New Orleans is definitely one of the most unique places I have visited in the USA. You would expect a sort of chaos given that the city’s multi cultural and multi lingual heritage. Yet, all you see is the perfect marriage of different food, architectural styles and traditions. As you walk around, you can just be blown away by the cultural history that is so pronounced in the streets of New Orleans!
1. Walking tour of the French Quarter – To start your trip right, you must get acquainted with the history of the lovely city. Most tours are about 2 hours long and so very informative! Free tours by foot offers free tours of the city almost everyday. However, these get booked pretty fast so make you you reserve a place online. The tour generally starts around Jackson Square, takes you around Royal Street and parts of Bourbon and finally ends back at Jackson, where the festivities for the day would have begun if you do the early morning tour.
2. Visit Beignet heaven – No trip to NOLA is complete without making at least one trip to the famous Cafe Du Monde. I agree it is very touristy but the beignets are utterly divine! The freshly fried dough covered in powdered sugar just melts in your mouth! I polished off an entire bag full in under ten minutes. Grab a quick coffee au lait and warm fresh beignets before you start your walking tour.
3. Get yourself a PO’ BOY! – The famous submarine sandwich from New Orleans! The traditional version is usually stuffed with yummy fried shrimp, oysters, catfish or crab along with lettuce, mayonnaise, tomato and pickles. Order in some from Killer Poboys while you sit and sip a drink at Erin Rose. Also worth mentioning are the Po’ Boys from Nola Po-Boys. We got some to go and they were just perfect!
4. Take in the sounds and sights on Bourbon Street – The liveliest street in New Orleans! It is quite narrow and a no traffic zone at night so you can wander the streets, go bar hopping or just admire all the lights and signs. The street is lined with bars on either side and you get the opportunity to listen to SO many Jazz bands live! Do try and catch a performance at the famous Preservation Hall and The Musical Legends Park to soak in some of that lovely spirit of the city.
5. Try an Alligator on a stick – Alligator meat is a very common item on the menu in NOLA. I suggest you be adventurous and give it a try. If time permits, go on one of the swamp tours too. These tours generally include a meal too.
6. Walk around the French Market – Bright and colorful, this market consists of vendors selling keychains, T-shirts, souvenirs, masks and magnets. There are a lot of food carts too. I personally recommend trying the crawfish mac and cheese. It was most comforting on the cold rainy day. I got stopped by so many people to ask me what I was eating! 🙂
Hop onto one of the stools and enjoy a hot pot of Gumbo or some warm jacket potatoes with cajun seasoning!
7. Ride a street car – There are four major street car lines in NOLA and a ticket one way costs only $1.25. Immortalized by Tennessee Williams in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the street cars are a fun, inexpensive way to explore the city. The canal street and Riverfront lines provide convenient access from the foot of Canal Street to City Park Avenue and along the Mississippi.
8. Sip your ‘sazzie’ (Sazerac) while going around a carousel! – The famous carousel bar at Hotel Monteleone is quite an attraction! The bar is overlooking Royal Street and many renowned authors have sat here and sipped cocktails. The carousel actually moves around every 15 minutes or so, but so slowly that you can hardly tell. We sampled the Sazerac and the Hurricane here and both were really delicious cocktails! Another drink worth mentioning is the hot buttered rum. Dark rum with hints of caramel and butter – it the best thing on a cold rainy night!
9. Visit the oldest continually running bar in the USA! – Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop was such an interesting find. It looks like an old shop from the outside and is quite warm and inviting. Built between 1722 and 1732, it is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. Sipped a lovely Ramoz Gin Fizz as we warmed up in the candlelit bar!
10. St. Louis Cemetery #1 – This is one of the most popular cemeteries in New Orleans and home to a number of famous tombs. The tombs are all different shapes and sizes, and each quite interesting to look at. The tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau definitely stands out as it is marked and has a lot of offerings scattered around. Very cool! Very historic!
NOLA, I hope to visit you again very soon! Maybe for mardi gras 🙂