Exuding old-world charm with an antiquated uniqueness, New Orleans is a city that ranks among the best in the United States for architectural richness, exquisite cuisine and jazz music. Marvel at the Big Easy’s best attractions, from the sights, tastes and sounds around the city. From food establishments to sightseeing ferries, here are 12 of the most beautiful places and interesting sights among the Crescent City.
The reputation precedes Café Du Monde, the famous open aired coffee and beignet spot in the French Quarter or NOLA. It might be one of the busiest tourist attractions in the city, and for a good reason. Serving consistently delicious, piping hot and well sugared products, Café Du Monde remains a genuine experience. Be patient and prepared to stand in line for a seat at this outdoor café. A trip to New Orleans is not complete without tasting its beignets.
The St. Louis Cathedral is the centerpiece of the French Quarter and one of New Orleans’ most recognizable landmarks. Built as a Catholic Parish along the banks of the Mississippi River in 1720, the cathedral is the oldest in North America. Daily self guided tours can be taken and the building is open to the public. Cultural events, religious sermons and concerts are also held at the St. Louis Cathedral as well.
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the heart and soul of New Orleans. This National Historic Landmark is the site of the original New Orleans colony established by the French in 1718. The streets, still listed in French as ‘The Quarter’ hold onto heritage. Cobblestones meander through sights such as the Faulkner House, Jackson Square and the Cabildo. Meanwhile the architecture that surrounds consists of baroque ironwork balconies, courtyards with lush vegetation and fountains. Bourbon Street is also in the French Quarter with its rowdy bars, street performers and the yearly Mardi Gras locale.
Music is infused in New Orleans culture. It’s starts in the schools and rests on the neighborhood stoops. Second line parades and brass bands often parade through the streets for weddings and funerals. And of course, Mardi Gras showcases the biggest musical parade in the spring. For nighttime jazz all year round head to the Maple Leaf Bar, the oldest operating bar in NOLA outside the French Quarter. Maple Leaf offers live music every night and the residents, Rebirth Brass Band, raise the roof every Tuesday.
The Warehouse District is a centrally located arts district, which usually gets surpassed by the better known and historical and heavily trafficked neighborhoods. Within its boundaries are the Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the National World War II Museum, the Louisiana Children’s Museum and other numerous galleries and art spaces that can take a few days to explore.
The Audubon Zoo is not just the title of a Meters song. It is actually a not for profit zoo located in proximity to an aquarium, insectarium, and park with nature conservation programs. There have been animals on this site since the 1884 World Exposition in Audubon Park. Today, the Audubon Zoo has 58 acres of animals in their natural habitats. It consistently ranks among the country’s best, so it’s definitely a must-see while in New Orleans. A special feature of the Audubon Zoo is the stroll through a real swamp right in the middle of uptown New Orleans.
A great way to see the French Quarter and Garden District at night is with a Haunted History Tour. Recommended by the Travel Channel as the number one tour in New Orleans, a city riddled with ghost, voodoo, zombie and vampire lore. Unraveling the ghastly occurrences that took place years ago, while alluding to the actual history and circumstances of the time, the tour guide will lead the intimate crowd though a wave of emotions.
If you’re interested in residential architecture, take a walking tour of the Garden District to better view some of The Crescent City’s most beautiful homes. The historical neighborhood is laced with trees, greenery and vibrant gardens. From St. Charles Avenue to Magazine Street and Jackson Avenue to Louisiana Avenue, the Garden District is easily accessible by the St. Charles Streetcar, another fun activity by itself.
Cinema fans will recognize the eerie walls of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 from the films Interview with a Vampire and Double Jeopardy. Just south of the somewhat dangerous Tremé neighborhood, sits St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is the final resting place of some of New Orleans’ most interesting and historical characters, including Bernard de Marigny, former president of the Louisiana Senate, and Voodoo queen Marie Laveua. Many of the ornate Spanish and French styled tombs in the cemetery are above ground for protection from rising water levels.
The Maison de Macarty House is a 1890s Victorian House turned Bed and Breakfast, located on land that was part of the Louis Barthelemy, Chevalier de Macarty plantation. Located in the Bywater National Historic District, the house is close to everything with excellent prices. Owners Kurt and Dr. Warren put a lot of love and restoration into the house, and Chef Curtis’ breakfast creations are delicious, including everything from freshly baked muffins, waffles, crepes, quiches and omelets. Ask questions to your hosts, rent bicycles to explore the area, then return to a homely atmosphere.