I went to college in New Orleans many moons ago. I hate to date myself this clearly, but I just passed my 20-year college graduation mark (eek!) and to celebrate the occasion had the opportunity to take not one, but two trips to my lovely Nola last year. I had not been back in about five years, and so much never changes. The laid back lifestyle, the amazing food, the alcohol flowing like water … and the tourists, and with them the tourist traps.
There is SO much touristy stuff in New Orleans! Some good and some not so fun. If you’re taking your first trip (with adults only,) maybe a girls trip, or a quick trip with your beloved, please whatever you do, do not fall for it when someone bets you “they know where you got your shoes.” Ha! But if you do have a chance to go, I have some recommendations for the touristy things you probably DO want to do. There’s a reason why so many people go back to this amazing city year after year; why the place feels like home even though I haven’t lived there since the 90’s; and why it tugs at my heartstrings every time I get a chance to go back. It is just so dang fun! So here you go!
10 Touristy Things Not to Miss in New Orleans (for adults only!)
“The Big Easy”
Decatur Street/French Market
A walk in the French Market down Decatur street is always on my list when I visit Nola. I love seeing Jackson Square and the artists that line the sidewalks selling their amazing paintings and other artistic creations. In this section of the city, there are shops with more than just cheap New Orleans schwag. It’s a great spot to find a souvenir you’ll really love. It’s also pretty to look out over the river in the River Walk area right off of Decatur.
Cafe Du Monde
And while you’re there in the French Market, you must stop for coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde . It’s also a great spot to sit, kinda-sorta escape the heat under the open roof with fans, and people watch. The last time I was there the frozen coffee was amazing. I was sweating up a storm during summer in Nola and definitely needed it!
Molly’s on the Market for Bloody Mary’s
As I said alcohol flows like water in Nola, and one of my absolute personal favorites is the Bloody Mary. It just feels right, just like New Orleans, spicy, thick and a just a little unhealthy. haha. On both of my last trips I went on a hunt for the perfect Bloody Mary and had one just about every where we went. I’ve always loved Molly’s on the Market for it’s authentic laid-back Irish Pub feel, but I had always had Guinness or another beer when stopping by. I was thrilled to find my favorite Blood Mary of the trip, and apparently the secret was just a drop of Guinness in the drink!
The French Quarter in the Daylight
The Quarter isn’t just a night time affair. There is so much to do and see even during the day, so I definitely recommend a walk around during the daylight hours. Yeah, I know where I go my feet! On Bourbon Street!
Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar and Hurricanes
Day or night, the piano bar at Pat O’Brien’s is a blast. Dueling pianos playing requests while you sip on Hurricanes and other fanciful concoctions in tall glasses. I hadn’t been in for years and sitting in that room brought back so many good memories. The piano-playing singers may not be Grammy-worthy, but they sure are good for a laugh.
Tropical Isle for Hand Grenades
And speaking of fanciful concoctions, there’s also “New Orleans Most Powerful Drink” the Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle. There are actually 2 locations to choose from right down in the Quarter and we checked out the newer larger location. You’re gonna want to take it slow with this one.
Live Music Just About Anywhere
Anywhere you go in New Orleans you are sure to find some amazing live music. From Preservation Hall in the quarter to Tipitina’s to the local dive bar up the street. We had a great chance to see the Rebirth Brass Band who I had not seen since college. Amazing! And if you’re there in late April/Early May, it is a million times worth it to take a day at the Jazz Festival. Always an incredible line-up.
Ride the Street Car
A trip up St. Charles Avenue is something I always want to do when I visit New Orleans, and not just because my college Loyola sits on the street. Riding “Up Town” feels like fells like a ride back in time seeing the beautiful old homes and tree lined streets. The Columns Hotel below was built in 1883 is in the Garden District and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has a great Happy Hour. 😉
What is a “Sno-Bliz” you ask? Well in New Orleans snow cones or shaved ice are known as “Snoballs” and the original is Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. Oh yum! This is not your average every day shaved ice, it’s more like gourmet flavored snow in a cup. The grandparents of a friend of ours from Loyola opened Hansen’s in 1939 (and this location in 1944) and their granddaughter Ashley runs it today! It’s a little off the beaten path on Tchoupitoulas but well worth the trip. If you can’t make it Plum Street Snow Balls and several other places definitely have great ones too.
It’s All About the Food
I know it sounds like it’s all about the cocktails, but truly it’s all about the food in New Orleans. It’s impossible to list all of the must-eat places. That’s a post for another day. But seriously you cannot go wrong most of the time in this city that has a love affair with food (except perhaps if you’re gluten free. Sorry John! Or if you’re on a diet, or allergic to seafood or alcohol.) hmmm Now that I look back at this list, a lot of the best parts of New Orleans are consumable. Calories don’t count on vacation, right?!
I remember right after college I moved to Los Angeles and hung out with a group of friends who had also lived in New Orleans. A new friend joined the group and she was AMAZED by how much we reminisced about food!