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Guest post by From East to West
I lived in New Orleans from 2009-2013, which I can safely say changed my life forever. It’s one of the most vibrant, culturally different cities in America and in the world and there are lots of things to do in New Orleans. I visited for the first time in 2008, only 3 years after Katrina devastated the city. I watched New Orleans come together and rebuild itself into the thriving cultural nightlife and food scene it is today. While living there, and visiting countless times thereafter, I learned what it means to be a true New Orleans local, including what to expect, where to go, and of course where to eat.
My first tip: please pronounce the city “New Or-lins”, not “New Or-LEANs” as every visitor does…it’s the former.
Things to do in New Orleans
Tourism boards and visitors will tell a first timer go to NOLA to Cafe Du Monde, stay in the French Quarter, walk around Jackson Square and party until the morning on Bourbon Street. While I agree you should experience these New Orleans attractions, they are a massive part of New Orleans, there is so, so much more to see this city. Oh, and you’ll get used to people walking with open cups of alcohol at all hours of the day on the streets as well as the nicest people in the entire world living here – taxi drivers will talk your ear off of their favorite, genuine New Orleans story. You can find more about my story and how I came to New Orleans and how it shaped my travel life on my blog here.
One of my favorite New Orlean attractions is to walk around the Marigny and Bywater areas. Walk all the way to the end of Bourbon Street and you will find NOLA’s little gem; all the colorful cute houses and buildings you can imagine. A neighborhood generally untouched by tourists, it displays true NOLA roots. You can get lost in the streets ogling at the bright buildings. When you get tired there head to the edge of the Bywater and go to Crescent Park, a quiet park only frequented by locals to relax, and to stare at the stunning views of the French Quarter and Mississippi River from the outside. Hungry and in the area? Head to my favorite insider New Orleans spot; Satsuma, in the Marigny, for amazing brunch/lunch!
When it gets to nighttime and you are poised to go to the crazy Bourbon Street, stop yourself and get a true New Orleans experience. Head further downtown to Frenchman Street, my favorite street in the entire city. Frenchman livens up at nighttime and is lined with jazz bars with live music throughout the night. There is even live music outside on the streets, you will see jazz players and bands just dancing around the streets playing. It is a vibrant, explosive energy you can only find in New Orleans. My other two favorite local bars to go to not on Frenchman Street are Bacchanal and Le Bon Temps. Both are live music spots and are absolutely amazing and with no tourists!
Another one of my favorite local experiences is going to Audubon Park and “The Fly”. Audubon Park is a stunning, massive park all the way in uptown New Orleans, across from Tulane University, far away from the bustling tourists of the French Quarter. You can easily get here by taking the St. Charles Streetcar uptown or a quick 15 minute cab. The Fly is a secret area behind Audubon Park that sits on the Mississippi River where locals come to tan, host BBQs and Crawfish Boils and just hang out. It’s authentic NOLA and you won’t find a single tourist here.
My last major activity I would do as the locals do in New Orleans is head to a New Orleans Saints game. Saints fans are like no other fans in the country…and I am saying that as a New Yorker. NOLA comes together every single Sunday of football season to go absolutely crazy about the Saints, they care about them more than anything else. The reason for this is it is the one thing that stayed constant even through the hardships of Katrina, they always had football to depend on and agree on. The Saints helped them overcome their city tragedy.
Where to eat in New Orleans
Where to eat as a local is one of the easiest answers ever. The list could take forever. The food scene in New Orleans is continually growing and changing. While the top spots are tourist traps (but rightfully so, they’re unbelievable), the locals have their spots that have yet to be discovered – get their quick. Head to St. James Cheese Factory for the best grilled cheese you will ever encounter (not a joke), Reginelli’s has the best salads, Sake Cafe is an awesome sushi spot, Domilises for Po-boys, Refuel uptown is an NYC level brunch spot and Port of Call is an amazing burger spot for a big group downtown. You can learn more about my most favorite spots to eat at in New Orleans in depth in my New Orleans itinerary and guide here. Want to know the best NOLA style foods to eat? Make sure you eat Jambalaya, Crawfish, Po-Boys and Gumbo. Oh, and buy Zapp’s Voodoo flavored chips – you will not be disappointed.
New Orleans has something for everyone, and don’t let anyone tell you it is becoming to tourist-centric. It is ever-changing and I love this city more than anywhere else, and the local experiences are to thank for that. If you need accommodation in New Orleans then click here for the latest prices and availability.
Rachel Shulman is a seasoned travel blogger specializing in planning in-depth guides for destinations. She owns From East To West which is a travel blog outlining her travels and writing detailed, efficient guides and itineraries for cities and countries as well as reviewing locations, accommodations, restaurants and tips and tricks for traveling.
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