New Orleans. The Big Easy. Birthplace of Jazz. Creole Country. No matter what name they know the city by, visitors also know the city to be a portal to an older time, a cultural paradise, and a Mecca for incredible food. New Orleans feels a bit like another country, a mixture of Southern, European, and American – and somehow taking the best of each, and then adding some flare. I hope this guide helps you to plan your first (or next) trip!
Louis Armstrong International Airport has undergone improvements since my last trip in 2009, but it is still fairly small for such a major tourist destination. Direct flights are available from most hubs (and even from London), but with few options.
Cabs at the airport are plentiful, with rates to the French Quarter dependent on the number of people in the taxi. Uber and Lyft will be less expensive, and pick up in a separate area outside the terminal. If you feel more comfortable in a taxi, they will all take credit cards.
So where will you be staying? Unless you are someone who prefers to be right inside the French Quarter (I don’t recommend this as it can be really loud) or are visiting people in a different neighborhood, your hotel will be within two blocks of Canal Street, the main artery dividing the French Quarter from the Warehouse District. Pretty much every chain has a property within this area – I stayed at the Moxy (a Marriott brand), just between a Holiday Inn Express and the Roosevelt (a Waldorf Astoria), and passed by everything from La Quinta to Ritz Carlton on my daily walks from the hotel to the Quarter.
At the Moxy, in traditional New Orleans fashion, the front desk is a bar.
Founded by the French, taken over by Spain, built by slaves and freed blacks, New Orleans culture is a mixture of all of these things, and visitors will experience elements of all of them during a trip there.
Music is a huge part of New Orleans. This is the birthplace of Jazz, and home to more jazz musicians than anywhere else. Walking around you’ll see street performers with saxophones, and hear the wonderful music rising from any number of upscale venues and dive bars.
The statue of Louis Armstrong in Louis Armstrong Park.
Food is another thing the city is rich in. French technique with African ingredients and Gulf seafood: it is a mixture of perfection. Don’t miss the article below specifically on the best places to eat!
New Orleans has a reputation as a party city, similar to Las Vegas. There is a lot of truth to this. A walk down the famous Bourbon Street, even for a block, will consist of strolling past at least a half dozen bars. Take that walk in the evening and signs advertising buy one get one beer and shots will be all over, with scantily clad women promoting venues.
Bourbon Street before the crowds come out.
Smoking is common and, though it is technically illegal, marijuana is also prevalent. There is a large homeless population in the Quarter and surrounding tourist areas as well.
However, for those who prefer things to be a bit quieter and classier, New Orleans still has that. Just stay off of Bourbon Street. You can still enjoy the French Quarter closer to the river, or try the Garden District.
For the most part, your mode of transportation in New Orleans is likely to be your feet. The French Quarter is wonderful to walk through, and with streets being small and pedestrian traffic being insane, avoiding a car is probably better. Alternatively, you can take a horse drawn carriage through the Quarter.
Enjoy the architecture while walking through the French Quarter.
To go between neighborhoods, Uber/Lyft are your best bets. I never waited longer than four minutes for a car.
If the route happens to work, you can also check out one of the streetcar lines. They are old and charming, though routes are limited.
Things To Do
Other Useful Information
The primary industry in New Orleans is tourism. Like most service-based economies, tips are a large part of the income of many people. Be sure to tip your drivers, guides, servers, and bartenders.
Weather in New Orleans ranges from hot and humid during the summer to cold and humid in the winter. Summer afternoons nearly always bring rain, but snow in winter is incredibly rare.
New Orleans really has something for everyone, as cliche as that sounds. If you like food, this is a great destination. If you enjoy history, this is a great destination. If you love music, thrive in the outdoors, or delight in people watching, this is a great destination.
I hope you enjoy your New Orleans adventure!
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