New Orleans. Six things to do.

Ever been to New Orleans? What are your favorite sights/activities/restaurants?

The news stories about New Orleans, at least the ones that filter through to where we live, are hyperventilatingly negative. Highest crime rate in the nation! Second highest poverty rate! Brain eating amoeba in the water supply!


Here to tell you, we visited recently and loved it.  Music everywhere. Amazing food. Even had mild and cool temperatures — a rarity it, but it does happen.

Six tips for NOLA visitors, particularly neophytes (like us):

1. If you like to bicycle, several bike rental companies cater to tourists. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had 11 miles of bike paths. Now there are 84 miles of bike lanes in the Parish, and 104 miles in the greater New Orleans area, with more planned. You’ll find the cyclists, like everybody in New Orleans, hospitable and friendly.

photo 2
Lips of Lips and the Trips, who was kind enough to take a break from her commute to her day job for a chat.


Lips at her night job. Image source: Lips and the Trips website

2. By all means take the famous trolley, admire the brass and mahogany fixtures, and squeeze in with all the other tourists. To really see the city though, take the bus. The same $3 day pass for the trolley also gets you on the bus. You’ll ride with locals, see more sights, and get where you want to go, faster.

3. Museums. Save time for museums. Try these:

National World War II museum. For anyone who likes history, planes, guns, technology, and gadgetry, this place is heaven. It was a tough sell for me because war museums seem like an excuse to glorify genocide, but the curators make an effort to include the sobering side of war along with the glory. There are oral histories from veterans, nods to the Women’s Air Corps, the holocaust, and the Tuskegee Airmen. There is a sizable exhibit on Japan. There’s an entertaining, patriotic film for an extra $5, which is “four dimensional,” meaning vibrating chairs, steam-smoke and stage sets. For another $5 you can participate in a Submarine Reenactment, in which an heroic crew goes down, victim of one of it’s own torpedoes. I pooped out after 3 hours, but my husband the history buff could have spent the whole week at this museum.

The Insectatorium. Don’t be cowed by all the kids in line for tickets, and bring your knee pads because the signs are at kid height — but I guarantee, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for bugs. Couldn’t talk the Mister into sticking around for the cooking demonstration, so if you get to see it and sample the menu, let me know how the fried cockroaches are.

The Civil War Museum. Be forewarned, the sign outside says “Civil War.” The sign inside says “Confederate War,” which is closer to the truth. This is a commemoration from the perspective of the South, and is full of uniforms, photos, testimonials, flags, equipment, stories and swords — lots of swords — of Confederate soldiers and officers. It’s a moving display, complete with letters from sweethearts and cannon balls lodged in ossified tree trunks.

4. Food. Glorious food. We did not have a bad meal. Favorites? For a fancy meal, August.

Photo source: August website

For less formal food, the lunch counter at Cochon Butcher. Decidedly not for vegetarians. Dead pigs right there in the back room. The food was terrific.


On the other end of the gustatory scale, with vegetarian & vegan options, organic, raw, gluten free — catering to whatever special needs you can think of, Meals from the Heart Cafe:

Photo source: Meals from the Heart

5. Music. Mardis Gras is the just tip of the iceberg. There are jazz cafes, and music on the streets, festivals, concerts, you name it. We were lucky enough to hit Wednesday Music at the Square, on Lafayette Square,


And the French Quarter Festival,

But pretty much any time you visit, be ready to be soaked in music. Check the event calendars to make sure you don’t miss the musical events happening near wherever you stay.

6. The guidebooks warn tourists not to stray from main thoroughfares because crime is high. That’s no doubt good advice, but be a little adventurous. Visit cemeteries that aren’t so famous. Walk a block or two off the avenues of antebellum mansions, to the quiet streets with modest homes. Visit the areas where whole blocks have been bulldozed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is sensory overload. You’ll be glad for the break.


We hope to return. Do you have suggestions for things to do on future visits?


  • I’m thinking of going there for a conference in the fall, so it was fun to see your post. You’ve convinced me I should go if I can. Sounds like a wonderful place, and I’d love to experience it.


    • Do not miss it. It was hard to not blabber on and on. Fall should be especially wonderful. Go on the author’s walk!


  • I haven’t been to New Orleans in years but it’s always on my list to return. I’ve never had a bad time in New Orleans. My first adventures there were during spring break as I was at Oklahoma State. I returned a couple of times after that but was always on a trip for the gov. Someday.
    This is a beautifully laid out post.


    • Thank you Sheri! High praise, especially coming from you. Spring break at college must have been a blast. I wonder how much changed you’ll find it, when you go back?


    • Took me by surprise. I was ready for mugginess, heat and crowds. It was nice and cool, and the crowds stuck together, leaving the rest of the city to everyone else. It was fun.


  • I’ve had a long itch to attend Mardi Gras. Maybe one of these years…. ~(*_*)~~
    Loved your suggestions. Laughed out loud at, “Dead pigs right there in the back room. The food was terrific.” 😀


    • Mardi Gras might be too much for me. Honestly Bourbon Street on a quiet night was a bit much for me — but it’s only one street. You’ll have to brave MG first, and report back. Shake those purple beads!


  • Looks like a wonderful trip! Glad you enjoyed it. I went to New Orleans about 10 years ago with 5 of my girl cousins for a long weekend. To say we had fun would be a huge understatement. We had a blast and are still laughing at the memories. My RA was out of control so I took my wheel chair with me. Picture me sitting in my wheel chair (with seat belt on), holding a beverage in my hand and being pushed around the cobble stone streets by a semi intoxicated cousin. We never laughed so much. Apparently, when one is in a wheel chair – the strings of beads come pouring in. Every person we passed on Bourbon St stopped to give me beads. As you can imagine, our short visit consisted of food, beverages, laughter and more beverages. I must return to actually see the sites and explore. 🙂


  • RA — rheumatoid arthritis? And New Orleans provides salve? A close buddy is working to adjust her life to the same malady. I will let her know. Also good to know how to get a lapful of free beads. There might have been a few still hanging in the trees from your visit, by the way.


    • Me too. Also that it was unbearably hot, touristy where is wasn’t dangerous, and sometimes both at the same place — but it is a gorgeous city, with the Big Muddy winding through it like a giant uncle.


  • I have never been to New Orleans. It’s just never been in my radar. But it sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing your trip. You may have changed my mind. 🙂


  • I’ve never been but folks tell me it is a lively (and lovely) place to visit. The food is an easy sell for me and I’d really enjoy the WWII museum. There is so much to do there it boggles the mind. Thanks for the reminders.


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