New Orleans had been on my bucket list for what felt like forever, I dreamt of street parties, Jazz music drifting through Cypress and Tupelo trees, houses painted in every conceivable colour and steaming pots of seafood gumbo. Actually visiting NOLA sated these wistful longings and so much more!
Although we couldn’t quite afford to go during Mardi Gras we were still spoilt for choice for things to do. What struck me most about New Orleans was how historically rich it was, it really overflowing with stories of its multi-cultural communities. Here are 5 things to do in New Orleans out of Mardi Gras season!
- Meet the people and get to know the community
There is so much to do in NOLA, but my biggest recommendation that is to talk to the people, everyone is incredibly friendly. We stayed in the African American neighbourhood of Treme and just getting to know the restaurant owners (Willy Mae’s does the best fried chicken in America, we went twice in 5 days !) , and saying a hello to people we met on the street was a pleasure.
The kinship among people from New Orleans is incredible, we were talking to a local one day about the street parties for weddings and funerals held regularly. A whole community can come out of their homes to celebrate a life or a union, we actually saw one of these parties and apart from some killer dance moves and amazing music the sense of togetherness is what really stood out to me.
2. Eat your way around NOLA
People flock to New Orleans for the soul food, and for good reason. Southern cooking is spicy, comforting and LARGE. Just the kinda food I love! Here are some of our top picks:
Best fried Chicken – Willie Mae’s Scotch House in Treme
Best ‘Fancy’ restaurant – Gabrielle’s in Treme (choose their exceptional set menu! You won’t regret it)
A restaurant with heaps of history – Dookie Chase in Treme (this was the inspiration for the movie The Princess and the Frog)
Lunch must-have – Muffaletta ( a famous mouth-watering combo of bread, Italian meats and olive tapenade) at Central Grocery and Deli in the French Quarter
Beignet Heaven – Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter
3. Jazz, Swing & Shows
If you are visiting New Orleans for the music scene, you can’t go wrong in the French Quarter. By night Bourbon Street (and beyond) turns into a music-lovers paradise; jazz bands, funky soul, rock – whatever you’re into, there’s a club, bar or jam night for that. We visited a few bars whilst in NOLA but our favourite was 30/90 club’s Jam night on a Monday – great music from the house band, atmosphere and decently priced drinks!
If you’re looking for a festival and you’re not visiting during Mardi Gras, trust me you’ll find something as there are festivals year round in NOLA – keep an eye on the calendar here for your travel dates. For us we were lucky enough to visit town when the burlesque festival was in town at BB King’s Blues Club (short video clip above)! We were even just about brave enough to take a (free) Swing dance class while in town, there are some many cool experiences waiting in NOLA.
4. Check out the art scene & grab a Muffaletta
My favourite day activity was wandering around looking at all the art work from indie sellers in Jackson Square and grabbing a famous Muffaletta from Central Grocery and Deli for lunch! There are so many galleries along Frenchman Street too so you’ll never be too far away from beautiful art in New Orleans.
5. Get outside!
Finally, if you’re not feeling a full on swamp tour at the very least visit the sprawling City Park (and get a tasty lunch at the Blues BBQ place near by whilst you’re at it). I’d also recommend a tour of an area other than the French Quarter, for us we visited the Garden District for a cemetery tour but I also really recommend Treme. There is so much history and natural beauty in New Orleans, get out there and experience it!
Have you been to New Orleans, if so what do you recommend?