When people hear the name New Orleans they immediately associate it with Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but this charming city has so much more to experience beyond the beads and debauchery. New Orleans or commonly referred to as NOLA in the south is one of my favorite cities to visit in the United States. It has a unique personality filled with charm like no other city.
New Orleans allure is due to the fact it was built around many diverse cultures filling the city with an abundance of history and culture like no other city in the United States. Most important all the great jazz music you will hear. The architecture is a blend of Spanish, French and Creole, courtyards, and balconies decorated with cast iron. Taking the streetcar or walking is the easiest way to see the city. The street blocks are close to each other making it easy to get around relatively quick whether you are staying in the Warehouse District, French Quarter or Financial District.
Each time I visit New Orleans I always seem experience something new. It’s easy to get caught up in all the tourist traps in the area and its quite overwhelming trying to make a decision on what to do, but if you are limited on time these are a few my favorite sights that I think you will enjoy too.
French Quarter- is the heart and soul of New Orleans and is one of the oldest and historic neighborhoods on the shores of the Mississippi River. It was established by the French in 1718 and has maintained it roots throughout the years. Many of the existing buildings date to the early 1700’s and many are listed on the national register of historic places. The street names are still in French nestled among cobblestone roads, the architecture of the building has balconies with baroque ironwork filled with a variety of hanging plants and lovely courtyards. There is no place in America like the French Quarter the streets are lined with one of kind boutiques, antiques stores and century old restaurants.
Jackson Square-( formerly named Place d’Armes) is the focal point of the French Quarter. This gorgeous square is enclosed in a cast iron fence with a grand statue of Andrew Jackson triumphantly guarding over the square. Jackson Square is also a famous for being an open air market where street vendors gather. The square is filled with local artist displaying their artwork on the iron fence surrounding the square, local musicians playing jazz and even fortune tellers. Jackson Square is one of the most photographed spots in New Orleans especially with the magnificent St. Louis Cathedral as its backdrop, have your camera ready. In front of the square you will find several horse drawn carriages ready to take you on a tour of the French Quarter.
St. Louis Cathedral- located in Jackson Square is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the United States and a major landmark in New Orleans. The cathedral is open to the public and mass is still held on Sundays. If you are walking around Jackson Square I strongly encourage you to go inside for a peek. Inside you will find an ornate alter magnificent murals on the wall and exquisite stained glass windows.
Café du Monde– is an icon in New Orleans which is located across from Jackson Square. The café has been in operation since 1862. It’s a great place to people watch and listen to street musicians playing jazz. It doesn’t get any better than relaxing while eating a serving of delicious beignets dusted in powder sugar along with a simmering cup of chicory coffee. At Café du Monde the menu is simple, beignets, and coffee or hot chocolate plus they are open 24 hours a day so there is no excuse to miss out enjoying this tasty pastry.
Bourbon Street- has been around since 1798 and is 13 blocks long from Canal Street to Esplanade Ave. There is not another street that quite compares to Bourbon Street and truly worth the experience. The good times always roll, day and night all year long, with beads flying from balconies and live music on every street corner. Bourbon Street really comes alive after the sun goes down; and the celebration begins, 13 blocks of endless fun amidst neon lights and music blaring out of every venue. The business doors are all wide open welcoming all that dare to explore a little debauchery. It is a favorite spot for people celebrating a Bachelor or Bachelorette party.
Royal Street- is one block away and runs parallel with Bourbon Street. Royal Street is one of my preferred streets to shop and dine in the French Quarter. Although Bourbon Street is its neighbors the two streets are complete opposites. Royal Street is dignified and the name “royal” is quite fitting for the atmosphere. Here you find sophisticated hotels, restaurants, refined shops, art galleries and numerous antiques stores. Many of the buildings have iron lace balconies that date back as far as the 1800’s. It’s hard to walk by several of the antique store without going inside them to look at spectacular chandeliers hanging from the ceiling or furniture that looks like it came out of a castle.
French Quarter Market– is an open air market similar to what you would see in Europe. The market sells a variety of Mardi Gras supplies; beads, mask, t-shirts and hats. It’s a great place to get souvenirs especially if you are looking for inexpensive gifts to take home for friends and family. In addition there are many vendors selling art work, jewelry, and a variety of novelty gifts for the entire family. It is very hard to leave the French Market empty handed. Its open 7 days a week during the day, but on the weekend you will find more vendors at the market.
Frenchman Street– is a short walk from the French Market and an area that is often overlooked by tourist. Frenchman Street has a laid back vibe and is a frequent hang out for the local people. Although only 4 blocks wide it is action packed; with some of the best live jazz music performed by local musicians at the many music clubs and restaurants. In my opinion if you came to New Orleans to listen to good jazz music than Frenchman Street is where you need to go.
Old U.S. Mint- is located around the corner from the French Market. The mint began casting coins in 1838, for the United States and Confederate. The first floor has displays of several old coins and the machines, such as coin press and bullion scale that were used to make them. Upstairs is a real treat its home to the New Orleans Jazz Museum that chronicles the history of jazz. They have artifacts that include sheet music, instruments and many pictures of the frontier musicians that performed at Preservation Hall.
Preservation Hall– is located on Peter Street where people have come to listen to jazz musicians since the 1950’s. The entrance is easy to pass its almost seems like a secret entrance if you aren’t sure what to look for, but hours before show time you will see people lined up outside waiting for the next performance. The hall is a small venue therefore providing intimate acoustic jam sessions by local musicians, but seating is limited and there is no reserved seating so in order to get the best spot you need to be in line early. The hall only provides entertainment but you are able to bring a drink during the show. The Preservation Hall is an experience worth waiting for and the admission price is very reasonable.
Pat O’ Brian’s – has been the life of the party since 1933 and is also located on Peters Street. A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without ordering a Hurricane drink from Pat O’ Brian’s while sitting in the courtyard. Even today it is still one of the most popular bars in the French Quarter. Although Pat O’ Brian’s is fun all year long on St. Patrick’s day in my opinion is the best time to hang out there.
RTA Streetcars– is how I get around when I visit the area especially because parking is very limited that come with a huge parking fee. Therefore it only makes sense to purchase a 24 hour pass for a mere $3.00 which is certainly cheaper paying the high price of parking. The Streetcars make frequent stops at all the hot places along the French Quarter, Garden District and Warehouse District and around Canal Street. The drivers are friendly and always willing to provide directions.
Garden District-is 3 miles from the French Quarter but is easily accessible by the St. Charles Streetcar. The Garden District is a favorite spot I enjoy visiting. Here you see some of the most beautifully designed southern homes with large wrap around porches with immaculate landscaped yards and gardens surrounded by large oak trees.
Audubon Park– is located in the Garden District and also accessible by the St. Charles Streetcar. The park has refreshing walking trails among grand oak trees whose branches touch the ground draped with moss. No matter your age you will get the urge to climb these century old trees. It a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city by relaxing on a bench people watching, or enjoying nature by feeding the ducks.
St. Louis Cemetery- I know it sounds weird to hear go visit a cemetery but in New Orleans cemeteries attract many tourist. The cemetery is located on Basin Street and is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Since the tombs have to built above ground due to the rising sea level people have been laid to rest in ornately decorated stone crypts with elaborate …..This cemetery is located on Basin Street and is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans it also on the National Register of Historic places. Tours are available to see hear tales of many people buried here particularly Marie Laveau the voodoo queen.
Magazine Street – is six mile long that leads from the Garden District to Uptown. It’s a total different vibe from the French Quarter. Although the area is laid back there is plenty to do with an abundance of quaint boutiques, vintage shops, coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, and antiques stores, Magazine Street is a shopper’s paradise.
Warehouse District- is quick streetcar ride from the French Quarter, although you can walk to the Warehouse District from the French Quarter its much quicker to take the streetcar. At the Warehouse you can enjoy a stroll along the river walk. There is also a mall and several outside restaurants along the river. It’s a great alternative if you don’t want to pay the high hotel rates in the French Quarter or just being away from the party life. The warehouse district has plenty of galleries, restaurants and eclectic bars to enjoy plus its walking distance to the convention center.
The National World War II Museum- is also located in Warehouse District which is a great place about the Military History in the United States. The museum is home to a variety of military artifacts, documentary films, airplanes and tanks.
I must admit a trip to New Orleans is exciting any time of year. I have visited the city during each season but a word of advice if you are not from the southern states the summer in NOLA is very hot and humid. The city is below sea level, making it seem like a sauna bath. If your travel plans are during the summer months just make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Maybe on your visit you will have the opportunity to join in on a Second Line Parade.
However you decide to spend your time in New Orleans it will be a cultural experience for you. Make sure you eat a cup of gumbo, a bowl of red beans and rice, a plate of jambalaya, and a muffaletta sandwich. These are the basic food staples of the local people of New Orleans; I promise you your taste buds will be happy. Have fun on your vacation and safe travels!!