New Orleans is one of the few domestic destinations that feels like a different country. The French Quarter, especially, has a unique feel, a combination of European and Southern, with beautiful architecture, fantastic restaurants, and more bars than you can count.
This is the tourist hub of a tourist city, so be prepared for crowds. But despite the ocean of humanity, the French Quarter has some truly amazing things to see, do, and eat.
First, a note on Bourbon Street. If you visit Las Vegas and think to yourself, “Wow, this place is just too classy. I wish it were a bit sleazier, cheaper, and more debaucherous,” Bourbon Street is your kind of place. If the thought of that makes your skin crawl, avoid it. I fall into the latter group, so as famous as Bourbon Street is, it is not on my recommendations list.
Here are my French Quarter recommendations.
See live jazz at Preservation Hall
There are a lot of bars with live jazz, as New Orleans is its birthplace. If you want to sit and enjoy a drink or three, go check one of those out. However, if you want a jazz experience that includes some of the history of the art form, Preservation Hall is the place for you. Shows are 45 minutes long, running on the hour most evenings. Tickets are $40 for reserved seating, $20 for non-reserved. The place is tiny, so coughing up the extra is worth not having to wait in line for hours. To visit New Orleans and not experience jazz in some form would be criminal.
Enjoy beignets at Cafe Du Monde
This is the ultimate tourist experience: fresh beignets covered with a mountain of powdered sugar at Cafe Du Monde. Three of these treats will run you $3. You can also have the unique experience of trying chicory coffee. (I hate it, but some swear by it.) Depending on the time of day, the line can run over an hour, so just be prepared for it. Other places also have beignets, but these are the original – and the best – so it is worth a stop. Just eat them hot and fresh.
Try a Haunted History tour of the Quarter
Apparently, New Orleans is the most haunted city in the United States. Haunted History Tours runs a number of walking tours of the Quarter, featuring stories of these ghosts and legends. Now, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I was still thoroughly entertained by my guide, Eugenia. She talked about a school headmaster killed in a fire who haunts the hotel in his school’s original location, a ghost seen all over the Quarter from Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith, and the gruesome tale of Delphine Lalaurie outside the mansion made famous by American Horror Story. (The house was later owned by Nicholas Cage – an awesome fun fact she relayed!) A two-hour tour is just $25, and made even better by the two-for-one hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s your tour sticker will get you before you start.
*Note: Haunted History Tours was gracious to include me in their tour free of charge. However, as with everything on The Royal Tour, all opinions are my own and not affected by any services I receive.
The Lalaurie Mansion just looks creepy!
Just stroll the Quarter and appreciate the beauty
Real gas lamps, beautiful old houses, and a ton of history await anyone who just wanders around the French Quarter. Visit Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral (even more beautiful at night), explore the French Market, and just marvel at the old houses and historic buildings. This is the real magic of the French Quarter!
Jackson Square at night
No matter what you decide to do, a visit to the French Quarter is a must for any New Orleans trip! I hope these recommendations help you in planning your perfect getaway here in the Big Easy.
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