City Guide: New Orleans
There is life beyond Bourbon St.
Ahhh New Orleans. If you tell anyone you’re headed to the Crescent City, they will inevitably tell you about the one time they stopped there for one night on their spring break road trip, and how “Bourbon St. is crazy man! You have to go!” Fear not, New Orleans is infinitely more than Bourbon St. As one of the oldest cities in the south and in the entire country, it is filled to the brim with amazing history, legends, and charm. It’s nearly impossible to capture all of New Orleans in one post, and there is always something to be discovered around every corner…
What To See
The French Quarter: You can’t go to New Orleans and not spend an afternoon (or even a whole day) walking around this part of the downtown area. You can find the St. Louis Cathedral, Café du Monde (beignets!), and the Cabildo (the Treaty of Versailles that gave the U.S. the Louisiana Purchase was signed here!) in Jackson Square, and a block north-ish (or towards the lake) is the infamous Bourbon St. You can also find the French Market, the Tennessee Williams House, and the architecture New Orleans is famous for in this area.
St. Charles Ave.—Garden District: Hope on the streetcar (not the ‘cable car’, not the ‘trolley’) towards the uptown area, and just watch the beautiful, charming, historic, mansions cruise by. Sprawling live oaks create a canopy of green, and in the spring you can’t escape the scent of southern jasmine. A stark contrast to the tourist bustle and boozy scent of Bourbon St., this cannot be missed. Get off at Audubon Park (site of the 1884 World Fair!) and have a picnic, go one a walk, or just nap in the sun.
Haunted History Tour: When nighttime falls, New Orleans is an entirely different beast, and French Quarter haunted tours are worth braving the tourist crowd and price tag if you’re rolling with a little more in your travel budget. Many companies offer ghost tours, vampire tours, and haunted history tours starting around sundown. Tour guides are usually locals who have their own ghost story to contribute…
Explore: Neighborhoods dripping in real New Orleans surround the French Quarter, so take some time to explore Treme, Marigny, or the Bywater. Each area of New Orleans has a personality all its own, and though you can’t go everywhere, it’s worth getting off the beaten path.
City Park: Located some distance towards the lake, City Park is huge and beautiful. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens are located within its boundaries, but if that’s not your scene, the park has plenty of other things to offer: golf, tennis, a lake for paddle-boating, a forest to explore, and even a place to grab beignets and relax.
Bourbon St. gets all the attention, but the surrounding blocks are full of cool shops, good places to eat, and lots of interesting people. Stray from Bourbon St. 1-3 blocks and see Decatur, Royal St., Saint Ann, St. Peter and more.
Uptown, Magazine St. is lined with boutiques, restaurants, bars, quirky specialty shops, and some beautiful houses. Young people, locals, and visitors alike have a favorite place on Magazine. Take a walk, grab a bite, and drain your bank account.
Fun for Free
New Orleans isn’t exactly an expensive destination, and if you’re spending a lot, you’re making a mistake. All the fancy restaurants and museums are great, but there are cheap alternatives to everything that are just as good, if not better. Most sightseeing is free, save for a few museums and riverboat rides.
The Cabildo has exhibits on Hurricane Katrina and the history of Mardi Gras, and is always free (and always worth it).
What to Eat
How in the world does one pick their favorite places to eat in New Orleans? I feel like it may be like picking a favorite child. Almost anywhere in New Orleans is going to be delicious, so don’t eat ANY fast food, and don’t eat at the same place twice.
Students Frequent: Satsuma Maple
As about classical Tulane student as it gets, but it’s actually DELICIOUS breakfast/brunch/lunch food so people in the neighborhood frequent it, too. Try the Green Breakfast Sandwich, the Turkey Pesto Sandwich, in-house made juices, or the watermelon lemonade in the summer.
Honorable Mentions: Refuel, Toast, Willa Jean, Cowbell, Rum House, Liberty Cheesesteaks, Wayfare, Origami, Amici
Splurge on: Any John Besh, Dickey Brennan, or Emril restaurant. The notable chefs all have multiple (and delectable) restaurants to choose from depending on what you want.
Honorable Mentions: Antoine’s, Peche, Galatoire’s, Le Petit Grocery, Jacque-Imo’s, Apolline
Cheap eats: Superior Seafood
So it’s not exactly cheap, but during happy hour, it’s two for one drinks and $0.50 oysters on the half shell which is a must eat in New Orleans.
Honorable Mentions: Araña (happy hour), Stein’s, O’Henry’s, Central Grocery, Dat Dog, Camellia Grill, Company Burger
Try this: New Orleans is a funky place with some funky foods, but some local musts are: po-boys, crawfish anything (when it’s in season), muffaletta, snowballs (NOT snow cones), jambalaya, seafood, and Vietnamese food (no seriously). New Orleans has a huge Vietnamese population, so if you like pho, grab some before you leave.
Sweet Treats: No list of food in New Orleans is complete without the mention of Café du Monde for beignets. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, make it your late night snack and avoid the crowd!
Honorable Mentions: District Donuts, Sucré, Plum St. Snowballs, Southern Made Pralines, Creole Creamery
How do you go to New Orleans and not see the nightlife? Again you can’t do it all in on trip, and definitely don’t stay on Bourbon all night.
For some 21+ fun, start your night at one of the amazing, legendary bars around town. The Carousel Bar (actually spins) the Sazerac Bar, the Hermes Bar at Antoine’s (claims to have invented the cocktail), Pat O’Brien’s for a hurricane and to see the dueling pianos or just grab a drink in a to-go cup (totally legal in New Orleans) and see the sunset before heading out for the night.
See Bourbon St. briefly before heading ANYWHERE else for the night.
Frenchman St. has live music and cool bars (Cat’s Meow, Blue Nile) or check out The Boot by Tulane’s campus if you want (read: skip it). If you’re a night owl, Snake and Jake’s (which looks like an abandoned shack from the outside) has been around forever, takes off around 3-4am and comes Anthony Bourdain recommended.
While New Orleans is known for the streetcar, it’s not always reliable. It costs $1.25 and you can purchase your return trip for $0.25 more if you ask for it when you get on. The city is mostly walkable once you’re in the neighborhood you’re going to, but uber or lyft is usually the best bet. New Orleans cab services can be a bit pricey, but also a good option for getting to and from the airport.
It’s important to note that the city is called the Big Easy for a reason; the city moves at its own pace, so things aren’t always on time or fast paced. People are really living to live and enjoy in New Orleans, so if you’re rushing around trying to see and eat everything you can in a few days, you may miss out on what makes the city so special. Just grab a daiquiri, take a walk, find somewhere to watch the sunset on the Mississippi River and embrace it.