New Orleans is one of the top tourist destinations in the States, and the best way to get to know New Orleans is by wandering its streets, looking for hidden corners, exploring the unique buildings, and listening to the music sounds playing on the streets.
Most of the must-see places are around The French Quarter and its surroundings.
The French Quarter
This quarter is one of the main reasons to visit New Orleans. It is not just the beauty of the exterior historic buildings with the hanging gardens, by walking in the narrow streets, one feels as she arrives at a different magical place. Pay attention to the hitching posts on the sidewalks, in the past horses used to wait there for their owners, and notice other historical elements of the buildings.
The well-known Bourbon St. is most famous for its nightlife, lots of bars, strip clubs and party sensation all around.
Parallel to Bourbon St. is Royal St., a beautiful historic street full with local art galleries. The women-owned galleries are Lucky Rose Gallery, Gallery Orange, Gallery Burguieres of the artist Ally Burguieres, Angela King Gallery, Caliche & Pao Gallery, and Claire Elizabeth Gallery.
When walking towards Jackson Square do not miss Pirate alley, which was an inspiration to many painters.
Jackson Square is a historic location and one of the city’s landmarks. Facing the square are several historic buildings: St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in the USA since 1727, which was rebuilt after the great fire, as well as three of the restored buildings that are part of the Louisiana State Museum – the Presbytère, the Cabildo, and 1850 House.
Jackson Square is also an open gallery space for local artists showcasing their paintings for sale. During the weekends there is an unofficial festival, with many artists, musicians, stands, and a joyful crowd out in the streets.
At both other corners of the square, are the buildings that were built in the late 1840s by Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba, a Creole aristocrat, businesswoman, and real estate designer and developer, who contributed to the development of the urban style of the city.
Besides enjoying and absorbing the vibe of the city while wandering its streets, there are lots of indoor locations and many different themed museums worth a visit.
In the French quarter area there are New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, showcasing the rich history of pharmacy in Louisiana and early medicine methods, The Historic New Orleans Collection (exhibition’s view is free, tours tickets cost few bucks), New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, a small museum that preserves the legacy of Voodoo in New Orleans, Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture displays a collection of Mardi Gras costumes, The Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum (free admission), Old Ursuline Convent Museum, the oldest surviving building in the city since it was built in 1752, used to be the home of the Ursuline Nuns as a convent, orphanage, and school for girls.
Next to the French quarter are Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square, that used to be a historical and strategic location where slaves used to gather on Sundays, their single day off. On these grounds, the Jazz started to develop. In the park, there is also the Mahalia Jackson Theater Center and her statue.
Few miles from Congo Square is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, an interesting destination to visit and an opportunity to see the tomb of the famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.
Another interesting perspective to learn about the history of the city is by the Slave Market Tour App developed by the city. The app presents the history of slaves, how they were waiting in Pen before being bought, sold, and separated from their families, as well as allowing to follow key locations in the history of slave trading in the city, as a large trade center.
The Arts District New Orleans centered around Julia Street
It is another central area for exterior exhibitions, art galleries, and museums. Along Poydras St. there is the Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition, an exterior exhibition of 33 sculptors of different artists, among the female artists are Lin Emery, Rachel David, and Chakaia Booker.
Other museums in the area are Contemporary Arts Center (free for Louisiana residents on Sundays), the National WWII Museum and Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Nearby is Margaret Haughery Statue. One mile from the museum is the Mardi Gras World, an open studio to see the behind-the-scenes preparations of Mardi Gras’ floats, to try on costumes, and to learn more about the history of the Mardi Gras Festival.
Other interesting museums that worth a visit are The McKenna Museum of African-American Art, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum & Museum of the American Cocktail.
This area is the opposite of the noise and the crowd of the French Quarter, full of historical, huge, beautiful mansions; some are owned by celebrities. Getting to the Garden District from the French quarter area is possible by foot (an hour walk) or by St. Charles Streetcar.
While in the Garden District do not miss Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which is still an active cemetery since 1833, hosting some unique tombs, and is still one of the most filmed cemeteries in the city.
The City Park of New Orleans
Almost double the size of New York’s Central Park with unique south vegetation. Among the things you can find in the park are the largest collection of mature oak trees (some are over 600 years), New Orleans Botanical Gardens, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, antique wooden carousel. There is an option to rent boats and bikes. Getting to City Park from the French quarter is by bus or by Canal Streetcar.
The French quarter is full of different and unique shops, art galleries, and the French market, which is operating in the city since 1791, offers local food, arts, and souvenirs.
Close by is Frenchmen St., where there are galleries as well as artist markets, such as The Art Garden & Floating Gallery, and Palace Market Frenchmen.
Magazine Street is a great destination for local boutiques, shops, galleries, as well as many different dining options.
If you are looking for regular department stores, there are many options along Canal St., Canal Place, and the outlet Riverwalk Marketplace.
Listening to music:
Basically, music is present everywhere in New Orleans. Wander around the street to encounter musicians or bands playing together. All over New Orleans, there are restaurants, bars, pubs that will host live music performances on a daily basis, even during brunch time.
In the French quarter area: Preservation Hall, one of the greatest places to listen to traditional New Orleans jazz every night.
In Frenchmen St. there are many pubs with live music concerts, usually without the need to buy tickets in advance, just stand outside and check if you like what you hear before coming in.
Outside of New Orleans
Getting out of the city is a wonderful opportunity to examine the life on the plantations as well as exploring the unique vegetation of the south of the US.
53 miles from Bourbon St lies Laura Plantation, a Creole Heritage Site, used to be owned by Laura Locoul Gore. The only option to arrive there is by car.
Close by is Whitney Plantation, a museum and a memorial showcasing the lives of Louisiana’s enslaved people. Exploring the museum is only through guided tours.
In the same area located Oak Alley Plantation, a historic plantation, named after the path between the river and the home of a double row of southern live oak trees 800 feet high.
A few miles from the urban atmosphere there is a unique nature space full of wildlife and southern vegetation.
There are several guided tours, but an independent arrival is also possible. The close by swamps are Honey Island Swamp, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area. Exploring the swap is possible by a guided tour in a boat\ canoe\ kayak\ hiking. Arriving at the swaps is possible with the shuttle of the guided tour or by self-drive up.