Oh man, did I love New Orleans! Widely known as the birthplace of jazz, it's a totally different world compared to other American cities I've visited. I'd wanted to go for years so when my boyfriend's cousin proposed to his southern belle I was very happy we were invited to their wedding. The wedding itself was fantastic, and if you didn't know, a huge part of New Orleans culture is the second line - they love a good parade so after the ceremony everyone walked out of the cathedral while a brass band played. We then followed the band and the wedding party, dancing through the streets waving our white handkerchiefs all the way to the reception venue and it was such an awesome experience!
Since this trip my boyfriend and I have been watching Treme, which is an HBO show set in New Orleans post-Katrina. The show can be really beautiful and uplifting and times, but equally devastating when you see what people had to go through after the storm. While we were there a local told us that Treme was the most accurate representation of the city that Hollywood has ever produced, so if you want to get a feel for the culture and vibe of New Orleans, watching that show is a great place to start. Obviously I'm no expert as just under a week in a city is not the same as living there, particularly through something as horrific as a natural disaster, but it is wonderful watching it and seeing so many familiar places in the show, and sometimes even faces too!
If you're going to New Orleans I'd suggest staying in the French Quarter. We stayed in an AirBnB on the edge of it and were able to walk just about everywhere. Of course being into jazz music will certainly enhance your experience of New Orleans, but if you're not there's no place like the Big Easy to make you a convert. I don't have a huge knowledge of jazz, but there are a handful of artists I love, and that really added to my experience of the city. You couldn't avoid live music in New Orleans even if you tried - they have a brass band playing at the airport at baggage claim so it's the first thing you notice when you arrive. There are people playing music all throughout the French Quarter, in fact on our first night there was a brass band playing in the street one house over from us until 11pm. Sure, they were good but I think we would have all appreciated an earlier curfew for our first night! I absolutely loved my time in NOLA and definitely plan on going back again one day.
do & see
St Louis CathedraL
& Jackson Square
This beautiful cathedral is actually where the wedding was held. If you're so inclined, you can attend mass there if you want to see the inside, or you can just wander around the square because there are always buskers playing and artists selling their works. There are also horse-drawn carts and you're within view of the Mississippi.
House of Voodoo,
739 Bourbon St
Marie Laveau is the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, and this shop along with Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop (723 St Peter St) are the places to go for all manner of voodoo related items and souvenirs. They do readings if that's your sort of thing, but even if it's not they're well worth a look just for the aesthetics.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, 724 Dumaine St
I didn't know much about voodoo outside of the Hollywood representation of it that we're all familiar with, so I found this museum super informative and interesting because it's not at all what I thought it was. Voodoo is actually mostly used to attract things like wealth, good health and good fortune, and it's really frowned upon to use voodoo for anything negative or to hurt anyone else. Definitely a must visit if you're in town.
Faulkner House Books,
624 Pirate Alley
Just to the left of St Louis Cathedral you'll find Faulkner House Books, aptly named since it's a bookstore in the former home of William Faulkner. Most of the home is closed to the public but they've got a very well curated little selection that's worth a peek.
William S. Burroughs House, 509 Wagner St, Algiers
This one is only for Beat Generation nerds like me, but you can get the ferry across the Mississippi River and go to the house William S. Burroughs lived in. He mentions the house (and being on that very same ferry) in Junky and my boo Jack Kerouac along with Neal Cassady and a couple of others visited him there in 1949 and their stay is documented in On The Road.
On rails we leaned and looked at the great brown father of waters
rolling down from mid-America like the torrent of broken souls.
Steamboat Natchez, 600 Decateur St
We didn't, but you can go on a river cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. Or if you happen to walk past at the right time you'll hear it playing zip-a-dee-doo-dah on the ship's steam pipe organ. I thought it was cute but my boyfriend was absolutely not a fan, haha.
Louis Armstrong Park,
701 N Rampart St
Just up the street from our AirBNB was the famous Louis Armstrong Park which has cute little bridges over waterways and fountains, and of course, a statue dedicated to Satchmo himself.
New Orleans Jazz Museum, 400 Esplanade Ave
Found on the upper floor of the US Old Mint, you can see the mint exhibit if you like, but I was really there for there Jazz Museum, and specifically the exhibit of Louis Armstrong artifacts, including his first cornet. It's not a big museum but the the Louis Armstrong exhibit was really excellent. My knowledge of jazz history is fairly limited, but this place was definitely a highlight of the city for me.
Peaches Records, 4318 Magazine St
Although I felt that the rest of Magazine St was more suited to people looking for antique furniture or those with a bit more money to spend, the highlight for me was stumbling upon Peaches Records. Founded in 1975, it's an awesome independent, family owned record store that's definitely worth a visit if you're into vinyl.
Louisiana Music Factory,
421 Frenchmen St
This isn't a picture of it, but it's a great record store that focuses on local musicians, so if you caught a band in NOLA and want to find their album this would be the place to look.
We did a swamp tour on our last day out at Honey Island Swamp. We were told that although airboats are faster, the noise can scare away animals and we had a better chance of seeing them if we were on a smaller boat. We saw a few alligators (which are pretty cute compared to Australian saltwater crocodiles), as well as snakes, birds and even a wild boar!
Most of the photos I took of the food we ate were on my phone, and even then there weren't that many, so a lot of these photos don't have anything to do with the text. Soz guys, just being real.
Cafe du Monde,
800 Decatur St
Yes, it's super touristy, but you're pretty much obligated to go to Cafe du Monde for beignets. And you'd better be in the mood too because that's all that's on the menu. Despite the amount of icing sugar you can see, I didn't find them to be super sweet because the dough itself isn't sweet (though my measure might be a bit off since I have the sweetest tooth of all time). They're open 24 hours but they're packed all day, so unless you want 3am beignets I'd recommend getting up early and heading there for breakfast.
Killer Poboys, 219 Dauphine St
There are tonnes of places to get poboys in NOLA but we went here because they've got several vegetarian options to choose from. We shared the cheddar omelette poboy and the whiskey grilled cheese and I drank a southern peach ginger ale. We weren't starving when we walked in so we were pretty sad when we couldn't manage to finish that grilled cheese.
Dreamy Weenies, 740 N Rampart St
Across the road from Louis Armstrong Park, this is the place to stop in if you're after a hot dog. They've got 4 types of vegan sausages as well as meat ones, and you can have one of their combinations or choose your own toppings. And you know any place with waffle fries is a winner in my book.
Eat, 900 Dumaine St
We stumbled upon this place on our first night and since we were with the family Mark and I decided to go with the flow. I wasn't expecting much when I asked about the only vegetarian main on the menu, the grilled portobello sandwhich, and was told it was literally a grilled mushroom between two slices of bread. They must have done something magical to it though, because despite looking look the most boring meal ever it was actually super delicious, especially with a side of their insane garlic smashed potatoes.
THE Heart Cafe,
1100 N Peters St
If you can get a seat at their counter this is a great place for vegans and vegetarians as well as those with food intolerances, or if you're just after something healthy. They have a tonne of salads as well as vegetarian poboys and even vegan gumbo (which they were sadly sold out of when we went).
13, 517 Frenchmen St
13 is a great vegetarian friendly bar/restaurant with a really chill vibe. Their mushroom philly cheesesteak was out of this world, and I still catch myself thinking about their cheesy tater tots. Plus they had Harry Potter playing on the TV while we were there which made it all the more memorable.
Cafe Amelie, 912 Royal St
This was more of an upmarket place that we went to for dinner with the family so their menu isn't designed for vegetarians. We shared a pasta and a couple of starters which were all seriously good, and the courtyard setting is just beautiful at night.
Bourbon St is the most well know party area in New Orleans, which also makes it the most touristy. If you're from Sydney I'd say it reminds me of Kings Cross, which isn't really my vibe. Let me put it this way, we got into town the day after Mardi Gras and Bourbon St was still wet. So although we walked up and down it a few times, day and night, when it came to choosing somewhere to go out we much preferred Frenchmen St. The vast majority of businesses on Bourbon are bars so you can just walk along and pick any place that looks good, and if you don't like it, in New Orleans you can ask them to put your drink in a plastic "go cup" and take it with you to the next place.
Lafittes Blacksmith Shop,
941 Bourbon St
This isn't a picture of it, but Lafittes is allegedly the oldest bar in the USA. It's a pretty cool, dingy little place that was completely packed when we went after the wedding rehearsal dinner.
Because it's so old it doesn't even have ceiling lights, so it's worth checking out just for the history. I don't drink but my boyfriend had a Hurricane here, which is apparently a New Orleans specialty that's just a mix of a whole bunch of booze. He said if you had one or two of those you'd be set for the whole night.
The area of Frenchmen St that we explored was a pretty small strip right at the French Quarter end of the street, but it was miles better than Bourbon St (in my opinion). It's less crowded, more relaxed, and still super vibrant and fun. There's also an artist's night market which is cool to explore in between the restaurants and bars.
The Spotted Cat,
623 Frenchmen St
Most of the bars on Frenchmen have live music, so we walked into The Spotted Cat and caught the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio and they were incredible! If you didn't get it from the name, Chaz plays the washboard with thimbles on his fingers and also incorporates tin cans and blocks of wood to create different sounds.
Halfway through their set an elderly woman with a walking frame came in and started waving her arms and dancing. I think they have a residency at The Spotted Cat so if you get a chance to see them, these guys are awesome. I mentioned before that my boyfriend and I are in the middle of watching Treme, so we were pretty excited to spot Chaz appearing a few times throughout the series!
Boondock Saint, 731 St Peter St
This was more on my boyfriend's agenda, but it's a bar named after the movie Boondock Saints and they have a TV that screens the movie on a continuous loop.