Oh New Orleans – This city is unlike any other that I have experienced in the United States. It almost feels like the Caribbean, with it’s laid back, easy going swag about it. Then, you hear Jazz music everywhere-all of the time, notice that Voodoo shops are abundant, and see French street names and Fleur de Lis everywhere, but no one is speaking French and you wonder “where the hell am I”? –And love it.
Some of the Main Attractions
Stay in the French Quarter – the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and considered the most centrally located, making it easy to reach many of the sites.
Stop by Jackson Square for a photo op at the St. Louis Cathedral. Tarot card readers frequent the square and usually take donations for predicting your spiritual life lessons.
Bourbon Street – a place where shenanigans turn in to shit-shows. This bead-throwing Mardi Gras parade route street is wild, crazy, and completely out of control. Be prepared to see anything and I literally mean anything. Try out a round of karaoke at the Cat’s Meow and end the night in the Rainbow District for a really fun time, because who the heck knows what kinds of crazy things you will see on this street in the daytime, let alone at night!
In New Orleans, you can carry your favorite drink from place to place, which makes it the perfect place to bar hop without ordering a drink at every single place. I mean, clearly some of the people are ordering drinks at every single place, but it’s nice that you don’t have to.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar is a place to step back in to time. Very dim inside and lit by candlelight, it is said to have no electricity and is considered one of the oldest bars in the United States.
Marie Laveau’s store on Bourbon Street is the place to see all things Voodoo. Stop in here for a fortune reading, some sage, a Voodoo doll or other Voodoo trinket related purchases. I learned here that Voodoo is not always bad – there is positive Voodoo. I bought my brother a Voodoo doll for “inner peace.” I also decided that I wanted a Tarot reading, which I did later after a return home and it was a completely awesome experience!..
Frenchman Street is the place for live jazz music. There is also an outdoor Art Market in the evenings, looking ever so cute with tons of globe string lights hanging overhead and plenty of handmade products. One thing in particular that I can’t say that I’ve done anywhere else in the world, is having someone write a poem for me. That’s right – along the street here, there are artsy hippies set up with their old school typewriters wanting you to give them a topic for a poem. They then write you a poem on the cutest little sheet of paper (complete with a wax stamp design), and you donate the amount of money that you think that it is worth. I gave them the title of “Intuition” and I still think this is one of the coolest “souvenirs!”
To help wind down from the madness of Bourbon street, educate yourself in the Presbytère Museum. They have a really cool, well done display on Hurricane Katrina and another floor with a display, costumes, floats, etc. from Mardis Gras. I think that even people who dread museums would still find these kind of neat!
New Orleans Funeral Processions are something to see in themselves. No disrespect at all. We were walking the streets of the French Quarter when we suddenly heard jazz music coming our direction like you would when a parade happens. We thought, “is this a parade?” We then realized that it was a funeral procession. On foot. With people playing music as they celebrated knowing that their loved one ascended to a much better place.
Food and Drink
Hand Grenades from Tropical Isle or Hurricanes from Pat O’Briens are two “top” alcoholic drinks to experience in New Orleans. And probably the only one(s) you will need because they are large and fully loaded! Tropical Isle has a fun to look at interior with all kinds of quirky toys and gadgets. Pat O’Briens has a nice courtyard area to relax in and kick back.
Beignets are worth the hype. There is more than one place to experience one of these delightful little fried pieces of doughy goodness, but the ones from Café du Monde are what everyone raves about, so that’s where we went. It’s located right on the far side of Jackson Square towards the side of the (Mississippi) River.
GW Fins is absolutely the best seafood. Not just for the delicious, well prepared food, but because they care about responsibility and sustainability.
Hop aboard the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. We popped inside to witness this for ourselves and were sad to see that there wasn’t going to be an empty bar seat anytime soon! Bummer, as I really wanted to sit down and take part. Next time..
To get a break from the madness of Bourbon Street, make a right on Conti Street. Thanks to a friends suggestion, we found Erin Rose here and they have an absolutely delicious Po’boy and a frozen Irish coffee. I am still thinking of this meal. I would go back here time and time again. The seared Gulf Shrimp one was for sure killer. Order this.
Outside of the French Quarter
Definitely visit the Garden District. Huge prewar mansions bursting at the seams with southern charm line the main street of this neighborhood. Spanish Moss and Oak Trees sprawl like canopies over yards and roads. Take a seat on the mahogany benches of the St. Charles old trolley car. This car is the oldest trolley in the world (continuously operating) which goes the route of the Garden District. The ride is 40 minutes in one direction and can be boarded at Carondelet and Canal streets. Once in the Garden District, you can hop off and walk to Lafayette’s Cemetery to explore the above ground tombs.
How can you head to Louisiana and not see a bayou? We booked the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour on one of the traditional southern flat bottom boats. We tossed up the idea of doing the high speed fan boat, but more wildlife can be seen on the slower moving boat. Slow Boat it was. Jean Lafitte’s was awesome and is a wildlife (protected) preserve. They provide transportation to and from their location – just let them know where to pick you up (small charge for this service, but worth it). Our guide was super down to earth and kept the whole tour funny and educational. We saw numerous gators. He knew right where to find them, as he has grown up in this area and knows it through and through. At the end, you can hold a baby alligator if you wish.
Other fun things to squeeze in to your weekend or for a longer stay, try a Plantation House tour, or one of the many Ghost tours that happen in this “haunted” city. And don’t forget to eat some Gumbo – the one thing that I didn’t cross off my list while there. I won’t complain about it though – we accomplished everything else that we wanted to in this (action packed) long weekend in this absurdly likable city.