New Orleans is crawfish claws down, one of my FAVORITE cities! It’s one of those places I classify as a World City. Meaning if an alien mothership landed and asked (in a robotic voice, of course) “Where should we go to experience humankind?” I would plug The Big Easy into their sophisticated alien GPS and say, “Go there.”
It is a cultural melting pot. A mecca of gobsmacking food, people, history, music, traditions, and…well the list is quite endless. So on the heels of my *pauses to tabulate* 4th visit, I decided it was high time to compile a small sampling of my favs. So the aliens or, you know, YOU have some idea of what may tickle your New Orleans fancy should you decide to go. And you should. (Sidebar: dead giveaway you’re a tourist if you pronounce it “New Or-leeeens” it is “New Or-lins” proper or nothing at all.)
Without further ado and in no particular order:
Cafe Du Monde: The ORIGINAL French coffee stand of New Orleans. Yes, it will be crowded. Yes, there will be a nearby street performer playing the sax or some other instrument. And yes, everything will stick to the table from the ridiculous amounts of powdered sugar. But who freaking cares! The beignets and cafe au laits are totally worth it. AND you will be able to cross one more thing off your bucket list Just don’t ask me how many I had. I’m pretty sure my arteries are still giving me the finger.
Maison Bourbon: In this humble girl’s opinion, this authentic jazz club is the saving grace of one of the most infamous rues in the French Quarter. It’s unequivocally the pearl among the gelatinous, grey, spring breaky oyster that is Bourbon Street. We were fortunate to catch Philthy Phil & the Philistines during our visit. They were AMAZING! So amazing I kept flailing $5 bills in the air until my husband was like, “Uh, are you going to give away our 401K?” Probably. Because I have a soft spot for talented, under appreciated, starving artists.
Support this fabulous local business dedicated to the “preservation of jazz.”
Jackson Square: A veritable feast for the eyes. Take a stroll around the park and see locals vending their wares and services. Anything goes–from past life readings and water glass musicians, to dogs playing dead…in a mini casket…in a mini tuxedo. There is something for everyone! And while you’re at it, snag a Muffuletta (regional sandwich delight) from Central Grocery-The Home of the Muffuletta. Then find a patch of grass in the square or by the Old Mississippi and dig in!
Garden District: If architecture’s your bag, then you’ll definitely want to book a walking tour of this gorgeous section of the city! Or you can do as I do–hop a streetcar to Charles Street and lose yourself amidst these beautiful historic homes and landscapes. BTW, losing myself is something I do on purpose and accidentally in almost every city I visit. This should explain a lot.
Mardi Gras World: If the weather’s uncooperative this is a really fun detour! Learn more about the fascinating tradition of the Mardi Gras parades and check out the HUGE warehouse where all the floats are made (and see artists in the process of creating!).You’ll have a whole new appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into these roving works of art.
Mardi Gras Parade: In surrounding cities (such as here in Slidell) the parades kick off a couple weeks before the New Orleans parades. So for those wanting a “taste” of Mardi Gras without the astronomical crowds & sky-high prices, this is a great alternative. And looky! You can still get lots of beads!!! Ahem, without resorting to the…flashier currency synonymous with Bourbon.
Nola Restaurant: Okaaay. There are roughly eleventy billion places to have a died-and-gone-to-caloric-heaven dinner in the French Quarter alone. But Emeril’s Nola is consistently one of my top picks for mouthwatering food and impeccable service. Absolute splurge and worth every damn penny. I recently had the GARLIC CRUSTED DRUM fish with wood burning oven roasted ∙ brabant potatoes ∙ crimini mushrooms ∙ bacon ∙ sauce beurre rouge. *passes hanky* Sorry, you were drooling. And for dessert I had to go for the the CRÈME BRÛLÉE TRIO Vanilla Bean with Fresh Berries, Coconut with a Coconut Truffle, Mocha with Chocolate-Almond Biscotti. Mmmmmmmmm. Just…mmmmmmm. Don’t forget to pack the Tums and something with a forgiving waistline. Spanx is not your friend here.
Pat O’brien’s: A visit to NOLA is never complete without a world famous Hurricane. Do not let its benign Kool-Aid appearance fool you. This rum-based drink packs a wallop and has been responsible for certain people making friends with a table of strangers from Baton Rouge. Only to later find herself performing karaoke at the CATS Meow. Or so I hear.
This list is but a tiny sliver of all the city has to offer. There are tons of museums (even voodoo ones!) tours, cemetery walks, and much more!
New Orleans is a place that, above all, celebrates the joy of living. And how can you NOT fall in love with that?
So, anything on your Not-to-be-Missed New Orleans List?
(and beignets) Darcy