The Best Party in New Orleans: Red Dress Run

New Orleans Red Dress Run Bourbon St 8-10-2013

If you’ve never heard of Red Dress Run (RDR) in New Orleans, you’re not alone, but you are missing out on what I consider to be NOLA’s best party. Let me start by saying that I haven’t been to Mardi Gras, yet, but I have done a New Year’s Eve/Day there and made countless other trips. All things considered, I’m betting on RDR as the best NOLA party. Let me explain why.

First, what is RDR? My understanding, coming from a friend who grew up in and now lives in New Orleans, is that it originally started as a Hash House Harriers race. Runners completed the race wearing red dresses. Yes, both the girls and the guys. After the morning race is, of course, a big party (this is New Orleans, duh). Apparently these RDR’s are done nationally and even internationally now, but what better place to have the event than in NOLA?

Not into running early morning races before partying all day, or just don’t have an extra $50-$75 for race registration? You’re in luck. You don’t have to. Yes, I would encourage you to do the run, as much of the proceeds go to charity. But don’t let the run be the make-or-break decision. Many people just go straight to Bourbon St. In fact, my friends and I didn’t run this past year. It just didn’t agree with our all-day celebration schedule.

Why is Red Dress Run so awesome? Because:

  1. It’s in New Orleans. New Orleans is my favorite city in America. I’m going to write another post on why New Orleans is so amazing some other time, but for now, let’s just sum it up with world class and reasonably priced food, friendly locals, good weather, a beautiful juxtaposition between the old and new, great local beer (I <3 Abita), and MINIMAL OPEN CONTAINER LAWS. Let me emphasize that last point one more time. MINIMAL OPEN CONTAINER LAWS. That means you you can walk into any bar or restaurant, order a beer, and ask them to put it in a to-go cup before you walk down the street and enjoy your drink. It’s sad that this is a novel concept in “the land of the free” America, but I digress…
  2. It’s primarily locals. That’s important, because the people who live in New Orleans are a special breed. Primarily, they’re a laid back, outgoing, and friendly bunch. This isn’t New Years or Mardi Gras, where people from all over the nation descend upon NOLA for a weekend or week of acting like idiots. It’s not a bunch of New Jersey meatheads, New York tough guys or trashy rednecks like some of the other NOLA party crowds drawn from all over the US.
  3. It’s a younger crowd. This might not matter to a lot of readers, and it may even be a turnoff to some. To each his or her own. But for me and my friends, it added a lot. No creepy old dudes wearing dresses, no grandmas with their boobs out. There are a lot of area college and post-college guys and gals, their friends, and locals who probably run the gamet between 21 and 45. In short, there’s just not nearly as many weirdos as there are at some of the other big NOLA parties… unless you consider all the guys wearing red dresses….
  4. You can’t take yourself or anyone else serious when everyone is wearing a red dress. It’s true. And in fact, the few random guys without red dresses might as well be wearing clown suits. And the few guys wearing baggy red Nike shorts and a red tank top look similarly retarded. Go home.
  5. It draws less of a crowd than Mardi Gras. Again, different strokes, different folks, but I prefer party crowds that are just shy of shoulder to shoulder madness. I like to be able to move my way through the crowds, and to be able to get a drink without waiting in line for 15 minutes. To me, it’s just the right amount of people. And you don’t have to book your hotel room a year in advance.

New Orleans Red Dress Run Bar 8-10-2013

How did the Red Dress Run start?

I found a fantastic explanation at the official Red Dress Run web site:

“On August 7, 1987, a young lady wearing a red dress emerged from an airplane that had landed in southern California to visit a friend from her high school years. Shortly thereafter, she found herself transported to Long Beach, where her friend intended to introduce her to a zany running group called the “Hash House Harriers.” One member, noting her gender and attire, urged that she “just wait in the truck” until her host returned. With that goading, she ran into history sporting her red dress and heels.

The following year (August 12, 1988), to commemorate the event, the San Diego Hash House Harriers sent “The Lady In Red” an airline ticket to attend the inaugural Red Dress Run. Hundreds of male and female hashers adorned themselves in red dresses for a spectacle widely covered by California newspapers and TV news. In addressing the crowd, The Lady In Red suggested that Hash House Harriers hold the Red Dress Run annually as an occasion be used to raise funds for local charities.”

How can you make it to the next Red Dress Run?

Make the RDR event a bucket list item, trust me. Check out this site, or Google it for current information. In 2014, the race and party happen on Saturday, August 9th. Yes, I will be there. You should, too. Last year I was with five of my old college buddies plus some NOLA friends. This year…. hopefully 15-20 buddies and even more NOLA friends. Be there, be a man, and wear a red dress. This weekend was a top highlight of 2013 for me. Make it a highlight for you. And don’t forget your purse (dresses don’t have pockets).

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