We drove into New Orleans after a long day on the road from Lynchburg, Tennessee. For the next few days we explored the city taking in a few different neighbourhoods.
Here’s our guide on how to spend a day in the French Quarter. Just one of the neighbourhoods you should explore when visiting New Orleans.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is where you will find the wrought iron balconies and narrow streets. The architecture that pretty much everyone visiting New Orleans expects to see. It’s also where you will find Bourbon Street. Although there’s much more to see, even at night, than the famous party street.
What better way to start your day in the French Quarter of New Orleans than eating beignets and listening to live jazz? For breakfast, head straight for Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and you will not be disappointed. A jazz band plays a short set regularly to entertain the Cafe’s guests. We hadn’t had Beignets before this, a fried plain dough, similar to a doughnut. They’re served covered with powdered sugar with 3 beignets per portion. Although the dough isn’t sweetened the powdered sugar certainly makes up for it, one portion was enough to share between us.
Exploring the French Quarter
Spend some time wandering around the French Quarter, and don’t forget to look up to see the wrought iron balconies. The streets are narrow throughout the French Quarter but cars do pass through so beware of your surroundings.
Top Tip: this area is very popular with tourists, it’s also popular with scams. One popular con is someone telling you they know where you got your shoes. Do yourself a favour and carry on walking – they want money for telling you you’ve got your shoes on your feet on whatever street you happen to be on at the time, in New Orleans…
Head to Jackson Square where you will see the front of St Louis Cathedral. This is a popular photo op in the city and rightly so, it’s a fantastic building. You will also find horse and carriage rides are available from here if you want to see more of the French Quarter without needing to walk in the heat. Scattered around Jackson Square you will also find local artists and musicians, it has a very laid back atmosphere, as does the whole city. You can walk down to the river front through Jackson Square and take in the views of the Mighty Mississippi.
The Steamboat Natchez
To experience more of the Mississippi the last operational steamboat on the river, The Steamboat Natchez, offers tours starting from the French Quarter a short walk from Jackson Square. You will need to book in advance to guarantee a ticket for the boat. You can buy these when you arrive in New Orleans. In quieter months you might be able to buy tickets for a sailing later that day. We had tickets for a jazz cruise on the Natchez. You can add lunch or dinner to your ticket, but with so many places to eat in the city we chose not to. There is a full bar on board so you can have a drink as you sail on the river. The tour takes approximately 2 hours.
If you’re hungry after exploring we’d recommend Napoleon House on Chartres Street for a meal or even just drinks. You will find many local favourites on their menu including Jambalaya, Muffuletta and Gumbo. They have a great bar menu too, the Planters Punch hits the spot when the humidity is high outside. For a price indication of a sit in lunch in the French Quarter our two meals for lunch plus an alcoholic drink each at Napoleon House cost $50 including tip.
For a bit of shopping head down Decatur Street until you see the huge statue of Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans, on her horse. Just behind her you will find the French Market with loads of stalls selling everything from souvenirs to clothing to fresh produce.
Ghost Tour with Bloody Mary
No one needs told how to party in New Orleans so I won’t tell you, however if you’re looking for something a bit different for at least part of the night I can’t recommend doing a ghost tour enough. We went on an evening tour with Bloody Mary and we were fortunate that she was doing the tour herself that evening – she doesn’t always. We have seen Bloody Mary on Ghost Adventures a couple of times and it increased our expectations of this tour.
Bloody Mary owns the Haunted Museum on N Rampart Street, which is well worth a visit of it’s own. The tour starts from there and includes a ghost hunt above the museum itself. We went off in the dark with our dowsing rods and voice recorders, and most of the 8 people on our tour had similar experiences in there.
The tour moves on from the museum using a van driven by your guide. We were taken to Charity Cemetery where a memorial of Katrina is located. Lake Lawn Park Cemetery, where we had the added benefit of an electrical storm to add to the atmosphere. Our group even got to do an EVP session in Mary’s house. We had seen this on Ghost Adventures – this isn’t usually part of the tour.
We were shown Madam Lalaurie’s house, which was used on American Haunting, and also the house from An Interview with a Vampire which was also used in 12 Years a Slave. Bloody Mary was an excellent guide and her knowledge of the cities history is excellent.
The tour ended at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop bar where I got to try my first hurricane in New Orleans. A hurricane is a long drink which you can get in a handy to go cup to enjoy walking back down Bourbon Street – a very different experience once the sun goes down, but not to be missed while visiting the French Quarter.