Back in October I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with Tyler and his family. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I loved every minute of it - from the ornate houses to the sweet treats! It's been a few months and I'm still thinking about the beignets and sno-bliz (featured in Part 1 of my New Orleans travel guide)
In Part 2 of my guide I wanted to share my favorite part of our New Orleans visit, and the place we spent the most time: the French Quarter.
The French Quarter truly felt like the heart of the city. It's full of life, art, and delicious food. There's so much to do, and in the 4 days we spent there we barely scratched the surface!
Here's a list of 10 things to do when visiting New Orleans' French Quarter:
1. Beignets at Cafe du Monde
As I mentioned, the beignets in New Orleans are amazing, and Cafe du Monde is iconic! It's cash only, so come prepared and know that lines can usually be expected. We luckily didn't have to wait long on a weekday morning but if you end up waiting for a bit just know it's worth it! There's both indoor and outdoor seating, and the service is pretty quick once you find a table. I recommend pairing your beignets with a cup of the Au Lait coffee, especially if you're starting your day there!
2. Riverboat Ride
The French Quarter is only a few blocks from the Mississippi River, and we took a ride on the Riverboat as a way to see the city by night. Ours was a dinner cruise, and the food was just okay in comparison to what we ate later in the week, but the experience itself was really fun. They have live music and a bar on board, so it's a relaxing way to spend the evening with friends and family while still getting a great view.
3. Listen to Live Music
Speaking of live music, the riverboat certainly isn't the only place to hear a performance. Similar to Nashville, it seemed like New Orleans is in constant rhythm. Many of the bars and restaurants have Jazz throughout the day (and night), and Frenchmen street is described as "consistently musical". A visit to any of the Jazz Clubs along Frenchmen is a great way to experience the culture and nightlife of New Orleans!
4. Do a Walking Tour
We were originally signed up for a guided walking tour of the French Quarter, but by the time it rolled around we had already done quite a bit of exploring on our own. However, I think it would have been a great way to experience the area the first time, and eavesdropping on a few tours we passed made me feel like we missed out on learning some really cool history. If you don't want to pay for a guided tour, I definitely recommend you still walk around the area as much as possible. The buildings are really beautiful, and I couldn't stop taking photos of the bright colored homes and intricate details they had! There are also quite a few free tours you can download online if you don't want to wing it.
5. Bar Hop on Bourbon Street
After our Riverboat ride we went out for a night on the town, to New Orlean's most notorious party street. The drinks are cheap and the bars seem to go on forever (to me it felt like a mini Vegas without the gambling) and people will be passing you beads regardless of whether it's Mardi Gras. Just a tip from experience: avoid the "daiquiris". They seem like a great deal, but are more kool-aid than anything and all the sugar will leave you full of regret.
6. Visit a Cemetery
Unfortunately we weren't able to tour a cemetery during our trip due to poor timing, which I would say is probably my biggest regret of the trip. Luckily we were able to learn a bit about the above-ground tombs during the bus tour we did, but I would have really loved the opportunity to go inside the cemetery itself rather than a quick look as we drove by. On the bright side, I definitely want to take another trip someday and it's good to have a few more stops on the bucket list for next time!
7. Go Shopping
The French Quarter has plenty of little shops and boutiques, which we stopped periodically in as we walked around. There are also a lot of souvenir stores and art galleries. If you're looking to get away from the brick and mortar shopping, you can head to the French Market for a variety of stands.
8. Taste New Orleans' Classics
New Orleans is known for their traditional foods like gumbo, po-boys, jambalaya, crawfish, king cakes, red beans & rice... the list goes on and on. We weren't able to try it all, but we did our best. In order to maximize our taste testing adventure we ordered family style at a couple restaurants and got a little bit of everything. We even tried fried alligator!
9. Ride the Streetcar
Riding the Streetcar was another thing we missed during our stay, but if you're tired of walking or just want another way to see the city I recommend checking it out. It's a lot like the cable cars in San Fransisco and you can purchase unlimited day passes to get in as many rides as you'd like (or need depending on where you choose to stay)
10. Watch the Street Performers
Last but not least, New Orleans is full of street performers. We watched a hip hop group backflip over some people while telling jokes and one guy is known for juggling swords while standing on top of a rolling barrel! It was all super impressive, and since crowds usually form they're usually easy to find when you're looking for a break from all the walking. However, if you're going to stay for a performance it's standard to leave a tip so be sure to have your leftover cash from Cafe du Monde ready.
Hopefully this guide is helpful when planning a trip to New Orleans, or at least convinces you to add it to your travel bucketlist! I loved it so much there and look forward to making it back someday to see even more of what Louisiana has to offer. There's a never ending list of things to do, and these 10 that I recommend are only a few of the ways you can spend your time in New Orleans!
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