American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Historic Taverns Across America, Part 1
Traveling through Europe can be an incredible history lesson. No doubt I learned more from experiencing landmarks like the Tower of London and the Roman Coliseum firsthand than reading about them in my old high school textbooks. But, while Europe might boast several centuries' worth of historic battlefields, castles, and other impressive edifices, the United States offers a great deal of intriguing history, too – especially when you consider how young this nation is. From Independence Hall in Philadelphia to the Spanish missions of California, America encompasses a wealth of amazing locales, rich with the history of the varied peoples that have populated this diverse land.
Perhaps because I’m from New Orleans, I’m partial to historic taverns, bars, pubs, and saloons – those famous (or infamous) watering holes where celebrated figures gathered and pivotal events occurred. Nowadays, many such places have become museums, such as the Munroe Tavern near Massachusetts’ Lexington Common. Luckily, however, some taverns of old still operate as such, including The Brick in Roslyn, Washington, which was featured in one of my favorite television shows, Northern Exposure. Here are just two of the country’s most curious (and still functioning) taverns:
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Legend has it that the Lafitte brothers, one of whom was the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte (who received a Presidential pardon for his assistance to Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans), once operated this historic joint as a blacksmith shop – to serve as a legitimate front for their lucrative privateer enterprises (including slave trafficking). Built prior to the two devastating 18th-century fires that nearly destroyed New Orleans, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon St., 504/593-9761, 11 a.m.-close Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-close Sat.-Sun.) is one of the few original French-style buildings left in the French Quarter, a neighborhood ironically rebuilt using Spanish architecture.
Situated at the corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip Streets, Lafitte’s has been a privately owned bar since the 1940s, when the likes of Tennessee Williams frequented it. Today, this cozy, candlelit place, with its cellar-like walls and shuttered doorways, is one of the city’s most popular hangouts. Tourists, locals, and celebrities alike flock here all day and evening long, whether to relax with friends, listen to live piano music, commune with the on-site ghost, or watch the crazy characters go by, especially during annual events like Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence.
Captain Tony’s Saloon
Traditionally, writers and watering holes have gone hand in hand, so it might come as no surprise that a famous American novelist once called Captain Tony’s Saloon (428 Greene St., 305/294-1838, 10 a.m.-close Mon.-Sat., noon-close Sun.) his home-away-from-home. During the 1930s, Ernest Hemingway, a longtime resident of Key West, would apparently spend his mornings writing in the studio above his pool house (now part of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, which I covered in an August post), then seek an afternoon respite in this historic tavern, where visitors can now see his original barstool.
Then known as Sloppy Joe’s Bar (not to be confused with the other Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which was featured in an October post), Captain Tony’s Saloon wasn’t always a watering hole. Although it purports to be the oldest licensed saloon in Florida, this storied building, erected in 1851, once served as an icehouse, a city morgue, a wireless telegraph station, a cigar factory, a bordello, and several speakeasies. As with Lafitte’s, it’s catered to numerous celebrities over the years, from Truman Capote to Jimmy Buffett. Besides a historic vibe, you can expect festive drinks, annual events, and live music every day of the week.
On Saturday, I’ll cover a few more historic hangouts. In the meantime, have fun and be careful on your pub crawl across America. Although you’ve surely heard it before, it bears repeating: Please don’t ever drink and drive!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.