There is no introduction I could write that would prepare you for the splendor of the Big Easy. Whether dining on immaculately spice Cajun food, sipping on a hurricane, or purchasing your first voodoo doll (congratulations), NOLA is never boring, never apologetic, and always a good time. Bourbon Street and Cafe du Monde will beackon to you like a siren to spend money, wait in long lines, and smell the urine of a thousand frat bros–but do not heed the call. There are plenty of cheaper things to do if you’re willing to let go of your inhibitions.
Get your tarot read
There are plenty of people lined up in Jackson Square prepared to offer spiritual advice, read your palm, or shake some crystals at you. It’s best to avoid these transplants from Venice beach. If you are looking for a glimpse into your psyche, there is a little shop tucked between the bars and strip clubs of Bourbon Street called Yesteryear’s. For 20 bucks you can have your tarot or palm read by some pretty colorful characters. The shop has been around for almost 40 years, and while the readers may look young, they are eccentric enough to realistically channel the spirits. Even the greatest skeptic might leave the shop scratching their head.
Dance with a jazz band
Whether you’ve had a few or you completely sober, New Orleans doesn’t care! There are dozens of street performers in Jackson Square that are just as talented, or more so, than the musicians playing in expensive bars. On any given sunny day you might find a jazz band, a blues musician, or a loner playing a sax. If you feel the rhythm don’t be shy, go ahead and dance. If you stripped naked and danced in front of a street band it would probably be the least weird thing to happen in the Rrench Quarter that week. Plus it’s really fun.
Eat Good Seafood
I grew up eating crawfish and still dream of their buttery little bodies. For a great place to try them (and learn how to shuck them) hit up Acme Oyster House. They don’t accept reservations and the line starts as soon as they open but for comprehensive seafood (albeit expensive) it is a French Quarter staple. If crawfish isn’t your style, their fried softy hell crab is insanely tender and the charbroiled oysters are fantastic–even for people who don’t like oysters.
Get off Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street, for the most part, has gone the same way has Haite Ashbury, Hollywood, and Times Square–hokey, dirty, and overpriced. While there are some still some New Orleans staples located on this street, most of the cool, jazzy bars have been overrun by frat boys and scantily clad women. If this is what you’re looking for then by all means… But if you’re looking for something a little more authentic and intimate get off Bourbon Street. Less obnoxious places like Cafe Amelie offers a gorgeous picturesque courtyard and the Carousel Bar spins as you drink–so don’t drink too fast.
Visit a Pirate’s Favorite bar
Ask any visitor or native and they will tell you, the best place for day drinks is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built circa 1770, Lafitte’s was founded by the pirate himself and has become a New Orleans staple. It has some of the most delicious Bloody Mary’s in town and is a popular hangout for Vampires and (according to some) several ghosts.
St. Louis Cathedral looms over Jackson Square but it is not just for tourists to take pictures in from of–it is a functioning church. If 7:30 a.m. Mass isn’t your thing, there is a 5:30 candle vigil that will take your breath away. No matter if you’re Catholic, atheist, or shopping around, the Catholic Church is a HUGE part of New Orleans’ identity and understanding its traditions will give you insight into the entire culture. Not to mention, the cathedral is gorgeous.