Top 10 Things To Do In New Orleans

Travel guide for planning a vacation or trip to New Orleans, including top tourist attractions and things to do.

"The Big Easy" beckons but, alas! Your time is limited. The following 10 must-see's will whet your appetite to return.

BOURBON STREET

"Laissez les bons temps rouler" (let the good times roll) is the motto of the French Quarter and you could never find a more happenin' party town anywhere on the planet. Even when it's not Mardi Gras, the bars, restaurants, strip clubs, and streets themselves are crowded with revelers and tourists. With a happy hour that literally runs 24/7, the only problem is finding a quiet hotel in which to sleep! Author recommendations: Hotel St. Marie (a half block from the hubbub), Lafitte's Guest House, and the French Market Inn, which goes back to the days when Louisiana still belonged to the French. And don't worry if you forgot to pack your inhibitions on this trip. The locals will advise that you'll get along just fine without them.

JACKSON SQUARE

Upon arrival, you'll see a line-up of decorated carriages and equally festooned donkeys waiting to whisk you off on a narrated tour of the French Quarter. The drivers, ribald and chatty, are as proud of the accomplishments of famous Louisianans such as Truman Capote, Dorothy Lamour, Louis Armstrong, Lillian Hellman and Jerry Lee Lewis as they are captivated by the dubious exploits of Huey Long, Jimmy Swaggart and David Duke. They're also quick to tell you that no less than Napoleon Bonaparte was once offered asylum in New Orleans, prompting one to wonder how history might have changed if he had ever taken the city up on its generous offer of free room and board for the rest of his exile. One of New Orleans' many nicknames, "The Paris of the Americas," reflects the city's strong kinship with its flirty French cousin. Jackson Square is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the early 1700's and the era of pirates.

THE GARDEN DISTRICT

Hop a St. Charles trolley car to the Garden District and take a step back in time for only $5. Antebellum mansions are de rigueur here, as are beautifully cultivated flower beds that recall an earlier era. (Interestingly, even the poorest homes in New Orleans are not without festive window boxes and fountains.) Although many of the mansions in the Garden District are closed to the public, their colorful stories and architectural history have been well documented in the walking tour guidebooks available through your concierge and the local office of tourism. Be sure not to miss a peek at 1239 First Street, home of Anne Rice, the author of the Vampire Lestat and Mayfair Witches novels.

ROYAL/MAGAZINE STREETS

If art galleries, estate jewelry and fine antiques are your idea of a perfect shopper's paradise, you've come to the right spot. The only challenge is in figuring out how you're going to get all of this fabulous stuff in the overhead rack on the plane trip home.

MADAM LAMOOSE & HER PSYCHIC POWERS

You won't have to travel far to find a fortune teller in the French Quarter, especially when you consider how many people make their living here through Tarot, crystal gazing, throwing bones, analyzing auras and reading palms. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a detour into the world of the occult. Plan to part with at least $20 for a full reading, a little more, of course, if it's determined that someone has put a curse on you that needs to be lifted. Fortune tellers can be found in the backrooms of many French Quarter shops that feature Mardi Gras paraphernalia as well as out in the open at the park at Jackson Square. Speaking of spooky stuff, here's something else you might not know: New Orleans cemeteries are all above ground, owing to the city's proximity to sea level.



PRESERVATION HALL

It's standing room only and rather Spartan but well worth the visit if you want to see one of the places where jazz had its roots. Don't worry if you can't get in, though; the music is loud enough every night that a lot of it will spill into the streets and keep you entertained. Located at 726 St. Peter Street, this popular family-oriented establishment is open from 8 until midnight and has no minimum age requirement.

THE HISTORIC VOODOO MUSEUM

There are over 20,000 practitioners of the black arts in the French Quarter. See how they work their magic in a museum dedicated to voodoo dolls, juju bags, love potions and magical powders. Located on Rue Domaine between Bourbon and Royal Streets, this is believed to be the only museum in the world which is dedicated exclusively to the practice of voodoo.

ESPLANADE AVENUE

Italianate and Greek Revival mansions are right around the corner from cheesy storefronts selling overpowering perfumes and neon dildos. This dividing line lane between Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter is an intriguing place to people watch as well as to pick up an occasional bargain in antiques. You can also see the house where painter Edgar Degas did a bit of painting while visiting some of his relatives. Looking for a charming bed and breakfast inn? Esplanade Avenue is highly recommended as the first place you should look; many of them not only cater to families but also welcome family pets.

CAFÉ DU MONDE

One of the things that New Orleans is famous for are the square, powdered sugar doughnuts called "beignets". This café precursor to Starbucks dates back to the 1860's and is the perfect spot for an evening cup of chicory coffee and relaxing after a day of sightseeing. Just one cautionary note: don't wear black. Beignets are melt-in-your-mouth delicious but messy and have a way of leaving their evidence all over one's clothing.

COURT OF THE TWO SISTERS

A longstanding N'awlins institution, this restaurant is as famous for its leisurely Sunday champagne brunches as it is for the caliber of Dixieland, blues, and jazz musical talent it rotates through its main dining room and outdoor courtyard during the course of one meal. Don't plan to get out in less than three hours. Afterwards, schedule a nap. You will definitely need it.

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