New Orleans is one of those places that everyone should experience at least once. The city is fabulous and is so much more than just the party scene on Bourbon St and the French Quarter.
Stephanie, my wife and I went through the website Airbnb.com. This was the first time we have used Airbnd and the experience went off smoothly. We found a privately owned apartment in the French Quarter. The hostess was very accommodating and no problems occurred. We reserved out apartment in mid-February for a reservation in late February. This was the off-season about a week after Mardi Gras.
Unless you are a party animal who totally wants to abuse your body, I would avoid Mardi Gras. I lived in New Orleans for 3 years back in the 80s and experienced 3 of them. One was enough. I had a fabulous time but you can’t see the real New Orleans with all the chaos going on.
Stephanie and I spent a Thursday to Monday. Here are a few things we recommend to have a great time and get a good flavor (pun intended) of the city.
1. French Quarter
This is a no brainer but it has to be listed. Spend at least a day and walk around the “Quarta” as the locals call it and just see the sites. A section of Bourbon St. is the party area and starts rockin from happy hour to about 4:00 AM.
Close to the River Front is Jackson Square and the Market. Stephanie and I are from South Carolina. She says that the French Quarter looks like Charleston married to Myrtle Beach. Ouch. Actually she said that the first day before we got out of the quarter.
Be sure and find the street musicians. They are all over the place.
2. Street Car Tour
The New Orleans street car is the best deal in the city. You can pay 3 bucks and get an all day pass. This will take you along Canal St (adjacent to the French Quarter) and down to the river. The best route is down St Charles Ave. through the Garden District and then to Uptown and the Tulane University area. You can get on and off at any point, take photos, grab food and drinks.
A great place to go is O’Henrys near the intersection of St. Charles and Carrolton right after the Street Car takes a hard right onto Carrolton. The lady who owns it is a true native and has some great stories on Hurricane Katrina and the history of New Orleans. She is also one of the most knowledgeable NFL fans I have met.
3. Rent a Car and tour the Garden District and Uptown
I always recommend renting a car regardless of what country or city you are in. I don’t want to miss a thing and you can cover so much more ground with an automobile. We rented from Enterprise and it was the deal of the century. Twenty nine bucks for a day that included picking us up and dropping us off afterwards.
We drove through the Garden District. The architecture is amazing and it goes on for block after block and mile after mile.
We also cruised Magazine St. which has some great retail shops and restaurants. It is kind of the bohemian area of New Orleans.
New Orleans has some of the best cuisine in the world. It has a long history with fabulous restaurants such as Galatoires, Brennans (gourmet breakfast), Anmeltoines, Commanders Palace and the list goes on.
The bar is set extremely high and extremely good food is everywhere. Do a little research online and go by the reviews. We had fine New Orleans cuisine at Muriels in the French Quarter. We ate some Po Boy sandwiches at the French Quarter and had an amazing lunch at the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter St. in the Quarter Stephanie had the traditional Beans and Rice and I had shrimp creole. Don’t miss getting some of the traditional New Orleans dishes.
5. Magazine St Area
Every big city seems to have a Magazine St type area and this one in New Orleans is one of the best. It is an artsy bohemian eclectic and all the other cliches that describe this neat type area. There are health food restaurants, lots of ethnic restaurants, consignment stores, specialty handmade stores, used book stores and everything in between. Back toward dowtown near the riverfront, we found a really fun Urban Garden shop called Urban Roots, We had a good time playing with the young pygmy goats.
The Riverwalk and mall is an addition to New Orleans since I lived there in the 80s. It is not my favorite place but it is worth checking out particularly if the weather is cool and you can get outside and see a band. The mall is just a mall and could be Anywhere, USA. You might as well go to your mall back home. The only redeeming point is that it is a way to get out of the weather for a spell if it is too hot or too cold. The riverfront walk is kind of neat and has some great views of the Mississippi River and the bridge.
7. French Market & Jackson Square
Technically these are part of the French Quarter but I wanted to list them separately as its worth spending a few hours in that area. Jackson Square is a beautiful square with gardens, cathedral, fabulous architecture and abundant artists. Street bands play here everyday. It is where the cultural folks hang out.
The French Market is adjacent to Jackson son and closer to the river. It is the other end of the spectrum and is a gargantuan flea market with some great food. The food is typically New Orleans cuisine but without the high prices that you find in some of the restaurants. You can find some great deals here but also you must put up with the tacky tourist type t-shirts nick nacks etc. Near the French Market you can catch the River Boats for bands and a dinner cruise. We tried to do the River Boat one day but did not get out of the dock as the fog was too thick. We did the dining though and the food was good and not a bad price.
8. The Faubourg Marigny (locals type area)
There was one area we really wanted to check out but ran out of time. There are a series of jazz bands that play in bars on the far side of the French Quarter between Esplanade and Frenchman St. According to FrenchQuarter.com “The Faubourg Marigny is the next neighborhood downriver from the French Quarter, just on the other side of Esplanade Avenue. Long a quiet residential neighbor to the celebrated Vieux Carre, the area has exploded in recent years into a vibrant destination for food, music and good times, with much of this activity concentrated on Frenchmen Street.” That sounds like my type place so we will catch it on the next visit!
There is a casino in New Orleans but a casino is not my style so we stayed away. Nothing against it, but if we are going to a casino, it will probably be in Las Vegas
Here are a few photos of our apartment in the French Quarter. Nothing fancy for sure but you can’t beat the location if you want to be in the center of everything.
New Orleans is a great place to visit. A four or 5 day trip suits me just fine. Hope you can get over there sometime! As they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” or let the good times roll!