Whether you are visiting or moving to New Orleans you are probably already familiar with the more popular attractions, such as The National WWI Museum, Jackson Square, Preservation Hall, and the Audubon Zoo. However, there are more things to do in New Orleans than most realize. After you have seen the main attractions and hung out in the French Quarter until you have had your fill of jazz and bread pudding, then you will be ready to explore some of the unique opportunities. Below are just a few of the many things you have to look forward to.
Take a Ferry Ride
It may be a short ride from New Orleans over to Algiers on the Canal Street Ferry, but it is free for pedestrians and offers the best view you will see of the city. You can get off on the other side and explore the West Bank, or you can just stay for a round trip. If you do get off you can rent bikes right by the ferry. It is pretty cool to check out this neighborhood that predates the Civil War.
Check Out Faubourg Marigny
You really cannot appreciate the history of this city without taking a drive to the Faubourg Marigny. This charming historic district dates back to the early 1800s. It is a terrific little neighborhood with small but friendly places to eat, drink, and listen to jazz. Louis Armstrong Park is here, and a nice place to have a picnic. Unlike Bourbon Street where there are often tons of barely legal amateur drinkers, the folks who hang out in Faubourg Marigny are typically a little more mature and relaxed.
Haunted Ghost Tour
With so much history here, it is no surprise that there are many people who believe ghosts haunt the French Quarter. There are ghost tours available not only through the French Quarter but through the cemetery as well. There are also voodoo tours that delve into the world of the most feared and misunderstood religion. There are even vampire tours because everyone knows that those with cold blood like to linger in New Orleans.
This is one of the most hidden secrets, and it is rare that you will actually find tourists here. It is a short drive out of the downtown area, but well worth the effort to get there. Lake Ponchartrain is one of the country’s most interesting water formations. If you cruise along Lakeshore Drive you find a series of parks that overlook a lake. There is also a quiet sandy beach, picnic areas, and an old vineyard that is still active. You can fish, boat, bike, and even swim in some areas. There is a lot here just waiting to be discovered.
Tour the Bayou
Most people who visit or even live in the area avoid the bayou. This is unfortunate because it is the swamp that brings such mystery to the state. It is absolutely not recommended to tour alone whether by boat or by foot, but there are a few trusted tour guides available. There is nothing quite like going out on a pontoon or airboat and seeing alligators, former habitations, and graveyards. You will learn a lot from the tour guide and walk away with a deeper appreciation for the city. There are a ton of areas to be explored, so don’t stop with just one tour; they all have something unique to offer.
Voodoo Spiritual Temple
There are a lot of voodoo stores and museums in New Orleans, but if you want real information or an authentic experience, you want to visit the Voodoo Spiritual Temple. You don’t have to worry about being pressured into joining a congregation or anything. The folks here are very welcoming to guests. It is located across from Louis Armstrong Park at the north end of the quarter. You really don’t want to be over there after dark.
Visit the Churches
You don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of some of the churches in New Orleans. Old St. Patrick’s Church is a National Historic Landmark that will take your breath away. It was built by Irish immigrants in 1840 and still chimes real bells before daily mass. A couple others to add to your list include Immaculate Conception Church and Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, which happens to be the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use in the United States. There is also an abundance of synagogues and mosques to marvel at as well.
BONUS: Must try the gumbo
Nearly everyone knows that if you want the best gumbo you will ever taste in your life, you have to go to New Orleans. After all, it was the folks of southern Louisiana who originated the dish back in the 18th century. Finding a place to order gumbo is never a problem; it is available nearly everywhere. Few of the venues that are known for their phenomenal recipes are:
- Coop’s Place – Do yourself a favor and just get a table. The gumbo is seasoned perfectly and it is cheap. They also have the best spicy Bloody Mary around.
- Mr. B’s Bistro – The prices here are a little high, but the food and service are worth every penny. The best place to enjoy your weekend brunch. The gumbo is amazing, but you absolutely must save room for their Whiskey Bread Pudding.
- K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen – Your server starts you out with a massive basket filled with at least five different types of piping hot bread. After you enjoy your gumbo, you will want to order the Blackened Drum (what they are known for, and it is caught locally).
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