I went to New Orelans on business about 100 years ago. I made the obligatory trek to Bourbon Street and saw young women flashing their boobies in exchange for shiny plastic beads, watched an elaborate drag show, and rocked out to the acoustic version of “Baby Got Back.” Bourbon Street is good fun, but New Orleans is so much more, as I discovered on a return trip. Here are seven things to do in New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street.
Also? You really haven't lived your life until you've heard the acoustic version of Baby Got Back. Just trust me.
New Orleans Beyond Bourbon Street – Things to do in The Big Easy Besides Rue de Bourbon
My first trip to Bourbon Street fell into the “cross it off the bucket list” category. I’ve never had a desire for an encore. Unless you’re in the mood to party hearty, Bourbon Street is probably not your happy place.
1. Cemetery Tour
I went on a tour of St. Louis Cemetery Number Three, which is less popular and less crowded than Lafayette Cemetery Number One. Even though Lafayette is more popular, you’re not going to miss anything by opting for St. Louis instead…except maybe crowds.
2. Cable Car Through the Garden District
Two words: house envy.
If you like looking at fantastic old houses, a cable car ride through the Garden District is an awesome way to soak things in. Riding the cable car is super easy. You’ll need to find your way to the green line, and ride up and down St. Charles.
Riding the cable car through the Garden District is a great way to relax, get off your feet, and get a sense of this beautiful city. It doesn't have that “beads and boobs” vibe that Bourbon Street does – at all.
3. I ain't afraid of no ghost
Actually, I kind of am, but I asked the concierge at the hotel I was staying at for recommendations for evening activities. His answer was, “Take the ghost tour.” I took his advice and I’m happy I did.
There are endless opportunities for ghost tours in New Orleans. You can ask for recommendations at your hotel concierge, Google it or just wander around in the French Quarter. You don’t have to find the ghost tours…the ghost tours will find you!
I took a group walking tour that gave highlights of “the most haunted places in the French Quarter.” It was fun and informative…a little bit cheesy TBH. I learned lots of non-ghostly factoids about New Orleans.
No two ways about it: there is a creepy vibe to New Orleans. Old buildings, above-ground cemeteries, voodoo culture? Yes. If you’re even just a little brave, have fun and explore the city via a ghost tour.
4. Have a drink on the street just because
I arrived early for my ghost tour. I’m an “arrive early” kind of girl, especially when I don’t know where I am going. I checked in and the tour operator suggested I go next door and get a drink. I’m not a girl you have to tell twice to get a drink. Huzzah!
5. Visit historic Jackson Square
Jackson Square is the heart of New Orleans. You can’t miss the iconic St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use within the United States.
The adjacent Ursuline Convent Museum offers an opportunity for more info and self-guided tours for a small fee.
If you wander through Jackson Square, you will find street art, musicians and endless opportunities to people watch. This was my very favorite part of my trip. I sat in the sun and listened to some wonderful jazz. I might or might not have had one of my adult slushies in my hand.
6. Eat beignets
Because if you didn't, were you really even in New Orleans? Cafe Du Monde seems to be the bucket list place for most people. The original location in the French Quarter has been around since 1862. They're open 24/7 so, if the urge comes upon you after a night of revelry, beingets and coffee at whatever time you choose.
I was not a fan. The experience was fun but the beignets were a little overdone and there was too much powdered sugar. Yes, it is possible to have too much powdered sugar.
The atmosphere at Cafe du Monde was fun and lively and it's a New Orleans bucket list item you shouldn't miss. But the actual Beignets were meh. If you want better, fresher beignets, go to Morning Call in New Orleans City Park.
Important to note that both Café Du Monde and Morning Call only accept cash. If you want to eat beignets, bring your folding money.
7. Eat all the food because YOLO
New Orleans has some amazing food and I wish I’d had days more to experience all the delicious tastes this city has to offer. I walked a lot and saw a lot of restaurants that looked delightfully quirky. I researched a lot online and got recommendations from the locals (always a good idea) on where to eat.
I opted to eat lunch at the iconic Muriel’s Restaurant. I couldn’t resist the atmosphere and the history (ask to see the ghost table) and the food absolutely did not disappoint.
Eating at Muriel’s was my big splurge and although I have a list of other New Orleans restaurants I want to try, I’d definitely do a repeat meal at Muriel’s. For more info on the story behind the Ghost Table, check this out.
You might think “Bourbon Street” when someone mentions New Orleans. To be sure, the Rue de Bourbon is classic “Big Easy” but this gem of a city has much more to discover. I can’t wait to go back and discover the family friendly NOLA things with my kids.
I think planning a trip back is a true sign of a wonderful trip…don't you agree?