Traveling Mom Jill went to New Orleans on business years ago. She made the obligatory trek to Bourbon Street and saw young women flashing passersby 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 Jill discovered on a return trip. She shares seven things to do in New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street.
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.
I went to New Orleans last month on business and happily discovered the New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street. If you’d like to experience it, too, here are some ideas to help you plan your trip. These seven things to do in New Orleans beyond Bourbon Street are more family-friendly than the risqué Bourbon Street nightlife. I’ve come away with a much deeper appreciation of the Big Easy and I can’t wait to go back.
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.
There are seven public cemeteries in St. Louis and they are free to the public (check hours before you go). I strongly recommend you go with an experienced guide. Learning the hows and whys of above-ground burial was what made the experience so memorable. That, and the gray, drizzly day that made my pictures turn out so perfectly!
2. Cable Car Through the Garden District
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.
3. Ghost Tour
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, and 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!
I ordered a large strawberry daiquiri which came in a cup that was roughly the size of my head.
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5. 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…
Most people have beignets at Café Du Monde on their New Orleans bucket list. The original location, established in 1862, is located in the heart of the French Quarter. They serve up beignets and coffee 24/7.
I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed with the beignets at Café Du Monde. The atmosphere was lively and fun, and I don’t regret the experience. However, 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. Treat yoself
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.
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. Isn’t that always the sign of a wonderful trip?