New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy
New Orleans’ boisterous attitudes and tropical temperatures feel more like the Caribbean with the easy going, laid back feel and party atmosphere. It is vibrant and colourful, energized and always ready for a party with music 24/7 – welcome to New Orleans, welcome to The Big Easy.
New Orleans is a great city to get out and walk. Visit the historic French Quarter, the buildings today influenced by years of Spanish rule or take a street car out to the elegant mansions in the Garden district; listen to the beat of jazz, brass and R&B from unexpected places with spontaneous musical performances serenading tourists as they go about town; or enjoy the sumptuous flavours and smooth cocktails in the myriad of cafes, jazz bars and restaurants with a dose of Southern hospitality. There is something for taste in New Orleans.
New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy
Parades and festivals all year long! Mardi Gras, St Patricks and the Jazz festival to name a few – visit New Orleans Online for a full listing of festivals, or download their official NOLA tourism app. See a parade – New Orleans has no trouble putting a party – a walk down Bourbon street and you will find revellers throwing strings of beads from the balconies over head. Otherwise, pick up some beads and one of the vibrant masks dotted all over town and a Hurricane to go, and get into the party mode. (For more colourful St Patrick’s Day photos, see: St Patrick’s Day Parades, new Orleans)
French Quarter – street performers, random musicians and a thriving night life will keep you entertained day and night! Look around at the amazing architecture that sits atop shop after shop of gaudy tourist shops, restaurants and tourist information booths. The old school panache still shines through with historic bars and wrought iron clad balconies that offer a perfect vantage point for people watching. Go a little out of the quarter to Frenchmen Street for a more authentic experience.
Bourbon Street! It is crazy, it’s gaudy, and it has to be seen to be believed! A walk down Bourbon Street is sensory overload, especially on a jam packed weekend, with party goers of all ages letting loose, car bombs and hurricanes in plastic cups and scantily clad women at the burlesque clubs trying to separate men from their money! It is also a street of contrast…beyond the bawdy reputation that Bourbon Street lives up to, there is a historic, folk lore side, dating back to when New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718. Check out Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – opened as a front to the Lafitte brothers “privateer efforts” back in the day!
City Tours – there are so many ways to get an in depth look at the history that surrounds New Orleans and makes it what it is today. Did you know, like Australia, New Orleans was founded with convicts? To populate their new colony, the French sent their “undesirables” to New Orleans – and some say it is that background that makes it the party loving city it is today! So, take a bus tour, sign up for a walking tour or get on a city cruiser and bike tour around the city and get the insider scoop on what it is that makes New Orleans New Orleans! It is a fascinating place with so much going on and hidden treasures throughout the city! Take a tour and discover New Orleans’ secrets, districts and points of historical interest.
Take the Charles Street street car and visit the Garden District. Amazing mansions will take you back in time as you marvel at the grandeur and gardens. Your tour guide can point out some of New Orleans’ more famous residents and homes, including Sandra Bullock and the former resident of Anne Rice.
Graveyards and Ghosts – you may think it creepy, but a grave yard tour in New Orleans is quite fascinating and a major tourist attraction. Learn stories behind famous phrases like “waking up the dead” and “night watchman” as you walk through the unique, ornate final resting place of New Orleans with tombs dating back to the late 1700s. It’s a good idea to do a tour – even during the day, the cemetery is not the safest place to go solo. You’ll also want to hear about how the cemetery works…it is not as straight forward as you think! Think you have seen the popular Lafayette Cemetery before – you probably have. It is extremely popular as a Hollywood film site with the latest just signing up! Superstitions, black magic and voodoo also abound in town with plenty of people happy to give you your latest readings.
River Boat Cruise – Little screams New Orleans more than a riverboat cruise on the mighty Mississippi. Historically, paddlewheel steamboats brought visitors to town and the bustling riverfront. Fish and food markets were set up to take advantage of what was the only way to get to New Orleans. Enjoy Dixieland jazz and lunch or dinner cruises as you enjoy a scenic view of the city.
Swamp Tours – A trip to New Orleans is not complete without a trip out to the Bayous of Louisiana. Get up close and personal with alligators, wild boar, snakes and bird life. The swamps are bio diverse wetlands, offering a unique ecosystem with timeless beauty.
Music Scene – Welcome to the home of Jazz…get out of the touristy French Quarter and visit Frenchman Street for a more authentic flavour. Another point of interest – Preservation Hall – dedicated to the protect and honour New Orleans Jazz. Originally built in 1750 as a private residence, this musical venue was founded in 1961 and is still going strong.
Museums for all interests! With over 45 to choose from, you can immerse yourself into the history, culture and art that personifies New Orleans. The WW 2 museum has been described as a theme park with some serious historical square footage and is expanding to include 6 campuses, real life exhibits and I have heard, veterans from WW2 are there to answer some of your questions (NYTimes: National World War 2 Museum Expanding).
Aquarium – found on the banks of the Mississippi, the Audubon Aquarium is home to 15,000 sea life creatures, representing nearly 600 species, including rare and endangered species. Visitors can get up close and personal in the state of the art facilities and explore views traditionally only seen by divers.
Culinary delights – New Orleans is known for it’s food and Louisiana cuisine. African, Spanish, French, Italian and Caribbean influences are evident throughout. For a crash course in traditional New Orleans Foods, hit the streets and eat up! This needs to come with a warning – with so much to choose from, you will be coming home having eaten your weight in delicious! Don’t forget brunch – New Orleans’ brunches are touted as spectacular. Check out Court of Two Sisters for a Jazz brunch or NOLAs (reservations are a good idea!). Beyond brunch, a few must tries: Crawfish Etouffee and fresh boiled crawfish, Po-Boys, Alligator and the melt in your mouth Beignets from Cafe du Monde. Wash this down with a myriad of drinks….and if you don’t want to finish your cocktails in the restaurant, get it to go! Open alcohol is welcome on the streets of New Orleans!
Plantation Tours – Found between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, visit some of the historic plantations and experience “The South” as it was before the Civil War. The stunning antebellum architecture and plantation homes will introduce you to a rich history, allowing you to live the experience as you walk the halls of these prestigious homes. Feel like you have stepped back in history as you hear the stories of the Civil War and life on the plantation! Nottoway and Oak Alley come highly recommended. Take the experience to the next level and spend the night in the mansion, away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans by booking in for a night. You may find you don’t want to leave! (Related Link: Stepping into Old World Charm at the Nottoway Plantation)
- Traveling solo – take a shuttle from the airport. $20US pp will drop you off at your downtown hotel. More than one person – take a cab. Approximately $35US will get your group where you need to go.
- Spending a night at a plantation – rent a car from down town for overnighting in the Plantations. Check to see who has hotel pickups to get you on your way.