With the breathtaking landscape and remarkable history, does New Orleans ever really need a tourism bureau?
People have come from around the world to party and parade about the Big Easy, with its French inspired buildings, cobblestoned streets and rowdy crowds. Last year, NoLa was home to the Superbowl, and had endless amounts of people pour in for Mardis Gras, on top of the traditional tourists in January.
With these numbers, nearly all parts of New Orleans has been discovered, and everyone about knows about the infamous adventures you can get into on Bourbon Street, and all are well aware of the various ways you can get your own set of beads for showing off your … well, beads.
So with all of the debauchery that happens in New Orleans, you have to be asking yourself, what’s the more bookish, introverted of the Wander crew doing in New Orleans? I found myself asking the same question, but I was determined to find something that was more up my alley in the loudest party town on this side of the Atlantic.
Always the history buff, I was determined to find some of the more historical aspects of the city, but without it costing me an arm and a leg. There are tons of tours in New Orleans — walking tours, carriage tours, and boat tours galore are waiting for you, if you can pay the price. Some of these tours can be pretty pricey, especially if they are some of the longer routes that go to more historical avenues. Since I didn’t have that kind of cash, I wanted to see what a simple tip would get me.
Funnily enough, it got me a lot, if I didn’t mind a tour by foot. Free Tours by Foot is a company that runs solely on a pay-what-you-want model, and takes you through all of the best parts of New Orleans. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the New Orleans ghost tour, the French Quarter tour, the St. Louis Cemetery tour, or the Garden District tour — they had a knowledgeable staff member ready and waiting to tend to your New Orleans free requests. My friends and I decided on the ghost tour, which was far more informative that spooky, which was perfect for me. The guide knew plenty about every stop we made, and even encouraged us to look up the deaths and murders online with our smart phones to check her facts.
After a while the trip did get tiring, even though we were moving at a slower pace. With that in mind, if walking isn’t your thing, New Orleans Free tours also offers free tours by bike, which requires you to BYOB (that’s bring your own bike, kids) for an easier, faster way to see the city. If you feel that the guide did a great job, pay him or her well. If not, walk away.
After the tour, we wanted to make sure to catch some of the local flavor and see some of the bands that make the Big Easy famous. However, we knew we wouldn’t get any of that on Bourbon Street, which was made solely for tourists looking for one particular thing. Once again, I asked around and found that the Frenchmen Street Corridor, which is a bit away from the hustle and bustle, provides the homey feeling you’re looking for. Known as the “Thinking Man’s Bourbon Street,” Frenchmen Street is where the artists and musicians come to be inspired, with ramshackle buildings housing New Orleans’ best jazz clubs, restaurants and funky little shops lining the walkways.
This doesn’t mean that the streets are quiet; as a matter of fact, the roads are just as rowdy and as hard to drive through as the main parts of town. If you’re looking for a good drink and some great jazz, stop in at either the Spotted Cat Music Club or Maison on Frenchmen Street. Each place is petite, but packs a wallop of fun and a good time. The music you will hear here is the same that’s been playing for decades, and will lure you into swaying your hips.
If you need some fresh air, or feel like buying one of a kind wares to take home from your trip, skip the souvenir shops and go to the Frenchmen Art Market instead. Located at 619 Frenchmen Street next to the Spotted Cat, the Frenchmen Art Market is open every Thursday through Saturday night from 7pm to 1am and Sundays from 6pm to midnight.
This is the place to pick up handmade headbands with intricate beadwork and feathers sewn in, or artwork that was etched on glass with chisels and acid. Maybe you’ll find leather suspenders that have beautiful designs that were branded a few hours earlier, or perhaps you’ll find a mustache necklace made out of stainless steel. Either way, since the market is held at night, it’s got an eerily beautiful quality that you would expect to find elsewhere, not just footsteps away from bars, jazz clubs and throngs of people partying in the street.
Of course, you’ll have plenty of experiences around NoLa, but you definitely don’t want to miss out on these experiences that would otherwise be tucked away in between the excitement and insanity that can only be found in New Orleans.
For more information on the Frenchmen Art Market, go to https://www.facebook.com/Frenchmenartmarket.