Take a guided tour of the city: VIP City Tours offers a great, 2 hour tour of New Orleans with stops including the St. Louis Cemetery #3, the lower 9th ward and the Garden District. Other places of interest are pointed out along the tour such as Jackson Square, the New Orleans Arena, Harrah’s, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Mother in Law Lounge; to name a few. I took this tour both times I was in New Orleans and both tour guides provided tips on good places to eat throughout the city. And somehow, I ended up on yet another tour: a mule (yes mule, not horse) and buggy tour with pick up locations in Jackson Square. This tour was more of an abbreviated tour or a romantic stroll through the city. Either way, whichever option you choose, a tour is a great way to start your trip in order to get an idea of what you’d like to see and where you’d like to go!
Enjoy traditional New Orleans food and drink: If you don’t make it anywhere else when you visit New Orleans, make it to Oceana Grill! For breakfast, try the Eggs St. Louis or the Pain Perdu “Lost Bread” and for dinner why not start off with the Louisiana Crabmeat Cakes or the Seafood Gumbo followed by a plate of Mardi Gras Pasta? Then wash it all down with a Hurricane, a New Orleans specialty. I can personally recommend any of the aforementioned choices and guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!
Now, you’re already full and that’s not even the half of it! What’s a trip to New Orleans without jumbalaya, crawfish, a po’ boy, king’s cake (if you’re visiting during Mardi Gras), bread pudding or the famous Cafe Du Monde beignets? To satisfy your food fix, I recommend Bourbon House, Surrey’s Cafe & Juice Bar, The Market Cafe, The Praline Connection and Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant. Your tastebuds will thank you!
Experience the music scene: More than just good food, Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant features live Zydeco and Cajun music. This is an opportunity to experience the traditional music and dance of the area. For an aural immersion into the classic sounds of New Orleans Jazz, check out the nightlife on Frenchmen Street or Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse inside of the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Party with the people: New York City may be called the city that never sleeps, but the partygoers of Bourbon Street definitely come in at a close second. This party never stops, particularly during Mardi Gras! Throw beads or catch beads, flash or be flashed, party with the drunk and disorderly… I’m not judging! There are an abundance of clubs and venues all along Bourbon Street suitable to everyone’s liking.
Wander down the Riverwalk: For more great eats and views of the Mississippi River –take a boat tour or just browse the variety shops at the Riverwalk Marketplace.
Explore the French Market: This outdoor flea market lined with 6 blocks of vendors selling miscellaneous items is open 7 days a week. Cultural events are held in the marketplace and the nearby New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park can provide you with some jazz history or point you in the right direction to hear some great jazz music. Check the website for events and festivals.
Relax in Jackson Square: Take in the sights, grab a beignet from the ever popular Cafe Du Monde, relax in the square or check out some of the eateries nearby. Explore the square at your leisure.
Tour the Cathedral: As the oldest cathedral in the United States, this spot deserves a visit. Rich with history, the beautifully designed St. Louis Cathedral sits right behind Jackson Square and makes for an excellent stop as you make your way through Jackson Square.
Take a ghost tour: Louisiana has a rich history of paranormal activity and Haunted History capitalizes on this. The tour company provides a variety of walking ghost tours, voodoo tours, vampire tours and the like. The ghost tour, although based off of historical events, is mildly theatrical. To their credit, no cheesy tricks or props are used; but the tour is somewhat over-dramatized for special effect. Putting all that aside, if paranormal activity is your thing then this is an interesting glimpse into the history of New Orleans’ dark side.
Visit the museums: Many people don’t think museums when they plan a trip to New Orleans, but the city has a few museums worthy of touring. The Louisiana State Museum has five properties in the French Quarter all displaying different exhibits. In the wake of the most devastating hurricane to hit New Orleans, the Presbytere building houses a Katrina exhibit that can only begin to highlight the destruction and attempt to memorialize the lives lost. The building also includes Mardi Gras exhibit that explores the history and traditions of the popular celebration. The Louisiana State Museum properties also include the Cabildo, 1850 House, Old U.S. Mint and Madame John’s Legacy with ever changing exhibits.