New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) is one of the most popular cities to visit along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Known for its history, food, and music, it’s a guaranteed good time for all who visit (and makes a great staycation for locals). Below are a few key things to know about the “Big Easy”, from a local’s perspective.
When most people think of NOLA, they’re most likely thinking of The French Quarter. That’s where you may find people throwing beads or living up to NOLA’s debaucherous reputation. But believe you me, 9 out of 10 times, it’s tourists. However, the architecture and history of the French Quarter is something beautiful and shouldn’t be missed. If debauchery isn’t your thing, go during the day and start at Jackson Square and the riverfront.
Go where the locals go, that’s where the fun really is. If live music is your thing, then Frenchman is a must. You can normally find live performances and you’re guaranteed to have a good time. If boutique shopping and delicious restaurants are more of your vibe, then Magazine Street is for you. Freret Street offers more of a chill and laid-back feel, with blocks filled with yummy restaurants.
New Orleans is not the place to come visit while on a diet. The city is known for its food. From the delicious chargrilled oyster and poboys, to the decadent pralines and beignets, and everything in between. Most guests leave the city vowing to eat more fruits and veggies when they return home.
New Orleans is an open-container city, meaning you can drink in the streets (not in glass), lawfully. In addition, there isn’t a specific time that the bars have to close- with many staying open to 4, 5, or 6AM. This is a recipe for disaster if you try to test the limits of the drinking laws in New Orleans.
Contrary to popular belief, New Orleans is actually very kid-friendly. City Park, one of the most visited parks in the United States, is filled with activities for kids. It is the home of the state-of-the-art Children’s Museum, five playgrounds- including a storybook themed playground, miniature golf, train rides, and so much more. There is a trolley stop right outside the park. Both the young and young at heart love riding the trolly as you take in the views of the city into downtown and The French Quarter.
New Orleans plays a significant role in history, from its role in the Slave Trade to the French and Spanish history embedded in the city. As a result, the city is filled with museums. The World War II Museum is one of the most popular places to visit in the city. It’s a multi-building museum with interactive exhibits and war planes and vehicles. In addition to NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art, visit Julia Street in the Warehouse District, which is lined with art galleries.
New Orleans is a relatively small city, with most places walking distance or a short taxi ride from one another. Once you arrive at your lodging, which is most likely in the city, having a car will be more of a nuisance than help. Since the city is surrounded by the Mississippi River on one side and Lake Pontchartrain on the other, there aren’t many public parking options. Most likely, you’ll have to pay $25-$50+ a night to park in a lot, and once you move your car to arrive at your destination of choice, you’ll have to drive in circles, if not pay again, to find a parking space.
New Orleans is a hot city, literally. Temperatures in the city can reach over 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) during the day, which often leads to mid-day rain showers just to cool the city down a bit. If humidity and heat aren’t your thing, then it’s best to come during the fall or early spring. The winters can be fairly warm but there are a few weeks of relatively mild weather (January and February). Just know it’s the type of cold that gets into your bones and is hard to shake. This is especially true since many of the buildings are over 100 years old and aren’t well insulated.
If festivals are your thing, especially those embedded in live music and food, then NOLA is your city. The most popular festivals, Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest, take place in the spring when the weather is most pleasant. Both festivals are a guaranteed great time filled with live music and some of the most delicious food in the city.
Planning a trip to New Orleans? Read our guide on where to stay in NOLA.