Visiting New Orleans for the first time. Going during the French Quarter Festival……anything we have to do or see besides Bourbon Street? Anything out of the norm we should check out within an hours travel distance from New Orleans?
Things to do in New Orleans:
Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival are world famous events, but New Orleans hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year: www.nola.com/festivals
The Saint Charles Streetcar is the oldest continuously operating street railway in the world and is a “tourist attraction” in its own right. It is part of the public transit system, as are the Canal Street and Riverfront streetcar lines: www.norta.com
There is always music, but the bands change: Go to www.bestofneworleans.com and click on Music then Listings or to www.offbeat.com and click on Listings, then Music.
Note that music clubs often advertise “No Cover”, meaning there is no charge for entering. However, clubs with “No Cover” often require that customers buy a beverage each for every “set ” of music (which can be every 20 minutes) so KNOW THE PRICE before you sit down. Clubs do that because some people will sit in the club all evening drinking nothing (clubs only make money from the drinks they sell – not from the music). It is also a good idea to pay for each round of drinks (in clubs on Bourbon Street) as it is delivered so there can’t be any confusion at the end of the evening.
An incomplete guide to bars & clubs: www.neworleanscheapdrinks.com
About certain alcoholic beverages: Realize that some famous drinks are VERY potent compared with regular cocktails that have only 1 to 1 ½ ounces of alcohol. For example, a Hurricane is basically 3 or 4 ounces of rum in something like red Kool-Aid, and a Hand Grenade has at least 4 ½ ounces of Everclear + rum + vodka mixed with melon liquor. They don’t necessarily taste like an alcoholic beverage and it is easy to over-indulge.
Wander around the French Quarter, enjoy the architecture, watch the street entertainers (do tip), and visit some of the historic buildings that have been turned into museums (go to www.frenchquarter.com and click on Historic Attractions).
Assuming the weather is good, you can collect a sandwich lunch and eat in the riverfront park (watch the shipping) or in Jackson Square (a very nice park).
The Riverwalk shopping center has an air-conditioned food court with dining overlooking the river (www.riverwalkmarketplace.com). The Canal Place shopping center is in the French Quarter and has a cinema and higher-end shopping (Saks 5th Avenue, Brooks Brothers, etc.). Magazine Street is a miles-long shopping district: www.magazinestreet.com
Louisiana is the only US state that offers tax-free shopping for international visitors: http://www.louisianataxfree.com/
The lobby for the Westin Canal Place Hotel is on the 11th floor and overlooks the French Quarter. It is a great place for an afternoon drink/snack:(www.westin.com).
Cafe du Monde is in the French Quarter and you shouldn’t miss having cafe au lait & beignets (www.cafedumonde.com). Another great coffee shop is the Croissant d’Or (at 615 Ursulines Street), which is open from 7:00am to 2:00pm and has food in addition to pastry.
The Palm Court restaurant is very nice, has moderate prices, and offers traditional live jazz starting at 8:00pm: 1204 Decatur Street, tel 504-525-0200 (reservations are important and they are not open every day). The Palm Court is closed from about July 25th to about September 25th each year.
Maximo’s Italian Grill has great food and atmosphere: 1117 Decatur Street in the French Quarter, (504) 586-8883.
All of the famous restaurants (Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, etc.) have reopened. The Pelican Club (on Exchange Alley in the FQ) is not as well known but is the same type experience. Reservations are a good idea, and probably essential on weekends. Tujaques Restaurant (823 Decatur Street) is very traditional and has moderate prices: www.tujaguesrestaurant.com
Cafe Degas is a very French restaurant near City Park at 3127 Esplanade – which is not within walking distance of downtown (5 to 10 minutes by taxi). They are closed on Mondays & Tuesdays (504-945-5635).
The Napoleon House restaurant is at 500 Chartres Street in the FQ, and has a menu of great local dishes: www.napoleonhouse.com
Preservation Hall has traditional live Jazz, and doesn’t serve alcohol so all ages are welcome: www.preservationhall.com
New Orleans has ballet, opera, a symphony orchestra, and theatre:
There is a free ferry across the Mississippi at the “foot” of Canal Street. It is a short trip but like a harbor cruise w/o a guide: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/canal_street_ferry
The Aquarium, Audubon Zoo, and the new Insectarium are world-class attractions (www.auduboninstitute.org) and you should see them if you can. The Zoo is several miles from downtown. You can drive to the Zoo (which has free parking) or take public transit from the French Quarter.
The Louisiana State Museum is in the French Quarter: http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/ New Orleans is also home to a number of other museums, such as the National World War II Museum (www.ddaymuseum.org) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (www.noma.org). Both can be reached by public transit: The WWII museum is in the central business district but a long walk from the French Quarter. NOMA is not within walking distance of downtown but has free parking. Go to www.neworleansmuseums.com for info on more museums.
Harrah’s Casino is in the Central Business District: www.harrahs.com (age 21 required for entry)
New Orleans City Park has a variety of attractions + free parking. (www.neworleanscitypark.com).
Check www.frenchquarter.com and http://www.nola.com/visitor/ for ideas about other things to do.
Hope you have a great time in the city of New Orleans!
My friends and I want to hit an earlier parade, and one that happens in the quarter. Any ideas or recommendations?
The first answer is correct and none of the traditional Mardi Gras parades have traveled through the French Quarter since the 1960s.
However, the Krewe du Vieux is a parade (with small floats) that goes throught the FQ about 2 weeks before Mardi Gras Day:
A good place to watch the K du V parade is from the balcony of Margaritaville on Decatur Street:
Go to http://www.mardigras.com/ for more info on Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The FAQ section can be very informative.
Hope you have a great time!
I want to visit Nola in a month for a anniversery and I want to make sure it’s up and running so it would be worth my time. Also, any attractions/restaurants that I should experience? Thanks
I was there in November and yes, it is up and running! The people is warm and nice, and the food is wonderful. I was there on a convention, so I did not have too much time to tour around, but the French Quarter is beautiful and it was not affected by the hurricane. Have fun and support Nola!
Chances are if you have walked down any French Quarter street in the last few years you have seen my friend, Ray Hostetter. He might have the phone to his ear or a tool of some kind in hand, but he always has a smile and a “Hey there” for passersby. Now that may have been the extent of our association too, except for one thing (ok, two) I love construction, reconstruction, building, renovating, decorating. Whatever name you put on it, the creative process is fascinating to me. Oh, and the second thing – I’m just nosy.
In my “ratting” around the Quarter, I had seen Ray at times working on a particularly beautiful place on the corner of Dauphine and Orleans. I could see the intensive work being done to the outside, but it was just killing me to know what they were doing to the inside. Come on, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. I saw the nose smudges on the windows. (Oops, sorry. I guess those were mine.) Lo and behold, on this particular day a couple of years ago the door was wide open, so um, what to do, what to do? Exactly, I went in.
Ray grew up in the construction business and was working in California until a series of events changed life as he knew it. Work got scarce in big CA, Katrina hit New Orleans, a family member living in New Orleans said “Bring the wife and new baby over and work here”. After doing a couple of flood houses in mid city and a 20 unit apartment complex Ray was introduced to the owner of the Orleans Avenue project, who we will call Mr. C. It is interesting how one thing leads to another. Mr. C. had rented a Bourbon Street balcony one Mardi Gras from Ray’s relative years ago and they became friends.
While into the Orleans Avenue project, Mr. C. decided to acquire the property at 435 Bourbon and turn it from a t-shirt shop into a bar. (Incidentally, this was the same place that he had rented all those Mardi Gras’ ago.) The whole bottom floor had to be taken out for the new electrical so while Ray was digging trenches between floor joices he made a discovery, an 1850 bottle of “Dr. J. Hostetter Stomach Bitters”. This concoction of vitamins and herbs and 94% alcohol was sold to the Union army by train car from Pennsylvania during the first prohibition. Cool, huh? But it gets better. Did you notice that Dr. J and Ray share the same last name? After doing a little research Ray found he and Dr. J were actually related. That was when it all made sense for Ray, “I am in the right place doing what I am supposed to be doing.”
The Orleans Avenue project had discoveries of its’ own. The first came when removing walls, Ray came upon the initials A.H. (another relative??) carved in a board with the date 1901. Attached was a 1901 silver coin which today is worth $6,000.00. These old French Quarter buildings are treasure troves and that is exactly what Ray thought when he uncovered the next surprise. Extensive work was being done on the previously lathe and plastered walls. Mr. C wanted the old brick walls exposed, cleaned and repointed. In the process it was noticed that there was a definite brick archway visible just above floor level in the downstairs bedroom.
At this point, you know a vision of Lafitte’s treasure was dancing in Ray’s head. The old wood plank floors were pulled out and what looked like a tunnel opening was uncovered several feet under the existing floor. Alas, the only thing inside was years upon years of mud and muck, no treasure. But could it have been a bootleggers’ tunnel from Orleans Avenue to St. Peter and Dauphine, where for years the Tunnel Bar sat on the corner? Research seems to lean more toward what was called a “cabinét”, something like a root cellar and not a tunnel at all. Rather than cover up this historic piece of architecture, lightning and special glass flooring was installed to show it off. It is breathtakingly beautiful, just like the rest of the three story structure and “slave quarters” included in this compound.
Restoring this exquisite showplace to the splendor it deserves was a demanding, detailed project three years in the making and is today a phenomenal piece of workmanship. A credit to a man who truly loves what he does. The mastery of his craft is so obvious in even the smallest detail. Bo might know sports, but Ray definitely knows renovation. You rock Ray!
By Sharon Denise Talbot
*Stay tuned for more Renovation Reports with Ray.
If one of your next holiday celebrations is Mardi Gras, here’s a preview — sights and sounds in the French Quarter that I experienced in February 2009. Captured on my little Sony digicam.
Duration : 0:9:51
Im trying to make quick money and this is the only way I know how. But just how much money a night would I be taking home?
depends on the tips and what’s in town.
if it’s really slow you could end up with zip, if it’s a big party crowd sky is the limit.
but be aware it’s a tough job and not for the faint of heart.
how are your feet? you’ll be on them a lot
New Orleans, Louisiana, also known as the Big Easy or the Crescent City, is a premier travel destination with one-of-a-kind attractions, hotels and events.
From neon-soaked Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras to the festival grounds at Jazz Fest, this city knows how to host a party. And what’s a great party without food? New Orleans knows how to kick it up a notch with Creole and Cajun fare that is world renowned.
Talking that New Orleans Talk
Visit Cafe Dumonde for the best Cafe au Lait
New Orleans has a language all its own. While you’re in New Orleans, you will want to know what the locals are talking about ! Listed here are some words and phrases that New Orleanians use that are unique to the Big Easy.
What the locals call an avocado.
Andouille – “An Doo E”
This is a traditional New Orleans style, spicy sausage. Usually, andouille is used to make jambalaya, red beans and rice and other New Orleans dishes.
Banquette – “Ban Ket”
In New Orleans, this means, simply, a sidewalk.
Beads refer to plastic necklaces that are thrown from floats and balconies during Carnival. Plastic beads become a kind of currency during Mardi Gras. People trade and collect beads. People also are known to do some rather outrageous things to acquire beads during Mardi Gras.
Beignet – “Ben Yeah”
These are French style donuts that are drowned in powdered sugar. Usually, beignets are served with cafe au lait. Stop by Cafe Du Monde for the cities best coffee and beignets.
This is an euphemism for New Orleans, like the “Crescent City,” that is attributed to Betty Guillaud, a gossip columnist for the Times Picayune, in the ’70s as a term of endearment and an answer to the then I Love New York City hype. If it’s the “Big Apple” then New Orleans is the “Big Easy,” where everything is slower, simpler and easy-going.
Cafe au Lait – “Ca Fay – Oh – Lay”
This is New Orleans traditional coffee. Cafe au Lait is made from coffee and chickory mixed with boiled milk. Cafe au Lait is certain to give you a start for the new day.
Cajun – “Kay Jen”
There are a three meanings for this word. The first refers to the French Acadians who settled into the bayous of Louisiana from Novia Scotia in the 1700′s. The second meaning, which involves a rather hot debate, refers to a style of cooking. The last meaning describes a unique dialect of French spoken by the “cajuns.”
This is actually a root that is ground and roasted to add flavor to coffee. Cafe au Lait is made with Coffee, chickory and boiled milk.
Crawfish are sort of like little lobsters. Locals have “crawfish parties” where friends gather to feast on pounds and pounds of crawfish that are highly seasoned and boiled with onions, new potatoes, whole garlic cloves, sausage and anything else that adds flavor to these delicious crustaceans. Yankees sometimes call crawfish “crayfish.” Locals often refer to crawfish as “mudbugs.”
Creole – “Kree Yol”
This word has a rather complicated history. Creole refers to the French and Spanish descendents in New Orleans. Creole also describes a style of cooking. The debate regarding the differences between “creole” and “cajun” cooking rages on…
From the tradition of the Spanish pirates comes the doubloon. Doubloons are aluminum coins that are imprinted with the name of a Krewe and the theme of its parade and are thrown from floats during Carnival. Over the years, people have begun to collect and trade doubloons as if they were actual coins. Doubloons are one of the most popular Mardi Gras throws.
Etoufee – “A Two Fay”
There are many variations to this dish. Most etoufees start with a roux and consist of rice, shell fish or meat and vegetable
Flambeaux – “Flam Bo”
Before there were electric lights, Mardi Gras parades were lit by fire torches called flambeaux. Today, the tradition of the flambeaux and their mysterious illumination is carried on by some of the old line Krewes.
Grillades – “Gree Yods”
This is broiled veal served in gravy. Usually, grillades are served for breakfast with grits.
The word “gumbo” comes from an African language that means okra. Gumbo is a traditional southern soup like dish. It can be made with just about anything. But, all gumbos start with a rich roux and usually include either sea food or sausage.
Jambalaya – “Jam Ba Lie Uh”
This is a very popular party dish as it can be made in large quantities ! Usually, jambalaya is a spicy dish made with rice, tomato and either sea food or meat is added for flavor. See the recipe in this guide !
Legend has it that the word “Krewe” came from the old English spelling for the word “crew.” A Krewe is an organization or club that parades at Mardi Gras.
Lagniappe – “Lan Yap”
This is what New Orleans call something you get for free. For example, if you go to the butcher and he gives you a bone for your dog, it’s called lagniappe.
If the bellman at the hotel asks if you would like your bags placed in the “locker,” he is asking if you would like to have them placed in the closet.
Muffaletta – “Moof A lot a”
Said to have been invented at “Central Grocery” on Decatur Street in the french Quarter- A Muffaletta is a very large sandwich served on an Italian bread loaf. The muffaletta is made from ham, salami and provolone cheese and garnished with an olive relish.
In most cities this is called the “median-” You know, that little strip of ground in the middle of a road. Legend has it that the neutral ground got its name from early New Orleans when the French and Spanish could do business between sections of the city standing on the “neutral ground.”
This is any sandwich that is made with a loaf of french bread. It’s called a Po’Boy because one sandwich can feed an entire family.
Roux – “Rew”
A roux is the base for many popular New Orleans dishes. It is made from flour and oil.
Most parades require the crowd to politely sit and applaud as each float passes by. Not in New Orleans ! In New Orleans a parade is a “sport.” The crowd is expected to participate in the action by catching stuff that is “thrown” from a passing float. At Mardi Gras, the most popular throws are beads, doubloons and plastic cups.
New Orleans gets real hot in the summer and people cool off with this local version of a snow cone.
Duration : 0:4:15
When you think of Mardi Gras people usually think of New Orleans Louisiana. This was not always true. So how did New Orleans become the home of the Greatest Free Show On Earth? Well let’s go way back to the beginning of Mardi Gras.
The Origins Of Mardi Gras
Even though Mardi Gras is perceived to have its roots in the Roman Catholic religion, it actually dates back to the days of ancient Rome. In the middle of the month of February, the Romans celebrated a holiday they called Lupercalia. The god Lupercus was the god of fertility, agriculture and pastoral shepherds and the festival was in his honor. Carnival which is considered synonymous with Mardi Gras is derived from the Latin expression meaning “farewell to the flesh”. This holiday was very similar to the Mardi Gras we know today. It had a festival almost circus atmosphere. There was also the festival of Saturnalia that seemed to have some effect on the origins of Mardi Gras. This holiday was also a time of jubilation that occurred around the end of December. The king was burned in effigy and was made to look ugly in appearance. This is where some of the traditions of masking seem to have been derived. Some of the colors of Mardi Gras, purple, green and gold may have come from this festival.
When Rome converted to Christianity, a common practice was to take pagan holidays and incorporate them into church holidays. Lupercalia was an example of that approach. So Lupercalia became Mardi Gras. This period was designed to be a last fling of partying, merriment and good times that came before the period of fasting, prayer and penance called Lent. During the Lenten period the faithful say good bye to the pleasures and indulgences of the flesh. This period lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday or 40 days.
This tradition became a major holiday in the city of Paris during the Middle Ages when it spread across the continent of Europe. During medieval times lords held huge carnivals prior to Lent to honor the enrollment of new knights into the service of the local lord or baron. In France, this was a particularly raucous time.
Next how Mardi Gras made it to America.