This trip could not have materialized at a better time as September in NOLA is the beginning of autumn which is the perfect time to visit NOLA. The weather is not as hot and humid as it normally is. My flights were booked with British Airways and even after doing some research, it was the “shortest” duration flying than any other airline. I flew 11 hours to Heathrow, London, and then 9 hours to Dallas airport. Then the final stretch to New Orleans was about 2 hours. That’s 22 hours flying! I do recommend a stopover in maybe London for a few days before flying to America (if you have the cash and the time). Arriving in NOLA I was ever so excited as I did some research prior to flying up and there is so much one can do in a week in NOLA. I have summarized a list of what to do while you’re there
1.Explore the French Quarter
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. The district has been designated as a historical landmark. There are so many streets worth exploring, my favorites include Bourbon Street and Royal Street. Bourbon streets houses the nightlife with its bars and entertainment. Royal Street is quieter and houses amazing cafes, thrift vintage shops and beautiful houses. One thing to note about the French quarter, there is always live entertainment FOR FREE. Musicians play on street corners for tips. It adds to the magic of the French quarter. Another point to note here is that many series and movies were filmed in NOLA (most often in the French quarter). A few of them include the American Horror stories series – specifically Coven and Freak show, The Originals (LOVE LOVE), Interview with the Vampire, True blood the series and the Curious Case of Benjamin button. While you there dont forget to visit the St. Louis cathedral which overlooks Jackson Square.
2.Enjoy Beignets at Café Du Mond
I’m not too sure if you have ever tried a rosenkuchen (a rose shaped deep-fried pastry) at the community chest carnival? Anyway, a beignet is very similar to that in that it’s a deep fried pastry with a buck-load of icing sugar on top. Its delicious! Walking around NOLA, you will see that a few places sell Beignets , however, I assure you that Café Du Mond have the tastiest ones. A serving of 3 beignets at this little café will cost you +-$2.80 (excluding tax). Café Du Mond is located in 800 Decatur Street in NOLA. Its very easy to find!
3.Experience a swamp and plantation tour
FACT: There are 5 alligators to 1 human in new Orleans! Crazy! This particular tour is a “MUST” do when visiting new Orleans. Seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat is unbelievable. Getting to ride through the swampland is an experience in itself. Visiting the plantations is quite a surreal experience and you should definitely add this option to the swamp tour. Get ready for a full day experience in unbelievable heat. Do take sunblock and a hat with.
4.Visit the Garden District and explore the Lafayette Cemetery No.1
I took a street car to the garden district (refer to no.9 below on street cars) and was really blown away by the houses in this area. Think massive houses with wrap around porches, wooden shutters, rocking chairs and drinking ice cold lemonade. This day-dream of mine got me craving for an ice cold lemonade and just like that I managed to find it at a little café called “Still Perkin”. This little place is en route to the famous Lafayette Cemetery No.1. It’s a nice little refresher before the intense heat experienced in this cemetery. It did seem strange to me that cemeteries are a tourist destination in New Orleans but “The Originals” series was filmed there so I HAD to go see it. I did some research and because of the very wet grounds in and around NOLA , The dead have to be buried in tomb like structures because if these bodies are buried underground , they RISE! How freaky is that?? If that’s not spooky I don’t know what is. The cemetery is really beautiful as tombs were erected years ago and they are currently still being built. It’s strange to think that having a cemetery near your house actually increases the value of your property in NOLA. (Completely the other way around here in SA!).
5.A Mississippi dinner cruse
There are a few touring agents offering the Mississippi dinner cruise. These cruises are quite expensive as they start from $50. This includes the cruise, 3 course dinner and live music on board. It’s really a nice way to experience the Mississippi in style. If this sounds a bit pricey, they do offer afternoon cruises along the Mississippi at a fraction of the price. These excludes meals though. It all depends on what you want. Check out the Creole Queen for some updated prices as well as the Paddleford riverboats.
6.Freak yourself out by going on a ghost tour
NOLA is renowned for witchery, voodoo, ghosts and vampires, so its seems appropriate to take a ghost tour. Did I mention that these tours takes place in the evenings so the “scare” factor is definitely there as you walk through the misty streets of the French Quarter. I pre-booked my ticket for the 5 IN 1 walking ghost tour as they fill up very quickly. I booked with a company called Haunted History Tours.
The group met at “ Rev. Zombie’s Voodoo Shop”, which is between Bourbon and Royal Street. I have extracted a little blurb from their website which describes what to expect:
“Ghosts, Vampires, Witches, Voodoo, & Unexplained Mysteries all together in one tour. Follow our licensed guides into the dark alleys and secret courtyards for the thrill tour like no other. We’ve offered this tour for twenty years as a private specialty tour only. Now for the first time it is being offered a regularly scheduled tour. The stories do not overlap with our other great tours so you can still enjoy your old favorites and sample this “Gumbo” of macabre stories derived from police archives, city records, and our own research. This tour covers not only Ghosts & Vampires but also tales of Voodoo, Witches, and Unsolved Mysteries.”
We were given skeleton face fans which proved useful in creating a slight breeze in the very humid evening. Our tour guide’s name was Drew. He dressed the part and I later discovered that his actually an actor and works for this company during the times he can’t find work. So you can imagine how theatrical he was, which was extremely entertaining and fitting for the tour. We walked along the streets of the French quarter, where Drew told us ghost stories, myths and murders that happened in NOLA. The stories sent chills down my spine and seeing the places the events actually happened made it even scarier.
The 5 in 1 tour I opted for set me back about $25. Not really bad for 2 hours of ghost stories.
7.Visit the World War 2 museum
The National WWII Museum, formerly known as the D-Day Museum, is a military history museum located in the Central Business District (on Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp Street and Magazine Street). Taking the street car to the museum is the way to go considering it’s far cheaper than a taxi and it allows you pass a few districts on your journey. The tickets to the World War 2 museum costs $24 per adult. You can add on $5 to experience the 4D movie called “beyond all boundaries” narrated by Tom Hanks. I was a bit uncertain about purchasing the movie ticket but decided to just go for it. I was not sorry. The movie was really the highlight of my experience at the museum and I definitely recommend paying that extra $5 to see it. Prepare to spend a few hours visiting the difference buildings housing a collection of fighter planes and war vehicles.
8.Take a walk through Audubon Park
Audubon park is perfect if you looking for a chilled picnic or mid-afternoon stroll. Walking in Audubon park you will immediately notice the majestic oak trees. One of the oldest oak trees in the world lives in this park. Read more about it here .
Audubon Park is open daily from 5am – 10pm.
The Riverview is open daily from 5am – 9pm.
9.Take a streetcar
Getting around New Orleans by streetcar is a great way to see the city. There are three different lines: St. Charles, Canal Street, and the Riverfront, each of which originates downtown but takes you different parts of the city.
Streetcars in New Orleans offer $1.25 fares and can be paid with exact change when you board. 1, 3, and 31-day unlimited ride Jazzy Passes are also available for $3, $9 and $55 respectively. The longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines, the St Charles Avenue Line, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.
New Orleans is world-famous for its food. From centuries of amalgamation of the local Creole, haute Creole, and New Orleans French cuisines, New Orleans food has developed. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor.
New Orleans is known for specialties like beignets (point 2 above) (pronounced like “ben-yays”), square-shaped fried pastries that could be called “French doughnuts”; and Po-Boy which is a huge sandwich with all kinds of fillings (mainly prawns, meat and chicken – deep friend of course), Gulf oysters on the half-shell, fried oysters, boiled crawfish, Gumbo, and other Creole dishes. The Monday favorite of red beans and rice. Another New Orleans specialty is the praline candy made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, butter, and pecans.
I managed to try out most of the food New Orleans has to offer and let’s just say that their traditional dishes are definitely not good for the waistline. I highly recommend the grilled Oysters with garlic butter and cheese…. Yummy!
New Orleans was definitely one of the highlights and I would go back in a heartbeat!
photos : google images and self-taken