“In New Orleans…..You can’t separate nothing from nothing. Everything mingles each into the other…until nothing is purely itself but becomes part of one funky gumbo.” – Dr. John, Musician
New Orleans to me is the blended memory of the music, the art, the architecture, the history, the creepy, and the lovely.
- I’m making this list because I do not want people to miss this beauty of NOLA (I heard some hated NOLA because all they saw was a city of the drunk and the garbage).
- Will skip mentioning things like Jackson Square, gumbo, jambalaya, poboy, crawfish, or beignets, because these are most likely already included in everyone’s list.
- And if you go to NOLA for partying, this list is not for you.
By Water morning walk
I do not deny that NOLA quickly caught my eyes with romantic green balconies on Royal St and intimidating luxurious mansions in Garden District. But after all I felt in love with those little houses with vintage colors in By Water area. That surrounding is so silent that it gets quite creepy even during daytime (esp. for a person who’s used to the crazily crowded NYC). But the silence away from tourist attractions builds its own charm of the colorful hippies.
House of Broel – doll house
Heads-up: this is creepy. Hats off: this is mind blowing.
This house offers the mix of super sophisticated art and a creepy vibe – isn’t it the personality of NOLA? The highlight is its second floor – the Dollhouse Museum that features collections of handcrafted finished-to-perfection miniature masterpieces of scale model mansions, houses, décor, and costumes. Just by looking at each room of a mini house, you can find a vivid story built with your own imagination and fantasy. Besides, Ms. Broel, the owner, has her unique story of running her creative business and her interesting obsession with frogs.
Tip: You must make appointment to walk in. Try to book the tour guided by Ms. Broel herself, not her staff.
Nightlife on Frenchmen Street
No need to enter any bars. Just walk along the street and absorb the quality music along the way. Can’t describe it. It’s probably je ne sai quoi. There is also a night art market where you can find cool paintings, home décor, jewelry, and so on.
By the way music is obviously EVERYWHERE in NOLA. Sometimes the Second Line (brass band parades) just happen for no reason.
The park is now a festive wonderland at night with Celebration in the Oaks. As one of the nation’s oldest urban parks, it is definitely a charming oasis of the city.
Try checking out the local events out of French Quarter, then you will probably see more local people and taste the real NOLA. My local buddy took me to a very cool free art event (Drawathon by The Green Project), where we participated in various activities of creative drawing, both freestyle and guided. The most challenging activity to me was drawing a nude woman in movement – we had 60, 45, then 15 second for each drawing. Found a bit of arts in the blood LOL.
We also went to a brewery celebration to enjoy live music and craft beer, and to a weekend art market where we saw a very devoted singer and an even more devoted dancer (who was not at all related to the singer but kept dancing next to her speaker till the end of the show). Btw, her music was really obsessive and… weird.
Southern Food & Beverage Museum
A very small museum, so it will not take much of your time. I learned about the food chain from Louisiana, the history of absinthe – the controversial cocktail of myth used by big names by Van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway. There are also exhibitions of famous food for some states. Sometimes they offer cooking demonstrations in the museum.
Note: If you really want to try the historic absinthe, head to 200-yr Old Absinthe House on Bourbon street.
If you are a big history fan, go for Museum of World War II. Some people spend whole day there.
The other food
“The other” means not mentioning gumbo, jambalaya, poboy, crawfish, or beignets. I am a big fan of oysters and shrimps, and I loved them in NOLA. You can easily find these things anywhere. I had in French Market, St Roch Market – all good. Some bars have happy hours for very low price oysters (Superior Seafood & Oyster 4PM-6:30PM – 50 cent raw oyster).
Dessert is for sure a big part of the land. I wish I had tried banana foster at the place where it was invented (Brennan’s) – could not make it due to high volume of booking. But there’s no need to be in luxurious place like Brennan’s to get good dessert. Go for Sucre, a small sweet boutique shop at the quiet corner of Magazine St in French Quarter.
I am thankful to the people I met in NOLA. My airbnb host was very kind to say she would keep an eye on me because I traveled alone. My friends that I met there by coincidence brought me to their family dinners with a lot of fun and love (and UNO!). And my local buddy was very generous to spend lots of time showing me around his city and joining interesting activities.
If you don’t have a local friend (yet), try finding a reference in your network, go on couchsurfing, meetup, or maybe make friends with your airbnb hosts.
In short, you don’t need to be drunk to get the best of NOLA. In fact, don’t be.