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What do you think of when you hear New Orleans? Mardi Gras? Bourbon Street? The Saints? Whatever it may be, having grown up visiting this city about once a year, I have the perfect guide for a family friendly trip to this city.
Jackson Square This is probably the most famous landmark of New Orleans. It is the focal point of the French Quarter. So what should you do here? Start out at the Cathedral! The detail in this magnificent building is about as close as you can get to European cathedrals without actually going to Europe. Once you have had your fix at the cathedral and heard enough of the pipe organ, make your way right outside and find a street artist or street performer to enjoy. After you have spent your money there, make your way to the Café du Monde across the street. This is a New Orleans staple and no matter how touristy it is, you have to try it. The coffee and beignets are out of this world. And trust me, if the powdered sugar doesn't get all over you, you aren't eating it right.
Support a Street Performer On what seems like every other street corner, you'll find a free show to enjoy. At night, just look for the crowds and you have found the show. Stand towards the front to be a part of it yourself. You did come here to have fun, didn't you? So don't be the guy that won't step in. Have fun and get out there; you'll never see any of these people again anyways.
Walk Down Bourbon Street This one may not be suitable for the kids, especially at night. Things can get a little dicey to say the least. You are also bound to see a little bit more skin than you may like, but that is all a part of the experience right? Go on a weekend where there is an event or a big festival for an extra fun time!
Eat, Drink, and Let the Good Times Roll! If we are being honest, this is the main reason that I go here. Growing up with a dad from Louisiana, I was very well acquainted with Cajun cuisine. I encourage you while you're here, to get out of the French Quarter to enjoy an even more local meal, but a few of my favorite places located in the French Quarter are as followed: Mamma's, Felix's, Gumbo Shop, and Oceana! Take a stroll through the Warehouse District for a unique meal at Cochon Butcher, a beautifully strong cup of coffee at French Truck Coffee, or even the city's best craft beer at Courtyard Brewing. You can also take one of the many New Orleans Culinary tours along the way to learn about the history of Cajun cuisine and the world renowned restaurants of New Orleans. No better way to wash down some of that spicy food than with a cold beverage right? With and endless amount to choose from, you may need a buddy to help you out here. Have a hurricane from Pat O'briens or a daiquiri from Jesters.
Go to a Saints Game If you are even remotely a football fan, you have to go to a game in the Superdome. It is a place unlike any other. The culture and fun of the city transfers right over to the fans. And btw, don't want to pay NFL prices for the tickets? That's okay. Scalp some tickets in the blocks surrounding the stadium... (not that I have ever done that or anything). I just urge you to be relatively discreet about what you are doing.
Marvel at the Local Architecture In the French Quarter, marvel at the beauty of the Colonial Spanish and French-style buildings everywhere that you look. On St. Charles Ave., you'll be treated to a collection of tradition plantation style mansions. I would also encourage you to drive throughout the entire city and notice the architectural differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. Not only will you notice the typical class differences, but there are also distinct differences in over all style of the homes. Some of them will look very French while the next neighborhood may be very Spanish or even German.
Go to the Zoo or Aquarium New Orleans is home to a fantastic zoo, and of course anything in New Orleans is going have a unique flair. The most notable exhibit here is the Swamp Exhibit inspired by the swamps in lower Louisiana. Here you'll be treated to a collection of bears, snakes, otters, raccoons, armadillos, and of course all alligators.
Lose (or win) Money at Harrah's As long as you go into this experience not that you are in Vegas, you'll have a blast. This is Louisiana's largest and most famous casino. Spend a few hours at the slots or the tables. Who knows? You might just get lucky. Just know that whatever money you make, will probably be spent later on that evening on Bourbon Street, so either way you come out a loser or would that be a winner?
National WWII Museum This is an exciting trip for any history buff and one of my favorite New Orleans attractions. It is also Congresses official WWII museum as of 2003 and the museum maintains a relationship with the Smithsonian. You'll find that this place is on par with the best museums in the country. Be sure to mark out plenty of your day for this one, it took me about 5 hours to take everything in!
Mardi Gras World I know what you are thinking, this place sounds like a gimmick. That was actually my thought as well before visiting. If you don't have the luxury of visiting during the Mardi Gras season, this is the best and really only way to see the detail put into the floats and costumes worn by the people during a festival truly unlike anything else that you have seen in the U.S. before.
Watch a Parade You'll find that almost everyday there is parade of some flavor here. Most of them are not even announced, you'll just see a big line of people strolling down the street with their umbrellas playing music and people will get out of their way. Before you visit the city, check out the city guide to see what all is going on. If there is a big event (a Saints game) you'll be sure to see some exciting happenings in the French Quarter!
Buy Some Street Art A few years back, I realized how much visiting this city really meant to me. I then thought about how I really had no keep sake to hold on to. Not long after that, I found myself in the city again, but this time I was determined to find the perfect souvenir. I decided what could be better than a piece of street art? I saw a piece that I felt perfectly describes this city. They were 2 small pieces that I thought were really unique and that would go well in my apartment. After haggling with the man, I paid a price that both he and I could agree on. Prime Tip: Don't buy the first piece of art you see. Always haggle with them before purchasing and if another artist is willing to give a better deal, then tell the current person that you're talking to that information. If they want the sale, they'll beat that price!
Visit a Plantation Located on a massive 2,000 acre property just north of New Orleans, you will find Whitney Plantation. The property was recently opened to the public in 2014 after being brought to life by John Cummings who spent $8 million and 15 years of his life refurbishing the plantation. The tour starts in a church where you will learn a brief history of the plantation itself. You will then be taken to a series of monuments that have been resurrected in memory of every slave that was traded and/or died on the property. The stories that are told on the walls and by the tour guide are sobering and will be sure to get anyone's attention. For a total of approximately 90 minutes the guide will escort you around the property sharing the living conditions of the slaves and owners. This is by no stretch the only plantation in the area. Other common plantations include St. Joseph Plantation, Destrehan and Ormond Plantation, and more!
Get Lost With an endless amount of side streets New Orleans is a city where something new can always be discovered.
In the end, no matter what you do in New Orleans, I promise that you will have an unforgettable time. This city holds a special place in my heart and I know it can in yours as well. A Prime Adventure awaits you, so why aren't you on your way? Have something you feel should be added or your own New Orleans story? Comment below!