There is much more to New Orleans than world famous Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. The heavy African, Spanish, and French influences have joined to form a culture unlike any other in the United States. From the ghostly cemeteries to the tranquility of the bayous, friendly locals, spicy food, wild times, and an interesting history await the traveler in this southern city.
WHEN TO GO
New Orleans is a city that bustles with excitement year round. While the winters are usually mild, the summers can bring 100-degree F. temperatures combined with 100 percent humidity, causing the locals and tourists to walk the streets in sweat-soaked clothes.
The city's most famous celebration, Mardi Gras, usually starts
two weeks before the Catholic holiday Ash Wednesday, climaxing on the
Tuesday before (Fat Tuesday). Other special times include the Jazz and
Heritage Festival (often the first and second weeks of May), New Years,
Football Season, and Halloween for all the elaborate Haunted Houses the
The Louis Armstrong International Airport is serves quite a few airlines with direct flights to most major US cities as well as a few European and Latin American countries. Airport shuttles head downtown for $10 a passenger. A taxi from the airport is about $21 for two passengers.
Estimated driving distances (miles) are as follows : Atlanta 473 , Chicago 929, Dallas 499, Denver 1279, Houston 352, Las Vegas 1725, Los Angeles 1914, Miami 861, New York 1324, San Antonio 543, San Francisco 2293, Seattle 2,577, Washington DC 1,085.
Greyhound Buses, Tel: (504) 524-7571 leave and arrive at the Union Passenger Terminal, 1001 Loyola Avenue, and have numerous regular services throughout the South as well as connections to destinations all around the country.
Amtrak, Tel: (504) 528-1610, also operates out of the terminal and has daily services to Chicago, Memphis, New York City, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Washington DC. Three times weekly, there is a train from Miami to Los Angeles that stops in New Orleans.
The Regional Transit Authority buses run throughout the city and suburbs with $1.00 fares and $.10 transfers. They also operate two streetcar lines, one traveling St. Charles from the river and the Audubon Zoo all the way to Canal St.
The Place d' Armes, renamed Jackson Square after the War of 1812, is the heart of the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). Towered by the St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square is filled with palm readers, musicians, artists, performers, and beggars on the weekends and is the center of many of the festivals.
Covering more than 80 square blocks, the French Quarter runs from Canal Street to Esplanade Ave. and goes from the river to N. Rampart. Some of the world famous highlights include the French Market, Jackson Square, and the St. Louis Cathedral, as well as a number of historic homes that line the area.
Dont forget to stop at the world-famous Café du Monde for some New Orleans coffee with chicory and hot, greasy, sweet beignets (French donuts covered in Powdered sugar). Watch the world go by, hear a street musician and refuel for the day.
Preservation Hall is also a must see if you want to hear the real New Orleans Dixieland Jazz sound. Smokey and dark, its everything you always imagined it to be, and still some of the best horn players around make a stop here.
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONS
BEST ACTIVITIES AND GUIDES
Get off Bourbon street and experience the real Local entertainment. Cajun dancing is a favorite pastime in New Orleans and the locals are more than willing to teach visitors how to shake a leg. Dancing the "two step" is popular in local Cajun watering holes to such local favorites as Zachary Richard and Zydeco sweetheart Rosie Ledet. Mid City Lanes Rock and Bowl rockandbowl.com is often voted one of the best places in the city to hear live Zydeco music.
On the cheap side:
Check GoNOMAD's listings for budget hotels in New Orleans.
New Orleans is known around the world for some of its spicy cuisine which includes gumbo, jambalya, red beans and rice, boudin, crawfish, and deep fried seafood. It is a city that loves to eat and it is no surprise that it has one of the most overweight populations and highest heart cancer rates in the country!
BEST LOCAL HAUNTS
The truth is that locals mainly stay away from Bourbon Street. It is about as touristy as you can get in the Big Easy. Young college-aged New Orleanians tend to head Uptown on St. Charles and Carrolton.
One of the best areas is where the two streets meet at the river. Cooter Browns serves greasy burgers, raw oysters, and boasts more than 150 beers from around the world. Madigan's, 800 S. Carrolton, two blocks away tends to cater to the upper class college crowd from Loyola and Tulane University.
Another local haunt, Fat City (covers about six square blocks West of the Lakeside Shopping Mall in Metairie), is a small area of bars, clubs, and restaurants ranging from sleazy strip clubs to high class restaurants. Rock and Bowl is also popular with locals, as well as tourists.
The French Market, near the end of Decatur Street, provides some of the best shopping for traditional and authentic New Orleans and Louisiana souvenirs.
The Farmer's Market sells produce, local specialties, and spices while the area further towards Esplanade sells everything from T-shirts, to stuffed alligator heads to pipes, Mardi Gras masks and everything else of the variety. While the Farmer's Market is open 24 hours, the Flea Market is mainly open dawn to dusk with the weekends being the best time for shopping.
If you take a liking to the New Orleans cuisine, be sure not to leave without picking up a few food products and spices. Tabasco, the famous cayenne seasoning made on Avery Island, is one of the most famous. Another mandatory Cajun seasoning is Tony Cheaceries which also makes mixes for Jambalya, Red Beans and Rice, and Gumbo. Zatarans is an old time New Orleans classic seasoning, most famous for their little bottles of crab and crawfish boil seasoning. Zatarans also make a variety of boxes ingredients for New Orleans meals.
The famous Cafe Du Monde sells ingredients to make beignets. Modern shopping malls also offer shopping opportunities for visitors.
The Riverwalk at the base of Poydras on the river has a great variety of souvenir stands and stores selling New Orleans gifts.
In the heart of the French Quarter near the St. Louis Cathedral is the Jax Brewery, which also offers great shopping opportunities.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATION
Public telephones can be found everywhere in New Orleans with the price of a local phone call being $.35. All Bell South public phones also have access numbers to make collect and credit card calls around the country as well as abroad.
Internet access is available at all Kinko's copy centers, as well as public libraries.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
It is unwelcome news to most visitors that New Orleans has one of the highest murder and violent crime rates in the country. The good news is that things are slowly improving. Nevertheless, visitors need to take care on the streets as well as in the French Quarter. Although most of the murders take place in the city's housing projects, armed robbery and assault are moderate threats. Use common sense by avoiding walking alone late at night down deserted alleys and leave most of your valuables at the hotel.
Late night brawls are not uncommon on Bourbon Street and sneak theft is rampant. Watch your wallet! Scam artists are rampant in the French Quarter, especially Bourbon Street, but usually respond to a simple "No thanks." Some spots to beware of include the area North of Rampart in Treme near the St. Louis Cemeteries and Armstrong Park (they are safe enough if you travel by daylight in a group, but don't even think about going there after dark.) Other areas to take care in are on the other side of Esplanade Ave. in the Faubourg Marigny and along the river in Woldenburg Park after dusk.
See GoNOMAD listings for budget hotels in New Orleans
GoNOMAD also has listings for Washington, D.C. budget hotels.
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