Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, New Orleans’ bustling artisan community offers tourists an eclectic (and non-cliché) mix of souvenirs to keep alive the memories made at the happiest place on earth. From Mardi Gras beads and doubloons to Cajun foods and spices, bring home a piece of The Big Easy with you during your next NOLA adventure. Here are our picks for the most unique souvenirs you should make room in your suitcase for.
For authentic New Orleans-style hot sauce, head over to the French Market District where you’ll find a ton of specialty shops with an extensive inventory of Louisiana-made salsas. And, if you’re looking to bring some more mementos home, the market, which has been open for more than 200 years, features two shopping sites, a crafts bazaar and a community flea market, all within a five- to 10-minute walk of each other.
Since a trip to New Orleans isn’t complete without the necessary Cafe Du Monde stop, be sure to grab a bag of beignet mix as well as a can of dark-roast coffee and chicory on your way out. The historic coffee shop, established in 1862, is open for service 24 hours a day, every day of the year, except for Christmas Day.
If you’ve fallen in love with the landscapes that compose the city of New Orleans, there are great NOLA-inspired depictions to be found all over Royal Streets’ galleries. With prices ranging from one month’s salary to very reasonable, this picturesque block, which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, is the go-to spot for purchasing (or just appreciating) quality local art. While exploring Royal Street, be sure to make a stop at Gallerie Rue Toulouse, where you’ll see works inspired by the city’s multicultural heritage.
It’s no wonder Mardi Gras Beads are included in this list. Not only are they a synonym for New Orleans, but they’re also one of the city’s most coveted items because of its ability to invoke a good time. The carnival jewelry, which began to be thrown into the crowds during the late 1800s, comes in as many different styles, shapes, colors and designs as one can think of, and can be purchased in every single specialty store in NOLA.
Whether you’re into CDs or vinyls, these are, perhaps, one of the most authentic tokens of remembrance one can take home from New Orleans because they carry with them the city’s unmatchable musical legacy. Ranging from jazz and blues to bounce and zydeco, these plastic melodies can be purchased from one the the city’s many record stores. Local favorites include Peaches Records, which also features an eccentric mix of locally themed books and apparel, Mushroom New Orleans, who offers visiting customers T-shirts and posters aside from its music-related merchandise, and Skully’z Recordz, a pint-sized indie store offering a large selection from the Crescent City’s all-time classics.
Those who just can’t get enough of the city’s authentic Cajun cuisine can head over to the World Famous N’awlins Cafe & Spice Emporium, where you’ll be able to find a very pleasing variety of spices, blends, sauces and salts as well as Cajun coffee. This seasoning joint, which also serves top-notch po’ boys, is open at its French Market location every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring local favorites such as the “New Orleans on Rails,” the “Voodoo Seasoning,” the “Garlic Hot Sauce” and the “French Market Hot and Spicy Sea Salt.”
New Orleans is home to countless artists and artisans, most of whose work can be found at one of the many local marketplaces or for sale on the streets and fences of the French Quarter. Local markets are great opportunities to see the myriad of styles and creations suitable for a wide range of sensibilities. The French Market has a whole wing of craft vendors, which showcases a rotating group of more than 50 local artists and artisans daily. The Palace Market on Frenchmen Street in the evenings is a great place to connect with local artists of all disciplines underneath the well-lit alleyways. The Shops at 2011 Magazine located in Uptown offers antiques and crafts from vendors from all over the region in an indoor bazaar style setting. Simon’s of New Orleans, an antique shop and art studio on Jackson Avenue, is home to famed local folk artist Simon, offering his signature hand-painted signs as well as an array of eclectic antiques.
The Hurricane, Pat O’Brien’s world-famous cocktail, is one of the souvenirs you are going to want to bring home. Not only because the drink originated more than 76 years ago and is now a must-have when visiting New Orleans, but also because you’ll be able to revisit the day you spent at the bar’s legendary Piano Bar, singing the night away while gulping from your hurricane-shaped glass.
Bring home a token of the local spiritual culture in the form of a voodoo doll or some practical products for the home, like “House Blessing Spray” or “Away All Evil Spirits” furniture cleaner. Stop by the Voodoo Museum for a quick history of the tradition from around the world and grab something from the gift shop on your way out. Swing by Esoterica in the French Quarter for more non-gimmicky items and information, or browse the wide selection of modern day voodoo items at Sallie Ann Glassman’s Island of Salvation Botanica in the New Orleans Healing Center.