New Orleans is a city that stirs up images of jazz music, Cajun and creole food, partying on Bourbon Street, history, architecture and culture. I had wanted to visit New Orleans for a long time, and finally got to visit there last June. Here are just a few things I learned to love about The Big Easy.
New Orleans is a city whose European, Caribbean and African history has melded together to create an unique regional cuisine. The food there is delicious, and full of flavor. Stop by the famous Cafe Du Monde at 800 Decatur Street to grab an order of beignets, fried dough covered in powdered sugar and a café au lait. Head over Mid City and visit Parkway Bakery and Tavern. They make fantastic po’ boys – sub style sandwiches. I was recommended to try the surf and turf, which has roast beef and shrimp covered in gravy. Take a demonstration cooking class from The New Orleans School of Cooking if you want to know how to cook some delicious New Orleans dishes like chicken etouffee and gumbo. The class includes entertaining history about New Orleans and its food, the cooking demonstration and meal-sized portions of the foods, plus drinks.
Drinks and Bars
Several cocktails like the Sazerac and the Hurricane got their start in New Orleans. The drinking age in New Orleans, as in the rest of the U.S.A is 21. In New Orleans you are allowed to have open liquor walking outside, but you need to ask for it in a “to-go cup.” Open bottles of liquor cannot be taken outside.
Bourbon Street is probably the most well-known place for nightlife, and it draws tourists from all over. Pretty much any kind of bar you’d want to find you could find on Bourbon Street. One of my favourite bars is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It was named after pirate Jean Lafitte, and is the oldest bar in the United States having been open since the 1700’s. Another great historic bar is the Carousel Bar a rotating bar in the Hotel Monteleone. If you want to go to listen to great live music, head over to Frenchman Street and check out bars like The Spotted Cat, d.b.a, and Snug Harbor.
Things To Do
Walk. Just walking around neighborhoods like The French Quarter, Fabourg-Marigny, The Garden District and Magazine Street you’ll see a wide variety of architecture from small shotgun houses to Greek Revival. If your feet get tired, try taking one of New Orleans historic street cars.
Francis Sylvester Backstreet Cultural Museum. If you think Mardis Gras is beads, booze and Bourbon Street then come here and learn about another side of New Orleans. Francis Sylvester runs this museum from his home, and it’s dedicated to displaying and preserving the history of the Mardis Gras Indians and other African American traditions in New Orleans. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time here, but what I saw was fantastic. Admission is $8. Since it’s a local run museum make sure to call ahead before visiting, because the hours listed online can vary.
The Degas House. I came across this place by accident. The Degas House is where famous French painted Edgar Degas and his brother Edward spent four months (their mother was from New Orleans). I’m not much of an art person, but I took a tour of the house and enjoyed it. You get to learn about Degas’ art, his family (including some scandal) and the tour is lead by Degas’ great-niece Joni.
Visit A Cemetery. There are many cemeteries in New Orleans. You could visit one on your own, but taking a tour will let you learn more about the cemeteries like the history, and some of the famous residents of New Orleans cemeteries. I took a tour of the historic St. Louis Cemetery 1 with Save Our Cemeteries, a nonprofit, volunteer run organization. The money raised from their tours goes back to preserving the cemeteries in New Orleans.
Music. When you go to New Orleans, you will hear music – whether it’s a Cajun zydeco band playing in a bar, a Brass Band playing leading a parade or a man in Jackson Square playing glasses (really). I heard a wide variety of music, and it was fantastic. Many bars that play live music will have a drink minimum. New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without its music. Make sure to contribute to the local music scene by supporting the many talented musicians in New Orleans.
New Orleans is a unique city – unlike any other in the world. It’s a city everyone should visit at least once. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface to New Orleans, and one day I’ll be coming back to New Orleans again.