New Orleans is one of those rare places that gets into your blood and there is no cure. And that is a good thing! The food, music and culture make it one of the most unique cities in the world.
I grew up in New Orleans in the ninth ward, and here are my favorite places, restaurants, and things to do in New Orleans.
Laisse Le Bon Temps Rouler and y'all have fun now!
Acme Oyster House - Great seafood and raw oysters. Great bread puddin'. 724 Iberville Street in the Quarter. 504-522-5973.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern - Great Poor Boys (especially roast beef). In Mid-City at 538 Hagan Ave. 504-482-3047.
Cafe du Monde - Cafe Au Lait and Beignets. Open 24 hours. 800 Decatur Street across from Jackson Square. Absolutely great for an early breakfast, or a really late-night snack. 504-525-4544. Also in City Park.
Gumbo Shop - Great gumbo. 630 Saint Peter Street in the Quarter. 504-525-1486.
Crabby Jacks - It is just over the Orleans / Jefferson parish line where Claiborne Avenue turns into Jefferson Highway. Great fried shrimps. Lunch only Monday through Saturday. Cash only. 428 Jefferson Hwy., Jefferson, 504-833-2721.
Casamentos - Great Oysters. 330 Magazine St. 504-895-9761. Closed in the summer.
Camillia Grill - late night breakfast. (Ride the streetcar to where St. Charles Ave turns in to Carrollton Ave). 626 S Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679.
Parasols - Sloppy roast beef po-boy sandwich. (Uptown at 2533 Constance St). 504-302-1543.
Snow Balls - (Summer only. Of course, summer lasts quite a long time in New Orleans).
Domilise's - Some of the best Po-Boys in town. Uptown at 5240 Annunciation Street, 504-899-9126
Central Grocery - Home of the original Muffelatta. 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter, 504-523-1620.
These are all famous high-end places, so expect that you will need a reservation and that they are going to be expensive.
There are a billion bars in New Orleans. As a matter of fact, it has the highest bar to individual person ratio of any city in the world. It is actually a state law that there must be one bar for every citizen of the city and that liver transplants are free!
Pat O'Briens - Get a Hurricane. In the French Quarter at 718 St. Peter, just down the street from Jackson Square.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop in the French Quarter at 941 Bourbon Street.
The Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter at 240 Bourbon Street.
Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel at 130 Roosevelt Way in the Central Business District.
Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter at 214 Royal Street.
Half Moon Bar 1125 St. Mary Street.
The Columns - 3811 St Charles Ave.
Napoleon House in the French Quarter at 500 Chartres Steet.
Maple Leaf uptown at 8316 Oak Street.
Puh-leaze learn to speak da local languich, "Yat", before you visit.
Get in Saturday morning and spend the day in the French Quarter.
If you like photography, be sure to visit A Gallery for Fine Photography on Chartres Street.
See Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, the Pontalba and Presbytere, and the French Market. Cross the levee across the street from Jackson Square and walk down the steps of the Moon Walk and take off your shoes and dip your feet in the Mississippi River for luck. Take a walk down Royal Street and see the shops.
Eat a late dinner at one of New Orleans' famous restaurants in the quarter, such as Galatoire's, Antoine's, K-Pauls Louisiana Kitchen, Emeril's, or NOLA. Be sure to make reservations well ahead of time.
Saturday Night late - Take a walk down Bourbon Street when its rolling. Go drinking in the French Quarter until dawn. Start out or end up at Pat O'Briens and get a Hurricane.
Sunday morning at dawn - watch the Sun rise in the east over the west bank of the Mississippi River from the Moon Walk by Cafe du Monde . Think about how this could even be possible.
Sunday Afternoon - Take the Canal Street Street Car to the end of the line and walk through Metairie Cemetery. If you have a car, you can drive there and drive around inside the cemetery, but you have to do a little bit of trickeration to get to the entrance you can drive through.
Metairie Cemetery is not to be missed! The tombs have incredible sculptures and architecture. Be sure to find these tombs:
The Angel of Grief (Weeping Angel) at the tomb of Chapman H. Hyams just inside the entrance of the cemetery at Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard.
The Pyramid and Sphinx at the Brunswig Mausoleum.
Sunday night - Catch some honest, authentic jazz at Preservation Hall. This is the real deal and is not to be missed. Shows are at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm nightly. The place is small so get in line early or go online and reserve some "Big Shot" seats.
Sunday night - Eat dinner at the Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. Get some raw or fried ersters or a fried shrimps poboy. Get the bread puddin' for desert (trust me!). Walk around the French Quarter some more and check out the Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Monteleon Hotel or get a drink and soak up some history at the Napoleon House, or Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
Day 3 (Lagniappe)
If you have any extra days, there's lots of other things to do in and around New Orleans.
The extra time will give you a chance to eat at more of New Orleans' fabulous restaurants. If you haven't hit Domilise's, Parkway Tavern, Parasols, or Crabby Jacks, be sure to get a Poor Boy, or Po'Boy, sandwich. A sloppy roast beef po'boy is a New Orleans classic, and fried shrimps or oysters are also wonderful.
The other staple of New Orleans' natives is boiled seafood: crawfish, shrimp, and crabs. This is not some wimpy steamed shit that you find in lots of other areas of the country. These bad boys are boiled in Zatarain's crab boil seasoning with lemon, garlic, and celery. Red potatoes and corn are also usually boiled along with the crustaceans.
Crabs are the most work to eat, and shrimps and crawfish the easiest. You can get some excellent boiled shrimp or crawfish (in season) at Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. Other outstanding places for boiled seafood are located in various neighborhoods around the city such as Bevi's in Metairie, Deanie's in Bucktown, Seither's Seafood in Harahan, Cajun Brothers in Mid-City, Schaefer's Seafood in Bucktown, and Frankie and Johnny's in Uptown. You could also pick up some boiled seafood on your way to the airport when flying out of town at Bevi's on Airline Highway and have them pack it so you can ship it as checked luggage (but call ahead a day or two to do this).
The best time of year to get seafood:
Oysters - September through April
Crawfish - March, April and May
Softshell crabs - April, May and June
Shrimp - June, July, August and September
Crabs - May through October.
Other great and amazing restaurants that are worth checking out (in no particular order):
Bayona - Chef Susan Spicer is one of the best chefs in New Orleans today.
Brigtsens - Modern creole cuisine in a shotgun house uptown near where Carrollton meets St. Charles.
Restaurant R'evolution - classic Cajun and Creole food re-interpreted.
Mandina's - A mid-city neighborhood restaurant on Canal Street with Italian and seafood.
Herbsaint - Upscale French and American cuisine.
Gautreau's - New American-French cuisine.
Peche Seafood Grill - Fresh seafood cooked over wood coals on an open grill.
August - Contemporary French cuisine with a focus on local ingredients by chef John Besh.
Pascal Manale - Barbecue Shrimp.
Dooky Chase - Creole, soul food and fried chicken.
Mosca's - Italian food across the river in Avondale.
GW Fins - fish from around the world.
Mr. B's Bistro - Seasonal Louisiana cuisine.
Upperline - Creole.
Wille Mae's Scotch House - Fried Chicken and soul food.
Cochon - contemporary Cajun.
Liuzza's by the Track - Classic New Orleans neighborhood restaurant. Outstanding giant frozen beer mugs.
Clancy's - Neighborhood creole bistro.
Cochon Butcher - Innovative wharehouse district sandwich shop.
Jacques-Imo's Cafe - Blackened Redfish.
Katie's - Neighborhood creole-Italian in Mid-City.
New Orleans Saints - See da Saints play in da Superdome in da fall. Dey usta to be knowed as da 'Aints until they won da Super Bowl.
Canal Street - Algier's Point Ferry - ride the ferry if you want to ride on a boat on the Mississippi river.
Cajun country: Lafayette, Breaux Bridge, Eunice.
Avery Island - Take a tour of where Tabasco hot sauce is made.
Swamp tours - Lots a swamps around wit dem nasty ole gators.
Aquarium of the Americas - Not one of my favorites for philosophical reasons. You can't see no fish in the Mississippi River, or in Lake Pontchartrain, or in the Gulf of Mexico because the water is muddy, so why would you want to see them in an aquarium? It ain't natural.
Audubon Zoo - like the aquarium, I am morally opposed to locking up any kind of animal for human entertainment. Yes, I'm a hypocrite because I don't mind eating them.
New Orleans is not very big, and it's easy to get around and see the sights without a car.
In the French Quarter, you do not want, or need, to have a car. Everything in the Quarter is within walking distance.
The Streetcars will take you almost everywhere else you will want to go and a taxi can take you anywhere else.
Note that in New Orleans, no one uses directions like North, South, East or West because of the way the Mississippi River winds through the city. Folks use terms like "uptown" or "downtown", or "by da river", or "out by da lake" (Lake Pontchartrain).
The best time of year to visit New Orleans weather-wise is in the spring before the heat kicks in.
The winter is not a bad time to visit either. It's usually not as crowded, except for Sugar Bowl week, or if there is a Super bowl or NCAA national championship basketball game being played in the Superdome.
There's a simple rule in New Orleans. It's the 90/90/9 rule. That means it is 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity for about 9 months of the year.
Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.
Since I grew up in New Orleans, I didn't know anything else. It seemed normal. Just know that if you go in the summer, it's going to be hot and humid. And the summer kicks in in May and lasts through October.
Jazzfest is usually held at the end of April and it is usually hot.
Mardi Gras can be cold if it falls early in the year. It's date varies based on when Easter falls.
It rains a lot in New Orleans. In the summer the heat builds up and there is so much moisture and humidity in the air that the atmosphere can't hold it. Thunderstorms develop, but usually blow through quickly.
Hurricane season is technically from June 1 to November 30, but it peaks in late August and September. Hurricane Betsy hit on September 9, 1965 and flooded the lower ninth ward and other parts of the city. Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and levee breaches flooded most of the city.
If you go during hurricane season, be prepared to evacuate the city if necessary.
I'm really no expert on hotels in New Orleans since I stay with family when I'm down there, but sites such as Trip Advisor, Best of New Orleans Hotels, Frommer's, and Hotels.com should help you find a nice place to stay that's within your budget.
New Orleans hosts 8 million visitors per year, and this many people would not be coming to the city if it was not safe for them to visit.
New Orleans is 79th in the country per capita in violent crime in large cities, but historically has one of the nation's highest murder rates. The vast majority of these victims are young African-American males killed by other young African-American males, and in 80 percent of these murders, the victims and perpetrators knew each other.
Here are some basic safety rules for traveling anywhere:
Don't travel alone in questionable areas.
Stick to well-traveled, well-lit areas. The popular areas of the French Quarter are fairly safe, but the western fringe, particularly near the Ibberville housing project, can be less safe.
Don't fall for con games. If anyone tells you " I bet I can tell you where you got those shoes,", smile, say I got them on my feet, and walk away.
Be alert when using your iPhone or smart phone. These are popular targets for snatch and grab thefts while you are distracted using them.
Don't leave any valuables unattended.
Take off your convention badge while not at the convention. It marks you as a tourist and potential crime target.
Don't display large amounts of cash in public areas.
If you are drunk, don't try walking or driving anywhere. Take a taxi.
Don't stow valuables in your car, or if you must, store them out of sight and lock your car.
Trust your gut instincts. If someone or something seems suspicious, leave the area or alert a police officer.