Bourbon Street tops most traveler’s lists when visiting New Orleans, but there’s much so much more to see and do than just the French Quarter. Whether you’re looking to drink like a local, see the city’s active offerings or go back in time – you can experience it beyond the party district. To help you plan an immersive itinerary, here is your guide to New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street.
Drink Up On Frenchman Street
While tourists tend to hangout on Bourbon Street, ask the locals where to go out after dark and they’ll recommend Frenchman Street in the beautifully eclectic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Here you’ll find some of the city’s best local jazz — a must when visiting the birthplace of the genre. Head to The Three Muses for live jazz paired with seasonal drinks and eats, or to the Spotted Cat for a pleasantly divey music experience. During the day, Celebration Distillery offers $10 tours and tastings to help you better understand how local Old New Orleans Rum is made.
Take An Active Tour
New Orleans has numerous options for getting active beyond wandering the streets (although this is recommended, too!). Sign up for a kayaking excursion with Kayak-Iti-Yat, such as the Big Easy Bayou Tour to see different NOLA neighborhoods and architectural styles on Bayou St. John, or the challenging Bayou Bienvenue Tour to bird and gator watch along Bayou Bienvenue. If you’re more of a land mammal, City Segway Tours New Orleans allows you to see the Big Easy in a quirky way — via Segway, essentially a scooter powered by your body weight. They also offer a pertinent Beyond The French Quarter Bike Tour for exploring sites like Congo Square, Louis Armstrong Park and the hauntingly beautiful Saint Louis Cemetery No. 3.
Test Your Spice Tolerance
For those who like it hot, New Orleans is home to what will soon become your mecca: Pepper Palace. Home to over 1,000 spicy condiments, you’ll savor — in joyous agony — free samples of sauces, jellies, butters, dips, seasonings, mustards, oils and more. If you’re the type that enjoys a challenge, the shop is home to (potentially) the world’s spiciest hot sauce, called FLASHBANG. To try, you actually have to be over 18, sign a waiver, and you’ll get your name in the Book of Fame if you complete the task (don’t worry, you’re allowed to cry).
Ride An Authentic Steamboat
Add a whimsical touch to your trip with a ride aboard the Steamboat NATCHEZ, one of the Mississippi River’s last authentic steamboats, built in 1975 and modeled after its 19th century predecessors. Propelled by an enormous oak paddle wheel at the stern, the boat features antique whistles crafted from copper and steel, an engine room for touring and a working steam-powered 32-note calliope that you’ll hear playing during live music and jazz entertainment (the Dukes of Dixieland are regulars!). There’s also a buffet featuring dishes like local cornmeal fried catfish, Creole creamed spinach and the ship’s namesake NATCHEZ Bread Pudding doused in Belgian white chocolate sauce. Along with being on a historical ship, you’ll explore the city’s industrial and war history — even seeing Chalmette Battlefield — not to mention an atypical view of the New Orleans skyline.
Shop The French Market
The French Market is the oldest public market in the country, founded as a Native American trading post in the same spot in 1791. Today, you’ll find a mix of typical and creative foods, a farmers market, handicrafts, clothing, beauty supplies, artwork and lots of buskers adding to the bustling atmosphere.
Tip: If visiting in June, don’t miss the market’s Creole Tomato Festival, featuring live music and cooking demos and tastings centered around Creole tomatoes.
Explore Louis Armstrong Park
While New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, the 31-acre (13 hectare) Louis Armstrong Park may be its literal place of birth. Located in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood, the free-to-enjoy park is where you’ll find Congo Square, where slaves would meet on Sundays, the day of rest, in the 1800s to practice their culture. This included dance and music — from bamboula drums to banjos — which eventually melded with French sounds to create New Orleans Jazz. Today Congo Square still regularly holds drum circles. Moreover, Louis Armstrong Park is home to jazz-inspired statues — including one of Armstrong himself –, as well as the Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts and Perseverance Hall, a Greek Revival-style cultural center dating back to 1808 that’s still open for special events.
*Cover Photo by Heather Elias CC BY
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