Go ahead. Get it out of your system. The obligatory Hand Grenade and Hurricane on Bourbon Street. Beignets at Café du Monde. Steamboat ride down the Mississippi River. The Riverwalk. I won’t judge you (Maybe just a little). All tourists do it. Just don’t make an entire trip out of it. I promise you this city has way more to offer than all of this. Most locals avoid the throngs of tourists flashing their chests for beads in the Quarter altogether. In fact, the only time I seem to find myself close to Bourbon Street is when I attend French Quarter Fest or I’m at the Royal Sonesta for Christmas brunch. But if you want to experience the real Nola and make the most of your vacation, you’ll want to avoid these ultimate tourist traps.
Things You Can Only Do In New Orleans
Here are some of the unique things that you can only do in New Orleans or rather, New Orleans does better than any other city:
- Drink a Sazerac in the bar it was created, the Sazerac Bar, which is located inside the Roosevelt Hotel. Sip on a glass of Sazerac Rye Whiskey while you’re lounging on a couch and you’ll feel like you’ve time traveled back to another century.
- Enjoy a cocktail at the spinning Carousel Bar located in the Hotel Monteleone. No you’re not drunk. The Carousel Bar slowly rotates around while the bartenders serve you new and classic cocktails.
- Take your drink outside! If you want to leave a bar but haven’t finished your drink yet, don’t worry. Ask the bartender for a go-cup.
- Not getting ticketed by police for public consumption of alcohol. I’ve caught myself quite a few times about to drink a beer in public in other cities before I was like wait, can I do this? Oh that’s right, I can’t. Because I’m not in Nola. And everywhere else has archaic laws. Drinking outside is perfectly legal in Nola, just as long as you’re not drinking from a glass bottle. Hence the go-cups.
- I promise all of these don’t involve alcohol but if you want to drink all day and night here, there’s nothing stopping you. In most cities, bars close no later than 2am on the weekend. During the week it’s rarely past midnight. Not here. Some bars never close. So you can always find a bar to keep the party going.
- Witness and join in on a second line. A second line is a neighborhood parade that was founded by the New Orleans Freedmen’s Aid Association in 1865. This New Orleans tradition is really unlike any other. These neighborhood parades typically include a brass band and dancing in the street. It can occur in any neighborhood with any amount of people, at any time. There was even one for a cat that electrocuted itself last summer and knocked out the power in part of the city lol!
- Experience Mardi Gras and attend some of my favorite parades – Muses, Tucks, Endymion, & Bacchus.
- Listen to talented musicians throughout the French Quarter and on Frenchmen Street
- Attend a local crawfish boil at one of the local bars (Bayou Beer Garden weekend crawfish boils and Mid-City Yacht Club Friday night crawfish boils) if you’re in town between February & May. If you’ve never tried crawfish (Do not call them crayfish or crawdads. Never say that.) and you like seafood, give it a try. If you don’t like seafood, give them a try. And I’ll help you out so it’s not completely obvious you’re not from here. To eat a crawfish, first take off its head and peel back a layer of its tail. Then pinch the back end of the tail and pull the meat out with your teeth. And if you want to get the most out of the flavor, suck on the head of the crawfish. That’s where most of the spice is located.
- Not really a tip but more of a fun fact, all medians of New Orleans streets are called the neutral ground. The French Quarter was inhabited by the Creoles in the early 1800’s. After the Louisiana Purchase, more Americans from other areas of the country moved into the city and settled uptown. The Quarter was more colonial and Uptown/present day CBD was considered the new American sector. Due to the cultural differences, these two neighborhoods tended to clash. As a result, a canal was planned to be built to divide the two neighborhoods. The canal was never built, and the street that took its place received the name, Canal Street. The median of Canal Street became known as the neutral ground.
Family Friendly Spots
New Orleans is not just a city for adults. Despite its reputation, there’s more to New Orleans and the city offers plenty of family friendly attractions, including Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium, Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium, Louisiana Children’s Museum, Mardi Gras World, Storyland Amusement Park at City Park , City Putt Miniature Golf Course, Swamp Tours, National WWII Museum, Pelicans games, Saints games, Baby Cakes games, and The Art of Dr. Seuss Museum. If you want to see your child light up like it’s Christmas morning then take them to the Louisiana Children’s museum. One of my fondest childhood memories was going on field trips to the museum.
New Orleans Loves Dogs
The city really has a soft spot for canines. There are plenty of bars that allow dogs. Bulldog Midcity & Uptown, Urban South Brewery, Mid-City Yacht Club, Tchoup Yard, Bayou Beer Garden, Nola Brewery, and many more. I actually think there are more dog friendly bars in Nola than non friendly ones. Not to mention there are numerous dog parks in the city as well. So if you’re wondering who to let look after your dogs, bring them along!
Freaking Traffic Cameras
Unfortunately we have them. They’ve caught me twice. And the tickets are not cheap ($135). Do yourself a favor and check out this list of traffic cameras in the city.
Be Smart & Aware of Your Surroundings
Do NOT wander away from your group in the middle of the night and walk down some random street by yourself. That’s how you end up being mugged or worse and making the news. Even if you’re in a group walking down the street in the day or night, be aware of your surroundings. Stay with the crowds, especially in the French Quarter. There are some areas however that I would avoid altogether: Lower 9th Ward, 7th Ward, Desire, Hollygrove, South Claiborne, parts of Central City, & parts of Treme close to the interstate. I’ve highlighted the areas to avoid in the map below.
The only thing predictable about New Orleans’ weather is that it will be hot and humid during the summer. The average temperature in the summer months is 90 degrees, and the 75%+ humidity will make you sweat like a whore in church. During a summer afternoon a storm can come out of nowhere so you’ll want to always have an umbrella. And be careful if you’re planning a trip here during August and September. This is peak hurricane time. If you drove here, you don’t want to get caught in contraflow trying to evacuate the city. We also don’t really have 4 seasons. May – September is hot and October – March is less hot. Seriously, we don’t usually get our first cool front until October.
- RTA GoMobile: So New Orleans public transportation sucks. Or rather, it’s almost non existent. But we do have a pretty sweet streetcar that has four lines, including one that runs along St. Charles Street from Loyola & Tulane Universities Uptown to the edge of the Quarter. The streetcar cost $1.25 but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of having spare change, download the RTA GoMobile app. You can buy your streetcar pass from the app and all you have to do is show the driver your phone.You can also store passes on the app for future use and you can see in real time when the next streetcar will arrive.
- Parkmobile: If you decided to forego the walking / Uber route and drive yourself around the city, this app will come in handy. Parkmobile allows you to pay for parking on the app and skip paying at the meter. The app also lets you extend your parking remotely and will send you alerts when your parking session is about to expire.
- WWL Mardi Gras Parade Tracker: Tracks 67 Mardi Gras parades in real time, providing the exact location of the parade you want to see. The app includes parade schedules, routes, and real time GPS location. Great if you’re trying to decide if you have enough time to make another beer run before your friend on a particular float arrives on your block.