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5 things you must do in New Orleans

Published 30 March 2016

Round the World Experts blogger Helen Winter

Helen Winter

New Orleans is like visiting a country within a country. The myriad cultures, heritage and historic architecture are pole apart from the Bible Belt, southern culture of Louisiana. Think of it as the USA’s cooler, quirkier cousin: a whole lot different, but still a close relative.  That’s certainly what I thought after spending three days exploring this truly bewildering city in the most amazing ways possible.

Walk through the French Quarter

If you’ve just got out of the car after a long US road trip, or landed at the aptly name Louis Armstrong Airport– only in New Orleans is an airport named after a scat music legend - you’ll be yearning to stretch your legs.

The streets of the French Quarter are uniquely beautiful and entertaining. Overhead are intrinsically designed iron balconies and the fairy tale-esque St Louis Cathedral, at street level you'll find all kinds of performers, from the underwhelming clichés to the magnificently talented. Make sure to look left and right for horse-drawn carriages before crossing the roads.

Hop on a river steamer across the Mississippi

Although there’s not much to do on the other side of the Mississippi from New Orleans, you’ve got to take a ride on an iconic River Steamer across Louisiana’s impressive waterway.  These grand paddle wheelers will make you feel like you’ve fallen straight into a Huckleberry Finn novel.

Dine on traditional jambalaya and alligator sausages at the Gumbo Shop.

Expect long queues because the Gumbo Shop on St Peter’s Street has become a victim of its own success. This cosy restaurant is the place to go in New Orleans to sample the local cuisine. Shrimp Creole, jambalaya and even alligator sausages are all on the menu, and in true New Orleans fashion, you’ll feel like you’ve been welcomed into a family’s home with the level of service and grand decor. I really need to find out if they do international take-away.

Watch out for cursed relics at a voodoo shop

They may scream ‘tourist tat’ but only in New Orleans can you walk in and out of unearthly Voodoo stores. This spiritual belief filled with intriguing rituals originated in New Orleans from the enslaved West Africans and the French, Spanish and Creole people of Louisiana. Although the Voodoo shops may not sell the ingredients for a dark curse, they are good novelty fun and a crucial part of New Orleans’ heritage.

Order a Hurricane and watch a live jazz band

Well, you can’t go all the way to the birthplace of jazz and not watch a live rendition. There are Jazz bands all over New Orleans, with iconic venues lining up on Bourbon Street and throughout the French Quarter. Impeccably talented musicians gather almost every night to either play their own music, or reimagine the classics from the iconic New Orleaners: Louis Armstrong, Dave Bartholomew, Buddy Bolden et al. As for the beverage? The classic Hurricane cocktail is a sweet red drink made from fruit juice, syrup and of course, rum, and owes its origin to Pat O’Briens Tavern which is still standing on Bourbon Street today. It goes down perfectly with a saxophone solo.


Introduce yourself to New Orleans on our Best of the Deep South USA Journey


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