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It’s hard to think of another city that exudes magic in quite the way that New Orleans does. From myriad architectural styles to various culinary influences, everything it has to offer comes together to create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. If you want to soak up as much ambience as you possibly can in the Big Easy, you’ll have to do a little planning. Here are 10 great ways to design a vacation to NOLA that will guarantee an enchanting trip.
Find the right place to stay
Booking a room that fits your needs will have a significant impact on your trip’s success. Luckily, New Orleans is pretty ideal when it comes to magical hotel choices—whatever kind of magic that might be. There’s the elevated Old-World style of the Pontchartrain Hotel and Hotel Peter and Paul; the modern whimsy of the Cambria Hotel and Old No. 77 Chandlery hotels; and the general romantic (and haunted) charms of Le Pavillion Hotel, to name just a few.
Fall for the food
It’s no secret that local cuisine plays a direct factor in truly experiencing the atmosphere of a city. This is especially true in NOLA. Thanks to its antique port and rich history, the town has an almost overwhelming amount of must-try foods like étouffée (shellfish over rice). Everyone knows to start with a trip to Cafe du Monde for its famous beignets, but we also suggest making stops at places like Domilise’s for a Fried Shrimp Po-Boy, Mother’s for some jambalaya, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines for a praline beignet, and Central Grocery & Deli for a Muffuletta sandwich. Pro tip: Pair that sandwich with an Abita beer from the liquor store a few doors down. Feeling overwhelmed? Opt for a food tour, which can offer a great sampling of the legendary eats to be had around town.
For those hoping to inject some actual magic in their magical trip, New Orleans is a spectacular place to peek into the arcane and metaphysical arts. From tarot readings to authentic voodoo shops, one could very easily burn a lengthy afternoon with a mini witchery tour and never have to venture too far from the French Quarter. Whether you’re a believer or just a little curious, to ignore this part of Louisiana’s culture and history would definitely be doing yourself a disservice, especially if it’s something legit mystical you’re craving.
Check out a festival
Anyone remotely familiar with the city knows parades are a common occurrence; you might even get pulled into one happening for something as trivial as someone’s birthday. It should come as no surprise that festivals are nothing to scoff at either. Beyond the much heralded Mardi Gras and Jazz fests, you’ll find the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in October, the French Quarter Festival in April, Satchmo Summer Fest in August, and many more.
Get jazzy and bluesy
The music scene in New Orleans is vast. While the Crescent City is literally where jazz was born, it would be impossible to nail down any one musical genre that gives this town the captivating vibes it has. There are many ways to take in all of the blues and jazz to be found here, but our hands-down favorite is bar hopping the live music venues along Frenchman Street. You never know exactly what you’ll find other than that it’s going to be a wholly mesmerizing and enthralling night out. Of course, that’s not to leave out all of the museums, festivals, concerts and spectacular events devoted to jazz and blues.
Support local artists and artisans
It’ll only take about half a day before a tourist here will be dying to figure out a way to take some of that dreamy N’awlins feeling home with them. A potion or charm from a witchcraft shop is a fun place to start, but the amount of local artisans makes it very easy for anyone trying to step up their souvenir game. A visit to the Palace Market on Frenchmen Street is the perfect place to begin getting an idea of the wares they have available. Everything from unique works of art and handcrafted instruments to interesting textiles and body products can be found. Once you’ve finished here, waiting around every corner are tons of local shops covering nearly every interest imaginable.
Travel by streetcar
Wanna talk about a sentimental way to get around, how does getting to your destination by streetcar sound to you? Though I won’t speak to how long it takes the average local to lose their appreciation for the whimsy of traveling by trolley, I can’t really think of anything that gives me the vibes that seeing one trek down St. Charles Avenue does. While the line won’t necessarily take you right to the doorstep of where you might be going, it can be used as the primary line to at least get to almost any area—not too shabby when you consider you’re getting some fun out of the trip as well.
Set aside a night for the ghosts
As New Orleans can boast a spot on basically every list of the most haunted cities in America, dedicating an evening to their past citizens just makes sense. If it’s your first time visiting the city, we recommend starting with one of the famous walking tours. Although it’s not quite something we would aspire to do on every visit, it definitely feels like a rite of passage (for tourists, anyway). As for which ones to take, there’s a surprising amount of variety. There are cemetery tours, haunted pub crawls, neighborhood tours and even ones via Segway or limo, to name a few.
Take an afternoon to appreciate the swamp
New Orleans is a city in a swamp and the bayou is definitely worth exploring. Individuals who enjoy a little more of an adrenaline rush will definitely want to opt for a boat ride through the bayou, stopping to check out and, at times, even feed the local wildlife (yes, we mean the gators). Those who enjoy taking in nature in a more low-key way should make their way to the enigmatic Barataria Preserve Trails, about 17 miles from downtown. Here, you can enjoy walking paths and hiking trails ranging from a quarter-mile to a full 1.8-mile loop. Depending on the path chosen, onlookers can stroll wooden walkways mere feet above the water, read informational plaques featuring the history and nature of the area, spot seasonal wildflowers, and enjoy a panoramic outlook over the marsh.
Don’t miss anything!
To suggest that this list gets close to covering everything there is to do in this amazing city would be pretty unjust. Before you really lock in the plans for your trip, we highly recommend doing a little research like looking into what’s included with the New Orleans Sightseeing Flex Pass. Whether or not you choose to purchase the pass, it will at least make you aware of things you might not otherwise have seen, like the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen Historical Cruise, African & Afro Creole Tour and the Botanical Garden.
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