It's hard to put your finger on what exactly it is about New Orleans that makes it so irresistible. From its looming voodoo mystique, hypnotic sounds of smooth jazz, savory smells of Cajun cuisine and colorful Caribbean flair; the Big Easy is an America City unlike any other. Nestled up against the Mississippi River and elegantly draped in Spanish moss, this sultry French-founded southern city is a hub of food, fun, and festivities that entices nearly 9 million intrigued travelers yearly. Ready to laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll) like a local? Here are five unforgettable experiences that are guaranteed to give you an authentic taste of New Orleans.
Live it up on Bourbon Street.
If you're over 21 and looking for some naughty, nocturnal fun, Bourbon Street's infamous 13-blocks of spectacular sin will probably be your first stop. This historic street, which was established in 1718 and named after France's ruling family of the time, is now known for its public intoxication, flashing lights, and trance-like vibe. Undoubtedly one of New Orlean's most iconic attractions, this chaotic corner of the city is packed to the brim with bars, shops, street performers, live music, adult entertainment and more. Thanks to New Orlean's insatiable thirst for Sazerac and unique open container law, Bourbon Street is essentially a never-ending block party where there is always something to see, do, and of course; drink. Even if you're not the partying type, be sure to take a stroll down Bourbon Street during daylight hours and take advantage of the wildly entertaining people watching opportunity.
Take Swamp Tour.
One of New Orlean's most charming characteristics is its unique location. The city itself sits below sea level in a partially peninsular area; meaning rivers, lakes, and marshlands almost wholly encompass it. More than just a novel geographical feature, these wetlands hold a cultural significance that is as deeply-rooted as its classic cypress trees and contains the mysterious allure of Louisiana's Cajun culture. Are you feeling bold enough to brave the bayou? If so, several companies provide memorable tours of these ancient waterways; so you can glide through gator country and enjoy one of America's most unusual ecosystems.
Enjoy a Taste of History at Cafe Du Monde.
Cafe Du Monde isn't your everyday coffee house; it is a New Orleans landmark. Established in 1862, this open-air cafe's menu has hardly changed since the Civil War era and is world famous for its delicious beignets (fried, pillowy, puffs of dough smothered in confection sugar) and cafe au lait with chicory, an endive that adds a regional boldness to the brew. Cafe Du Monde's original location, the bustling French Market, is open 24/7 and almost always has a line of visitors and locals abiding the worthwhile wait to get a taste of this timeless New Orlean's treat. Pro tip: don't wear black, and prepare to get slovenly. Eating a beignet is almost as messy as it is tasty.
Visit the Voodoo Museum.
If you're in the mood for a unique experience of the supernatural variety, be sure to check out the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. Still shrouded in esotericism and intrigue, Voodoo has roots in New Orlean's that are as old as the city itself; dating back to the 1700s. This museum explores the eerie history, folklore, and rituals of this ancient and controversial folk religion that was brought to the city from Haiti during the African diaspora. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum offers museum walkthroughs, cemetery tours, and even products and services that are sure to send chills down your spine.
Pinch Tail and Suck Head at a Crawfish Boil.
New Orleans is undoubtedly home to countless culinary creations, but there is nothing more unmistakably Crescent City than a Cajun crawfish boil. Devotedly considered to be a provincial prodigy, crawfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters that are native to the swampy south-central United States. These tasty invertebrates are boiled alive in a massive pot with garlic, potatoes, corn, sausage and a blend of spices until their shells turn bright red. You might be relieved to know that the famous phrase "pinch tail and suck head" actually has no sexual connotation; it merely explains the proper way to eat a crawfish! Unlike most fine-dining experiences, this delicacy is dumped on a large table to be shared among family and friends and is eaten with your hands; making it a messy, fun and social meal that always brings people together, New Orleans style.
Ready to experience a culture so rich you'll need to spoon? Grab your gris-gris and get ready to get jazzed up in New Orleans.
Written By: Sera Ansardi