Summer Travel Quest #48

Run With the Bulls (in the U.S.)

Rollergirls, Wiffle bats and booze highlight the surreal New Orleans version of the Spanish phenomenon
by Adam Karlin Posted Jul 2nd 2014 12:01p.m.
Adam first came to New Orleans for spring break back in 1998. He has since relocated to New Orleans, written numerous travel guides to the city and is the editor of New Orleans & Me.

But this city knows how to deal with swelter: by dressing folks up in white and letting them run through the streets, chased by an army of roller derby girls armed with Wiffle bats.

Welcome to San Fermin in Nueva Orleans: the New Orleans Running of the Bulls.

The event is inspired by Spain's Encierro (bull run), but the New Orleans version has a little more heat and a lot more booze. On the morning of July 12, thousands of runners will gather by the New Orleans Convention Center and juice themselves on kegs of beer before an appointed king orders the crowd to kneel (and drink). Then the runners are set through the streets of the city, chased the entire time by the “bulls”: Big Easy Rollergirls and other regional roller derby teams wearing horned helmets, wielding Wiffle bats, intent on one goal: paddling the sorry butts of anyone who decided to race.

INSIDER TIP

The Running of the Bulls starts and ends in the Warehouse District, which is glutted with good restaurants. Cap off your race with a meal at Cajun-meat specialist Cochon or Peche, which won Best New Restaurant in the country in the 2014 James Beard Awards. Reservations are a good idea.

Although anyone can run, registration is mandatory to access the pre- and post-race parties held at the Sugar Mill that are integral to the Bull Run. Racers must wear an all-white outfit and a red scarf or belt around the neck and waist.

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans is a visual feast, but one of its most striking sights requires a little context to recognize. New Orleans is a famously liberal city in a famously un-liberal region of the world, and the battle lines of the culture wars are sometimes drawn starkly across her streetscape.

But during San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, you'll see pickup-driving LSU frat brothers don red tutus and wigs and run with flamboyantly outfitted drag queens in DIY costumes. Who knows why this event bridges a gap between soccer moms and surrealness, but the copious booze helps. 

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Adam Karlin is a journalist who first came to New Orleans for spring break back in 1998. After a whirlwind of live music, good food, and questionable decisions, the city sank its claws into him. He has since relocated to New Orleans, written numerous travel guides to the city and is the editor of New Orleans & Me.

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MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS

46) Sail Like a Pirate

47) Eat Something Wild at a State Fair

48) Run With the Bulls (in the U.S.)

49) Find a Great Bowl of Pho on Old Route 66

50) Go on a Doo Wop Hotel Photo Safari

>> All 99 Summer Travel Quests

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Use the hashtag #99SummerQuests to share your own summer travels, and follow along with us at @MapQuest and Instagram.

Scenes from San Fermin in Nueva Orleans
Scenes from San Fermin in Nueva Orleans
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