If there was one city in the U.S. where choosing where to eat and drink is a daunting task because all of the numerous options are “to die for,” it would be New Orleans. What do you do then? You plan to try as many as you possibly can with little breaks in between, during which the Crescent City will charm you with an astonishing variety of thrilling activities and not-to-be-missed events.
The city’s music scene, which includes jazz, funk, brass-band, rock, folk, and other genres, is one of the most vibrant in the country. For some of the best shows in town, go to Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny, which is very close to the iconic French Quarter. Some of the most famous jazz bands can be found at Snug Harbor or The Blue Nile. Listening to jazz at Preservation Hall is a bucket list experience for locals.
This is the true art district in New Orleans. This historic neighborhood is filled with amazing art galleries, and world-class museums. It has become a bustling center of attention in the heart of downtown. Many even call it “the SoHo of the South.” Make sure you visit the National World War II Museum, one of the most popular attractions, Louisiana’s Civil War Museum, The Children’s Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
The historic Treme is one of the most culturally influential localities in the city. It has sometimes been referred to as America's oldest African-American neighborhood. It’s located on the lakeside of the French Quarter. This is a solidly residential district with a long history of nurturing musicians and stirring up Creole cuisine. Many locals still live in houses owned or lived in by generations of their families.
You are walking among some of the most famous places in American novels without realizing it. Take Antoine’s, for example. The 175-year-old New Orleans staple in the French Quarter was in Frances Parkinson Keyes’ many books, including the famous murder mystery, Dinner at Antoine’s. Stop by Galatoire’s, which you may know from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Other places to see include Hotel Monteleone, Le Monnier Mansion, and the former home of William Faulkner. Anne Rice has found inspiration in the city for several of her novels as well.
This is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the entire country. The houses are absolutely stunning, most of them in Gothic and Greek revival architectural style with live oaks, pillars and porches. Originally laid out in 1832, the Garden District was created after the Louisiana Purchase as a settlement for the new American residents not eager to mingle with the people of European descent in the French Quarter. Anne Rice, Nicholas Cage and Sandra Bullock are just a few celebrities who have houses there.
Go beyond the obvious when it comes to Mardi Gras and find more about the unique characteristics of the local African-American culture and Margi Gras Indians. You’ll see some amazing photos collected by Ronald Lewis, a local resident, who built the museum behind his own home on Tupelo Street. The gallery is all about celebrating the living culture of New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward with the rest of the world. There are also masks, suits, figures, books and other conversational pieces.
Go on a swamp tour and see the state’s natural phenomena – moss-draped bayous, alligators, swamp deer, and snakes. Get up close and personal with an alligator; in many cases you can even touch them. The captain will often lure a 10-foot gator alongside the boat so you can take photos. Cruise along gorgeous moss-draped bayous and see unique exotic flora and fauna.
You have probably already seen, or planned to see, Bourbon and Royal streets and its antique shops. But the 6-mile long Magazine Street, which starts from the Lower Garden District going all the way to Audubon Park in Uptown, is just as stunning. This is where locals shop. Check out the Derby Pottery for its handmade tiles, Hemline for its local fashion, and Mignon Faget for typical Louisiana-inspired jewelry. The famous street is also home to museums and art galleries.
Having fun while singing your favorite song at a bar should already be on your bucket list of adventures. To make the experience even more thrilling, go to the 24-hour Kajun’s Pub. The Karaoke ventures start every day at 5 p.m. and last until very late. The bar is a locals’ favorite, popular among tourists for late night parties, and a fun getaway for college students.
Hop on at Canal Street in Mid-City and ride all the way down to the Mighty Mississippi. Take the two major streetcar lines for $1.25 and ride the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world. This will probably be the cheapest tour you can take in the city. They will take you to the Quarter’s French Market, Uptown, the Garden District, City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and many more attractions.
City Park is unique as New Orleans itself. The 1,300-acre outdoor sanctuary has charmed locals since 1854. It is one of the nation’s oldest urban parks. Millions of visitors stroll under the historic oaks and quaint moss canopies every year. Smell the roses in the Botanical Garden; explore the art in the open-air Besthoff Sculpture Garden; and get active on the park’s biking, jogging, and walking paths. There is now an 18-hole golf course.
No list of adventures in New Orleans will be complete without Mardi Gras, which this year is scheduled for February 28. The most popular time to visit is the extended weekend before the festival (February 24 - 28). Iconic parades such as Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex are worth the time. The Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 28 – May 7) in 2017 will honor the city’s deep historical connections with Cuba. The lineup includes Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Pitbull, Darius Rucker, Megan Trainor, Snoop Dogg, Lorde and many more.
The more adventurous of you can kayak on Bayou Saint John, a popular inlet for fun recreational activities. The New Orleans Pass, a tourist discount card, already includes two swamp tour experiences at no additional cost. Great places to kayak are Bogue Chitto, Blind River, Honey Island Swamp, The Rigolets, and the barrier islands of MS, especially Cat and Horn, which is not recommended for beginners.
Going to a professional football game, especially during the playoffs or a Super Bowl, is already on our Great American Bucket List. New Orleans is no stranger to the Big Game, having hosted at least 10 times, and is tied with South Florida for the most.
The run is one the city’s most incredible summer adventures. The “bulls” in this case are roller derby girls from leagues across the country with inflatable bats. But don’t underestimate them. This is the annual Encierro (bull run) festival in New Orleans, which pays homage to the iconic Encierro of Pamplona in Spain. The 10th edition of the spectacle is scheduled for July 7 - 9, 2017.