1. Catch a jazz show
Jazz is synonymous with New Orleans. If you do one thing in this city, please see a jazz show. We were fortunate enough to grab a table at Snug Harbor and see Charmaine Neville, daughter of Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers. Great talent and some audience interaction highlighted a very enjoyable night. After the show, pop on a jazz playlist on Spotify and let it move you with its smooth basslines, catchy horns, and subtle funk.
2. Enjoy some gumbo
I’m ashamed to admit it took us a little too long to really find some good gumbo in a city famous for its Cajun and Creole cuisine. But when we found the aptly named Gumbo Shop on Saint Peter Street, our tastebuds were rewarded with a delicious bowl of goodness. A dish that evolved alongside the city, you’re taken through levels of inspiration from the different groups of immigrants who left their key ingredient in the soup.
3. Take a bike tour around the city
Residents of New Orleans take pride in their city. It has a supremely unique history and they know it. Of course, you can Wikipedia the city and get some quick information, but that’s not how you really get to know the city. We booked an experience through Airbnb where we met Eric, a local, who took us through several neighborhoods on bike, stopping at important landmarks to take us through the journey that is the discovery, rebirth, and expansion of the city.
You get an authentic view of how immigration, politics, and war have altered the area, as well as someone to answer any specific questions you might have.
4. buy some local art
New Orleans is home to a crazy amount of talented artists, each with their own personality and style. Stop by the Art Garden on Frenchmen St. or the Garden District Marketplace on Magazine St. and shop the variety of vendors for the perfect souvenir or gift.
Some of my favorite artists are: @tonyhollumsart, @nolacityportraits, and @brandydufreneart, but you can find plenty more all over the city.
5. Stroll around the houses of the famous
You can take an Uber or my preference, a street car, down to the Garden District where you’ll find some incredible mansions. You can easily find walking tours that will point out the homes of celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and Archie Manning or ones used in shooting shows and movies like Django Unchained and American Horror Story.
Be sure to check out Lafayette Cemetary #1 for a visit into one of NOLA’s famous necropolises or dress up for an excellent brunch at Commander’s Palace.
6. see a burlesque show
Among the most entertaining things you can do is take yourself to a thrilling show of dance, magic, and all other forms of amusement by scantly-clad ladies and gentlemen. I caught a show by Fleur De Tease in the back of One-Eyed Jacks, an easy-to-miss joint located in the French Quarter. They performed a sexy rendition of Alice In Wonderland that involved incredible choreography, audience interaction, and a comedic ASMR intermission. Book a table and enjoy a show.
7. grab a drink in the birthplace of cocktails
Over the past year, I have developed a great interest in mixology (see My Favorite Cocktails From Around The World), and have read about the impact New Orleans has had on cocktails domestic and abroad. I’d say it is among the most important cities in the world, alongside London and Havana, when it comes to having turned the harsh spirits of the 19th and 20th centuries into the delicious concoctions we have today.
Skip past Bourbon Street and the frozen Hurricanes served from what look like industrial washing machines and opt, instead, for the classic cocktails that call New Orleans home – the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz, or the Vieux Carré, among others. You can find incredible bars like The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone or the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to pay $16-$20 for a drink, I suggest The Empire where you’ll find equally as delicious drinks for a lower price plus a great courtyard.
8. scarf down some beignets in front of jackson square
Once in a while, you’ll run across one of the touristy things that is worth doing. Grabbing an order of beignets from Café du Monde is one of them. It’s, basically, a big, deep-fried dough pastry covered in confectionary sugar. You’re not doing your body and future health any benefits by eating this, but your serotonin levels will jump because its delicious and perfect for the highly-refined American diet.
Stand in line for 2-45 minutes (there is no consistency in my experience) until you arrive at the front and order a bag of beignets (they come in threes so you and your significant other can fight over the odd one out) and a café au lait for around $5. You can take them right down the block to some bleacher-style stairs and enjoy the view of Saint Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square.
9. wake up at st. roch market
One of my favorite takeaways from millennial business culture is the advent of open-air work spaces. St. Roch Market is basically a big cafeteria with several, unique food and drink vendors located around the perimeter. Need coffee? They got it. Breakfast burritos? Yep. Blackened catfish po’boy? You’re in Louisiana, aren’t you?
We came here for a couple meals due to its proximity to our Airbnb and had some amazing avocado toast breakfasts and some high-quality juices. This isn’t the place to go for the super cheap, fastfood meal, but it is if you want a bit better quality food.
10. Explore the bywater neighborhood
Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor to the west, the French Quarter, the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods are where you’ll find the colorful Haitian-style shotgun houses and local art. Use your better judgement and stick to exploring during daylight hours, but don’t miss out on what these areas have to offer.
You won’t find something to do every other building, but that’s what I enjoy most about this neighborhood. It is a bit less intense and rewards you for taking your time to stroll past each house, checking out the colors and the decor and the liveliness of the different dives and bars you might pass.
I like Studio BE and the St. Claude Art District for galleries and lifestyle art. Check out Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits for a glass of vino. Or if you just want to stroll, head over to Crescent Park for a walk along the Mississippi.
Pro Tip: Use this link to save $65 off your first Airbnb stay. Unfortunately, the home we stayed at is not currently listed, but I will update once they open availability.