Bourbon Street is bead-riddled, it's funky-smelling, it's neon-hazed, it's clogged with tourists who navigate its narrow berth in fitful, peristaltic spurts — and if you live in New Orleans, it's an unavoidable part of life. Here's a jaunt through Bourbon Street's most popular and potent attractions.
Tropical Isle Bourbon No fewer than six exterior signs (and sometimes a guy in a costume) tout Tropical Isle's signature Hand Grenade cocktail, but the Shark Attack offers much more bang for your buck (err, your $7.50). I ordered mine from bartender Jimmy Burgin. "It's a good summertime drink," Burgin said. "Very refreshing." Then he rang a bell and a monster-truck announcer voice boomed over the sound system: "WARNING! A great white shark has been sighted! Get out of the water!" Burgin plunged a toy shark into a go-cup of vodka, sour mix, lemon and water. Grenadine poured from its mouth and gave the drink a bloody tinge. It didn't taste half bad — and I got to keep the shark. 600 Bourbon St., 529-1728; 721 Bourbon St., 529-4109; www.tropicalislebourbon.com
The Beach on Bourbon Ride the mechanical whale, boogie to a decent-sounding cover band, quaff beer in the courtyard under the looming silhouettes of the Monteleone and Marriott hotels, or just enjoy reliving your favorite episode of MTV's The Real World: New Orleans. 227 Bourbon St., 523-3800; www.beachonbourbon.com
The Dungeon OK, The Dungeon's not on Bourbon Street, but it's close enough that it might as well be — and if you're a burly, ponytailed guy in a Deja Vu Showgirls T-shirt who's looking for cheap Miller High Life, a pool table and Ozzy Osbourne on the sound system, you'll fit right in, and you'll find all of the above. 728 Toulouse St., 523-5530; www.originaldungeon.com
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar Beyond the neon lights, the buskers, the gay bars, but before the quieter residential stretch of Bourbon Street, there's a genteel, candlelit outlier: Lafitte's, built circa 1722 — but with its gas lanterns, weathered bricks and heavy beamed ceiling, the tavern seems even older. 941 Bourbon St., 593-9761; www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com
Pat O'Brien's Though the "outdoor oasis" description seems hyperbolic, Pat O'Brien's banana plants, flaming fountain, crepe myrtles and blasting fans make its courtyard a pleasant respite — compared to Bourbon Street and combined with Hurricane goggles, it's a veritable Garden of Eden. 624 Bourbon St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com