Willie Mae Seaton has been serving greasy and delicious fried chicken there for many decades, but if you want a seat, you’ll need to get there early. Like, much earlier than you’d normally think about eating fried chicken.
Best Drinking Spots in New Orleans
It should go without saying that we advise drinking responsibly and legally, but if you are over 21-years-old and are in New Orleans, chances are you’re planning to have a few beverages. Everybody knows about Bourbon Street, but that will likely be chaotic, crowded, and messy, so we’re going to focus our recommendations on places that might avoid all of that.
However, aside from Bourbon Street, New Orleans has a storied drinking culture, and there are many old bars that have been in existence for over 100 years. If you want to bring yourself back to the past, you can check out Carousel Bar, Napoleon House, or Sazerac Bar. If you’re willing to lean into something that is a bit more touristy, you can go to the original Pat O’Brien’s or you can also venture further down on Bourbon Street (yes, we’ll throw a few in) to go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (where the famous pirate allegedly used to hide his gold) or the Old Absinthe House.
Some other spots that come heavily recommended are Pal’s, Finn McCool’s (especially if you want to watch soccer), Twelve Mile Limit (for cocktails), or Bar Tonique.
Atchafalaya is the home of the Make Your Own Bloody Mary bar. So if you went out a little crazy on Friday night or Saturday night, there might not be a better stop for the next morning.
Best Places to Hear Music
New Orleans is a music city. If you’re there the night before the games or want to go out after the games, you want to go out and hear some music. The most consistent recommendation we get is Tipitina’s, which was described to us as “a NOLA institution. Enough said.” You can also visit historic Mother-in-Law Lounge
You can also check out Frenchman Street, which is less chaotic than Bourbon Street and more music-focused with lots of bars featuring live Jazz musicians or even street musicians. Some Frenchman favorites are Blue Nila, d.b.a., Spotted Cat, and Bamboula’s.
However, you’re in New Orleans and the weather should (hopefully) be nice, so if you want some live, outdoor music, there might not be a better spot than Bacchanal.
Again, we’re going to tailor this to avoid Bourbon Street. If you want to head down there, that’s fine, but it’s usually just to be on the street and with the crowd, so you don’t need to head there for one particular spot. If you want to avoid Bourbon Street, our first recommendation is Frenchman, which we mentioned above.