New Orleans is a fascinating U.S. city to visit, rich in culture and history that you can't necessarily find just anywhere. With that, of course, comes flocks of tourists each year, especially for the infamous Mardi Gras celebration in the spring. And as a result of the persistent tourist activity, you've undoubtedly heard all about the main attractions and happenings around town, and specifically, on or near Bourbon Street - which, to be clear, you should visit at least once. But there are still a lot of other things to do that are more "off the beaten path," so to speak, and more likely to be frequented by locals rather than tourists.
With that in mind, we've put together a few suggestions to follow up on past looks at bus tours and other popular attractions, this time with more of a focus on activities for locals.
Explore The Bywater Neighborhood
Bywater is a truly unique neighborhood outside of the city center, filled with street art and displaying strong Bohemian influence. One reason this neighborhood is so special is that its 19th-century history is still intact, which is something we can say about fewer and fewer neighborhoods even in this old, beloved city. Bywater was one of the few areas to withstand Hurricane Katrina several years back, which has led to its enduring preservation as a historic neighborhood. Filled with cute cafés, quaint local shops, and delightful restaurants, it's certainly a place you'll want on your list if you're looking for an authentic experience.
Head To The "Local's Bourbon Street"
While Bourbon street is now practically designed for visitors, there also exists a lesser-known local equivalent: Frenchmen Street. Bourbon Street is where all the out-of-town partygoers head for a long night out, but if you want to avoid massive crowds while enjoying some similar attractions, this is a fantastic option, with its own restaurants, shops, clubs, and music venues. One of our favorite spots here is The Spotted Cat Music Club.
Take Advantage Of Legal Casinos
Many people don't realize that only 18 of the 50 states in the U.S. allow for commercial casinos, and Louisiana is one of them. It may actually be that people are increasingly unaware of physical casino laws due to the relative accessibility of overseas online gambling platforms. While such platforms can't be enjoyed legally everywhere, they do seem to extend into the U.S. more than we might expect, diverting some attention away from land-based casinos. Convenience aside though, there is still a lot of charm to physical casino venues, where free cocktails, live music, and twinkling lights abound, and where you can still feel a deck of cards or a stack of chips in your hands. For this reason, some of the local casinos in New Orleans can also be very fun places to check out during your trip.
Go For A Peaceful Stroll Through City Park
One of the best ways to escape tourist traps is to escape the city altogether, and luckily this is possible in New Orleans's City Park. Although technically located within the city limits, the park truly feels like an oasis from everything else going on in the city. At 1,300 acres in size, it offers a seemingly infinite amount of green space to explore, such that you can stay there as long as you like. Some who prefer to make an afternoon out of a visit there will visit a local shop or farmer's market first and pack some snacks for a peaceful, relaxing picnic.
Listen To Authentic Jazz At Bars Frequented By Locals
New Orleans is known for its jazz music, so even though going to a show can be called somewhat "touristy," it's also something you simply cannot skip. The trick for having a more authentic (and honestly just better) jazz experience is to find the spots known primarily to locals. Once favorite option among people who truly know the city is Three Muses - a Frenchman Street venue that should be near the top of your list. Vaughan's Lounge in Bywater is another terrific option more traditionally frequented by locals.
All things considered, approaching New Orleans in a typical tourist fashion is not a bad thing. There are a lot of mainstream attractions and areas to enjoy, and we'd never steer you away from them. But with these local hot spots you can enjoy a more dynamic and authentic experience in one of America's most interesting cities.
Make Those Memories Last
It’s important to make sure you make the memories you make in New Orleans last forever. Souvenirs are a must, of course, small keepsakes can bring back wonderful memories even after years have passed. Take as many photos as you can. You want to be able to fill those photo albums full of high-quality prints so that you can look back on them and show them to others. Sure, you’ll have photos on Facebook and social media in general, but there’s something special about being able to pick up a physical photo album and look through it whenever you feel like reliving the New Orleans magic. Nothing makes memories last long like being able to look through an album.