Top things to do in New Orleans

Jul 2nd, 2003, 06:18 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
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Top things to do in New Orleans

I wrote this about a year ago while working for a New Orleans tourism agency - it is a good overview if I do say so myself. : )

Making the Most of a Visit to New Orleans

If you only have a day?
Most visitors gravitate toward the French Quarter (or Vieux Carr&eacute and for good reason. The majority of hotel rooms as well as many attractions and fine restaurants are located downtown or in the French Quarter. Mardi Gras and major events held in New Orleans have given Bourbon Street a world-famous reputation for excess, but few first-time visitors realize the Quarter is a thriving historic neighborhood. Wonderful lessons in architecture, music and history are free for the taking; get a guidebook or map at any hotel or visitor center and soak in the charm.
A good place to start is Jackson Square on Decatur Street. The square is named for its statue of Gen. Andrew Jackson and is home to St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedral in the country. The cathedral is flanked by the Cabildo, the seat of government under Spanish rule and the site of the 1803 signing of the Louisiana Purchase agreement, and the Presbytere, which housed the cathedral?s religious. If you are curious about Mardi Gras, the Presbytere has a permanent exhibit on carnival history, customs, music and parades. Jackson Square is also home to quaint shops and eateries as well as a vibrant community of artists, musicians, jugglers and other entertainers.
Nearby, the 1850 House (523 St. Ann) portrays antebellum life in a mid-19th century middle-class Creole household. A discount combination ticket is available for the 1850 House, Presbytere, Cabildo and Old U.S. Mint.
Across Decatur Street from Jackson Square is a boardwalk offering great views of the Mississippi River. Barges, ferries, paddlewheelers and freight ships ply these waters, whose tricky currents require considerable navigational skills.
Farther down Decatur you?ll find the French Market, a restored marketplace where farmers have been bringing their fresh produce for over 200 years. The market is also home to an array of shops, a flea market and Café du Monde. The indoor-outdoor café is famous for coffee and beignets (say BEN-yays), a fried doughnut-like confection covered with powdered sugar.
Royal Street is the Quarter?s best-known shopping street, with antique shops and art galleries from one end to the other. But throughout the Vieux Carré, you?ll find elegant antique stores, funky shops and gaudy souvenirs.
Don?t forget to eat at least one stellar meal, which can be had just as easily at a hole-in-the-wall as at an upscale 4- or 5-star establishment. Some restaurants have interior courtyards or balconies that will give you an additional appreciation of the French and Spanish architectural influences. And after dinner, a visit to Preservation Hall will let you experience the sound and flavor of a turn-of-the-century traditional jazz club.

If you only have two days in New Orleans?

Extend your exploration to the Warehouse District, once home to factories and warehouses that have been renovated and transformed into upscale art galleries, shops, restaurants and condos. One highlight is the National D-Day Museum (945 Magazine St.), over 70,000 square feet of stunningly designed space commemorating the events and people of World War II. Another is the Louisiana Children?s Museum (420 Julia Street), offering three stories of entertaining and educational activities.
The Aquarium of the Americas at the foot of Canal Street has a marvelous 400,000-gallon replica of the Gulf of Mexico complete with an offshore oil rig, 10-foot sharks and endangered sea turtles. Other exhibits explore the aquatic worlds of North and South America, the Caribbean and the Mississippi River. If a zoo is more your thing, you can catch a paddle wheeler upriver to Audubon, one of the top five zoos in the U.S., and visit wildlife in naturalistic habitats such as the Louisiana Swamp, African Savanna, Asian Domain, Jaguar Jungle and Australian Outback.
Afterwards, catch a zoo shuttle bus to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, the oldest continuously operating rail system in the world. You?ll pass venerable Tulane and Loyola universities, as well as stately uptown and Garden District mansions framed by huge, 100+ year-old oak trees and lush, colorful gardens.
Consider one of a variety of tours focusing on history, cemeteries, haunted sites, ghosts or voodoo. Most of New Orleans? 40-plus cemeteries are open during daytime hours to explore on your own, but the most popular guided cemetery tours are of St. Louis No. 1 and Lafayette. St. Louis, founded in 1789, is the burial ground for numerous illustrious New Orleans citizens. Some authorities say the Laveau-Glapion tomb is the resting place of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, while others believe her daughter (also a voodoo priestess) is interred there. The stark white monument is always adorned with flowers, candles and other offerings.
Lafayette, established in 1833, is another of the city?s earliest and most historically significant above-ground burial sites. It is one of only seven U.S. locations listed on the World Monument?s List of 100 most endangered sites, and was a setting for the film ?Interview With the Vampire.? Both cemeteries are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors are spellbound by the above-ground construction of crypts necessitated by New Orleans? below-sea level elevation, as well as the often elaborate architecture and materials. Look for imported marble, exquisite sculpture and even iron or stone benches for mourners that are incorporated into the design of some tombs.

If you have three or more days?

If you have a rental car, or friends or relatives who don?t mind playing chauffeur, or a budget that permits taxi rides, try exploring even further afield. Take a trip up scenic Esplanade Avenue from the French Quarter to its terminus at City Park. This 1,500-acre urban Eden is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Botanical Gardens, an amusement park, a children?s fairytale-themed playground, lagoons for canoeing or paddle boating, and golf and tennis courses, all surrounded by one of the largest stands of mature live oaks in the world.

Leaving City Park, head lakeward on Carrollton Avenue toward Robert E. Lee Blvd. and hang a left. You?ll wind up at the lakefront, where you can dine at one of several waterfront seafood restaurants or eat a picnic lunch or dinner while you watch the waves, sunset and sailboats.

A set of wheels will help you get farther out and about, but are not necessary. A ride on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar or city bus is your ticket not only to the grand mansions of the Garden District and Uptown residential areas, but also to six miles of Magazine Street shops and galleries from the fabulous to the funky. Uptown New Orleans is also home to its own galaxy of restaurants, shops and music clubs that are absolutely worth a visit but generally off the beaten tourist track.

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OffToAfrica is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2003, 07:12 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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I think you need to add "a visit to a number of State Prisons, where you can see many of our local politians, like David Duke, and the Edwards family where the former Governor and his son are doing serious time"

"if your coming this fall ask for advance tickets to see our new Judicial Ward, where judges wearing orange will be on display, how many we don't know yet, but one thing is for sure, theres bound to be a Runoff" heh heh!!!

Meaby we are missing out on a new state museum!
markover is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2003, 08:17 PM
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hahaha Mark, very amusing! You didn't even mention Huey and Earl Long or that Scottish guy John Law, I think?, who lured European criminals here to settle Louisiana. But I don't think most visitors care that much about our state's scandalous history and politics. With Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and Hillary in NY and Strom Thurmond (RIP)and the Kennedy family dynasty, I don't think people are much surprised by corruption and scandal. They don't care about ours - they mostly have their own now.
I must add that Angola State Prison's annual rodeo is a huge attraction. I went once, but can't remember what month it is. What a unique experience!
OffToAfrica is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2003, 08:51 PM
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Good article - the one thing that I would change is about the cemeteries being open during the day for people to explore on their own. I think a word of warning about going alone to the cemeteries would be good. Lafayette in the Garden District is probably just fine, but I don't think it would be a good idea for tourists to wander alone in St Louis #1 near the French Quarter. Although crime is definitely down in New Orleans, cemeteries still offer privacy and easy pickings for criminals.
J_Correa is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 10:21 AM
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Crime is down in NO???

Where you been? murder is going to break another record this year, we're already the highest in the country per capita.

Your advice is good on cemetaries, especially with the present murder rate, do not go into any areas that are unsafe.
markover is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 10:58 AM
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Crime is down overall but as markover said, the murder rate is high again. Primarily in the housing projects, though, so tourists shouldn't even notice. I don't think we're anywhere near the record set several years ago (thank goodness) but even one is too many.
Dan is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 11:27 AM
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OTA-this is just what I needed. You Fodorites are the BEST!
bryarsmom is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 12:04 PM
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IF you're really looking for the "Top Things To Do In New Orleans," you might want to research a site called - they do this for many cities around the USA/world, and each one has an annual "Best Of...." awards section. They list the Top Ten for various types of attractions and restaurants. *{JAMIE}*
GatorLadyUSA is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 12:38 PM
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Have to agree with J_Correa. St Louis #1 cemetary is off limits - or should be for most tourists. Even the locals tell you that. Heck, there isn't even that many tombs to look at as most have either been ransacked or family members have had remains removed.

Layfette cemetery, though in the Garden District, is also considered to be an "off limits" cemetery, unless one is on a tour.

Oh, and as far as above ground tombs being because of the high water table in NOLA? Simply not true, as people are buried underground. The original concept followed over from Europe where it was considered a fairly common practice.

Other than that, a fairly good article. Gives people a place to start, anyway.
Chele60 is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2003, 12:53 PM
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I know the murder rate is up, but general crime in the tourist areas is down. Since we are talking about tourists, that's what I focused on.

We have a similar situation in the Bay Area - murders are up in Oakland, but the only areas directly affected are the housing projects and the run down areas. Tourists would never notice.
J_Correa is offline  
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