Visiting New Orleans was the highlight of my summer and I didn’t even get to do or see everything the Big Easy has to offer. We knew that having only 2 1/2 days would limit us so we packed as much in as possible while still keeping the trip enjoyable.
Below are some of our favorite New Orleans experiences and the things I recommend you do at least once while you’re in New Orleans.
The first thing we did after unloading our carry on bags (the airport lost our luggage, which we got on the second night) was walk to Bourbon St. We stayed in the Marigny -/Bywater area so the French Quarter was only a few blocks away.
Since it was my birthday I had a dollar pinned to my shirt and nearly everyone we passed wished me a happy birthday. It was very exciting, especially when they started throwing beads!
We ate, we listened to great jazz music and we breathed in the deep smell of – well, the smell wasn’t the highlight of Bourbon St.
Many locals swear by Frenchmen Street as the best place to hear the best jazz music and have the most fun without the crazy atmosphere of Bourbon Street. We did hear jazz music; great jazz music; but there is so much more.
Jazz. Reggae. Blues. There’s no telling what you’ll hear within the 2 blocks that make up Frenchmen Street but it will wow you. There is music on the street and music in any of the 12 jazz clubs found on Frenchmen Street.
The drinks are cheaper, there are no neon lights and the atmosphere is much more laid back than Bourbon Street.
Cafe Du Monde
Can you go to New Orleans and not visit the world famous Cafe Du Monde? I’m sure you could but why would you?! The Cafe Du Monde in the Riverwalk Marketplace is my personal favorite locale.
There’s AC, places to sit and no wrapped around the corner lines to get a bag of beignets or coffee. You cannot, under any circumstance leave New Orleans without at least trying the beignets.
The good thing about stopping in at this Cafe Du Monde is you can do some shopping on the cheap while you’re there!
If you could only go to one zoo in your life time it should be this one. The architecture and scenery alone are breathtakingly stunning.
The Audubon Zoo is filled with diverse cultures of animals and plenty of gift shops and eateries to please you along the way.
If you’ve ever found yourself craving gourmet bugs then this is the place to get them. Make sure you stop in to Bug Appétit for the Cajun spiced crickets or chocolate “chirp” cookies. I couldn’t do it myself, but I’m sure there are some brave souls out there!
You’ll also get to see beautiful butterflies amongst other beautiful and interesting insects at the Audubon Insectarium.
Make sure you read about my trip to the Audubon Insectarium.
Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
If you can’t be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras World is the next best thing I am sure.
Filled with past, present and future Mardi Gras floats that you can get up close and personal with, Mardi Gras World is truly where the magic happens.
Whether you hop on the Canal, Riverfront or St. Charles Avenue streetcar you’re in for a treat. Ride through and see the gorgeous homes and buildings. Each ride is $1.25 (must have exact change) or you can get an all day RTA pass for $3.00.
I think the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (the green one) was my favorite.
Remember, a trolley is a wheel attached to a pole, used for collecting current from an overhead electric wire to drive a streetcar or trolley bus. Sitting on that wouldn’t be comfortable (wink, wink.)
Visit the CVB
The New Orleans CVB isn’t just a place to grab a map and go. They have lots of historic memorabilia inside as well as an introductory video of New Orleans.
Stopping by the CVB gives you an instant glimpse into the New Orleans of yesteryear as well as information on some of the famous figures who come from the Crescent City. You can also get your Hop On, Hop Off passes here!
There are more than just fish in the Audubon Aquarium including hawks and owls! I would have never known this building fell victim to Hurricane Katrina.
I just love Stingray’s and couldn’t resist sharing this photo since he was smiling for the camera.
There are, of course, tons of fish in the Aquarium. Fish from all around the world!
They even have a large Jellyfish display with information on these magnificent creatures. I think they are incredibly beautiful even though the sting like the dickens if you get too close.
I couldn’t imagine being this close to a shark without that glass in between us, could you?! They are fascinating creatures but still scary. Just look at those teeth!!
Then you have cuties like this big sea turtle. It kind of reminds me of Finding Nemo, what do you think?
The Audubon Aquarium has an abundance of aquatic creatures, including starfish.
… and Seahorsies!
And then you have my favorite creatures – the African Penguins! I was sad that the inside of the glass was so foggy. I couldn’t get really good shots so you should go see them in person (wink, wink). Totally worth it.
Especially if you happen to be there around feeding time (10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.). You can even get backstage Penguin Passes to be up close and personal with these little cuties.
There is a huge catfish that swims up to the glass if you sit down. Total photo opp you wont want to miss. Sadly we couldn’t get the camera to focus and we were running out of time – the Aquarium closes at 5 p.m. It is open 7 days a week though, so that’s a huge bonus.
I just had to circle back around to find more stingray’s. I don’t know what it is about them but I am fascinated.
I even got to touch some!!! They feel like wet leather, but so soft and squishy. Don’t worry though – stingray’s don’t have teeth and these guys have their barbs trimmed so they aren’t stinging anyone.
There are lots of neat displays all around the Aquarium. I really liked this diver’s suit. Speaking of diving, did you know you can go snorkeling or scuba diving at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas?!
Yup – you can get up close and personal with the creatures of the Great Maya Reef with the Maya Dive Experience.
The Aquarium has so many interactive exhibits and educational tools all around. It’s definitely a wonderful place to bring the entire family. When you’re hungry there’s plenty of options to choose from including Papa Johns, Haagen Dazs and the Aqua Grill.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is a must see for anyone visiting New Orleans!
I am a zoo fanatic; whenever I visit a new city I try to make it a point to visit their zoo as well. I received passes to visit the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans and, just, WOW! I was blown away by the Audubon Zoo and its gorgeous architecture peppering the paths to the exhibits.
The first animals we saw were the flamingos which were stunning but a little smelly. I just loved how vibrant they were!
There are covered strollers readily available for those with young kids in tow. They even have cubbies that are perfect for holding your water bottles – staying hydrated is important.
I got a good laugh at the Sun Bear laying on his back with his leg in the air. He’s such a cutie!
The white tiger was sprawled out too. It was a super hot and humid day.
Definitely a great day to enjoy the water park located right in the Audubon Zoo!!!
There is also a carousal featuring oil paintings of the zoo animals and 60 menagerie animals!
The jaguars were stunning but obviously hot.
Making eye contact with this gal gave me goosebumps. Jaguars are truly beautiful creatures.
I’ve never seen a dancing bird in person, but I was told this Scarlet Macaw really can boogie!
The Louisiana Swamp Exhibit gives an inside look at world that is the Louisiana Swamp. There are gator feedings, up-close encounters and even a floating house!
There is a very comfortable sitting area that allows you to observe the giraffes as they eat and frolic. This was Tess’s absolute favorite exhibit at the zoo!
The Sea Lions were my favorite! They were so active and after about an hour of walking around I was ready to join them in their pool. They have daily training sessions that visitors can sit in on, but sadly we missed this.
Oh! There is an adorable train that takes you on a scenic tour of the zoo (for an additional fee.) It makes stops at the Carousal and the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit and departs every half hour. Tickets are $5 for non-members and $4 for members. This gives you an all access pass to the train and the narrated tour.
There are tons of places to grab drinks and food within the Audubon Zoo. We got lunch at the Cypress Knee Cafe – Jambalaya & Gumbo, yum.
There are carts located all around the zoo selling drinks, snacks and banana pops!!! The gift shop is also a great place to stop for fun souvenirs. They have tons of great items like apparel, stuffed animals and the cute Voodoo string dolls found around New Orleans. When you check out you’re given the option of donating to help feed the animals.
When you are done at the zoo there is even a free shuttle that will take you to St. Charles Ave. where you can catch the street car.
Have you been to the Audubon Zoo?
Between the beautiful and diverse array of animals, the stunning statues and decor as well as the plant life the Audubon Zoo is my all time favorite zoo to date. It’s worth the trip to New Orleans just to check it out!
I have always had an interest in the religions of the world. The history behind many world religions, as well as their devout followings are very intriguing to me. This fascination is a key factor in why I chose New Orleans as my most recent travel adventure. I was curious and excited to find out what locals thought and believed of this ancient religion. What I learned amazed me.
The tomb of Marie Laveau littered with offerings asking for her aide and infamous “X”‘s marked on the tomb by visitors.
One of the first things I learned is that many locals don’t want to talk about Voodoo; at least not with outsiders. Most of the random locals I spoke with gave the impression they were either scared of the religion or had no interest at all. There were a few exceptions.
The first person who spoke openly about Voodoo with me was actually very knowledgeable. Out of respect I wont share names or any personal details, but they did tell me a story I’d love to share.
Voodoo in New Orleans
As a French Quarter guide, my source traveled a set path for their tours. Along the path they came to notice a recurring scene; a veve drawn in cornmeal in front of a local school. Each night they noticed the same veve and began to point it out on the tour, “Look, this is a real Voodoo ritual!”
One night as they were walking by the school they noticed something different. An elderly woman was lighting candles surrounding the same symbol. They watched from afar while the ritual was being performed. At the end they walked by, careful not to disturb the elderly woman.
As they greeted the woman they were met with kind eyes as she volunteered her story. Her granddaughter went to that school and was having problems with a bully. The woman was performing a ritual to invoke the Voodoo deity, Erzulie Mansur – protector of women and children.
This went on for a few weeks until it just stopped. The elderly woman was not seen again, nor was the veve etched in cornmeal.
After hearing the story I was given a sort of history lesson on Voodoo. From what I took away everything I had previously believed was based on false knowledge. Did you know Voodoo God’s are actually the equivalent of Catholic Saints?
Papa Legba is the counterpart of St. Peter as they both are guardians of the gate.
Aida Wedo is the counterpart of the Virgin Mary.
Ghédé, the counterpart of St. Expedité and Ogun is St. Jude. The list goes on for each deity and each saint!
These dolls can be found in virtually every shop in New Orleans. There are several different dolls available.
The practice of Voodoo in New Orleans isn’t about violence and murder as much as it is about love and protection. Mainstream media and shows like American Horror Story: Coven have led many to fear the Voodoo religion before they really understand it.
I was informed that there are certain practitioners that welcome visitors to observe their rituals; some even invite onlookers to participate. While I didn’t have the chance to observe on this trip I am excited to do so on the next.
Tell me: What is your opinion of Voodoo and how did that come to be?
Novelty Voodoo shops can be found all around New Orleans