New Orleans...beyond Bourbon Street!
New Orleans is a city filled with unlimited entertainment and activities to satisfy everyone's interests. Music fans, art addicts, sports fanatics, nature lovers, and food enthusiasts can all satisfy their passions in this city that certainly delivers! While most people have heard many wild and debaucherous stories from the infamous Bourbon Street of the French Quarter, New Orleans actually has a lot more to offer in both interest and sophistication. Tourists have a seemingly feral attraction to that historic Quarter, but the locals will tell you, and I agree, that New Orleans is at its best when one explores beyond it. So, let's do just that!
Listen to amazing Music
Locals attest that the BEST venue for great jazz music is on Frenchmen Street. Multiple bars and clubs, packed side-by-side along two blocks on Frenchmen Street, vibe without the garishness observed in the French Quarter. Don't be surprised if artists that you hear on Frenchmen Street have already been or will be the winners of Grammys! We listened to Shake'em Up Jazz and Dominick Grillo & the Frenchmen Street All-Stars at the Spotted Cat Music Club and they were absolutely fantastic! Frenchmen Street comes alive in the evenings when great music is showcased alongside talented artisans and open-air vendors at the Frenchmen Art Bazaar. There you can find original art, dazzling jewelry, and handmade pieces crafted by local artists.
Delve into some Sports
New Orleans is well known for its top-quality professional sports teams. If in town, consider purchasing NFL tickets to view the Superbowl-winning New Orleans Saints in the city's massive Caesar's Superdome. If basketball is more your game, consider watching the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Either way, you will treat yourself to some adrenaline-packed athletic talent.
Soak in Fine Arts and Culture
Aaaaaah, my favorite category among the many New Orleans gems. The New Orleans Museum of Art is located in the picturesque City Park and packs a punch with its fantastic permanent collection. It features an entire room devoted to French artists and another to New Orleans' artists. Adjacent to the Museum of Art's neoclassical building and spread over eleven acres is located the Sculpture Garden. Sculptures from classical to modern are peppered throughout the landscape along winding pedestrian walking paths and water features.
Not far from City Park on Esplanade Avenue you can tour the Edgar Degas Historic Home and Museum dating to 1852. Edgar Degas, the famous French Impressionist Master and contemporary to Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir, spent a couple years of his childhood in New Orleans at his family's home just prior to the Impressionist Movement taking off in France. His maternal relatives, the Mussons, were Creole and owned a home in the city. It is at that home that Degas created 18 paintings and four drawings. The home has now been converted into a museum and can be toured by the public.
Adventure through the City or Bayou
For the outdoorsy and adventurous, New Orleans offers several activities to choose from. One fun activity combines some New Orleans history and architecture in a 3-hour E-bike tour. We booked with Buzz NOLA Bike Tours located in the French Quarter. Small groups of 6 -8 people are guided along the riverfront, through an old cemetery, the City Park, and several different neighborhoods such that the participants can gain a sense of the feel of New Orleans. In the process, you learn about the cuisine, music, and culture of the city.
Having mentioned the City Park a couple of times now, let me tell you that it is an urban green space in New Orleans that is three times the size of Central Park in New York City. Filled with canals, reflecting lagoons, meandering footpaths, biking paths, and rustic pedestrian bridges, one can find much space to canoe, kayak, walk, run, or bike. The Sculpture Garden, Botanical Gardens, and disc golf course are just a few of the attractions also incorporated into the park. The City Park is picturesque with Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oak trees, mature pines, magnolias, and camellias.
Another water adventure to consider is a swamp tour. Located just 45 minutes north of New Orleans, the bayous offer authentic exposure to the low country of Louisiana. The swamps and rivers that compose the bayous can be explored by boats. Excursions are led by local certified boat captains who are skilled at navigating the murky waters and knowledgeable about the native plant life and wildlife throughout the area. Several tour companies exist offering large group, small group, flat-bottomed boat, and airboat experiences. If you choose to take your swamp tour with Cajun Encounters, for example, then you will explore Honey Island Swamp in a flat-bottomed boat. As you meander through the swamp, you will likely encounter many alligators, raccoons, turtles, and bullfrogs. Snakes, wild boars, and deer may also be seen. The two-hour tours are fascinating, educational, and fun.
Taste the City's Finest
A trip to New Orleans would not be complete without some awesome cuisine. While the city is overrun with amazing restaurants, I will share some restaurants and bars that I personally visited that I can highly recommend.
Beignets, the powdery French donut, should be sampled at Cafe du Monde. Two locations can easily be accessed in the French Quarter, across from Jackson Square, or in City Park. Other delicious breakfast options, also in the French Quarter, are Stanley's and Brennan's. Brennan’s, a New Orleans tradition, is an upscale restaurant offering Old-world elegance, impeccable service, and an innovative Creole menu. Their Bloody Mary cocktail and Eggs Hussarde are particularly exceptional. While also renowned for their Bananas Foster, I didn’t have room to sample that. A mid-range dinner locale is Jacques-Imo’s located in Uptown and serves real Nawlins’ food like jambalaya, etouffée, bouillabaisse, and gumbo. A more upscale dining experience can be had at Antoine’s, renowned for its French-Creole cuisine. It has offered an unmatched dining experience since 1840 and is New Orleans’ oldest restaurant. Their oysters' sampler, Pompano Pontchartrain, and Bread Pudding are divine. A couple of bar venues that I recommend are either the Hot Tin rooftop bar which serves delicious cocktails alongside a gorgeous view of the city. Head on up there at sunset for a real treat! Bacchanal Wine Bar should also not be missed. It offers a unique charcuterie experience in a music-filled courtyard. They have hundreds of wines to choose from all over the globe.
So, to sum it up…
New Orleans is a fun, high-energy happening place that has much to offer outside of Bourbon Street. Be it their music, sports, art, nature or cuisine, I have no doubt that everyone will find something to love about the city.