It’s one of the cities you must visit – or maybe it’s better to say enjoy – almost once in life.
However, it’s impossible to think being able to discover it in a short time.
Every time I find a surprisingly different city, always full of life, which is able to always offer to me – for better of for worse – new cues, experiences and impressions to think about – like few other American realities (even if here there’s no much about America).
Unfortunately, for many people the tour of the city is done in one full day and a couple of nights to spend among Bourbon Street and the blues and jazz clubs in the French Quarter – almost always inside a long on the road through the Southern States, often for a lack of time and the desire to see other more along the route.
So, after have written a cared tour guide of the city – click here to read it – with all practical information and the most useful tips to plan your stay in the city, I’ve thought to list 5 experiences.
All of them can be done by day (you’ll find them in chronological order) and, according to me, they should never miss in a first visit. Alone they allow to discover almost in part New Orleans besides its clichés and to experience that taste of magic mixed with madness and charm of the good old times that only this city, one-of-a-kind city in the world, is able to offer.
Discover New Orleans: have breakfast at Café du Monde
Le Café du Monde is on the corner between Decatur and St. Anne Street, just under the high river bank of Mississippi.
It’s a real city institution: for the tourists’ joy – and the locals’, too – from 1862 it serves the famous fries beignets covered by a lot of confectioner’s sugar together with a big or a little cup of café au lait.
My tip is to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowd which is in a line from 9am to get a table.
Order the café au lait in a cup to go and after have eaten a couple of beignets (a portion for three people costs about 2,50 $) comfortably sit, go up along the river bank and sit down on one of the wrought iron benches of the riverfront to enjoy the reflexes of the first lights of the day on the Mississippi River – accompanied by the precious melodies of a road artist.
Discover New Orleans: take part in a FreeWheelin’ Bike Tour, to live the city like a local
It’s a bike tour, certainly particular, led by expert local guides: they allow to know aspects and realities on the contrary impossible to catch in a so short time in the city.
There are four typologies of tours. My tip is to opt for the Creole & Crescent Tour.
The itinerary offers an interesting view of the lively and less explored Creole zone, the City Park and the infamous Bayou St. John (the place where, according to the legend, the witch Marie Leveau practiced voodoo), the old St. Louis Cemetery n.3, the area at the east of the town center destroyed by the Katrina Hurricane (inaccessible until a short time ago) and the Tremè “black” quarter (the first one to be inhabited by free slaves). Then go back to the Quarter through the Louis Armstrong Park and its Congo Square, the square where people say the jazz was born.
The tour lasts three hours about: it calls for 10 participants maximum and doesn’t require a particular physical ability.
It’s 50 $ per person (it worth it all, trust me) and you can book it clicking here – it’s better to opt for the places in the high season.
Discover New Orleans: cross the Garden District on the St Charles Streetcar
A unique and charming experience allowing (with a 1,25 $ single ticket) to cross the historic Garden District quarter by a charming vintage streetcar, the St. Charles Streetcar (one of the most ancient American streetcar lines still functioning): it was made famous by the writer Tennessee Williams in his play and then successful movie “A streetcar named Desire”.
It takes 35 minutes about to go along the entire route, from Canal Street to Carrollton Ave: it develops along St. Charles Ave for 10 km touching a good part of the attractions in the area – with announced out loud stops by the driver.
The several museums next to the Lee Circle, the old and suggestive Lafayette Cemetery and the Audubon Park, an old cane plantation transformed into a park, which was the seat of the Universal Exhibition in 1884.
Discover New Orleans: sail at sunset on the Mississippi River onboard an old steamboat
The Steamboat Natchez is one of the last steamboat sailing at one time along the Mississippi.
The several daily excursions call for two hours leavings and a night crossing with dinner and Jazz music.
My tip is to book the last afternoon leaving (at 6pm) to enjoy a wonderful sunset on the river (weather permitting) and then go on with a juicy dinner at Le Tableau, one of the most characteristic and crowded restaurants in the French Quarter (in an historic building next to Le Petit Theatre).
The cuisine follows faithfully the flavors and the traditions of Louisiana and it’s extremely cared; the location with its theme rooms recalls the splendors of New Orleans at the end of 1800s.
Corn sauce or sweet sauce Gumbo and Dublin Bay prawn are exceptional, trust me!
Discover New Orleans: attend a live Jazz session at the Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse
A so rich and full day has to finish with a music and fun night in the French Quarter, walking a bit between the chaotic Bourbon Street and the elegant Royal Street and then attending the very special live jazz sessions in one of the most famous places in the town: the Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse.
Because of the high tourist turnout, you have to book a table a bit in advance: if it’s possible choose the lateral ones, more reserved and far from the coming and going of the waiters and customers: at least a drink is required.
The night performance, usually divided in two parts, lasts about from 8.30pm to midnight: it’s possible to listen to the performances of the most talented local jazz bands and the improvisations of some local famous artists among the public.
Here it is my (and your) real and most authentic New Orleans.
There’s nothing left to do but let you go and enjoy it.
As people say hereabout… “Welcome to New Orleans and laissez les bons temps rouler!”