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Located on the Mississippi River in South Eastern Louisiana, New Orleans has built itself a reputation. That reputation includes fun, quirky – if not slightly crazy and Mardi Gras, all of which are true but New Orleans is also so much than that. It was the final destination for our Atlanta to New Orleans road trip and to say I was excited was an understatement, my New Orleans bucket list continually grew as I kept hearing more about the city affectionately nicknamed the ‘big easy’.
A vibrant melting pot of French, African and American Cultures, New Orleans is not one for the faint-hearted but its one of a kind culture is not one to be missed.
Experiences to add your New Orlean’s Bucket List
Take a ghost tour through the French Quarter
There is no doubt New Orleans has a colourful history, a clash of cultures, an invasion by pirates and the dawn of Jazz, you name it and there is probably a good chance it happened in New Orleans at some point. New Orleans is very much a city which is proud of its eccentric past and it is truly one worth learning about, which many choose to do via a ghost tour. Every evening groups of tourists will form in Jackson’s Square to set off on one of the cities many ghost tours, some of the tours very much play up to the quirkiness but for the history buffs there are more formal tours as well, whichever your choice, it is a great way to get to know the city.
Relax in the Garden District
When Bourbon Street becomes a bit too much add The Garden District to your New Orlean’s bucket list. The tranquil, local side of the city will give you a completely new perspective, head over to the Garden district for tacos at The Rum House followed by dessert at District Doughnuts. You will also find the popular Layfette Cemetery, as well as the Buckner Mansion, made famous by American Horror Stor making the Garden District a great addition to a three day New Orleans itinerary.
If you are interested in this area, I have a whole post on the best things to do in the Garden District.
Marvel at the colourful shotgun houses
I am a massive fan of colour, the brighter the better is a mantra I live by. Therefore I instantly gravitated towards the colourful houses dotted all around the city of New Orleans, which are also nicknamed shotgun houses.
Why is a shotgun house called a shotgun house? Well people say these are called shotgun houses because a bullet fired through the front door would go right out the backdoor without hitting a wall. In other words, they are small houses, often around only 12 feet wide. Shotgun houses were the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the American Civil War through the 1920s.
Take a swamp tour
Looking in to see wildlife in New Orleans, you will have to head out of the city but it is possible. Just a short drive outside of the heart of New Orleans, tour companies offer swamp/bayou tours on boats, where you can see wild gators and other wildlife. I would personally recommend avoiding the tours where they feed the Gators, as it is not a true experience and can be seen as unethical.
Look into your future
Looking for some guidance for future decisions? Or maybe just a little bit intrigued about the different arts? During my trip to New Orleans, I had my palms read as well as my cards, it was just something I needed to have done while I was there.
I will admit I was pretty sceptical initially but the cards did give guidance and there were a few too many coincidences during the palm reading. Go with an open mind and see what the future holds for you.
Queue up for Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
The beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar, and the ones served at Cafe Du Monde are the best in the city, hence the continuous massive queue. The Beignets are served in portions of three and are cooked fresh continuously throughout the day. I would probably suggest going towards the end of the day and it is pretty much guaranteed you will get covered in powdered sugar.
Admire the people in Jackson’s Square
Jackson Square is a historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for its central role in the city’s history, and as the site where in 1803 Louisiana was made United States territory pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase.
Today it is the place where street performers flock to entertain the tourists and where Tarot Card readers set up their tables in order to show their wisdom. There is always something going on in Jackson’s Square and aside from Bourbon Street, it is one of the busiest areas of the city.
Take on a Shark Attack on Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is where you need to go if partying is on your New Orlean’s bucket list, this street does not sleep and it is not for the faint-hearted. While you are deciding which bar to dance into next, head to one of many smaller establishments to grab an alcoholic slushie or a hand grenade cocktail, or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous request a shark attack and ensure you pay attention to the response. It is also worth pointing out, in the French Quarter you are allowed to drink outside and many people wander around Bourbon Street with a cocktail in hand.
Dance to free live Jazz music
Jazz music is the heart and soul of New Orleans and it is quite literally everywhere. In the French Quarter, it is not unusual to see a Jazz band set up on a street corner to play instantly starting a dance party – no matter the time of day. If you are a fan of jazz and live music, I personally preferred the Frenchman Street area, the vibes are slightly more relaxed than Bourbon Street.
Eat Po Boys
History has it that the Po-boy was invented by the Martin brothers, Benny and Clovis, to feed striking streetcar drivers in New Orleans in 1929. According to an account on the website of the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Benny Martin once said: “We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.'”
The Po Boy is a sandwich which almost always consists of meat, which is usually roast beef or fried seafood, often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab. If you are a foodie then eating a Po Boy has to be done, I recommend grabbing one at Killer Po Boys, however, you can find them all over the city.
Spend an evening on Frenchman Street
As I previously mentioned, Frenchman Street is the more relaxed drinking area of the city. I found this area a lot more pleasant, there are plenty of bars which hold free music nights as well as street music as well. I personally recommend The Spotted Cat Music Club.
Eats Tacos and Drink Margaritas in the Garden District
So I already mentioned heading over to the Garden District but I wanted to add it in twice to ensure you actually do. The Rum House is incredible and they have such wide selection of tacos to suit everyone, generally, they have deals on as well where you can get cut-price Margaritas when eating in.
Ride the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez
Take a two-hour cruise along the Mississippi River and experience New Orleans’ beauty and French Quarter romance aboard the Steamboat Natchez Riverboat with the optional extra of a Creole lunch. If you are visiting during Mardi Graz season the Steamboat Natchez also runs an exclusive Mardi Gra Cruises during the events.
Ride the St Charles Street Car line
St Charles is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, as it has been in operation since 1835. However, aside from riding a piece of New Orlean’s history, it is actually a pretty handy way of getting around the city. The streetcars run until 2 – 3 am in the morning, making it a cheap way to get home after a night out.
Visit Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo
Marie Laveau was a practitioner of voodoo renowned in New Orleans, today her shop is still open in the French Quarter – the same area in which she was born. Today the shop is something of a tourist attraction, a place that is always full of people mesmerized by the treasure trove of items, while there are many voodoo stores dotted throughout New Orleans, none are as famous as Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.
Watch a Saint’s game at the Super Dome
Take a stroll through the city park
The Nola Brewery
If you are a fan of craft beer then you will want to visit the Nola Brewery. After the loss of the Dixie Brewery following Hurricane Katrina, Kirk Coco opened his own brewery. Coco not only wanted New Orleans to have locally made beer again he also wanted to create more jobs within the city. He succeeded on both counts.
Where to stay in New Orleans on a budget
I visited during Wrestlemania so the hotel prices were a lot higher than normal, therefore to save on costs we opted to stay in a private room at the India House Hostel, I really enjoyed it here, it is clean with a great atmosphere and they do a really good cheap cooked breakfast. The tram also runs from the top of the street straight into the French Quarter, the tram also runs late into the night so it is perfect from coming back late as well.
New Orleans is one of those cities you have to visit once in your lifetime. It is a city which is alive with culture, chaos and colour. A place which would give the Las Vegas strip a run for its money but will still be there to be your friend the next morning. New Orleans is a city with a whole lot of heart.